Pilot’s Lounge: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I recently did a podcast with my niece, Ania Wilton on the slang of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

In their podcast Pilot’s Lounge, Ania and her cousin Chelsea Pula discuss the pilots, i.e., first episodes, of television series. This was a bonus episode where Ania and I sat down, sipped some scotch, and talked about the language used in Buffy.

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RIP, John Algeo (1930–2019)

John Algeo, linguist and professor emeritus at the University of Georgia, has passed. He will be missed. A former president of the American Dialect Society and editor of American Speech, he started the “Among the New Words” column in that journal that traced the appearance of neologisms in English.

Here is his obituary from the Bowling Green (Kentucky) Daily News.

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Anglo-Saxon

Update: Friday, 22 November 2019

The University of Illinois Press has given permission for me to post a pre-publication copy of the paper which will appear in an upcoming issue of JEGP (tentatively October 2020, 119.4).

A pdf of the paper can be downloaded from here.

The raw data, in the form an Excel spreadsheet, can downloaded from here.


The article uses linguistic corpora, ranging from the Dictionary of Old English Corpus to the Corpus of Contemporary American English, to trace the usage and senses of the term Anglo-Saxon from the early medieval period through to the present day. It shows that in the early medieval period, while the term was used on the Continent insular use prior to Norman Conquest was rare, referred only to the unified kingdom of Mercia and Wessex, and was limited to the context of royal intitulature. Following the Conquest, it disappeared from English usage before being re-borrowed from continental Latin in the late sixteenth century. And starting at the turn of the nineteenth century it began to be applied to contemporary contexts, first as politico-cultural marker for things English or British, and shortly afterward as an ethno-racial marker. Present-day use of Anglo-Saxon, even in academic circles, is usually not as a reference to the pre-Conquest era, but rather as a contemporary identity label, usually as a marker of whiteness, or as a politico-cultural marker for the global dominance of U.S./British cultural, political, and economic institutions and policies. While the use of the term as an identity label is strongest in North America, such use makes up a substantial percentage of British usage as well.

The results of this study have implications for how the field of medieval studies, and studies of pre-Conquest England in particular, use Anglo-Saxon. Not only is the term analytically problematic because it conflates ethnically and politically distinct peoples in the pre-Conquest era, but its present-day use as a ethno-racial identity marker inevitably associates the field with race and whiteness at a time when the field is striving to break from its roots in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century, ethno-nationalist thinking.

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The Guardian on Language Decline

David Shariatmadari has a nice piece on the myth of the decline of the English language in The Guardian.

He writes:

There is no such thing as linguistic decline, so far as the expressive capacity of the spoken or written word is concerned. We need not fear a breakdown in communication. Our language will always be as flexible and sophisticated as it has been up to now. Those who warn about the deterioration of English haven’t learned about the history of the language, and don’t understand the nature of their own complaints – which are simply statements of preference for the way of doing things they have become used to.

There’s nothing new here for those that have studied the myth, but it’s a concise debunking and useful for reference.

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Voynich MS

Lisa Fagin Davis, an actual expert on the manuscript, has an excellent article in the Washington Post on the Voynich manuscript and how people keep proposing crackpot ideas about it. She gives no solutions or answers to the as-yet-undeciphered work, but she provides some excellent commentary on the misuses of medieval history.

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