Archive for the 'Language' Category

Today is Burns Day, when Scots (here in Scotland and just about everywhere else in the world) celebrate the life and work of Robert (Rabbie) Burns. The celebrations often take the form of a Burns Supper at which the haggis takes pride of place, along with poetry and, of course, whisky. Here’s a wee round-up […]

What do you think of the Oxford English Dictionary’s choice of “selfie” as Word of the Year for 2013? I’m not mad about the word itself, although that’s probably an age/generational thing. In my young day (indeed, in most people’s young day) the technology for selfies wasn’t available: you took a photo of yourself, alone […]

Today is apparently National Burger Day. For those of us more interested in words than in food (who am I kidding?), here’s the etymology of burger (and of hamburger), courtesy of the Online Etymology Dictionary. burger (n.) 1939, American English, shortened from hamburger (q.v.). hamburger (n.) 1610s, “native of Hamburg;” the meat product so called […]

Gary Muddyman of Conversis has written an interesting blog post – Is Britain becoming a nation of monoglots? – on the decline in language learning in UK schools. The post includes links for further reading (and viewing) on this worrying subject. Is there anything we, as people who love language and languages, can do to encourage […]

Yesterday, 16 August, was International Apostrophe Day, and the cue for lots of apostrophe articles and Twitter posts. The following quick guide to when and how to use an apostrophe was taken from an article in The Guardian by David Marsh: If you can’t use an apostrophe, you don’t know your shit. How to use an apostrophe […]

I love a good style guide. And I applaud anyone encouraging the use of clear English. But the GOV.UK style guide, produced by the United Kingdom’s Government Digital Service (GDS) for the GOV.UK website (the new portal bringing together all, or most, of the UK’s government websites), is really bugging me. More specifically, the part on plain […]

One of the problems bilingual families face when choosing their babies’ names is finding something that’s easy to pronounce in both parents’ countries and languages and for both sets of relatives. We didn’t follow that rule when our first child, a boy, was born. We were living in Rome at the time but for me […]

Wee Prince George is one week old today. I dug out my baby-name bible, “Choose Your Baby’s Name” by Rosalind Fergusson, first published in 1987 but which I bought in 1992 (no prizes for guessing why). Here’s what the royal names mean. George: from the Greek georgos, “tiller of the soil” or “farmer”. Also, of course, the […]

The New York Times has published an interesting article on the new words and terms being used by Europe’s citizens as a result of the economic crisis. Some of the terms are lifted directly from English. Take “spreaddite acuta”, or acute spreaditis, used by the Italian media to describe Italy’s bond-yield problems. Or “downgradare”, referring to […]

Primary-school pupils in England have been sitting a new grammar, spelling and punctuation test (check out the specimen questions) as part of their final year assessment. Teachers have criticised the test, saying that there are better ways of assessing pupils’ English-language skills: Grammar is vital but you test someone’s writing skills by examining their writing. Just […]