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Crossing Boundaries

Studies in English Language, Literature, and Culture in a Global Environment

Edited By Richard Nordquist

The articles in this volume were originally presented in spring 2009 at an international conference hosted by the Institute of Germanic and Romance Languages and Cultures at Tallinn University in Estonia. The theme of «crossing boundaries» is reflected in the rich mix of genres, cultures, applications, and critical theories considered here. Indeed, these articles demonstrate that crossing boundaries can be a companionable journey as well an intellectually enriching experience.

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Richard Nordquist - Online Perspectives on Global English - 75

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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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