Language in the news – 17 March 2013

by Craig Evans

Here are my picks for language in the news from the past week:

UK news…

Councils told by senior MP to stop translating leaflets into foreign languages: The Communities and Local Government secretary, Eric Pickles, has issued a Written Ministerial Statement to local councils, urging them to stop spending money on translation services. In the statement, Mr Pickles blames the estimated yearly expense of £20 million by each local authority on ‘misinterpretation of equality or human rights legislation’. The minister argues that the money spent on translating leaflets has an ‘adverse impact on integration by reducing the incentive for some migrant communities to learn English’.


Apostrophe ban on Devon street names: Mid Devon District Council have taken the decision to ban the use of apostrophes in all future street names. They have described the reason for the decision as being so as to ‘avoid potential confusion’. Representatives of the Plain English Campaign and the Apostrophe Protection Society have spoken out against the move, claiming that it is an attack on the English Language (reference – The Telegraph).


International news…

Two jailed in Tunisia for describing police as dogs in song lyrics: A rapper and an actress have been imprisoned in Tunisia for releasing a music video on YouTube in which the police are described as dogs. The Ministry of Interior have stated that the video ‘contains expressions and gestures that affect morals and threaten the security of officers and magistrates’. A number of commentators have observed how this will ignite the debate about free speech under the Islamist government formed following the 2010-2011 revolution. The pair will be held in prison until their trial.



Mount Reagan: Why do Americans name mountains after presidents? Writing for the online BBC News Magazine, Jon Kelly considers the peculiar American fondness for naming mountains after presidents.


How to build your vocabulary: Some education advice from Ed Cooke in The Telegraph.


Germany’s n-word race debate: Stephen Evans reports on an issue dividing opinion in Germany about whether or not to change words in classic works of literature when those words have since taken on offensive meanings.


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