Research in English (Linguistics) A session 3: May 6th, 2011

What is language?
What is language? By dgray_xplane on Flickr, via nfp 2.0
  1. Quiz on session 2
  2. What is language?
  3. We continued reading chapter 1 of “Mother Tongue”: pages 14-17. In these pages, the author Bryson discusses the following topics:
    1. words that exist in other languages that do not exist in English, e.g. “Schadenfreude” and the Scottish word that means “the habit of dropping in on people at mealtimes”. Bryson suggests that the existence of certain words in a particular language tells us something about the character of the people who speak it.
      1. We discussed whether we think this is true or not.
      2. We cane up with some Japanese examples: wabi/sabi, もったいない、どちでもいい(あいまいの文化) and 気
    2. “The Eskimos, as is well known, have 50 words for types of snow” (p. 14). This may be an urban legend. Here is a link to an article that reviews “The Mother Tongue” and discusses some of the many errors of fact that can be found in it.
    3. The various unappetizing words in Italian for different types of pasta, including the memorable “strangled priests“! However, we should remember English also has some unappetizing food names, e.g. “Hot dog, spotted dick, faggots in gravy, toad-in-the-hole“. (Click on each link to see some pictures).


  1. Write a short summary (100-200 words) of what we read today in the textbook. Use the following format.
College paper format
College paper format. (Image courtesy of Mr. Lopate's "Writing Tips and Hints" blog. Click the image to visit the blog)

  • Each of the following expressions from page 17 has two meanings, a literal meaning and an idiomatic meaning. Find both meanings for each expression:
    1. take French leave
    2. Dutch courage
    3. French letters
    4. Spanish fly
    5. Mexican carwash
  • 2 thoughts on “Research in English (Linguistics) A session 3: May 6th, 2011”

    1. This week’s class was difficult but i could understand some.
      names of foods make us unappetizing. it was fun but when i knew the literal translation, i felt that i don’t want to eat. but now i’ve been eating like hot dog.

    2. Today’s class was very interesting. I saw the pictures of food whose names were unappetizing. I want to try eating spotted dick, because it looks delicious. But I do not want to eat strangled priests. Its appearance is not tempting for me.

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