You can stop building

A headline in the paper last week made me stop and think about different uses of the verb stop. The headline said ‘You can stop building on green sites, councils told’. There are at least 2 ways to read that sentence: Councils can prevent other people from building on green sites. Councils themselves will no…… Continue reading You can stop building

Irish clothing stores bans Irish wording on employee’s jumper

Primark’s clothing store in Belfast recently told an employee to stop wearing a jumper bearing the Irish phrase Nollaig Shona (‘Happy Christmas’). Reports say a manager told the employee that Irish language on clothing might offend some people—though wording in Spanish would be acceptable. Ironically, Primark is based in the Republic of Ireland. It was…… Continue reading Irish clothing stores bans Irish wording on employee’s jumper

Google Translate takes on Goethe

I recently posted my translation of Goethe’s poem Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronen blühn? with a commentary on my translation, and the German original Do you know that land where lemons grow? – Language Miscellany In a comment on that post, Paul Pacter supplied a translation he’d obtained from Google Translate. Paul commented…… Continue reading Google Translate takes on Goethe

Do you know that land where lemons grow?

I entered my translation of this poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe for the 2023 Stephen Spender prize. Like all entries for this prize, it includes my commentary on the translation.  For information about the prize, please see Stephen Spender Prize (stephen-spender.org) Do you know that land where lemons grow,Where through dark leaves golden oranges…… Continue reading Do you know that land where lemons grow?

Future tense and psychological distance

When a verb refers to the future, some languages require explicit marking of that fact. A recent paper presents evidence that companies in countries using those languages are slow in reporting that their goodwill has lost value. The paper suggests that this is because speakers of those languages perceive the future as psychologically more distant…… Continue reading Future tense and psychological distance

Word frequencies and Zipf’s law

There is a well-known relationship between the frequency of words in a text and the ranking of those frequencies. The relationship is known as Zipf’s law and is one example of a relationship called a power law. Power laws crop up in many other settings. For example, they arise in investigating the distribution of populations…… Continue reading Word frequencies and Zipf’s law

Back to Earth

On the radio this morning, someone was talking about an uncrewed mission that has just collected samples from the asteroid Bennu. The spacecraft bringing the sample came back to Earth in September in the Utah desert. Nasa is distributing fragments to researchers across the world, including the UK. The interviewer started to say ‘bring the…… Continue reading Back to Earth

Sign Language for trial for more trains

A UK train operator, Northern announced in September 2023, that it would interpret its announcements into British Sign Language (BSL) on some of its services.  Passengers will first see the new BSL visuals on trains between Manchester Victoria and Leeds. The visuals will interpret information such as station announcements. The train operator aims to have…… Continue reading Sign Language for trial for more trains