language

Poet, performer and political activist Maya Angelou has died after a long illness at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C. She was 86. Born in St. Louis in 1928, Angelou grew up in a segregated society that she worked to change during the civil rights era. Angelou, who refused to speak for much of her childhood, revealed the scars of her past in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the first of a series of memoirs.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Promises, promises -- all politicians make them, but they don't always keep them. Just last month, Gov. Dan Malloy canceled the $55 tax rebate he’d promised residents earlier this year. 

The Spirit Level

May 8, 2014
Doug Kerr / Creative Commons

a terza rima for the New Britain Industrial Museum

Hard hittin' New Britain, some of my students intone
to describe their home for a few years or a lifetime
in that depressed part of Hartford County once known

by relics in unphotographable pre-European times
as a fertile hunting and fishing ground by the Tunxis,
Quinnipiac, Wangunk, Podunk and Mattabesett tribes

Twitter is growing and its brand is spreading but Wall Street is unimpressed. On Tuesday, the company announced it had doubled its quarterly revenue from a year ago to $250 million. The social networking site also increased its number of active users to 255 million, up 25 percent from a year earlier.

But despite the gains, Wall Street analysts have called the growth tepid. Twitter went public last November, and its shares have traded as high as $74; on Wednesday, it opened at under $38.

My first hint that a recent column on diversity in late-night TV had made an impact came when I saw a tweet from an old acquaintance.

He runs a website and blog devoted to covering television and had decided to write a post based on my audio story on late-night TV. He then sent out a Twitter message with the headline:

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

Ed Wierzbicki / CPBN

It was evident from Saturday’s grand finale of "Hartford Loves Poetry: A Community Celebration" that the city loves the sound and soul of its many voices. It was also proof that people are thirsty for authentic human stories told aloud by their neighbors that creatively reflect ancestry and history.

Latin American author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1982, died Thursday. He was 87. Garcia Marquez, the master of a style known as magic realism, was and remains Latin America's best-known writer.

His novels were filled with miraculous and enchanting events and characters; love and madness; wars, politics, dreams and death. And everything he had written, Garcia Marquez once said, he knew or heard before he was 8 years old.

A Writer Shaped By His Beginnings

5 Points Where Poetry Meets Jazz

Apr 11, 2014

Poetry and song were once the same: The first poems were recited to music played on the lyre. (It's the source of the word "lyric.") Today, poems are published in books and journals, while songs are heard but seldom read. The poet Robert Pinsky tells of a successful songwriter-singer who said, "A little poetry can really help a song, but too much poetry will sink a song."

Poetic Take On Black Boxer Lands Punches With Broad Appeal

Apr 11, 2014

April is National Poetry Month, and Code Switch is celebrating by writing about great poets of color and their poems that address issues of race, culture and ethnicity. We began the series with an invitation to our readers to help us build a collaborative poem.

Bob Mankoff has been contributing cartoons to The New Yorker ever since 1977 and now, as cartoon editor, he evaluates more than 500 cartoons submitted to the magazine each week.

Mankoff is proud of the many cartoons that have been published under his aegis. "Sometimes I take my aegis out of my drawer just to admire it," he writes.

His most well-known cartoon shows an executive looking at his desk calendar, saying to someone on the phone: "No, Thursday's out. How about never — is never good for you?"

Vladimir Yaitskiy / Creative Commons

With the situation in Ukraine as bad as it is, semantics are not high on the list of priorities. But it's something that inevitably comes up for journalists when we discuss names and locations in other parts of the world.

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy was on WNPR's Where We Live to talk about his recent trip to Ukraine's capital of Kiev, or Kyiv (more on that later).

Murphy pronounces the name of this city as "Keev."

Speed-reading all rage. Suddenly many speed-reading apps. Spritz. Spreeder. Others.

Some inspired by method RSVP — rapid serial visual presentation.

"Rather than read words

from left to right,"

says Marc Slater, managing director of Spreeder parent company eReflect.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

It's National Grammar Day, a time to take stock of the current status of the English language, and possibly get into bitter fights.

I'm old school. I'm the kind of person who will only use "not only" if I intend to follow it with "but also." That's probably a convention that died the quiet death of a feverish sloth many years ago. But I know what's right, and sometimes it feels like I'm helping to hold the language together even as it drifts into chaos.

GiantsFanatic / Creative Commons

The Colin McEnroe Show is featuring an episode on grammar next Tuesday. 

Below we have a "fatal" example of a misplaced modifier. I'm fairly certain the judge didn't do any of those horrible things. (h/t R.R. Cooper)

Access Health CT

We recently told you about the challenge of getting a Spanish language enrollment website up and running for the state’s Obamacare agency, Access Health CT. Now, it appears that site is live

The Man Behind The Dialect Quiz

Feb 19, 2014

With just 11 days before the end of 2013, The New York Times posted a dialect quiz on its website that drew in millions of readers, making it the site’s most popular page for the year. The quiz is designed to pinpoint the quiz-taker’s exact region, based on the words he or she uses.

The graphics intern who created the mapping algorithm, Josh Katz, was hired for a full-time position and Bert Vaux, the linguist who created the data for the test, began to see an uptick in the activity on his website.

Jeff Cohen / WNPR

The Spanish-language website that will enroll state residents in Obamacare is still facing delays. In fact, officials say it could be another two weeks until it is operational. 

R.J. Reynolds

With mental health issues at the forefront of local and national discussion, the phrase "the mentally ill" has become commonplace in media headlines. But does it really belong there -- or anywhere, for that matter? We talk with Tufts Medical Center’s Psychiatrist-in-Chief about the importance of the words we use when talking about mental illness. 

One of America's most important — and controversial — literary figures, Amiri Baraka, died on Thursday from complications after surgery following a long illness, according to his oldest son. Baraka was 79.

Baraka co-founded the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s. His literary legacy is as complicated as the times he lived through, from his childhood — where he recalled not being allowed to enter a segregated library — to the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. His poem about that attack, "Somebody Blew Up America," quickly became infamous.

Ben Simo / Creative Commons

Our schools teach a variety of foreign languages: Spanish, French, even Latin. But should we be focusing on the language of computer programming? Even NBA star Chris Bosh is asking everyone from young kids to the homeless to learn to code. Why aren’t we teaching it more? It seems like President Obama needs an army of coders to fix the glitchy HealthCare.gov website.

carlosbezz/iStock / Thinkstock

As the number of Hispanic students in Connecticut's schools continues to rise, the achievement gap between these students and their white classmates remains. Gaps can be found in every grade, in every subject, in just about every school district in the state. The highest percentage of English language learners can be found in the town of Windham. In the past year, there have been big changes there to the way Hispanic students are being taught.

Oxford Dictionaries has decided that 2013's word of the year is selfie — and if you don't know what the word means, you may not be a somewhat self-absorbed type who likes to share photos you take of yourself. (Just kidding, selfie fans!)

Planeta on Flickr Creative Commons

Once again we start the week with a show that we planned on the fly based on stories that grabbed us over the weekend. 

Ben Simo / Creative Commons

It may not be enough anymore to just be tech-literate. There is a mainstream push to teach people, both kids and adults alike, to be code-literate. On an episode of Where We Live, there was a discussion with people who code, making the case for more code education.

Ben Simo / Creative Commons

Our schools teach a variety of foreign languages: Spanish, French, even Latin. But should we be focusing on the language of computer programming? Even NBA star Chris Bosh is asking everyone from young kids to the homeless to learn to code. Why aren’t we teaching it more? It seems like President Obama needs an army of coders to fix the glitchy HealthCare.gov website.

Call it a linguistic identity crisis.

Growing up in Westchester, N.Y., 25-year-old Danielle Alvarez says, she and her two siblings didn't have much need for Spanish. With few other Hispanic families around, she got by with the few phrases she had picked up from her Mexican-born father: good night, put a coat on, be careful.

Students across the state are heading back to school this week – and they’ll be seeing a lot of changes.  The common core state standards are taking effect and changing the way teachers teach and students take tests.

Schools are struggling to find the best way to teach ESL kids English.  New Britain school system was recently featured on PBS Newshour for changing all their bilingual classes to English only. 

Jonathan McNicol photo

The linguist John McWhorter joins us to talk about his book What Language Is (And What It Isn't, and What It Could Be). From Standard English to Black English; obscure tongues only spoken by a few thousand people in the world to the big ones like Mandarin—What Language Is celebrates the history and curiosities of languages around the world and smashes our assumptions about "correct" grammar. Plus, a look at the career con man and serial impostor Clark Rockefeller, who wasn't, ya know, actually a Rockefeller at all.

Chion Wolf

We're talking today about a word that can refer to the solid waste produced by male cattle. It can also refer to nonsensical talk not grounded in fact. In 1986, the American philosopher Harry Frankfurt published a scholarly analysis of this concept. In some ways it was a groundbreaking paper, but it also constituted a furtherance of an almost constant inquiry by thinking people.

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