language en Do you judge people based on the way they speak? <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">This week, State of Opportunity's Jennifer Guerra explored </span><a href="" style="line-height: 1.5;">language and discrimination</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. She talked to Robin Queen, a linguist who teaches a class about it at the University of Michigan.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">From Guerra's story:</span></p><blockquote><p>Queen says people often think there's one right way to speak, what linguists call Standard American English, or "The Standard," and everyone else is doing it wrong.</p><p></p><p>"Who gets to decide they can police someone else's language?" asks Queen. "I mean, when did we get to this point that shaming people for their language is fine?"</p></blockquote><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Remember the George Zimmerman trial last year? You probably read headlines about it somewhere, or maybe watched coverage of it on TV.</span></p><p>If you got to hear any of the testimony, you may remember Rachel&nbsp;Jeantel. She's a young, African-American woman who was the primary witness for the prosecution, and was on the phone with&nbsp;Trayvon&nbsp;Martin on the day he died.&nbsp;</p><p>When&nbsp;Jeantel&nbsp;began speaking, people both in and out of the courtroom focused on the way she spoke.</p><p>Why?&nbsp;</p><p>Check out <a href="">Guerra's piece</a>. You can watch testimony from the Zimmerman trial and read about a study from MSU on language and discrimination that has some surprising results.&nbsp;</p><p><em>-- Lucy Perkins, Michigan Radio Newsroom</em></p><p> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 17:31:35 +0000 Michigan Radio Newsroom 18310 at Do you judge people based on the way they speak? Bills deleting 'retarded' from laws go to Snyder <p>LANSING –&nbsp;The terms "mental retardation" and "mentally retarded" will be removed from state laws under legislation being sent to Gov. Rick Snyder.</p><p>The bills incorporate a recent recommendation from a mental health commission appointed by Snyder. The bipartisan legislation strikes references to outdated language from various statutes and replaces them with terms such as "developmentally disabled" or "intellectually disabled."</p><p>The legislation unanimously passed the House and Senate this month and was approved by the Senate for delivery to Snyder&nbsp;<span data-term="goog_899600317" tabindex="0">Tuesday</span>.</p><p>Democratic bill sponsor Sen. Rebekah Warren of Ann Arbor says it's "a fundamental first step" toward "ensuring everyone in our state is treated with the dignity and the respect they deserve."</p><p> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 16:15:00 +0000 The Associated Press 16958 at Bills deleting 'retarded' from laws go to Snyder What o'clock is it? <p></p><p>The contraction of the word “of” to o’ is considered highly informal, but the phrase “o’clock” is somehow different.&nbsp;</p><p>This week on&nbsp;<em>That’s What They Say</em>, host Rina Miller and University of Michigan English Professor&nbsp;<a href="">Anne Curzan</a>&nbsp;discuss how we talk about time.</p><p>The expression “o’clock” comes from “of clock” as in “according to the clock,” says Curzan.</p><p>It might seem like an antiquated phrase, but "o'clock" is still used quite a lot. &nbsp;But, there is something else on the rise and that is the use of a.m. and p.m.</p><p> Sun, 09 Mar 2014 12:46:00 +0000 Michigan Radio Newsroom 16768 at What o'clock is it? Wacky weather words <p>Maybe polar vortex has not been a welcome addition to all of our vocabularies, but there are some other great weather words out there.</p><p>In this week’s edition of <em>That’s What They Say</em>, Host Rina Miller and University of Michigan English Professor <a href="">Anne Curzan </a>discuss regional words to describe the weather.</p><p>Depending on where we live, we use different names for a "light snow." According to the <a href="">Dictionary of American Regional English</a>, some speakers call this a <em>skiff</em> or a <em>skift</em>. However, in the Midwest and on the East Coast, people are more likely to use the terms <em>dusting </em>or <em>flurry</em>.</p><p> Sun, 02 Feb 2014 13:05:00 +0000 Michigan Radio Newsroom 16230 at Wacky weather words 'Because' is the 2013 Word of the Year <p></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Writers online, and now speakers in informal speech, are using "</span><em style="line-height: 1.5;">because"</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;in innovative ways.</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 15px; line-height: 22px;">This week on&nbsp;</span><em style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-size: 15px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; line-height: 22px;">That’s What They Say, </em><em style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-size: 15px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; line-height: 22px;">h</em><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 15px; line-height: 22px;">ost Rina Miller and University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan&nbsp;talk about the American Dialect Society's 24th&nbsp;Annual Words of the Year vote.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Curzan says, “It used to be that </span><em style="line-height: 1.5;">because</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> had to be followed by a clause. So, I would say, ‘I don’t want to go outside </span><em style="line-height: 1.5;">because</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> it’s really cold.’ And now I can say, ‘I don’t want go outside </span><em style="line-height: 1.5;">because</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp; cold.’”</span></p><p>More words of the year include:&nbsp;<em>selfie</em>, <em>Obamacare</em>, and <em>slash</em>.</p><p>Click <a href="">here </a>for more on the Word of the Year for 2013.</p><p> Mon, 06 Jan 2014 17:10:11 +0000 Mercedes Mejia 15892 at 'Because' is the 2013 Word of the Year Want to learn Ojibwe? There's an app for that <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Ever wanted to learn </span>Ojibwe<span style="line-height: 1.5;">? Well, there’s an app for that.</span></p><p>The Ojibwe, also known as Anishinaabe people, make up one of the largest groups of Native Americans in the United States, with many living here in Michigan.</p><p>Darrick Baxter, president of Ogoki Learning Systems, helped design this free app that could go a long way towards keeping the Ojibwe language alive.&nbsp;</p><p>Here's a video showing how the app works:</p><p><a href=""></a></p><p><em>Listen to full interview above.&nbsp;</em></p><p> Tue, 29 Oct 2013 20:12:05 +0000 Stateside Staff 15038 at How 8 buffaloes in a row form a sentence <p></p><p>It seems hard to believe that if you put 8 buffaloes in a row, you can get a grammatical sentence.</p><p>On this week’s edition of <em>That’s What They Say</em>, host Rina Miller and Professor of English at the University of Michigan Anne Curzan talk about homonyms, or words that sound the same but have different meanings.&nbsp;</p><p>Obviously, saying buffalo 8 times in row does not sound like a sentence. But, technically the sentence is grammatically correct although not readily understandable. It helps to recognize that we are talking about buffalo the animals that happen to be from the city of Buffalo. These buffalo sometimes buffalo as a verb. The verb buffalo can mean to outwit, bully, or trick.</p><p>If we substitute buffalo for the words bison and trick, the sentence will go like this:</p><p> Sun, 22 Sep 2013 12:52:00 +0000 Michigan Radio Newsroom 14520 at How 8 buffaloes in a row form a sentence Tricky plural words <p></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The word </span><em style="line-height: 1.5;">data</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> is plural in Latin. But that etymological fact may not make it plural in English at this point.&nbsp;</span></p><p>On this week’s edition of “That’s What They Say,” host Rina Miller and Professor of English at the University of Michigan Anne Curzan talk about whether the word <em>data</em> should be plural or singular.</p><p>English borrowed the word <em>data</em> from Latin in which it is plural, the singular is <em>datum</em>. But, in scientific technical writing you will see <em>data</em> very often as plural.</p><p>"Many speakers have reinterpreted <em>data</em> as singular, as a mass noun much like information, so then you’ll see <em>data is</em>. The good news is for those of us who use it as a singular, and there are a lot of us, is that that is becoming more and more accepted, and in fact at this point if you look at the American Heritage Dictionary and the usage panel note on this, only 23% of the usage panel still rejects <em>data</em> as a singular," explains Curzan.</p><p>Listen to the full interview to hear more examples of making tricky words plural, including <em>syllabus, focus, alumnus</em>, and <em>hippopotamus</em>.&nbsp;</p><p> Sun, 11 Aug 2013 12:14:00 +0000 Mercedes Mejia 13914 at Tricky plural words U of M Professor discovers 'radical' new language in Australia <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">A new language has been discovered in a remote aboriginal community of Lajamanu in the Northern Territory of Australia.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Dr. Carmel </span>O’Shannessy, a&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">linguist at the University of Michigan, first discovered the new language while studying in Lajamanu. The language spoken there is&nbsp;Warlpiri</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;–</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> an aboriginal language unrelated to English.</span></p> Mon, 15 Jul 2013 16:11:11 +0000 Michigan Radio Newsroom 13528 at U of M Professor discovers 'radical' new language in Australia Dust kittens, woofinpoofs or frog hair? <p></p><p>On this week’s edition of “That’s What They Say,” host Rina Miller and University of Michigan Professor Anne Curzan&nbsp;revisit regional variations in spoken English and offer up even more fun and often puzzling&nbsp;expressions.&nbsp;</p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">“For people who are from parts of New York or New Jersey, they will stand </span><em style="line-height: 1.5;">on line</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> rather than </span><em style="line-height: 1.5;">in line...</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;">and for the people who say that makes no sense, the answer is that prepositions don’t always make sense and this is just regional variation,"&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">says&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Curzan</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">.</span></p><p>Another expression that may not make sense to most of us is: <em>drinking a cabinet.</em></p><p>“If you’re from Rhode Island&nbsp;you can drink a cabinet…in Rhode Island, a cabinet is a milkshake,"<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Curzan</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;explains.</span></p><p>Okay, so what to you call those&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">balls of dust hiding underneath the bed? Dust bunnies or woofinpoofs?</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The </span><a href="" style="line-height: 1.5;"><em>Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE)</em></a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp; has documented over 170 different variations for those balls of lint. And, some</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;variations take on hilarious names.</span></p><p> Sun, 26 May 2013 12:29:00 +0000 Michigan Radio Newsroom 12713 at Dust kittens, woofinpoofs or frog hair? Graduate, then commence onward <p></p><p>Where are you graduating <em>from</em>? Or are you just <em>graduating? </em>On this edition of "That's What They Say," host Rina Miller and Professor Anne Curzan discuss the mishaps with the proper use of "graduation."</p><p>There's been a good amount of change around the verb graduate, explains Curzan.</p><p>"It used to be that the University was supposed to graduate <em>you</em> the nineteenth century we started to get that students could graduate <em>from </em>the university."</p><p>Before you graduate from a university, or just graduate, you've got to <em>matriculate</em>. But what does <em>matriculation</em> actually mean?</p><p>"Matriculation technically means, 'to enroll in or at,' and you'll often see it used that way, but there appears to be some confusion. People sometimes use matriculate to mean graduate,"&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">says Curzan.</span></p><p> Sun, 05 May 2013 12:51:50 +0000 Michigan Radio Newsroom 12383 at Graduate, then commence onward Should foreign language be a high school requirement? <p></p><p>Michigan high schools currently require students to take foreign language in grades nine through twelve. Well, that might change soon.</p><p>Republican State Representative Phil Potvin of Cadillac is pushing a bill that would make studying a foreign language and algebra II merely an option for students.</p><p>Last year House Bill 4102 was heard in the 96th Legislature, but wasn't voted on. Potvin expects the bill to be voted on this year.</p><p>"The real reason to do this is that our kids have such a tight curriculum now. [This bill] would allow them some choices."</p><p> Mon, 01 Apr 2013 21:38:54 +0000 Stateside Staff 11958 at Should foreign language be a high school requirement? You're gonna wanna see this... <p></p><p>This time on "That's What They Say," host Rina Miller and University of Michigan Professor Anne Curzan discuss the colloquial "gonna" and "wanna," and how these words are not just mispronunciations of their original verbs, but are developing their own distinct meanings.</p><p>"If you think about the verb 'go' as a main verb, it has directionality to it. So I could say 'I'm <em>going to </em>swim,' which would imply some kind of direction," explains Curzan. "But if I say 'I'm <em>gonna</em> swim,' that means at some point in the future, I'm <em>gonna </em>swim."</p><p>Curzan says that this evolution of the meaning of the verbs is due to the lack of definitive future-tense construction in the English language.</p><p>"Interestingly in English, some people would say that we don't have future-tense because we only have one tense marker, which is<em> </em>'ed' for the past-tense. To talk about the future, we use these little auxiliary verbs like 'will,' which also used to be a main verb. Now 'go' is becoming an auxiliary verb. So this is now one of the ways we talk about the future," Curzan says.</p><p> Sun, 10 Mar 2013 12:16:00 +0000 Michigan Radio Newsroom 11136 at You're gonna wanna see this... Is 'actually' the new 'like?' <p></p><p>This week on "That's What They Say," Michigan Radio's&nbsp;Rina&nbsp;Miller and English Professor Anne Curzan&nbsp;discuss the surging use of the word "actually" in recent years, and whether or not it has become the new "like."</p><p>Now part of everyday speech, Anne Curzan says the word "actually" in fact came to the forefront of American speech only just in the past century.</p><p>"It turns out the word 'actually' has more than doubled in usage over the 20th century."</p><p>But in recent years, the spoken use of "actually" has become even more pronounced.</p><p>"Between 1990 and today, so a little over 20 years, 'actually' has tippled its usage in spoken language, so it's no wonder that we're noticing it, and feeling like its everywhere," she says.</p><p> Sun, 20 Jan 2013 13:48:00 +0000 Michigan Radio Newsroom 10827 at Is 'actually' the new 'like?' The words of the holidays <p>This week on That’s What They Say, Anne Curzan, English professor of the University of Michigan and Weekend Edition host Rina Miller discuss the origins of holiday words.</p><p>Here are a few: &nbsp;</p><p>Mistletoe used to be called “mistleton.” “Ton” meant “twig” in old English.</p><p>The “yule” in the word “yuletide” refers to Christmas or the months of December and January, and “tide” means “a period or extent of time.” Therefore, “yuletide” means the “time of Christmas.”</p><p>And the “nog” in egg nog refers to strong ale.</p><p>Curzan and Miller also discuss how to pronounce the word “poinsettia” and Curzan explains that Santa’s reindeer named vixen is actually names after a female fox or a sexy woman.</p><p> Sun, 23 Dec 2012 14:00:00 +0000 Rina Miller 10492 at The words of the holidays There must be rules <p></p><p>The English language is constantly changing. How do English teachers keep up?</p><p>Michigan Radio’s Rina Miller recently got a letter from a listener, Bill, from Eaton Rapids who asks why there isn’t a difference between researching English change and teaching language usage.</p><p>“I think there is a difference,” said Anne Curzan, a professor of English at the University of Michigan who specializes in linguistics.</p><p>She believes teachers can teach the standard language usage and talk about language change with their students.</p><p>“And I think maybe one way to help think about this, is I often talk about it as a repertoire, and the bigger the repertoire we have as speakers and writers, the more versatile we are. So what I’m trying to do is to make sure that students have in that repertoire the standard, formal written variety and perhaps the formal spoken variety so they can use it when they need to or want to. But if they have other varieties in there too, all the better,” Curzan said.</p><p>Listen to the full interview above to hear why it’s okay to use <em>ain’t</em> in writing. Also, Curzan explains how people in the 19<sup>th</sup> century “hated” the English passive progressive construction, “the house is being built," but now it is completely standard. An example of why people should not be too quick to judge a certain form, as it might become popular years from now.</p><p> Sun, 09 Dec 2012 13:10:00 +0000 Mercedes Mejia & Rina Miller 10267 at There must be rules A lesson on retronyms <p>Merriam Websters’s definition of retronym is a term consisting of a noun and a modifier which specifies the original meaning of the noun. “Film camera” is a retronym.</p><p>Every Sunday, Michigan Radio’s Rina Miller talks with Anne Curzan a professor of English at the University of Michigan, specializing in linguistics.</p><p>In many cases the retronym is formed in response to technological advances.</p><p>“We now specify a land line because when you say <em>phone</em> people may assume it’s a cell phone and we need to now, talking about a phone, say a land line,” said Curzan.</p> Sun, 02 Dec 2012 12:44:00 +0000 Mercedes Mejia & Rina Miller 10163 at A lesson on retronyms Could you care less if butter didn't melt in your mouth? <p></p><p>Why do some people say, “I could care less” to mean they don’t care? It doesn't make sense. The expression is, "I couldn't care less," right?</p><p>“What has happened here, as far as I can tell, is that speakers are no longer parsing this phrase for every word. And this is what happens with idioms. Idioms take on a meaning that surpasses their parts,” says Anne Curzan, a professor of English at the University of Michigan.</p><p>“I think the ‘less’ there feels negative to speakers. It already says, ‘I don’t care,’ so for them, ‘I could care less -- I couldn’t care less,’ they mean the same thing,” she says.</p><p>Michigan Radio’s Rina Miller asks Curzan to explain this idiom, “Butter would not melt in her mouth.”</p><p> Sun, 25 Nov 2012 12:56:00 +0000 Mercedes Mejia & Rina Miller 10022 at Could you care less if butter didn't melt in your mouth? Hello, pronoun...are you singular? <p>“People tell me that the pronoun ‘they’ cannot be singular. But here’s the thing - it already is,” says Anne Curzan. She’s a professor of English at the University of Michigan who specializes in linguistics.</p><p>Most speakers already use “they” as a singular pronoun in speech.</p><p>“In writing, we are told to use ‘he’ or ‘she,’ or change the whole sentence,” Curzan says.</p><p>English teachers have been telling us for years that “they” is not a singular pronoun. But, Curzan offers a few examples of indefinite pronouns that speakers make singular.</p><p> Sun, 18 Nov 2012 13:04:00 +0000 Mercedes Mejia & Rina Miller 9966 at Hello, pronoun...are you singular? Lax about the pronunciation of lackadaisical? <p>Merriam Webster has one pronunciation for the word lackadaisical, but often people pronounce it laxadaisical.</p><p>“I would guess that what’s happened here is that speakers have reinterpreted lackadaisical as related to lax. And once they do that they change the pronunciation of lackadaisical to laxadaisical” said Anne Curzan, a professor of English at the University of Michigan.</p><p>Curzan says in surveys she’s done, half the people say lackadaisical and half say laxadaisical, but it doesn’t seem to be because of generation differences.</p><p>It’s seems that the combination of the letter K and S is what causes the confusion. Another mix-up can be found in words like especially and espresso.</p><p> Sun, 11 Nov 2012 13:07:00 +0000 Mercedes Mejia & Rina Miller 9855 at Lax about the pronunciation of lackadaisical?