Lisa Lim

Lisa Lim

Lisa Lim is Associate Professor in the School of Education at Curtin University in Perth, having previously held professoriate positions at universities in Singapore, Amsterdam, Sydney and Hong Kong, where she was Head of the University of Hong Kong's School of English. Her interests encompass multilingualism, World Englishes, minority and endangered languages, and the sociolinguistics of globalisation. Books written by Lim include Languages in Contact (Cambridge University Press, 2015) and The Multilingual Citizen (Multilingual Matters, 2018).

Latest from Lisa Lim

Language Matters | How climate ‘change’ gave way to ‘crisis’ and ‘emergency’ – the evolution of language used to describe global warming … er, heating

In 1854 a US magazine coined the term ‘climate change’; the ‘greenhouse effect’ was first described in 1827. Only in recent years have we started talking about a climate crisis and global heating.

In 1854 a US magazine coined the term ‘climate change’; the ‘greenhouse effect’ was first described in 1827. Only in recent years have we started talking about a climate crisis and global heating.

14 Jan 2022 - 5:40AM
Language Matters | Omicron: where does the variant Covid-19 name come from? The Greek letter’s relationship to ‘eye’, its merging with ‘omega’, and why it’s not STEM-friendly

Meaning ‘little o’ in Greek, Omicron is on everyone’s lips with its designation as the latest Covid-19 variant of concern, but the letter’s shape means it’s comparatively rarely seen.

Meaning ‘little o’ in Greek, Omicron is on everyone’s lips with its designation as the latest Covid-19 variant of concern, but the letter’s shape means it’s comparatively rarely seen.

17 Dec 2021 - 5:45AM
Language Matters | ‘Vaccine’ and ‘vax’ are the 2021 words of the year – they symbolise protection and possibilities during a pandemic

With vaccines representing scientific progress during Covid-19, two dictionary publishers have chosen ‘vaccine’ and ‘vax’ as the 2021 words of the year.

With vaccines representing scientific progress during Covid-19, two dictionary publishers have chosen ‘vaccine’ and ‘vax’ as the 2021 words of the year.

18 Dec 2021 - 1:54PM
Language Matters | Squid Game: everyone knows the Netflix TV series, but no one knows where the word ‘squid’ comes from

The hit Netflix TV series is popular around the world but as for the word ‘squid’, which appeared in the 1600s, major dictionaries merely say its origin is obscure.

The hit Netflix TV series is popular around the world but as for the word ‘squid’, which appeared in the 1600s, major dictionaries merely say its origin is obscure.

27 Nov 2021 - 9:45AM
Language Matters | With M+ museum collecting Hong Kong graffiti and neon art, we trace the roots of those words

Hong Kong’s language-based neon art and graffiti are fast disappearing, but 4,000 pieces have been given a home in the city’s newly opened M+ museum.

Hong Kong’s language-based neon art and graffiti are fast disappearing, but 4,000 pieces have been given a home in the city’s newly opened M+ museum.

15 Nov 2021 - 3:39PM
Language Matters | ‘I’m totally ghosting Taylor’: Tinder and hip hop’s effect on the spooky word

Emerging in Old English as ‘gast’, the word ghost started to develop related meanings in the early 20th century, and today most people are probably more afraid of Tinder ghosting.

Emerging in Old English as ‘gast’, the word ghost started to develop related meanings in the early 20th century, and today most people are probably more afraid of Tinder ghosting.

30 Oct 2021 - 7:45PM
Language Matters | Body shaming, pandemic shaming, slut shaming – when did these terms arise and where does the word ‘shame’ come from?

From body shaming to pandemic shaming, the word ‘shame’ is all over social media and now it’s in local news regarding the University of Hong Kong’s Pillar of Shame sculpture.

From body shaming to pandemic shaming, the word ‘shame’ is all over social media and now it’s in local news regarding the University of Hong Kong’s Pillar of Shame sculpture.

18 Oct 2021 - 1:15PM
Language Matters | Korean wave sweeps over Oxford English Dictionary – bulgogi, galbi and kimbap among 26 new Korean entries, joining K-pop and kimchi

We’re all watching Korean dramas, listening to K-pop and eating so much Korean food that words such as bulgogi and galbi have joined kimchi and Korean wave in the Oxford English Dictionary.

We’re all watching Korean dramas, listening to K-pop and eating so much Korean food that words such as bulgogi and galbi have joined kimchi and Korean wave in the Oxford English Dictionary.

5 Oct 2021 - 6:15AM
Language Matters | Mid-Autumn Festival food like mooncakes, pomelo and lotus root all have auspicious meanings behind them – here are a few explained

From mooncakes to pomelo to water caltrops, many foods associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival have names or forms that convey auspicious meaning. Here are a few explained.

From mooncakes to pomelo to water caltrops, many foods associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival have names or forms that convey auspicious meaning. Here are a few explained.

17 Sep 2021 - 9:45AM
Language Matters | The coconut, and the curious origins of the word in English – derived from the name for an Iberian ghost-monster that ate disobedient children

When the Portuguese encountered the coconut in India, rather than adopt a local term for it they used ‘coco’ because the three holes on its shell reminded them of a face and ‘coco’ meant head.

When the Portuguese encountered the coconut in India, rather than adopt a local term for it they used ‘coco’ because the three holes on its shell reminded them of a face and ‘coco’ meant head.

2 Sep 2021 - 8:45AM
Language Matters | How the mosquito got its name, and why Samuel Johnson’s English dictionary stuck to calling the bloodsucking insect a gnat

The word mosquito entered the English language in the 16th century, from the colonists of the New World. Previously the deadly bloodsucker was known as a gnat in English, but this changed to the Spanish for ‘little fly’.

The word mosquito entered the English language in the 16th century, from the colonists of the New World. Previously the deadly bloodsucker was known as a gnat in English, but this changed to the Spanish for ‘little fly’.

20 Aug 2021 - 9:15AM
Language Matters | Karate debuts at the Tokyo Olympics, but where did the 15th century martial art get its name? And what does ‘osu’ mean?

The martial art was called ‘Chinese hand’ when it was created 700 years ago in Okinawa. In the 20th century, the name was changed to ‘open hand’ or karate.

The martial art was called ‘Chinese hand’ when it was created 700 years ago in Okinawa. In the 20th century, the name was changed to ‘open hand’ or karate.

30 Jul 2021 - 2:15PM
Language Matters | World Emoji Day: where the word ‘emoji’ comes from and the first place they were used regularly

Emojis have only been around for a decade, but studies show they can represent complex sociopolitical and scientific ideas.

Emojis have only been around for a decade, but studies show they can represent complex sociopolitical and scientific ideas.

17 Jul 2021 - 3:15AM
Language Matters | Where the word ‘apple’ came from and why the forbidden fruit was unlucky to be linked with the fall of man

While the origin of the word “apple” is straightforward, what is interesting is that the Old English word referred not only to apples but to any kind of fruit, or fruit in general.

While the origin of the word “apple” is straightforward, what is interesting is that the Old English word referred not only to apples but to any kind of fruit, or fruit in general.

6 Jul 2021 - 5:22AM
Language Matters | Just deserts – what does it mean and where did the phrase originate?

To get one’s just deserts has nothing to do with arid land, running away or sweet treats, so where exactly does the phrase come from?

To get one’s just deserts has nothing to do with arid land, running away or sweet treats, so where exactly does the phrase come from?

17 Jun 2021 - 5:45PM
Language Matters | Hong Kong’s Tiananmen remembrance: where the word ‘vigil’ comes from

The modern-day meaning of ‘vigil’ as a stationary and peaceful demonstration in support of a particular cause didn’t develop until as late as the mid-20th century.

The modern-day meaning of ‘vigil’ as a stationary and peaceful demonstration in support of a particular cause didn’t develop until as late as the mid-20th century.

4 Jun 2021 - 5:45PM
Language Matters | National Sorry Day: the origins of the word ‘sorry’ and how the meaning of apologies has changed over time

Originating in Old English as penitential acts and confessions to God, the word ‘sorry’ is now often used as mere token acknowledgement of minor offences.

Originating in Old English as penitential acts and confessions to God, the word ‘sorry’ is now often used as mere token acknowledgement of minor offences.

26 May 2021 - 5:27AM
Language Matters | Multilingualism at school is a cornerstone for inclusive, sustainable education for all

Integrating the diverse language practices of students in the classroom affords a more empowering and equitable learning space and is truly a cornerstone for inclusive, sustainable education for all.

Integrating the diverse language practices of students in the classroom affords a more empowering and equitable learning space and is truly a cornerstone for inclusive, sustainable education for all.

18 May 2021 - 6:30PM
Language Matters | World Press Freedom Day: what are the origins of the words ‘press’, ‘journalist’ and ‘media’?

A journal became a daily record of events or matters kept for private or official use from the 17th century, while ‘journo’, informal for journalist, originated in Australia in the 1940s.

A journal became a daily record of events or matters kept for private or official use from the 17th century, while ‘journo’, informal for journalist, originated in Australia in the 1940s.

3 May 2021 - 10:45AM
Language Matters | Where does the word ‘cotton’ come from, and how did it get its forced labour connotations?

The term ‘cotton-picking’ originated in the US in the 1700s, evolved in the 1940s into an adjective denoting disapproval, and now carries racist connotations in reference to African slaves on cotton plantations.

The term ‘cotton-picking’ originated in the US in the 1700s, evolved in the 1940s into an adjective denoting disapproval, and now carries racist connotations in reference to African slaves on cotton plantations.

16 Apr 2021 - 5:59AM
Language Matters | Egg decorating is one of the oldest decorative arts, not just an Easter activity

In Chinese culture, red is auspicious, and red eggs figure at important birthdays, such as a baby’s first month or first year, to symbolise joy and new life.

In Chinese culture, red is auspicious, and red eggs figure at important birthdays, such as a baby’s first month or first year, to symbolise joy and new life.

5 Apr 2021 - 11:25AM
Language Matters | World Water Day: where does the word ‘water’ come from and how did it give us ‘vodka’?

‘Water’ arrived in the English language from Proto-Indo-European, via Proto-Germanic and Old English.

‘Water’ arrived in the English language from Proto-Indo-European, via Proto-Germanic and Old English.

22 Mar 2021 - 9:15AM
Language Matters | How the word ‘suffragette’ came about – and it’s not from ‘suffering’

First used by the Daily Mail to denigrate the votes for women movement, suffragettes then adopted the word, using it to name their own newspaper and changing the pronunciation.

First used by the Daily Mail to denigrate the votes for women movement, suffragettes then adopted the word, using it to name their own newspaper and changing the pronunciation.

8 Mar 2021 - 11:15AM
Language Matters | After Myanmar’s military coup, a look at the origins of the word

Originally from Greek, the word’s current and figurative meaning was reintroduced into English in the 18th century. 

Originally from Greek, the word’s current and figurative meaning was reintroduced into English in the 18th century. 

19 Feb 2021 - 2:46AM
Language Matters | Year of the Ox: the role of the Chinese zodiac symbol in language

The ox has a special claim to fame in the English language for its plural form – oxen. Do you know why?

The ox has a special claim to fame in the English language for its plural form – oxen. Do you know why?

13 Feb 2021 - 7:57AM
Language Matters | We are all familiar with impeachment, but what are the origins of the word?

The early, now obsolete, meaning of impeach was to impede or hinder, but it was not until the 14th century that it was became used in the way we are familiar with.

The early, now obsolete, meaning of impeach was to impede or hinder, but it was not until the 14th century that it was became used in the way we are familiar with.

23 Jan 2021 - 5:38AM
Language Matters | Why do the words ‘twelve’ and ‘eleven’ diverge from the patterns of English numerals?

From ‘twenty-one’ to ‘ninety-nine’, there is a logical principle of stating the number of tens followed by the units. The same cannot be said for all of the teens.

From ‘twenty-one’ to ‘ninety-nine’, there is a logical principle of stating the number of tens followed by the units. The same cannot be said for all of the teens.

11 Jan 2021 - 11:36PM
Language Matters | What the words of the year say about 2020 – it’s been quite the 12 months

It comes as nor surprise that most of the words selected to summarise 2020 relate to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

It comes as nor surprise that most of the words selected to summarise 2020 relate to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

5 Jan 2021 - 10:37AM
Why we decorate with ‘a spark of fire’ and eat ‘luxury bread’ at Christmas

Where the word ‘tinsel’ come from, why we drink eggnog and the origins of other festive words.

Where the word ‘tinsel’ come from, why we drink eggnog and the origins of other festive words.

25 Dec 2020 - 1:26PM
Language Matters | Milk tea: from a colonial concoction to a transnational solidarity movement

There is more to milk tea than meets the eye, from its linguistic origins to its cultural diversity.

There is more to milk tea than meets the eye, from its linguistic origins to its cultural diversity.

30 Nov 2020 - 8:47AM