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Personal Names, Such Important Words!

The Atlantic has recently published the results of new research from the University of Melbourne which shows that employees with easier-to-pronounce names are more likely to get promoted!

Researchers led by Dr. Simon Laham analysed how the pronunciation of names can influence impression formation and decision-making in the workplace. They used field data on 500 lawyers in the U.S. and conducted a mock ballot experiment. They used a range of names from Anglo, Asian and West and East European backgrounds.

The research found that attorneys with more pronounceable names advanced their career more quickly in their companies, while political aspirants with simpler names were more likely to be elected. This effect didn’t depend on the name’s length or cultural origin, but on its ease of pronunciation.

The full study, “The Name-Pronunciation Effect: Why People Like Mr. Smith More Than Mr. Colquhoun” (PDF) was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

By | March 9th, 2012|Blog|0 Comments

Linguistic Achievements of Women


Today is the International Women’s Day, so let’s learn about and celebrate the linguistic achievements of women. Everything young females do verbally used to be considered a sign of vapidity, insecurity or some other flaw, but now several linguists do not quite agree. Such thinking is outdated: girls and women in their teens and 20s deserve credit for pioneering vocal trends and popular slang.

Women uptalk, which means they pronounce statements as if they were questions, create slang words like “bitchin’,” a synonym of awesome, and “ridic,” an abbreviation of ridiculous, and always use “like” as a conversation filler.

These examples may have been created by women, but they are now used by both sexes. The American linguist Mark Liberman states that George W. Bush used “uptalk” all the time and men now use “like” more than women in conversation.

Why are women about half a generation ahead of males as far as vocal trends are concerned? Some linguists suggest that women are more sensitive to social interactions and hence more likely to adopt subtle vocal cues. Others say they use language to assert their power in a culture that, at least in days gone by, asked them to be calm and decorous. Whatever the answer, the idea that women’s vocal fads quickly spread to the general population is well established.

The New York Times has recently published an article about a paper on “vocal fry” written by researchers from Long Island University. “Vocal fry” is a kind of creaky voice now associated with young women and girls, which has a long history with English speakers. Dr. Crystal, the British linguist, cited it as far back as 1964, as a way for British men to denote their superior social standing. In the United States, it has been gaining popularity among women since at least 2003, when Carmen Fought, a professor of linguistics at Pitzer College in Claremont, detected it among the female speakers of a Chicano dialect in California.

A classic example of vocal fry, can be heard in the movie She Done Him Wrong (1933) when Mae West says “Why don’t you come up sometime and see me.”

By | March 7th, 2012|Blog|0 Comments

Toast to the Welsh Language


At the end of January, the BBC published an article about the pub The Seven Stars in Wrexham, the largest town in North Wales. This pub was renamed Saith Seren, a direct translation into Welsh, and is being run by the newly-formed Wrexham Welsh Centre.

Wrexham has become the first location in Wales chosen to be a “bilingual town” in a scheme to promote the use of the Welsh language. The project, drawn up by the Welsh government and the Welsh Language Board, hopes to encourage more people to use Welsh in everyday life in the town.

People are also welcome to drop their suggestions for a name for the new beer, which is being brewed with the help of Pene Coles from the Sandstone Brewery, who sits on the centre’s board of directors.

This pub features regular live music by Welsh-language bands and local bands with poetry, film and theatre, and serves as a focus for hundreds of Welsh learners in the area.

Although the aim is to promote the use of Welsh, the centre is open to all members of the public, and as well as food, drink and entertainment, the centre hopes to offer meeting rooms, community facilities and office space. Phase two of the project, the upstairs renovation of the listed building, is expected to be completed by June.

If you are interested in the Welsh language, you can also read Can Wales Really Trust Google Translate?

By | March 6th, 2012|Blog|0 Comments
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