The Wall Street Journal - 14.09.2019 - 15.09.2019

(Kiana) #1

A10| Saturday/Sunday, September 14 - 15, 2019 ** THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.


Since 2014, woah has more
than tripled in online news
stories, and it now makes up
about 30% of total usage, up
from 19% at that time, accord-
ing to the News on the Web
corpus, a database containing
8.4 billion words published in
online news stories. On Google
Trends, which tracks the fre-
quency of search engine terms,
woah has been the more domi-
nant term in basic Web and
YouTube searches for two
years.
Merriam-Webster, the old-
est American dictionary pub-
lisher, said in June that it
would weigh whether to add
woah as an alternate spelling.
The Oxford English Dictionary
made the change in 2016.
Merriam-Webster bases its
decisions on alternate spell-
ings, or “variants,” on pub-
lished, edited text, so the rise
in the use of woah in news sto-
ries has been enough to war-
rant close consideration, says
Emily Brewster, a senior editor
at the publisher.

said William Eggington, a soci-
olinguist at Brigham Young
University.
The widespread use of tex-
ting and social media has cre-
ated an explosion of conversa-
tional writing and language
personalization, says Gretchen
McCulloch, co-host of a lin-
guistics podcast and author of
“Because Internet.” “Across
many languages, people are
trying to write in a way closer
to how they talk,” she says.
In addition to the spelling,
the connotation of woah is of-
ten slightly different than
whoa. The original definition
of whoa is “stop,” and the
word originated as an exclama-
tion used for horses. Its use as
an expression of surprise dates
to the 1980s, where it was pop-
ularized in movies such as
“Fast Times at Ridgemont
High” and “Bill and Ted’s Ex-
cellent Adventure,” as well as
in the TV sitcom “Blossom.”
In recent years, a number of
popular songs and dance
memes have helped fuel the

rise of woah, which is more
elongated when spoken and
conveys a greater sense of as-
tonishment.
Technology is playing a role
in woah’s assimilation. Al-
though many have come to ex-
pect rigidity from auto-correct
and auto-complete software on
mobile devices, technology
companies are using software
and language experts to inform
decisions on what words to
correct and what words to
leave unchanged.
“We don’t want to be stuffy
and say, you have to spell it
like this,” says Daan van Esch,
who works on speech process-
ing technology at Alphabet
Inc.’s Google. It doesn’t auto-
correct woah in its Android
keyboard, which has been in-
stalled on more than one bil-
lion devices. “We want people
to spell it in whatever way
they want to.”
Teenagers interviewed by
the Journal say they often ad-
just word spellings, punctua-
tion and other phrases in text

based on their mood or whom
they are speaking with.
Many stress that they use
woah because it allows them
to tack on “h” a few more
times at the end—“woah-
hhh”—to be more emphatic
about their surprise or wonder.
A number of teenagers say
spelling in text messages and
social media posts is a reflec-
tion of personality. The slight-
est nuances can indicate anger,
or formality.
“You can tell so much about
somebody just by the way they
talk and write and present
themselves in texts and on-
line,” says Charlotte Knowlton,
a 20-year-old from Gloucester,
Mass.
To Sam Nitkin, a 19-year-old
sophomore at the University of
Chicago, reference books only
matter so much when it comes
to words such as woah.
“I use language the way I
want to use it,” he says. “The
dictionary should change to
match me, and not the other
way around.”

SPAIN


At Least Four Die as


Rains Hit Southeast


Rescue workers saved thou-
sands of people from rising wa-
ters Friday as record rainfall
pounded southeastern Spain, a
deluge that authorities said killed
at least four people and closed
airports, trains, roads and schools.
The storm that slammed into
the Mediterranean coastal re-
gions of Valencia, Murcia and
eastern Andalusia on Thursday
and Friday left more than 3,
people in need of emergency res-
cues, Interior Minister Fernando
Grande-Marlaska said. Some
towns and cities reported their
heaviest rainfall on record over
the past two days, he added.
The downpour forced the clo-
sure of airports in Almeria and
Murcia, as well as intercity train
lines, major roads and schools. Au-
thorities asked residents to avoid
driving. At least one major reser-
voir hit its peak capacity and was
releasing water Friday, which could
bring another surge in river levels.
Sergio Gil, head of the Civil
Protection Agency in Los Alcáza-


res, said the Murcia coastal re-
gion of around 15,000 people
was almost completely flooded.
“We’re rescuing someone ev-
ery 10 minutes,” he told Onda
Cero radio. “Rain is falling like
there’s no tomorrow.”
The city of Almeria, on the
Mediterranean coast, said one

man died after being trapped in
a car when it drove into a
flooded tunnel on Friday.
Army units backed up police,
firefighters and rescuers to an-
swer the hundreds of calls for
help. About 1,000 soldiers were
being deployed.
—Associated Press

NORTH KOREA

U.S. Sanctions Three
Cyber-Hacking Groups

The U.S. Treasury Depart-
ment on Friday imposed sanc-
tions on three hacking opera-
tions it says are run by North

Korean intelligence services and
have stolen millions from banks
and others around the world.
The groups allegedly are run
by North Korea’s primary intelli-
gence bureau, the Reconnaissance
General Bureau. They and others
directed by Pyongyang represent
a key source of revenue for the
government, U.S. officials say.
That illicit finance is used by
the government to fund its
weapons programs and to insu-
late it against the global-sanc-
tions program meant to coerce
leader Kim Jong Un into giving up
his nuclear weapons, officials say.
It is unclear how much money,
if any, the groups have in the
U.S., although public exposure
through the Treasury Department
action could affecttheir opera-
tions. North Korean officials didn’t
respond to a request to comment.
Treasury’s action targets the
Lazarus Group hacking initiative,
blamed for the so-called Wanna-
Cry 2.0 ransomware attack and
its two associated units, Blueno-
roff and Andariel, that collec-
tively allegedly have stolen hun-
dreds of millions of dollars from
state and private banks.
—Ian Talley

CUBA

Leaders Blame U.S.
For Fuel Shortages

Cuba’s Communist government
is taking emergency measures to
avoid power blackouts and contain
a severe fuel shortage it blames
on U.S. attempts to cut off the is-
land’s oil lifeline with Venezuela.
Top Cuban officials have taken
to the airwaves this week to an-
nounce severe public-transport
cutbacks. The government also is
suspending manufacturing at
state-run steel and cement plans
to reduce energy consumption.
Cuban President Miguel Díaz
Canel said the island’s crucial tour-
ism industry hasn’t been affected.
On Wednesday, Mr. Díaz
Canel said the fuel shortage was
temporary, as Cuba expects to
receive an oil tanker on Saturday
and aims to make those sup-
plies last until the end of the
month, when more tankers are
due. Most of Cuba’s fuel comes
from Venezuela.
“Cuba is not paralyzed,” said
Economy Minister Alejandro Gil
Fernández.
—José de Córdoba

out of 30 teenagers inter-
viewed by The Wall Street
Journal.
Some olds are saying,
“Whoa, wait a second here.”
“I am a fan of changes in
language, but this doesn’t
make sense with any patterns
in English that I can think of,”
says Pamela Terrell, who
teaches speech-language pa-
thology and researches lan-
guage impairments in children
at the University of Wisconsin-
Stevens Point. “I would have
no way to explain that to
someone.”
Dr. Terrell has joked on
Twitter that she is “triggered”
by seeing it.


Continued from Page One


Tales of


‘Woah’ or


‘Whoa’


FROM PAGE ONE


“Language change is hap-
pening more quickly than ever
now,” she says. “I love that
playfulness is far more pro-
nounced in published writing
than it used to be.”
Whoa traditionalists af-
fronted by the alternate spell-
ing see it as yet another exam-
ple of language degradation
due to the explosion of texting

and social media.
That’s exactly right, lin-
guists say—though many pre-
fer to call it evolution, and see
no cause for alarm.
“Horror of horrors, if this
trend continues, written Eng-
lish language may end up re-
flecting actual pronunciation,”

Generation gap

Almoradi is one of the Spanish towns that has been flooded by torrential rains in the past few days.

JOSE JORDAN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

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