Legislators in governments based on the Westminster system enjoy parliamentary privilege, which means that, while in the House, they can speak their minds without the fear of being sued for slander. But to retain some modicum of decorum during debates, the Speaker of the House has the authority to rein in politicians who use language deemed unparliamentary, asking foul-mouthed lawmakers to withdraw their comments or face discipline.
Because Canadians will soon head to the polls to elect their forty-second Parliament, I figured now was a good time to look through Canada’s Hansard for some choice quotes from past parliamentarians. As with the Australian edition of our unparliamentary language feature, you’ll likely find the offending words or phrases tame by Strong Language standards. I’ve also included some quotes where the honourable members feel out the boundaries of what’s considered unparliamentary. Continue reading
Google Docs announced today that you can now create documents using your voice. And of course, like any good linguist, I immediately went to try to stump it. It’s pretty good, actually — it recognized both pronunciations of “gif” and “aunt” in the contexts “animated ___” and “uncle and ___” although it tended to assume that I might have the bit/bet merger, which I most emphatically do not, and thus presented me with a few transcriptions that felt like odd candidates to me.
But then I tried swearwords and hit the fucking jackpot. Continue reading
Swearing varies a lot from place to place, even within the same country, in the same language. But how do we know who swears what, where, in the big picture? We turn to data – damn big data. With great computing power comes great cartography.
Jack Grieve, lecturer in forensic linguistics at Aston University in Birmingham, UK, has created a detailed set of maps of the US showing strong regional patterns of swearing preferences. The maps are based on an 8.9-billion-word corpus of geo-coded tweets collected by Diansheng Guo in 2013–14 and funded by Digging into Data. Here’s fuck:
English has equipped us with a full spectrum of ways to agree—the noncommittal sure, the tepid OK, the formal yes. But some situations demand a more enthusiastic response than a simple yes, and coming to our aid are our trusty sweary sidekicks, which help us intensify yeah into hell yeah and absolutely into absofuckinglutely. They’ve also made their way into a few (relatively) fixed expressions that we use to convey emphatic assent:
(Also damned straight, goddamn straight, or goddamned straight)
Straight meaning “honest” or “true” dates from the 1530s, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, but the earliest citation of damn straight comes from Roger D. Abraham’s 1964 Deep Down in the Jungle: Black American Folklore from the Streets of Philadelphia:
“God damn straight, I’ll be there.”
I stumbled upon this 1884 title in my research for another post and figured I’d be remiss if I didn’t share it here. I don’t know much about the book’s author, Julian Sharman, other than that he’d also edited a collection of poetry by Mary Queen of Scots and a collection of John Heywood’s proverbs. And I’ll admit I’m not so much reviewing this thoroughly British book as I am admiring it as a curious artifact of its time.
Almost half a century into Queen Victoria’s reign, 1884 stands out as the year:
(none of which provide any relevant context for the book, unfortunately, but surely you didn’t expect me to learn about the so-called Home Office Baby and not pass the information along). Those Victorians sure knew how to party. Continue reading