Studies in English Language, Literature, and Culture in a Global Environment
Edited By Richard Nordquist
Richard Nordquist - Online Perspectives on Global English - 75
75 Richard Nordquist ONLINE PERSPECTIVES ON GLOBAL ENGLISH In my office at the university the other day, I asked a student intern to please fetch the “thingamajig” that I had left on the “whatchamacallit” and take it over with the other “stuff” to “whatshername” in the administration building. Remarkably, the student seemed to understand exactly what I was trying to say. The linguistic term for such peculiar sounding words as “thingamajig” and “whatchamacallit” is placeholder, or, less formally, tongue-tipper or kadigan: a word used to signal that a speaker does not know or cannot remember a more pre- cise word for something. And I suspect that for many readers, the subject of this paper—Global English—may itself be perceived as a kind of placeholder. It is an expression with which we are all familiar, at least vaguely, but when examined closely Global English may turn out to be as imprecise a term as thingamabob or whatshername. I first learned about placeholders—and by coincidence began thinking seri- ously about Global English—only a few years ago, about the time I took on the responsibility of hosting a new website for the New York Times Company. The site, called About.com Grammar & Composition, is concerned with all manner of topics related to the English language. Through blogs, articles, and newsletters, I attempt to engage readers in discussions of grammar, usage, and rhetoric. In an open forum on the site, readers post comments and questions on subjects ranging from the correct placement...
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