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From left to right. Mandarin employs a different part of the brain. Chinese man via XiXinXing/Shutterstock

If you speak Mandarin, your brain is different

Language is traditionally associated with the left side of the brain. But Mandarin speakers are using the right side.
We could all pay better attention to what comes out our mouth. Emmanuel Szép

Mansplaining the word of the year – and why it matters

The Macquarie Dictionary last week named “mansplain” its word of the year for 2014. The Dictionary defines mansplain as: verb (t) Colloquial (humorous) (of a man) to explain (something) to a woman, in…
Literary translation has occurred for centuries (the Bible is a prime example). And with Nobel Prize winners like French author Patrick Modiano, it’s unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Wikimedia Commons

Absorbed in translation: the art – and fun – of literary translation

I recently stumbled upon a post that describes the process of literary translation as “soul-crushing.” That’s news to me, and I’ve been engaged in literary translation for the better part of four decades…
She goes, she goes, she just goes: a few bad speech habits seem to have started in Australia. Youtube.com

And, like, she goes ‘yeah, nah’: terminating our bad speech habits

Australians aren’t well known for their articulation. From Kath and Kim to Kylie Mole, we’re the first to poke fun at our poor speech habits. But are our word choices reflecting badly on our common or…
You’re twice as likely to chat about vaping than you were in 2013. Tibanna79

Stop snapping selfies and start vaping – it’s the word of the year

Selfies were so 2013. But vaping’s in: Oxford Dictionaries have announced vape as its international Word of the Year 2014. The runners up are bae, budtender, contactless, indyref, normcore and slacktivism…
Most media outlets lined up behind the ‘coalition of the willing’ last time around. This time seems no different. The US Army

When governments go to war, the Fourth Estate goes AWOL

A year after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the University of California, Berkeley, conducted a postmortem of the media coverage of the so-called “Iraq war”. The conference included academics, journalists…
The term ‘medieval’ is being used by politicians to denote others who do not observe modern ‘civilised’ rules and to whom these rules also do not apply. Flickr/Nuno Martins

‘Medieval’ makes a comeback in modern politics: what’s going on?

According to Hansard, in the parliament of John Howard’s first term of government the adjective “medieval” was used eight times. In the following term, however, it cropped up 46 times. What happened? Why…
Barack Obama’s speech to announce a strategy to destroy Islamic State had a familiar ring to it because it followed the script of the past half-century. EPA/Saul Loeb/pool

My fellow Americans: the familiar sound of American belligerence

A few years back, an honours student in linguistics at Macquarie University did a small study of American presidential oratory. The student chose four speeches, in which four different American presidents…
One thing’s clear, there’s a whole lot of duckspeak afoot. Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography/Flickr

Will Self, George Orwell and … what’s he newspeaking about?

Writer Will Self grabbed headlines earlier this week by referring to George Orwell as the “Supreme Mediocrity”. He wrote: The curious thing is that while during the post-war period we’ve had many political…
Why is the language we use to describe gender non-conformists such as Andrej Pejic so important? CHRISTOPHER MACSURAK

Trans, transgender, cisgender: we are what we name ourselves

Transgender and gender non-conforming lives are becoming increasingly visible. Debate about the lives and legitimacy of trans people is being conducted in the most mainstream of media outlets: Time magazine…

On the delight of fashion words

While sometimes I teem with opinions jostling to be exercised over the page, at other times I’m drawn into meditation, where my engagement with the happenings, and the actual materiality, of fashion loosens…
Not only has new Indian prime minister Narendra Modi replaced English with Hindi when talking to audiences in non-Hindi parts of India, he’s also addressing other Asian leaders in Hindi. Shutterstock

Hindi: India’s new English

Narendra Modi just returned from his first foreign trip as India’s prime minister. The two-day Bhutan visit focused on mutual trade and development, but one of the biggest stories in India was Modi’s use…
Talk to me, Dad. Father and son via sashahaltam/Shutterstock

Talking to your babies could help them do better at school

The rate at which children learn language varies substantially from child to child. Some children show rapid vocabulary growth before they go to school, while others learn so slowly that they can end up…

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