A great grammarian of Sanskrit, Pāṇini, lived sometime around the 6th to the 4th century BCE. Pāṇini is often considered to be the first great descriptive linguist. The name Pāṇini is not to be confused with name of the Italian sandwiches known as panini. https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/06/paninis-apostrophes/ According to a comment made by a user on a…… Continue reading Pāṇini and Panini
There are many varieties of English pronunciation. The existence of different varieties has implications for English spelling. A paper by the retired phonetician John Wells discusses some of those implications. https://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/wells/accents_spellingreform.htm One of those implications arises from the distinction between rhotic varieties and non-rhotic varieties. In the following positions, rhotic varieties pronounce the sound /r/…… Continue reading Learning by rote for non-rhotic speakers
I found this week an odd blend of English pronunciation and spelling with French pronunciation and spelling. Writing about last Saturday’s Football World Cup match between England and France, a journalist wrote the following: Philippe Auclair, the French writer, calls him Les Bleus’ “beat-giver”. The Times, 12 December 2022(‘him’ refers to the French footballer…… Continue reading Cross-language blues’
A reader wrote in to The Times complaining about one the newspaper’s word games. The game involves making as many English words as you can from a fixed set of letters. The reader complained that the permitted words did not include krill. In its weekly Feedback column on 19 November, The Times, reported the complaint.…… Continue reading Krill: only plural?
The largest gathering of people with the same first and last name occurred in Tokyo on 29 October 2022. Present were 178 people called Hirokazu Tanaka. https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/largest-same-first-and-last-name-gathering According to the Japan Times, the previous record was set in 2005 by American business person Martha Stewart and 163 other people of that name. The Japan Times…… Continue reading Too much of a good thing? Ask Hirokazu Tanaka
A palindrome is a sequence of letters that reads the same backwards as it does forwards. Palindromes can be a single word or a sequence of words. Well known English examples are ‘civic’ (a single word) and ‘Madam, I’m Adam’ (a whole sentence—albeit with internal punctuation disregarded). If you want some help in composing palindromes,…… Continue reading Do you want help with palindromes?
In their 1983 book, The meaning of Liff, Douglas Adams and John Lloyd created new words for ‘common experiences, feelings, situations and even objects for which no words exist’. All the words are place names: ‘spare words which spend their time doing nothing but loafing around on signposts pointing at places’. Here are 5 examples:…… Continue reading Meaning of Liff
A village on the island of Anglesey in North Wales is famous for having the longest place name in the British Isles. Reciting the full name was the favourite party trick of a boy who was in my class in the first year of secondary school. Name and history This is the name: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllandysiliogogogoch English…… Continue reading That Welsh place with the long name
In the card game Contract Bridge, players transmit information by making bids. So, is bidding in Contract Bridge a language? Bidding systems used in Bridge: are like language, because they use a vocabulary of words that convey meanings. But there are important differences between the 2 types of vocabulary.are not like language, because they have…… Continue reading The language of Contract Bridge?
Transport for London finally opened the Elizabeth Line today. It is only 3½ years late and £4 billion over budget. And this after TfL and the project managers announced proudly 6 months before the originally planned opening date that this project was a unique example of how large-scale public works really could be delivered on…… Continue reading The Elizabeth Line line and Battersea Power Station station