Can the word's we use say more about us than we realise?
North East language expert Vivian Cook certainly seems to think so.
The Newcastle University linguistic professor has made studying the evolution of the English language his passion for the past 30 years and he believes the words we choose could give away how old we are.
He's devised a simple test for his new book, called It's All In A Word, which shows how the words we choose can betray our age.
"Some words do not die out, only the people who use them," said Professor Cook. "To a certain extent we are labelled by the words of our generation and carry them with us, but this explanation does not always work.
"For example, to me a word like 'chap' is very much an older-generation word, but it has been going strong since 1716 and is still used by many people today, of all ages."
Professor Cook suggests that many of us adopt the words we think are suitable for our years and therefore constantly adapt our vocabulary as we grow older.
The words we use can also define our heritage long after we have moved to another part of the country.
Whether we 'hoy', 'cob' or 'bung' something when we throw it shows roots in either the North East, Midlands or the South respectively. As a Southerner moving up to Newcastle, Professor Cook said it took him some time to adjust to 'stotties' (a kind of bread bun), 'chares' (alleyways) and 'slippy' (slippery) pavements, not to mention the weather forecaster who warns viewers to look out for the 'skitey' bits (icy patches).
His book, which is published on September 17th, covers many different aspects of words, ranging from their meanings and how new words are created, to how they organise society and help us think.
"English is a voracious language," added Professor Cook. "For centuries it has gobbled up words and meanings from all kinds of sources and cultures as well as being a magnet for originality and invention.
"However much we know about words, there's always something new to learn, which makes it fascinating.
"Words and language are crucial in everything we do and the underlying message of this book is to encourage a wider interest in vocabulary."
It's All In A Word shows how English has travelled across the world and what language says about us, including practical linguistics tips such as how to learn new vocabulary.
SOURCE: Nicola Juncar, The Chronicle - firstname.lastname@example.org
WHAT'S YOUR WORD AGE?
Choose the word out of each pair that you use must often. This should give an indication of how old you seem from your vocabulary. (Points scored are given in brackets).
1. Great (0) .......... All right (1)
2. Bike (1) ............. Cycle (0)
3. L.P (0) ................Vinyl (1)
4. Grotty (1) ......... Bad (0)
5. Chap (0) ............ Bloke (1)
6. Telly ( 1) ............ Television (0)
7. Sozzled* (0) ......... Slaughtered* (1)
8. Fab (1) ................ Excellent (0)
9. Drunk (1) ............ Tipsy* (0)
10. Granny (0) ........ Nan (1)
Score over 5 and you're speaking like a young person,
Score 5 or less and you're more likely to be over 30.
(It should be noted that this is not an entirely scientific test, but is designed to give an idea of generational language use. For example parents with teenagers might find this takes years off their vocabulary age)
PETTYWITTER SAYS: I don't know how well anyone from outside of the North East Of England will cope with this test, probably not very well and for this I apologise.
* Sozzled/Slaughtered = Extremely drunk. Tipsy = Slightly drunk.