A nice linguistic fight to start with this week: a Texas organization called The Global Language Monitor is claiming that the English language has just gained its millionth word. President and chief world analyst Paul J.J. Payack has dubbed this the Million Word March. This generated a lot of headlines (“English acquires its millionth word”) but beyond that, Payack could not have been happy with the response to his declaration. Linguists and commentators called it among other thing, silly, misleading a publicity stunt and “the biggest load of chicken droppings I’ve heard in a long time.” Nice.
Next up is Singlish, a hybrid tongue that Singaporeans speak among themselves, much to the consternation of their famously fussy government. Singlish is a reflection of Singapore’s history of colonization and immigration: it mixes English with Malay, Hokkien Chinese and a smattering of Tamil. It’s spoken in homes, restaurants and increasingly on TV. Officials worry that Singaporeans’ English skills will slip. But the government’s efforts to curb Singlish have so far failed miserably. We have a Singlish double hit: first, a report from Singapore, then a conversation with the editors of a recently updated Singlish dictionary.
Finally, as the US military releases some Chinese Uighurs from Guantanamo, we take a look at the Uighur language and culture. Four Gitmo Uighurs have been resettled in Bermuda. More may be sent to Palau. In each case, they’ll probably be the first Uighur speakers to set foot on those islands.