English Grammar Day 2024

I went last week to an event called English Grammar Day 2024 at the British Library. This event has been held for the last 10 years, but I went for the first time in 2023. The event is sponsored by UCL (the official short name of University College London), the University of Oxford and the…… Continue reading English Grammar Day 2024

Not-gormless again

As I have posted before, gormless is one of those strange inherently negative words with no positive counterpart. In that post, I included a picture of a restaurant at Copenhagen airport called Gorm’s. https://languagemiscellany.com/2021/08/can-you-negate-the-word-gormless/ I’ve recently found out a possible reason for using that name in Denmark. Denmark was ruled from about 936 to 1042…… Continue reading Not-gormless again

What is the plural of Whalebelly?

I was recently writing for my family history blog Birds of Cressingham a piece about a family with the unusual name Whalebelly. Jonas Whalebelly – Birds of Cressingham (wordpress.com) I started wondering what I would write if I were talking about 2 (or more) people with that name. Should I write Whalebellies or Whalebellys? English…… Continue reading What is the plural of Whalebelly?

Who Put the ‘a’ in ‘Thomas a Becket’?

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’?

Similarities and differences within Scandinavian languages

The Scandinavian languages are similar to each other, but also differ from each other. Here is an example that illustrates nicely some of the similarities and differences. I came across it in The Syntax of Icelandic, Höskuldur Thráinson (2007). Although Höskuldur Thráinson uses the example to make one specific point about word order, I use…… Continue reading Similarities and differences within Scandinavian languages

Hieroglyphs: unlocking ancient Egypt

An exhibition at the British Museum recounts how Egyptian hieroglyphic writing was first deciphered in the first 2 decades of the 19th century, using the Rosetta Stone and other inscriptions and texts.  Hieroglyphs: unlocking ancient Egypt is on until 19 February. https://www.britishmuseum.org/exhibitions/hieroglyphs-unlocking-ancient-egypt       The rest of this post covers: ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and…… Continue reading Hieroglyphs: unlocking ancient Egypt

Stressing Pelé

Since the Brazilian footballer Pelé died last month, we have been treated to many TV clips of this uniquely brilliant player. One thing that struck me is how British football commentators have changed the way they pronounce his name over the last 60 years. Change in stress pattern In commentary from the 1958, 1962 or…… Continue reading Stressing Pelé

Cross-language blues’

I found this week an odd blend of English pronunciation and spelling with French pronunciation and spelling. Writing about last Saturday’s Football World Cup match between England and France, a journalist wrote the following:   Philippe Auclair, the French writer, calls him Les Bleus’ “beat-giver”. The Times, 12 December 2022(‘him’ refers to the French footballer…… Continue reading Cross-language blues’

Too much of a good thing? Ask Hirokazu Tanaka

The largest gathering of people with the same first and last name occurred in Tokyo on 29 October 2022. Present were 178 people called Hirokazu Tanaka. https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/largest-same-first-and-last-name-gathering According to the Japan Times, the previous record was set in 2005 by American business person Martha Stewart and 163 other people of that name. The Japan Times…… Continue reading Too much of a good thing? Ask Hirokazu Tanaka