Language in the news – 24 March 2013

by Craig Evans

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

UK news…

English Baccalaureate encourages greater foreign language GCSE uptake – A report produced by the CfBT education charity has revealed how schools in England have been encouraging more pupils to take foreign language GCSEs. This follows the introduction of the English Baccalaureate league table in 2011, which measures the percentage of pupils achieving grades A*-C in a number of esteemed subjects, including foreign languages. The report shows that over half of the pupils are taking a foreign language GCSE in 50% of state-funded schools, compared with 38% in 2010.

BBC 6 music criticised for censoring Elvis Costello song – A listener’s complaint about editing out the word ‘nigger’ from the Elvis Costello song ‘Oliver’s Army’ on BBC 6 music has led to widespread criticism of the decision. The term ‘white nigger’ occurs in the song, and is said to be a pejorative reference to Irish people used by British soldiers in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. The BBC presenter Trevor Nelson has described the decision to censor the word as ‘patronising’.


International news…

Plans to add the Serb Cyrillic script to street signs creates tensions in Croatian town – The Serb community in Vukovar, a Croatian town bombed by Serb rebels in the 1991 war of independence, has won the right to use their language and script in public domains. This follows the 2011 census which shows that Serbs now make up more than a third of the population, the threshold required by the constitution in order for their language to be used. Bilingual signs, already used in other parts of Croatia, have met with little resistance where the Serb population is sizable. However, Vukovar is a symbol of Croat suffering during the war, and many have come out in protest against the decision.



A new phonetic writing system has been developed by an investment banker – writing in The Telegraph, Anne Merritt asks: Will a new phonetic alphabet catch on?

Budget 2013: Osborne ’employs his sneer technique to good effect’ – Following the latest budget, Paddy J. O’Donnell, professor of psychology at the University of Glasgow, takes a look at George Osborne’s body language.

A boy named North West – What’s in a name? Can our name influence the person we will become? Charles Nevin explores this idea, writing in the BBC News Magazine.

For whom the bell tolls – Megan Garber, writing in The Atlantic, discusses the decline in use of the pronoun ‘whom’.


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