Weekly Boffin no. 31

You could be forgiven for thinking that having kids might help you keep your finger on the pulse of popular culture. However, the long-held idea that teenagers have a huge impact on shaping changes in our language might be wide of the mark. English professor Mary Kohn has carried out a study into how language changes over time. "Very commonly, people think that teenagers are ruining language through the use of texting, slang and shorthand". She continues, "our language is constantly developing and becoming what it needs to be for the generation using it". If we think about our own experience of language we realise words we used regularly as children are now out of fashion or even obsolete. There was a time when I greeted virtually everyone with "wotcher" and I haven't used that word for about 25 years. Using "tape" as a verb is utterly irrelevant in the 21st century and consequently so is "cassette". Words often change meaning over time with the most prevalent probably being "gay". In a similar vein "abroad" originally just meant being outside. and "bumper" was a generous glass of an alcoholic drink. We are aware of many words but aren't always sure of the definition. Anyone who has heard Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody will be familiar with "scaramouch" but who honestly knew that it means a boastful but cowardly person? If we look back far enough it can often feel like English is a different language altogether with popular words and phrases being frankly, rather baffling. Did you know that a fancy but insubstantial cooked dish was referred to as a "kickshaw"? In the face of political party conferences you will almost certainly encounter a "Snollygoster". A fine definition for a "a shrewd, unprincipled person, particular a politician". Such behaviour might well result in you needing a drink but don't have too much or you might end up with "the woofits" aka a hangover. All of this just goes to prove that if you are feeling out of touch with language, just remember it's only a passing phase. You won't be grubbling* around for something to say for long. * "Like groping, except less organised. Usually refers to pockets, but can also be used for feeling around in desk drawers that are filled with nicknacks and whatnot."

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On This Day

On this day in 1947 Harry Truman made the first televised presidential address from the White House.

What's On

Get a taste of Munich’s famous festival with the Erdinger German Oktoberfest in Greenwich Peninsula. Step into a traditional beer hall and enjoy Bavarian delicacies and the best German beer, as you listen to traditional Oktoberfest bands and DJs.

Fact Of The Week

Today is World Teachers Day. I shall spend it by remembering the poor people who had to tolerate my nonsense at school and still managed to make me a better person. Remember, sellotaping your face into grotesque positions during GCSE English is never right.* *But always funny.