Half baked

If an idea isn’t really thought through and doesn’t make sense, we call it half-baked. So if an idea is completely half-baked, how baked is it? More than 50%? Less than 50%? Exactly 50%?

Only eadsets

Italian phonetic spelling of headset. The ‘eadset in question was in the City Train sightseeing train bus, Sorrento (2012)

Can English words start with th?

I am delighted that my grandchildren have learnt the word digraph in the reception class in their primary schools. A digraph is a sequence of two letters that together represent a single sound. One English digraph is <th>. This digraph is, in fact, used to spell two different consonants: a voiceless consonant, as in the…… Continue reading Can English words start with th?

Tha and others

More for the menu translation collection. “The ed infusi” translated as “Tha and others”. “Tha” must be an odd blend—if that’s the right term in this context—of “the” and “cha”. And “others” is pitifully inadequate as a translation of infusi. From Da Giovani, a restaurant in Rome, 2018

Ginkgo Biloba

I entered my translation of this poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe for the 2021 Stephen Spender prize. Like all entries for this prize, it includes my commentary on the translation. The word Ginkgo seems to be spelt variously, in both German and English, sometimes as Gingko and sometimes as Ginkgo. Printed copies of Goethe’s…… Continue reading Ginkgo Biloba

We’re all saying it now

“Literally” everyone now says “literally” when they mean “figuratively”. Maybe we should now say “figuratively” when we mean “literally”.

Would this be a useful new word?

An editorial this Wednesday in The Times discussed the latest measures taken in England to counter the spread of COVID. It talks about ‘the public’s weariness with measures to contain the spread’. In this sentence, weariness is a noun derived from the adjective weary and it means tiredness. Reading this sentence, I wondered whether we…… Continue reading Would this be a useful new word?

Does English really have case?

Old English had a complex inflection system, distinguishing various morphological cases in nouns, pronouns and adjectives. Complex cases systems also existed in Latin and still exist in, for example, German and Russian. Over time, most case distinctions have vanished from English. In a 1995 paper Does English Really Have Case? in the Journal of Linguistics,…… Continue reading Does English really have case?