I want to use the following sentence: ‘each of the UK’s last 5 Prime Ministers was worse than their predecessor’. That sentence could have 2 readings: A distributive reading: each Prime Minster was worse than that Prime Minister’s predecessor. A collective reading: each Prime Minster was worse than the predecessor of the 1st in that…… Continue reading Collective and distributive readings of ‘their’
Words to watch in 2023
Which words and phrases will enter wider circulation in 2023? This year’s edition of The Economist magazine’s annual publication The World in 2023 discusses, among many other interesting topics, the magazine’s ‘best 23 guesses’ for the terms that will become part of public discourse this year. I list the 23 terms below, with brief definitions,…… Continue reading Words to watch in 2023
On the weekend
Learning which preposition to use in a language, and in which context, often involves learning some general rules of thumb (which often differ greatly from language to language) and many detailed rules that typically seem arbitrary. For a small example of this, consider how you talk in English about what you did, will do, or…… Continue reading On the weekend
Brighthelmstone by the sea
We aren’t usually surprised if the spelling of a place name diverges from how we pronounce the name today. This often happens because of major sound changes long ago. But I recently came across a spelling that shortened radically less than 200 years ago. The name of the southern English seaside town Brighton was still…… Continue reading Brighthelmstone by the sea
Some odd possessive adjectives in Slavonic
For someone who knows some Russian, the 3rd person possessive adjectives in Croatian look odd. But looking at it more closely, I’ve realised that their Russian counterparts are just as odd, though in a different way. Russian Table 1 shows some of the possessive adjectives in Russian. The adjective’s stem depends on the person (1st,…… Continue reading Some odd possessive adjectives in Slavonic
Goodbye Snowdon, hello Yr Wyddfa
The Snowdonia National Park Authority decided in November 2022 to use the Welsh names Yr Wyddfa (for the mountain Snowdon) and Eryri (for the region of Snowdonia). This will apply ‘in both Welsh and English contexts’. https://snowdonia.gov.wales/paper-on-place-names-principles-approved-in-order-to-safeguard-and-celebrate-welsh-place-names-within-the-national-park/ According to a press report, the Authority will: in Welsh correspondence, use only Welsh names; in English texts,…… Continue reading Goodbye Snowdon, hello Yr Wyddfa
Has Cambridge University’s German department driven off in a Wokeswagon?
Reports in today’s media give the impression that Cambridge University’s German department has just issued a diktat that students must, from now on, eliminate all gendered terms when they are speaking or writing German. The rather sensationalists reports accuse the department of jumping onto a woke bandwagon. As far as I can tell after some…… Continue reading Has Cambridge University’s German department driven off in a Wokeswagon?
Italian dictionary will now include feminine forms
The Italian publisher Treccani will change how it lists nouns and adjectives in the next edition of its Dizionario della Lingua Italiana (Dictionary of the Italian Language), due to come out in October. Previous editions have followed the traditional practice of listing nouns and adjectives under only the masculine form of the head word. The…… Continue reading Italian dictionary will now include feminine forms
I recently came across a word that was new to me: contronym. A contronym is a word that is its own opposite. An often-given example is sanction. Sanctioning an action can mean either penalising it or permitting it. Some other examples are: WordOne meaningAnother meaningcleave clingsplitclipattachcut offdustremove dustadd a layer of dustapologystatement of regret for an…… Continue reading Contronyms
What is this, like, based on?
In the last couple of years I’ve started hearing the phrase “based off of” instead of the seemingly more logical “based on”. Perhaps this upstart conveys greater dynamism, like some kind of springboard. (I’ve only heard it from Americans.) I tried searching Google Ngram to see how long it has been around but Ngram didn’t…… Continue reading What is this, like, based on?