Thursday, January 27, 2011

2010 Word of the Year

It’s is well known, at least among my peers, that Sarah Palin’s ‘refudiate’ was voted the 2010 word of the year by Oxford Dictionary; however, I believe the more noteworthy word of the year comes from the American Dialect Society’s vote.

App’, or an abbreviated form of application, a software program for a computer or phone operating system, was the linguist’s selection of the year. In a press release the American Dialect Society explains, “Word of the Year is interpreted in its broader sense as “vocabulary item”—not just words but phrases. The words or phrases do not have to be brand-new, but they have to be newly prominent or notable in the past year, in the manner of Time magazine’s Person of the Year.” As a blogger about language this quote is very relevant because words like ‘refudiate’, or Merriam Webster’s choice of ‘austerity’, might get media attention or are frequently searched online, but the American Dialect Society makes sure to pick pop-culture words that are sweeping the entire nation. For me, a true word of the year should be frequently used and therefore applicable to daily life.

Even though President Obama didn’t directly mention ‘app’ in his State of the Union Address, I believe his emphasis on innovation makes a strong argument for the word. Obama described the many forms of innovation, from the age of the internet and the ‘app’ that we now live in, to clean energy, creating new jobs, and reinventing old ones.

Here is some proof that technology has been a rising area of interest in America, even in language. Previous American Dialect Society words of the year have included ‘e’ as in email (1998), ‘web’ (1990s), ‘information superhighway’ (1993), ‘tweet’ (2009), and ‘Google’ (word of the millennium). Those who voted in favor of ‘app’ say that the word has become omnipresent. I agree, and the same is true for many other technological terms.

The internet is penetrating and even enriching our vocabulary. Technology is no doubt an integral part of the American society in 2011. All of this innovation should be embraced in order to “win the future” as President Obama might say.

I just wanted endorse the point that vocabulary and language isn’t some mystical, foreign entity only changed by highly educated linguists. Everyday people and modern ideas shape language. Similarly, language reveals prominent trends of the people.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Book Review: The Translator

Over the winter holidays I had some free time so I picked up a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while. As an active member of my high school’s STAND chapter (Students Taking Action Now Darfur) I thought it wise to read The Translator a Tribesman’s Memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari. This memoir traces the genocidal conflicts encountered by Daoud Hari, a Zaghawa tribesman from Sudan and translator to the BBC, NGO’s, the New York Time, and National Geographic. Hari explains his many trips back and forth between Chad and the war-torn Darfur. In 2006 Daoud Hari and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Paul Salopek were captured, detained, and beaten by the government of Sudan; they were accused of being spies. The Translator vividly describes the harsh conditions of the Sudanese prison as well as the strong support of US diplomats and military in order to free Hari and Salopek from jail.

I was very impressed with Daoud Hari’s ability to remain calm in dangerous situations and he had the utmost praise towards those whose aid he received. I was quite surprised by Hari’s reaction to American and European reporters and diplomats. In previous posts I have mentioned otherizing and American exceptionalism, which negatively portray America to the rest of the world. Hearing many critiques of reporters and America in general, it was refreshing to see how much compassion Hari feels towards his western companions.

The Translator reaffirms the idea that conflicts are not two sided. There are many more perspectives. In the case of the Darfurian genocide there is the Sudanese government, many sometimes conflicting rebel groups, Chadians, refugees, and internally displaced people (IDP’s). Hari kept returning to the issue that even though the rebel groups were all against the Sudanese government, often the rebels would fight each other. They were hurting their cause and killing their own kind.

Since this blog usually focuses on words I’m going to talk a bit about Hari’s writing style and respect for the reader. First of all, Daoud Hari’s writing can be very graphic at times so interested readers beware. Secondly, I really commend Hari for his simplistic sense of writing because even complicated situations were written in clearly and concisely. Finally, Daoud Hari is very aware of his audience (which is always good from the reader’s perspective). He takes the time to translate words and he even included two appendices in the back of the book, one explaining more about the genocide in Darfur and another about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Overall, I would recommend The Translator as a quick yet informative read with several heart wrenching and heart-warming scenes.
To learn more about the book visit