On the BBC 4 Radio programme More or Less on 17 March 2023, the presenter Tim Harford (an economist) said that the Financial Times style guide now tells the FT’s journalists to treat data as a singular noun. An executive editor from the FT explained that for the last 4 years the style guide had…… Continue reading Data is now singular, says FT style guide
Do swear words contain some sounds more often?
A recent study suggests that approximants—sounds such as /l/; /r/; /w/; and /y/—appear less often in swear words than they do in other words. The paper is The sound of swearing: Are there universal patterns in profanity?, by Shiri Lev-Ari and Ryan McKay (2022) published online in December 2022 by the experimental psychology journal Psychonomic…… Continue reading Do swear words contain some sounds more often?
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
Nice one, Cyril
Several Slavonic languages—Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Macedonian and Serbian—are written in the Cyrillic alphabet. That alphabet is also used for several other languages, for example in central Asia. The name Cyrillic honours the memory of St Cyril. Who was Cyril? St Cyril was born in Thessalonica (nowadays in Greece) in 826 CE, being given the…… Continue reading Nice one, Cyril
Translating Lermontov’s translation of Goethe
I entered my translation of this poem by the Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov (1814-1841) for the 2022 Stephen Spender prize. Like all entries for this prize, it includes my commentary on the translation. From Goethe The hilltops sleepIn the dark of nightAnd fresh mist lies deepIn the valleys so quiet. From the leaves no rustle,From…… Continue reading Translating Lermontov’s translation of Goethe
In a recent article on The Conversation, Neil Bermel, professor of Russian and Slavonic Studies at the University of Sheffield, explained how some European languages will refer to King Charles III: in Czech, although he was almost always called princ Charles before ascending to the throne and occasionally král Charles is in use, he is…… Continue reading Král Karel
Gorbachev or Gorbachov?
The surname of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (Михаил Горбачёв) was occasionally spelled Gorbachov in English, especially early in his leadership. It is a pity that this spelling didn’t persist. The spelling with <o> would show English speakers more clearly how to pronounce this name. Cyrillic spelling Gorbachev’s surname is spelled Горбачeв in the Russian…… Continue reading Gorbachev or Gorbachov?
Why is the past tense in Russian so odd?
The past tense of verbs in Russian looks very odd. It marks the gender and number of the verb’s subject, but does not mark whether the subject is 1st person (I / we), 2nd person (you) or 3rd person (she / he / it / they). In this respect, the Russian past tense differs from…… Continue reading Why is the past tense in Russian so odd?
Bulgarian through Russian
Reading Bulgarian through Russian, by Charles E Gribble (1987) is a concise textbook that aims to teach people with a good knowledge of Russian to read normal contemporary literary Bulgarian. (I haven’t seen the 2nd edition, published in 2013.) An early section of Gribble’s book lists some systematic correspondences of sounds and spellings between the…… Continue reading Bulgarian through Russian
Is Russian difficult for English speakers?
I’ve sometimes heard people describe Russian as a difficult language for native English speakers. It is, indeed, a little more difficult for such learners than languages related more closely to English, such as other Germanic languages or the Romance languages. On the other hand, it is probably less difficult for them than completely unrelated languages.…… Continue reading Is Russian difficult for English speakers?