The Cambridge Dictionary—an online dictionary for learners of English—has added a new meaning to its definition of ‘hallucinate’ and has picked ‘hallucinate’ as its Word of the Year for 2023. Cambridge Dictionary names ‘Hallucinate’ Word of the Year 2023 | University of Cambridge Hallucinating ‘false information’ This year has seen a surge in interest in…… Continue reading When the machines started hallucinating
On the tail end of a radio interview a couple of days ago, I heard someone say ‘agriculture are playing an important part’. ‘Agriculture are’ combines a singular noun with a plural verb and sounded very odd to me. Not a slip of the tongue All of us sometimes get distracted in the middle of…… Continue reading Even I wouldn’t use a plural verb here
Last week, the UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, announced he would scrap some proposals relating to climate change. The next day, the BBC Radio 4 Today programme interviewed Mr Sunak. The interviewer (Nick Robinson) said the UK government had never made the ‘proposals’ that Mr Sunak said he would now scrap. He asked why the…… Continue reading Scrapping non-proposals
Which conjunction do English speakers use with the comparative form of adjectives to describe a test applied to 2 nouns in order to select one of those nouns? I have the impression that American English uses, for example, ‘the lower of A or B’ where British English uses ‘the lower of A and B’. I…… Continue reading The lower of one thing or the lower of 2 things?
Trying to write something concisely, I came across a quirk of English. I ran into an example where inserting a pause changes both the syntax of a sentence and its meaning. Here’s the context. Sarah Wells married Joseph Randall, but Joseph died within a few years. After that, Sarah remarried. Her second husband was Louis…… Continue reading A pause can change syntax and meaning
I read today about someone ‘granting a request’. Although that common phrase is perfectly clear, it is unusually condensed. What is being granted? It isn’t really the request, it is the thing that was requested. This phrase is typical of something we often do with language: we shorten a common combination of words into a…… Continue reading Granting a request
The House of Commons discussed yesterday a government proposal that would allow the UK government to ignore some injunctions from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Reportedly, Minister Robert Jenrick said the government would use this power only ‘highly judiciously’. His choice of the word judiciously is interesting. The judges sitting in the ECHR…… Continue reading From judicial decisions to judicious decisions?
On a recent flight, I was bemused by a sign on the overhead containers for carry on luggage. The sign advised caution in opening the ‘hatrack’, so that items wouldn’t fall down. I have never seen this word used before with this meaning. Maybe I have missed out on some new aviation jargon or maybe…… Continue reading A hatrack for your luggage
I want to use the following sentence: ‘each of the UK’s last 5 Prime Ministers was worse than their predecessor’. That sentence could have 2 readings: A distributive reading: each Prime Minster was worse than that Prime Minister’s predecessor. A collective reading: each Prime Minster was worse than the predecessor of the 1st in that…… Continue reading Collective and distributive readings of ‘their’
In reviewing draft documents, I often used to come across cases where someone had written different where they really meant various. Although this was particularly common for people who learnt English as a 2nd language, people with English as 1st language often make the same mistake as well. Let me give an example: (1) translations…… Continue reading Don’t write ‘different’ if you mean ‘various’