A recent question in the daily quiz in The Times annoyed me. Question: Which of the three orders in classical Greek architecture shares its name with a type of chemical bond? Purported answer: ionic This annoyed me because ionic (a chemical bond, an adjective derived from the noun ion) and ionic (a classical Greek architectural…… Continue reading A homonym is not a shared name
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?
Two features of the pronunciation of the Berlin dialect of German are very striking. They are the pronunciation of the consonant written g in standard German (but pronounced as if written as j) and of the diphthong written ei (but pronounced as if written as ee). Consonant written g In the Berlin dialect, the consonant…… Continue reading Berlin Dialect
Gormless is one of those strange words that seems inherently negative and has no positive counterpart.This picture I took in 2015 proves that Copenhagen airport isn’t gormless: it has a restaurant called Gorm’s.
The perfect tense in English reports past events that continue to have an effect in the present. This leads to some interesting effects that are sometimes called lifetime ‘effects’. This name is used because whether a sentence is acceptable (felicitous) depends on whether it relates to a person or subject that still exists. For example,…… Continue reading Perfect tense: lifetime effects
Looking for tea on this menu, I eventually found it nestling alongside cappuccino. Difficult to think of two hot drinks that have less in common with each other. In this case, the only common feature was the price. Despite this unpromising beginning, the tea was fine… Below, from the same menu, an alarming disclaimer: the…… Continue reading Tea: a cappuccino?
Editors (both professional and amateur) have often warned me against using brackets. They are averse to brackets because they view brackets as a sign of indecisiveness and of an addiction to parenthetical digressions. They often suggest commas instead of brackets. Up to a point, their aversion is justified. Yet commas are sometimes less clear than…… Continue reading In defence of brackets
Here is a link to a map of German in which the place names have all been translated into pseudo-English. Some I particularly like: Frankford-on-the-Other = Frankfurt an der OderColne = Cologne / KölnCosersludder = Kaiserslautern (I’ve been told the American troops stationed near Kaiserslautern call it K-Town.)Charlesrow = KarlsruheSlot Newswanston = Schloss NeuschwansteinBath-Wirdberry =…… Continue reading Anglicised Germany
The word “coach” comes from the name of the Hungarian town Kocs. So, as the Hungarian version of this notice says, a coach from Kocs is Kocsi Kocsi. Picture taken in 2014 at The Transport Museum of Budapest.
In English, auxiliary verbs (have and be) and modal verbs behave differently from all other verbs. For example, they combine differently with negatives, as shown in the following table for auxiliaries (have and be), a modal verb (can) and another verb (go). TypePositiveNegativeAux (have)You have goneYou have not goneAux (be)You are goingYou are not goingModalYou…… Continue reading You need not understand