Category Archives: language


One of my favorite recent new words seems to have made it.


At least someone is excited about “meh.”

The expression of indifference or boredom has gained a place in the Collins English Dictionary after generating a surprising amount of enthusiasm among lexicographers.

Publisher HarperCollins announced Monday the word had been chosen from terms suggested by the public for inclusion in the dictionary’s 30th anniversary edition, to be published next year.

The origins of “meh” are murky, but the term grew in popularity after being used in a 2001 episode of “The Simpsons” in which Homer suggests a day trip to his children Bart and Lisa.

“They both just reply ‘meh’ and keep watching TV,” said Cormac McKeown, head of content at Collins Dictionaries.

The dictionary defines “meh” as an expression of indifference or boredom, or an adjective meaning mediocre or boring. Examples given by the dictionary include “the Canadian election was so meh.”

It seems that meh should be an older word than it is.



I’ve never been much of a fan of the word awesome.

I know it’s in vogue right now, but it reminds me of a line from Adulterers Anonymous, a book of poetry by Exene Cervenka and Lydia Lunch in which they exhorted readers to “never call the ordinary divine.”¬† There¬† seems to be way too much hyperinflating the wonderfulness the most mundane subjects for no good reason.

That’s why I was glad to see this article on Salon about George W. Bush’s use of the word and how the word’s meaning has changed:

On Memorial Day, President Bush paid tribute to the troops and their families at Arlington National Cemetery. Of the men and women buried there, President Bush declared, “They’re an awesome bunch of people, and the United States is blessed to have such citizens.”

What else is awesome? Just about everything. “Thank you, Your Holiness,” the president publicly said to Pope Benedict XVI in mid-April when he became only the second pope in history to visit the White House. “Awesome speech.”


The word was once reserved for use by a younger generation. Now it seems as if everyone is in on this awesome action. The words “trendsetter” and “George W. Bush” may never have been uttered in the same breath, but our president’s verbal influence begs to be noted. If 2001 was the time of Shock and Awe, as the president decreed, then 2008 is the Year of Shock and Awesome.


“When Bush uses the word ‘awesome,’ I don’t think he’s trying to transmit anything other than approval. It’s appropriate to say, ‘That football game was awesome.’ But it’s obviously not appropriate to call dead soldiers an ‘awesome bunch.’ Bush does not realize or appreciate how colloquial the word is.”

Bush’s use of that word has been incredibly inappropriate for a president, but even without Bush, a switch to using that word in its original sense, “inspiring awe,” would be awesome.

Obama Makes Sense: English Only Is BS

From Obama:

You know, I don’t understand when people are going around worrying about, “We need to have English- only.” They want to pass a law, “We want English-only.”

Now, I agree that immigrants should learn English. I agree with that. But understand this. Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English — they’ll learn English — you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish. You should be thinking about, how can your child become bilingual? We should have every child speaking more than one language.

Of course, he’s right. Immigrants will learn English and assimilate as they always have, despite what Michelle Malkin and her ilk might think.


You know, no, I’m serious about this. We should understand that our young people, if you have a foreign language, that is a powerful tool to get a job. You are so much more employable. You can be part of international business. So we should be emphasizing foreign languages in our schools from an early age, because children will actually learn a foreign language easier when they’re 5, or 6, or 7 than when they’re 46, like me.

I’m fortunate enough to speak a second language, and that ability certainly has opened a lot of doors for me professionally.

Perhaps more imporantly, it has opened me up to cultural enrichment. When I travel in the Spanish-speaking world, it’s easy to make friends who invite me into their homes and who teach me far more about their countries than I would have ever learned without their help.

But too many Americans seem to have a fear of learning and hearing foreign languages.

On the learning side, I understand that learning a foreign language is difficult. To learn to speak a language, well, you need some immersion, some studying, and a lot of patience. It’s not that hard, it just takes some time and practice.

But on the hearing side, I am often disturbed by the attitudes of many Americans.

Lynn Samuels, an alleged liberal talk show host on Sirius left regularly informs her listeners about how upset she gets when she hears people speaking Spanish. She’s a PUMA, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. She also likes to blather on about herself.

I was reminded of Lynn last week when I was buying groceries. Upon entering the store, I saw a lovely family that I took to be Indian. They seemed to be having a good time and they seemed to be happy.

But while I was squeezing some peaches, an old white guy stepped next to me and said something about “them people” learning English. I pretended not to hear him and moved on the the arugula section </snark> and the same guy again tried to speak to me. He said something about “them people” needing to get the hell out. I ignored him again and went about my business.

It seems that among the Lynn Samuels and guy from the supermarket crowd, it’s a sin to not speak English.

I don’t get it.