English Grammar Day 2024

I went last week to an event called English Grammar Day 2024 at the British Library. This event has been held for the last 10 years, but I went for the first time in 2023. The event is sponsored by UCL (the official short name of University College London), the University of Oxford and the…… Continue reading English Grammar Day 2024

Street names’ apostrophes

A mini-row has erupted for the umpteenth time about the removal of apostrophes from street names on English road signs. The latest belligerence revolves around St Marys Walk (a street formerly known as St. Mary’s Walk) in Harrogate. Harrogate is a spa town in Yorkshire. I would love to describe Harrogate as genteel. That word…… Continue reading Street names’ apostrophes

Who used to live near the Don?

Major rivers in Russia and neighbouring countries include the Dniester, Dnieper, Don (and its tributary the Donets). They flow into the Black Sea—the Don doing so via the Sea of Azov. These names are believed to derive from the Iranic words danu (‘river’). For example, the Dnieper comes from a form reconstructed as *danu para…… Continue reading Who used to live near the Don?

What is the plural of Whalebelly?

I was recently writing for my family history blog Birds of Cressingham a piece about a family with the unusual name Whalebelly. Jonas Whalebelly – Birds of Cressingham (wordpress.com) I started wondering what I would write if I were talking about 2 (or more) people with that name. Should I write Whalebellies or Whalebellys? English…… Continue reading What is the plural of Whalebelly?

Unusual adjectives from French place names

I’ve always been fascinated by the adjectives French creates from place names. Many of them are formed in fairly predictable ways by just adding a suffix to the place name. Examples are parisien (from Paris) and lyonnais (from Lyon). Others are less obvious, and I list some of them in this post. Well-known places Table…… Continue reading Unusual adjectives from French place names

Nynorsk writer wins Nobel literature prize

The winner of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature was someone who writes in Norwegian, Jon Fosse. That award is notable not just because Fosse is the first winner known best for his plays since Harold Pinter (2005). And not just because he is the first winner who writes in Norwegian since Sigrid Undset (1928).…… Continue reading Nynorsk writer wins Nobel literature prize

Anglicised Germany—again

Here’s a link to a map of German in which the place names have all been translated into pseudo-English. https://www.facebook.com/TeutonicTongues/photos/a.2123278127942706/2699877216949458/ We recently stayed in Hambury, from where we did day trips to Henver and Lubbitch. On the way back, we changed trains in Theesbury and Minchin Ladbatch and Ea. I’ve linked to this map before.…… Continue reading Anglicised Germany—again

Take me to the Hotel War Wick

I once stayed in Manhattan in the Hotel Warwick. The cab-driver who took me there didn’t understand where I said I wanted to go. When I showed him my confirmation, he said ‘Oh, the hotel War Wick’. And at the hotel, the staff also called it the ‘War Wick’, though of course the name was…… Continue reading Take me to the Hotel War Wick

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