The Linguist

The Linguist 57,2 – April/May 2018

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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Page 8 of 35 FEATURES almost exclusively to promote words that have fallen into obscurity. "There never was a golden age when English was perfect, but I do think there is a richness of vocabulary that is getting left behind," she explains. Her dedication is such that she even tweeted on Christmas day – a thoughtful "reminder today that 'confelicity' is delight in someone else's happiness." Far from railing against language change, though, Dent delights just as much in neologisms. She authored a popular series of OUP reports looking at words entering English, and notes that viewers write to Countdown daily, asking how to get a new word into the dictionary. "Love them or hate them, new words have always fascinated us – they are, after all, the shop window of our language," she says. For Dent's Modern Tribes, she explored the coded language used by different groups – from surgeons to plumbers. The book is partly based on notes made through years of "eavesdropping" on conversations in search of linguistic gems. "Most of the time we aren't aware that we are using a vocabulary that's unique to our group," she explains. "But every group, every family, has their own special vocabulary." Home life is no exception and children, in particular, are masters of linguistic invention. Dent's first children's book, Weird Words, was born of her desire to encourage their natural curiosity about language, and she has always allowed her daughters – now aged 10 and 18 – to be creative with their language use. But perhaps the work that most closely reflects Dent's view of language – and emotional connection to it – is Modern Tribes, with its perception of language's ability to create a cosy sense of belonging. When the family moved house recently, Dent came across a box of old novels from her school days as she was unpacking. "I found a book by Thomas Mann called Tonio Kröger, together with Le Silence de la Mer by Vercors. They're both beautiful if soppy, and reading them again, even with an older and less swayable mind, I can see how I became hopelessly lost in them as a teenager." It seems that these little linguistic joys – returning to familiar foreign-language books, snatched conversations in German, the unique family language "like an old cardigan you can shuffle into at the end of the day" – are what ground Dent through a long career in the public eye, and make her feel at home.

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