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Rosie Right

Our language and how it works.


Do you speak English?

In January 2005 The New York Times reported that New York City records show that 1.5 million adults (or one in four) in the city "have a problem speaking English." The number of these people "increased by 30 percent between 1990 and 2000."

This is a very serious problem for all of us who want to help the newcomers become productive and happy. But while we are bemoaning this, we might take a look at ourselves. Most of us think we speak English well, but if we venture out of our usual haunts, we may find ourselves at a loss. Here are a few examples:

Suppose someone asked you: "How is our AYP?" (1)

Or what did the reporter on NPR mean when he said, "The rise in interest rates was baked in the cake." (2)

Would you know how to respond to "Well, that's just riddichio"?

Or, "It's not nice to engage in lurkage"?

Or, "I'm five-by-five here"? (3)

What does someone mean when he or she tells you, "He has an interesting vlog"? (4)

Would you know how to respond if someone told you he was moving to a privatopia? (5)


(1) You should know that this means Adequate Yearly Progress, "a measure used to determine how schools, school districts and states are doing under the federal No Child Left Behind Act." Source: the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Aug. 17.

(2) He meant the market had already reacted to the Fed's decision to raise interest rates.

(3) You would probably have to be a fan of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" to know what these statements mean. The unusual words can be found in "Slayer Slang" by Michael Adams. Riddichio means "absurd" to the teens in "Buffy." Lurkage is "observing activity on a posting board without posting." Five-by-five to Buffy means "satisfied, good."

(4) A vlog, according to the April-May issue of Copy Editor, is a "blog that incorporates video clips."

(5) A privatopia is a walled-in or gated community of private homes. Your friend would be retreating from this madding world. Source: "Word Spy" by Paul McFedries.

Let Rosie hear from you by mail (Style Weekly, 1707 Summit Ave., Richmond, 23230); by e-mail rozanne.epps@styleweekly.com; or by telephone (804-358-0825).

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