At primary school, I learned that 4 knights murdered Archbishop Thomas á Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. Famously, the murderers had supposedly heard English king Henry II saying ‘Who will rid me of this turbulent priest’. It wasn’t clear whether Henry was asking the knights to kill Thomas, or whether he was just venting…… Continue reading Who Put the ‘a’ in ‘Thomas a Becket’?
It is easy to be confused by the opposing spelling conventions used in Polish and Hungarian for the sounds /s/ and /ʃ/: Polish uses the symbol <s> for the sound /s/ and the digraph (letter sequence) <sz> for the sound /ʃ/. conversely, Hungarian uses the digraph <sz> for the sound /s/ and the symbol <s>…… Continue reading S and sz in Polish and Hungarian
The phrase ‘all and only’ is concise and expresses a precise logical meaning, but it is too compressed for most people to understood it. I first came across the set phrase ‘all and only’ at the age of 25 when I began working in continental Europe. One of my new colleagues often drafted letters containing…… Continue reading All and only
A recent post by Rosemarie Ostler on the OUP blog summarises the historical roots of today’s American dialects. Four main groups of colonists arrived in British North America in the 17th and 18th centuries. They came from different regions, bringing their own dialects: Puritans arrived in Massachusetts from 1629, coming mainly from East Anglia in…… Continue reading Where dialects of American English came from
London has just extended the boundary of its Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). Drivers of motor vehicles causing heavy emissions must pay to drive in the ULEZ. The word ULEZ has the shape and feel of some Croatian words. The common prefix u- means ‘in’ or ‘into’ and is derived from the preposition u. (In other…… Continue reading ULEZ, uljez, izlaz
Most writers don’t use brackets often enough. I’ve given before a couple of examples where using brackets makes a text clearer. Here’s another example. I recently read something saying in Coity, near Bridgend, where they lived until her death. This wording doesn’t make it clear enough that these people lived in Coity, not in Bridgend.…… Continue reading In defence of brackets (3)
It has become a cliché to say that accounting is the language of business. That metaphor is helpful because it emphasises that accounting conveys vital information about business. But the metaphor can be unhelpful because, although accounting is a system for conveying information, accounting lacks most features of real human languages, such as Arabic, Chinese,…… Continue reading Accounting is not a language
Swedish has a sound /s/, broadly similar to English /s/ in, for example, English seep. I’ve known for a long time that Swedish also has 2 other sibilant consonants, which I’d thought corresponded roughly to English /ʃ/, as in English sheep. Common transcriptions for those 2 sibilants in the International Phonetic Alphabet are /ɕ/ and…… Continue reading Is that Swedish ‘sj-sound’ really a sibilant?
How many nouns are there in Finnish? A paper by Fred Karlsson investigates that question. The paper also considers their sound structure. Karlsson used a machine-readable version of the Reverse Dictionary of Modern Standard Finnish (RDF, Suomen kielen käänteissanakirja). This lists 72,785 entries. Of those, 34,673 (47.6 %) have the code ‘S’, short for noun…… Continue reading How many nouns are there in Finnish?
Here’s a link to a map of German in which the place names have all been translated into pseudo-English. https://www.facebook.com/TeutonicTongues/photos/a.2123278127942706/2699877216949458/ We recently stayed in Hambury, from where we did day trips to Henver and Lubbitch. On the way back, we changed trains in Theesbury and Minchin Ladbatch and Ea. I’ve linked to this map before.…… Continue reading Anglicised Germany—again