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?
I recently came across a word that was new to me: contronym. A contronym is a word that is its own opposite. An often-given example is sanction. Sanctioning an action can mean either penalising it or permitting it. Some other examples are: WordOne meaningAnother meaningcleave clingsplitclipattachcut offdustremove dustadd a layer of dustapologystatement of regret for an…… Continue reading Contronyms
Here’s another example of a sign that inserts an apostrophe in the plural of a word that doesn’t contain an apostrophe in standard English spelling. The word is milkshake’s, standardly written as milkshakes. I’ve written before about an intrusive (and normatively ‘incorrect’) apostrophe in the word milkshake. Panini’s apostrophes – Language Miscellany There, milkshake’s followed…… Continue reading Milkshake’s and apostrophes
I have picked up another interesting snippet from David Crystal’s book By Hook or by Crook: a journey in search of English (2007). English spelling does not match well with current pronunciation. As is well known, some such mismatches arose because English spelling began to stabilise before some major changes in the English sound system.…… Continue reading French scribes with good intentions
Here is a tip to help you learn to pronounce the main national Romance languages more correctly. These Romance languages all pronounce the letters <c> and <g> in two different ways, depending on the vowel that follows them. In these languages, these letters are pronounced as [c] and [g] if they are followed by a…… Continue reading Romance languages: pronouncing C and G
I have written before about what is sometimes called “grocer’s apostrophes” in English. https://languagemiscellany.com/2021/10/say-nein-to-anglo-saxon-punctuationHere is a good example I saw recently at a café in York. The apostrophe before the -s plural suffix on panini doesn’t surprise me. People often put in an apostrophe on a noun that is not a mainstream noun, for example…… Continue reading Panini’s apostrophes
Some commentators hate hearing people say that they ‘pre-booked’ something, for example, a taxi or a ticket. These commentators argue that the prefix pre- is redundant. In their view, the word book already necessarily includes the meaning that the action occurred in advance. Is the prefix pre- always redundant? I agree that the prefix is…… Continue reading Are all pre-bookings just bookings?
Some English native prefixes expressing location in time or space are of native origin. This post discusses whether those items are indeed prefixes or whether they are a separate base added in front of another base in forming a compound word. This post does not discuss prefixes of non-native origin. Native prefixes in English Bauer,…… Continue reading Prefix or preposition?
According to a quiz I read recently, the 6th language to be designated in India as a ‘classical language’ is Odia. I had never heard of Odia, so I wanted to find out more. The Language Odia belongs, with Bengali and Assamese to the Madaghan sub-family of Indo-Aryan (Klaiman, 1990). Indo-Aryan is itself part of…… Continue reading Odia, a classical language in India
In a recent short break in Chester, I learnt that it is easy to confuse the Welsh names of Chester and of another town 130 miles away in Wales. It can be hard to decipher medieval texts when it is not clear which of these two important sites is under discussion. Chester Chester stands at…… Continue reading Confusing name for Chester