Japan to change official romanisation?

Recent press reports suggest that the Japanese government is thinking of changing the officially recommended system for romanising Japanese. Romanisation is writing Japanese in roman characters (known in Japanese as rōmaji). There are 2 main romanisation systems for Japanese: Hepburn, devised by an American Missionary James Curtis Hepburn (1815-1911). Kunrei, issued by the Japanese government…… Continue reading Japan to change official romanisation?

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?

Lopping sweaters

A spoonerism is an error in speech. In a spoonerism, the speaker swaps the initial consonant of one word with the initial consonant of another word.   Spoonerisms take their name from an Oxford academic, Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844–1930). Perhaps the best known spoonerism is one often attributed to Spooner himself, though possibly apocryphally.…… Continue reading Lopping sweaters

When a typo says something about sound structure

Many typos are just mechanical errors. Examples are mis-hitting a key next to the right one, or missing a key altogether. But sometimes, a typo reveals something about the connection between sound systems (phonology / phonetics) and writing systems. Here’s an example I saw the other day. Someone wrote ‘point of you’ clearly meaning ‘point…… Continue reading When a typo says something about sound structure

S and sz in Polish and Hungarian

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

Take me to the Hotel War Wick

I once stayed in Manhattan in the Hotel Warwick. The cab-driver who took me there didn’t understand where I said I wanted to go. When I showed him my confirmation, he said ‘Oh, the hotel War Wick’. And at the hotel, the staff also called it the ‘War Wick’, though of course the name was…… Continue reading Take me to the Hotel War Wick

English Grammar Day

I went along yesterday to an event at University College London (UCL) called English Grammar Day. This was the first time I have been, though it has been held for the last 10 years. The event seems to be aimed mainly at school teachers and academics. I give below summaries of the 6 talks, which…… Continue reading English Grammar Day

Theta in an index

Here is an oddity: a foreign character appearing in an English book index as the first letter in an indexed phrase. The character is the Greek θ (theta). It appears in that index as the first letter in 5 phrases: θ feature; θ position; θ identification; θ position(s); θ role; θ structure. Where can you…… Continue reading Theta in an index

Brighthelmstone by the sea

We aren’t usually surprised if the spelling of a place name diverges from how we pronounce the name today. This often happens  because of major sound changes long ago. But I recently came across a spelling that shortened radically less than 200 years ago. The name of the southern English seaside town Brighton was still…… Continue reading Brighthelmstone by the sea