Words to watch in 2023

Which words and phrases will enter wider circulation in 2023? This year’s edition of The Economist magazine’s annual publication The World in 2023 discusses, among many other interesting topics, the magazine’s ‘best 23 guesses’ for the terms that will become part of public discourse this year. I list the 23 terms below, with brief definitions,…… Continue reading Words to watch in 2023

Data is now singular, says FT style guide

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

Talking about the Carnival in German

Someone recently sent me a link to a good article about the carnival in German-speaking countries. https://www.mdr.de/brisant/ratgeber/fasching-karneval-fastnacht-102.html I first came across the carnival on an exchange visit to Frankfurt-am-Main when I was 13. My exchange partner’s family took us to the big carnival procession in Mainz on Rose Monday. Several years later, I saw the…… Continue reading Talking about the Carnival in German

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?

Straw man

About 10 years ago, I started hearing one of my former colleagues talking a lot about building a ‘straw man’. What he meant was sketching out a proposal approach in a rough outline that was detailed enough for people to start commenting on the direction of the proposal, but was not yet fully fleshed out.…… Continue reading Straw man

Status of British Sign Language in Britain

A recent announcement by rail company led me to a bigger piece of news that I’d missed. Small news The UK train operator TransPennine Express announced in December 2022 that it would start providing departure boards in British Sign Language (BSL). TransPennine Express launches British Sign Language departure boards – Rail UK In that announcement…… Continue reading Status of British Sign Language in Britain

2,000 year old Sanskrit puzzle solved?

A PhD student may have found a way to simplify the analysis of Sanskrit grammar, overturning a time-honoured way of reading a classic grammatical description. In his PhD thesis, Dr Rishi Rajpopat (of St John’s College, Cambridge) analysed the oldest surviving descriptive grammar of any language. This is Pāṇini’s Aṣṭādhyāyī, a comprehensive grammar of Sanskrit,…… Continue reading 2,000 year old Sanskrit puzzle solved?

Answer the questions based on the text

I was listening to a language learning CD the other day. After every passage, there were some exercises, preceded by the instruction ‘please answer the questions based on the text’. The intended meaning is: ‘please answer the question and base your answers on the text’. But read literally, it seems to be saying: please answer…… Continue reading Answer the questions based on the text

On the weekend

Learning which preposition to use in a language, and in which context, often involves learning some general rules of thumb (which often differ greatly from language to language) and many detailed rules that typically seem arbitrary. For a small example of this, consider how you talk in English about what you did, will do, or…… Continue reading On the weekend

Yes-no questions in headlines

I recently came across a reference to Betteridge’s Law. Not having heard of this before, I looked it up on the web. As Wikipedia explains, Betteridge’s Law of Headlines says the following: ‘Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.’ Ian Betteridge, a technology journalist, explained that journalists…… Continue reading Yes-no questions in headlines