BUZZWORDS Revisited

One of my favorite webpages, and one I can strongly recommend to teachers and students of English alike is www.macmillandictionary.com/buzzword, and here especially Kerry Maxwells collection of ‘BUZZWORDS’.

Buzzwords are newly formed or created terms that reflect upon different kinds of social phenomena or new fads and trends and thus are great for discussion. Additionally, from a language perspective, they offer insight into word formation processes. On the webpage is a whole list of new words and an archive going back several years.

Every once in a while I choose some I find interesting and believe (or hope) will trigger lively discussions. (see post May 2013) Continue reading

Make Me A German

Last week we watched a documentary from the BBC about an English couple who move to Germany to find out what living in Germany is like: Make Me A German. Justin and Bee Rowlatt, both journalists, move to Nuremberg where he takes on a job with a medium sized company (Faber-Castell) and she stays at home to be a good housewife and mother. The differences to their lives at home in England and the related problems they encounter offer great material for discussion.

See also bbc.co.uk/blogs/tv/posts/Make-Me-A-German

Is it I or is it me?

Harry Potter fans might answer this clearly as all characters in J.K. Rowlings Harry Potter series say ‘It is I’ – something my linguistic mind always stumbles over for a brief second when reading it.  A student in one of my classes also recently asked about this.

Modern English does not have a case system, like e.g. German. The functions of subject and object in a sentence are determined by word order. Thus in the sentence – The cat is chasing the dog – who chases who(m) is clearly determined by the position of the two noun phrases ‘the cat’ and ‘the dog’. If I change the position of the noun phrases and say – The dog is chasing the cat – the situation changes dramatically from the perspective of the cat.

In German, e.g., which has a case system, we could have something like Den Hund jagte die Katze. The subject would be the cat even though Continue reading

London Tower Commemorates World War I

On my visit to London this year, I went to the Tower of London to look at the art project installed to commemorate the British soldiers who died in WWI.

It is quite fascinating as you can see if you go to the link below or google Tower of London.

http://globalnews.ca/news/1491578/photos-red-ceramic-poppies-spill-from-tower-of-london/

November: In the meantime some weeks have past and the sight around the Tower has changed dramatically. Continue reading

Of Football and Funerals or: What is ‘public viewing’?

Here, finally, my World Cup 2014 post. We are looking forward to the next round, the quarter finals, Germany will play France on Friday – fortunately at the earlier time – many of us did not manage to watch the late games to the end. I was often unfortunate to leave the scene just before the first goal, but I heard I was not the only one. I looked into a lot of tired eyes last week, however, trafic was fairly low so I didn’t have to leave so early in the morning.

But now on to my vocabulary issue.

Continue reading

Anniversaries, Anniversaries …

… are always a chance to take up the topic of a historical event.

The most crucial anniversary of 2014, at least from a European perspective, is the centennial of World War 1. History books tell us the outbreak of war was triggered by the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, an incident that Nassim Taleb considers might have been a Black Swan: an unpredictable event of large impact. Continue reading

The Hazy Memory of a Simpler Past

One of my favorite newspaper columns is Oliver Burkeman’s This Column will Change Your Life that he writes for the Guardian Weekly. The texts are short and poignant, the topics often refreshingly provocative and thus great for classroom discussions.

His column from February 2, 2014 is about our nostalgic tendency to believe in the past everything was better. Depending on the age of the person reminiscing, this could be any decade. What unites them all, according to Mr Burkeman, is that the person praising the respective time (and complaining about how things have changed since ‘then’ – and not to the better) was around seven at the time.

Continue reading