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Archive for May, 2012

What is ‘Proper’ English?

In this month’s New Yorker, Joan Acocella looks at English journalist Henry Hitchen’s The Language Wars: A History of Proper English (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Acocella looks back at different attempts made throughout history to codify and regulate the English-language. In A Dictionary of Modern English Usage written by retired school teacher H. W. Fowler in 1926, “proper” English was that of the elite and upper-class. To George Orwell a few years later in his seminal 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language” language was political; as Acocella writes “to him, our very lives depended on linguistic clarity.” But as Hitchen explores in The Language Wars, linguists in the latter half of the 20th century, opened up the idea of what was ‘proper’ English to include all types of slang and vernacular. Just look at the inclusion in recent years of words like ‘googling,’ ‘sexting,’ and ‘re-tweet’ to the Oxford English Dictionary.

So what exactly is “proper” English? An ever evolving creature all it’s own?

For those who wish to harken back to the vernacular of another time, we suggest perusing this wonderful online dictionary of Colonial American slang. “Kicksie-wicksie” may have never made it into the OED – but it’s so fun to say!

Read the full article in the New Yorker here.

2011 Nebula Awards

The Nebula Awards are a series of prizes given each year by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America to the best in science fiction writing (novel, novella, short story and more). The award for best novel went to Jo Watson’s young adult novel  Among Others, about a young girl in Wales struggling with the fallout of a magical battle that has killed her family.

Other nominees include:


Full list of winners here.


Reading in Transit

The Underground New York Public Library chronicles people reading on the subway on their daily commute. Check out some of their amazing pictures (and maybe find your next read?). Let’s get a Beijing-version going, although we would have to expand the types of transit to include buses, san yuan che’s and bikes!

How an Idea Becomes a Book

Weldon Owen has put together a great infographic outlining just how an idea becomes a book (spolier alert: drinking and goat farms are involved).


The Bookworm Download Map

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Chaoyang District, Beijing
100027, P.R China

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