Search and destroy

We’ve all had that feeling that we’ve gone too far with search-and-replace when editing a document quickly. A contributor to Language Log found a great example, blending overhastiness with naked defence of your own commercial interests. For the Nook edition of War and Peace, the sub-editor decided, quite understandably, that they shouldn’t plug Nook’s competitor,…… Continue reading Search and destroy

How not to name a place

On a train from Paris to Lausanne in 2018, we came across the world’s most inconsiderately named rail junction. The train crew told some Chinese tourists they would need to change at Frasnes. (The first ‘s’ is silent.) They kept thinking they were being told to change in France.

Please clear up after your horse

I’ve heard of taking your pooper scooper to clear up after your domestic animal, but this is taking a good idea to extremes.“Pferdemist” = horse manure. Arosa, Switzerland, 2018


A new online craze called Wordle is in the news because of differences between American and British spelling. Players have to guess a 5 letter word. On each go, the player must enter a valid 5 letter word as a guess. The system then tells them how many: correct letters are in the right place.correct…… Continue reading Wordle

Half baked

If an idea isn’t really thought through and doesn’t make sense, we call it half-baked. So if an idea is completely half-baked, how baked is it? More than 50%? Less than 50%? Exactly 50%?

Tha and others

More for the menu translation collection. “The ed infusi” translated as “Tha and others”. “Tha” must be an odd blend—if that’s the right term in this context—of “the” and “cha”. And “others” is pitifully inadequate as a translation of infusi. From Da Giovani, a restaurant in Rome, 2018

Would this be a useful new word?

An editorial this Wednesday in The Times discussed the latest measures taken in England to counter the spread of COVID. It talks about ‘the public’s weariness with measures to contain the spread’. In this sentence, weariness is a noun derived from the adjective weary and it means tiredness. Reading this sentence, I wondered whether we…… Continue reading Would this be a useful new word?

The chaos of English spelling

English spelling is notoriously inconsistent. A Dutch writer, Gerard Nolst Trenité (1870-1946) wrote a poem The Chaos highlighting some of the irregularities and inconsistencies. The first version appeared in 1920 in his textbook Drop Your Foreign Accent: engelsche uitspraakoefeningen. The author also wrote a linguistic column for an Amsterdam weekly paper from 1909 to 1946…… Continue reading The chaos of English spelling