Teaching English grammar in school doesn’t improve children’s writing. Really?

At the beginning of March, the British press was full of stories about a new academic study. According to those stories, the study shows that teaching children in school doesn’t make them write better. It turns out that the study didn’t exactly show that. I discuss below:  what the press releases saidthe study and the…… Continue reading Teaching English grammar in school doesn’t improve children’s writing. Really?

Fronted adverbials

Periodically, a debate breaks out in the British press about whether schools in England teach too much English grammar or too little English grammar. The trigger for the latest outpouring was an academic study suggesting that teaching grammar does not improve children’s writing. For some commentators, the phrase ‘fronted adverbials’ now exemplifies excessive focus on…… Continue reading Fronted adverbials

Time for batters to join the bowlers and fielders

In cricketing circles, there has been a trend recently to using the term batter instead of the traditional term batsman. I often side with (bat for?) the dinosaurs on this sort of terminology question, but on this one I’m now batting for the innovators. Here’s why. In the past, when I heard someone talk about…… Continue reading Time for batters to join the bowlers and fielders

Translation and food packaging

The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that UK retailer Tesco mis-translated chocolate powder into Czech. Tesco had translated it as čokoládový prašek (‘chocolate powder’) but the official Czech version of the EU Cocoa and Chocolate Products Directive uses čokoláda v prašku (‘chocolate in powder‘). The Czech authorities prosecuted Tesco and after…… Continue reading Translation and food packaging

New law in Lithuania lets people use foreign letters

The Lithuanian alphabet is based on the Roman alphabet but does not include the letters ‘q’, ‘x’ and ‘w’. As a result, using those letters in the official spelling of people’s names in Lithuania has not been possible. However, that has now changed. On 26 January 2020, the President of Lithuania signed a new law…… Continue reading New law in Lithuania lets people use foreign letters

What are retrospective breaches?

Language is the least important casualty of our current political crisis, but it is a casualty nonetheless. In December, London’s Metropolitan Police foolishly suggested that their policy is not to routinely investigate ‘retrospective’ breaches of the law. I’m not qualified to discuss the legal, constitutional and ethical rights and wrongs of this notion. But linguistically…… Continue reading What are retrospective breaches?

Different accent or bad diction?

I’ve written before about confusion about the term dropping your g’s. The Time columnist Claire Foges waded into this debate on 20 September. Her article argues that people can improve their life chances by learning to speak and write what she calls Standard English. I agree with her on that. But her comments show some…… Continue reading Different accent or bad diction?

Droppin’ g’s = bad speech?

At the end of July, Digby Jones, former Director-General of the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), tweeted about the pronunciation of Alex Scott, one of the BBC’s main studio presenters during the Tokyo Olympics. He complained about her “very noticeable inability to pronounce her ‘g’s at the end of a word”, such as “fencin, rowin,…… Continue reading Droppin’ g’s = bad speech?

Fleeting vowels in Abrdn

The asset manager Standard Life Aberdeen has struggled to establish its brand ever since it was formed by a merger in 2017 between the insurer Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management. Have they now found an answer? The company announced in April 2021 that it would rebrand itself as Abrdn and that the name would…… Continue reading Fleeting vowels in Abrdn