Some of the 1920s slang expressions mentioned in this article are still in common use today - I've heard the bee's knees, see a man about a dog and wet blanket fairly recently, and I see or hear sozzled, similar to the zozzled listed, pretty often. Since this was the Prohibition era, it's not surprising that much of the slang related to alcohol, drinking and getting drunk.
Here's the article with a list of slang words of the era.
There aren't many feature films, let alone comedies, about learning English, but the Bollywood film English Vinglish is a recent one that has received good reviews (and which I will go and see if and when it comes to a local cinema - I think I might have missed it when it came out about a month ago). It's about an Indian woman, teased by her family about her poor English, who enrols on a language course while visiting New York to stay with relatives (watch the trailer here).
I'm not exactly sure about the significance of the title and, in particular, Vinglish. It could be that Hindi forms reduplicative words (examples of reduplicative words in English include nitty-gritty, hocus-pocus) using the letter V for the second element (and this Wikipedia page suggests it does). Or, the vin of Vinglish could be a play on the word 'win'.
English as spoken by speakers of Hindi is sometimes called Hinglish. There are other words for other varieties of English spoken elsewhere, which are imbued with vocabulary and features of the home language, including Thaiglish (Thailand) and Konglish (South Korea). Those last two examples are not in the OED, but other varieties of English, or varieties of other languages heavily influenced by English, are. They are listed below with their OED definitions:
Chinglish: A mixture of Chinese and English; esp. a variety of English used by speakers of Chinese or in a bilingual Chinese and English context, typically incorporating some Chinese vocabulary or constructions, or English terms specific to a Chinese context.
Hinglish: Esp. in India: a mixture of Hindi and English; esp. a variety of English used by speakers of Hindi (or in a bilingual Hindi and English context), characterized by frequent use of Hindi vocabulary or constructions.
Japlish: A blend of Japanese and English spoken in Japan: either the Japanese language freely interlarded with English expressions or the English language spoken in an unidiomatic way by a Japanese speaker. (This is the oldest entry among this list - it went into the OED in 1976 and hasn't been updated since. Spanglish and Yinglish went in in the 1980s, and the others only within the last ten years.)
Singlish: An informal variety of English spoken in Singapore, incorporating elements of Chinese and Malay. (There is also another entry for Singlish: An informal variety of English spoken in Sri Lanka, incorporating elements of Sinhala.)
Spanglish: A type of Spanish contaminated by English words and forms of expression, spoken in Latin America.
Yinglish: A jocular name for a blend of English and Yiddish spoken in the United States; a form of English containing many Yiddishisms
There were already over 60 sub-sections, ie different senses, at the entry for the verb write in the OED, but another phrase went in under the verb in the last round of updating (end of September 2012) - and that's all she wrote. It's quite a common phrase in the US (see this Google News page) and, indeed, is described as 'N. Amer. colloq' by the Dictionary. The definition is 'that's it' ie expressing finality or closure. I had never heard it before.
As for where the phrase comes from, the OED says it is probably a reference to a woman writing to her husband or lover saying that the relationship is over. The phrase was apparently popularised in a number of songs in the 1940s.
Michael Quinion wrote a piece about this phrase last year on Word Wide Words (here).
To date, attempts to decipher proto-Elamite, a 5000-year-old writing system developed in what is now Iran, have failed, but academics at Oxford University may be close to a breakthrough, reports the BBC (in this article).
Over a thousand clay tablets inscribed with the writing survive, but, even though other ancient writing systems, such as ancient Egyptian and Sumerian, have been deciphered, it has proved very difficult to understand proto-Elamite. One reason for this is that no bilingual texts have been found (and it was the discovery of the bilingual Rosetta Stone that was the key to deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics - see this old post). Another reason is that there seem to be many errors in the writing, making it difficult to spot patterns.
The reason that the article predicts a breakthrough is that a new machine now exists which will 'read' the texts more clearly and make the markings more visible. Researcher Dr Jacob Dahl took the machine over to the Louvre museum in Paris, where there is a significant collection of the tablets.
Dr Dahl may not fully understand most of the writing, but he has gleaned enough to give an idea of the society that used the writing system. He can tell that the clay tablets mostly relate to accounting or trading matters (early texts often do - the Rosetta Stone text contains information about taxes). The society was hierarchical with the masses at the bottom subsisting on meagre diets. The upper echelons may have had a life expectancy similar to today's, according to Dr Dahl.
Here is the BBC piece with a picture of a tablet showing the writing.
The UK weather forecast has been predicting blood rain this week, and the BBC site gives an account of what blood rain actually is (see here). It is rain containing particles of sand from deserts. I haven’t seen any evidence of it so far yet this week, although I have noticed that my car, windows etc have had light dustings of reddish dirt or powder in the past, which presumably was the result of the same phenomenon.
The term blood rain is in the OED, with the first citation dating from 1612 (where the spelling is bloud-raine). Its definition is: “rain that is reddish in colour, esp. because of suspended dust or (less commonly) green algae containing red carotenoid pigments”.
The BBC article says that the 12th century historian Geoffrey of Monmouth referred to blood rain. That would have been in Latin, since that was the language he wrote in.
There was a short piece on the Radio 4 Today programme this morning about earworms (with some annoying examples! - listen here for another week). Earworms are annoying snippets of songs that you can't get out of your head. The psychologist on the programme said that her department at Goldsmiths, University of London, was researching into the reasons they were so catchy (repeated hearing played a part, as did what state of mind you were in, and whether any of the words in the song caused particular memory associations; in addition, earworms often included long notes with intervals that are close together. The psychologist also said that it is believed that certain personality types are more susceptible to them than others).
The word 'earworm' is a direct translation of the German Ohrwurm. This definition of earworm is in the OED as its third definition. Earworm was in the earliest edition of the OED as another word for earwig. The first citation is dated 1598. The second definition of earworm (marked obsolete and rare) is "a counsellor who advises a monarch etc in secret".
Here is the website of the Earworm Project at Goldsmiths. You can report your own earworm experiences here.
Ed Miliband, Leader of the Opposition, described Andrew Mitchell, former Government Chief Whip, as "toast' a day or so ago (see video here).
This meaning of toast ("a person or thing that is defunct, dead, finished, in serious trouble, etc") entered the OED in 2002, and there are citations dating back to the 1980s. The first recorded use of the term is in the film Ghostbusters, where Bill Murray's character says "This chick is toast".
Toast appears as three noun headwords in the OED, and the above meaning appears under the first entry, which refers to toast meaning 'browned or grilled bread'. The word entered English from Old French, where toster meant "to roast or grill".
The second toast's first definition, which dates back to the early 18th century is "a lady who is named as the person to whom a company is requested to drink; often one who is the reigning belle of the season". Citations for this meaning include extracts from Jonathan Swift's and Fanny Burney's writings. Fifty years later the definition had widened to include men or anything else to which a toast might be drunk: "any person, male or female, whose health is proposed and drunk to; also any event, institution, or sentiment, in memory or in honour of which a company is requested to drink; also, the call or act of proposing such a health".
Originally, spiced bread warmed and browned at the fire was dropped into wine to give it flavour, and the OED thinks that it was for this reason that women came also to be called 'toasts'. A 1706 edition of the Tatler explained that during the reign of Charles II (1660-84) a belle was luxuriating in the health-giving waters in the spa of Bath, when a gentleman scooped up some of the water she was lying in, and drank it. Another gentleman, one who was rather more the worse for wear than the first chap, was supposed to have said that though he didn't like the liquor, he would have the toast. This story was put about by Joseph Addison, and I saw it on the website World Wide Words.
The OED talks only of ladies and belles being toasts - ie it is a positive word. However, if you have read more salacious books, journals and poems about the seedier side of 18th century London (which, I have to admit, I have), you will soon discover that when someone describes a woman as a 'toast', they are not speaking politely or genteelly at all, but are using 'toast' as a synonym of 'whore'. See for example Jonathan Swift's poem A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed (the title is ironic), which begins:
Corinna, Pride of Drury-Lane,
For whom no Shepherd sighs in vain;
Never did Covent Garden boast
So bright a batter'd, strolling Toast;
You can read the whole poem here.
The third meaning of toast, which gets its own OED entry, dates back to the 1960s, is from the US and/or Caribbean and is "a type of long narrative poem recited extempore".
There are now 870,000 words and phrases as entries in the OED and there are well over 3 million illustrative quotations, according to a piece on the OED website by Chief Editor, John Simpson (available here to everyone, not just OED subscribers).
During the last quarter entries between 'affable' and 'always' have been looked at and updated if they needed to be. This group of words was originally in the very first volume of the OED to be published in 1884, before James Murray, the then editor, got fully into his stride, and hasn't been updated since, so the OED lexicographers certainly have had their work cut out over the last three months.
Around 90% of the words in this group - many of the words that begin al- -- mention Arabic in their etymology, and over 50 mention Spanish.
The verb 'allow' was in the group edited over the last quarter. It has 23 subsenses, including an early meaning - to praise (allow is derived from Latin laudare, to praise).
Atishoo has been in the OED since 1933, but achoo has just gone in with the same meaning (sound of a sneeze); it is also spelled occasionally as aitchoo, achew, ahchew, ahschoo, ahshoo, ahchoo, atchoo, aitshoo. Despite only just going in to the Dictionary, the first citation is from 1843.
Other new entries this month include:
afizz: in a fizz
aflap: worried, agitated
a-flying: in flight
Afro-Saxon: a person of African descent who identifies closely with English or Anglo-American culture and values
agarbatti: an incense stick
aggressee: a person, nation, etc. towards whom or which aggression is directed
aginer: a person who is against something
agrochemistry: = agricultural chemistry (which was previously in the Dictionary at the 'agricultural' entry)
ahistoricism: a lack of regard for history
akkadogram: a cuneiform character of the Akkadian language
alakazam: a magic word said when performing a trick
alcoholiday: a holiday or period of leisure spent drinking alcohol
alderperson: non-sexist substitute for alderman or alderwoman
Alf Garnett: a man resembling Alf Garnett (from the sitcom) in behaviour or outlook
algorithmics: the study or use of algorithms
all fives: on hands, knees and buttocks (cf all fours)
all righty: all right
Just because a word has gone into the OED for the first time in the year 2012 does not mean that it is a new word. Again-chare has entered the Dictionary this quarter, but it was a word used pre-1066. Again-going has just gone in, but has been tagged as 'obsolete'; it means 'the action of going to meet someone'.
You can see all the new entries here.
I watched Ian Hislop's Stiff Upper Lip -- An Emotional History of Britain on iPlayer earlier. In it the historian AN Wilson asked rhetorically "what other language in the world uses 'pathetic' as a term of abuse?"
The original meaning of 'pathetic' was "arousing sadness, compassion or sympathy". It comes from the ancient Greek word meaning 'capable of feeling or emotion'. Now one is more likely to say "what a pathetic match" or describe someone as 'pathetic' (ie useless, contemptible). In the programme Wilson talked about the Victorian Aesthetic movement, and the cult of the emotions or the cult of pathos. "Pathos is the feeling that we all cultivate in order to show that we are human beings," said Wilson, "but the Victorians repressed it". Indeed, it was during the late Victorian era that the meaning of the word changed, presumably because the qualities associated with pathos, namely strong emotion or vulnerability, were regarded negatively by the Victorians.