Wednesday, 15 May, 2013
The fact that we often visualise, in our minds, a flying pig when we hear the term, even though no such creature exists, says a lot about the way we understand a language.
That’s not much of a stretch when it comes to words for things like throwing a baseball or seeing a duck. But what about words for things we’ve probably never seen? Like a flying pig. “A flying pig isn’t something that actually exists in the real world,” Bergen says. Yet when we read those words we see one in our mind’s eye. Most people see a pig with wings above its shoulders, Bergen says. But some people imagine a pig with a cape, flying like Superman.
language, psychology, words
Monday, 13 May, 2013
Time travellers for one ought to swot up on their “ultraconserved words”, a collection of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, that have endured the changes that living languages are subject to, least they need to form sentences that will be understood, should they find themselves somewhere in the distant past.
A team of researchers has come up with a list of two dozen “ultraconserved words” that have survived 150 centuries. It includes some predictable entries: “mother,” “not,” “what,” “to hear” and “man.” It also contains surprises: “to flow,” “ashes” and “worm.” The existence of the long-lived words suggests there was a “proto-Eurasiatic” language that was the common ancestor to about 700 contemporary languages that are the native tongues of more than half the world’s people.
etymology, history, language, words
Wednesday, 24 April, 2013
Ten words made up of not so widely used alphabet letters, such as J, Q, and Z (letters that I always seem to end up with), that Scrabble players ought to familiarise themselves with, including:
games, language, Scrabble, words
Monday, 8 April, 2013
It’s not just the meaning of any given word that may cause someone to take exception to it… a word’s sound, or even look, may be enough to trigger a bout of word aversion.
Word aversion is marked by strong reactions triggered by the sound, sight, and sometimes even the thought of certain words, according to Liberman. “Not to the things that they refer to, but to the word itself,” he adds. “The feelings involved seem to be something like disgust.”
language, psychology, words
Friday, 5 April, 2013
Did you know the word “taxicab” is a contraction of words “taximeter” and “cabriolet”? I didn’t think so. In fact there’s a number of commonly used words that are contractions of either one or two words, that most of us may not have known about.
etymology, language, trivia, words
Monday, 7 January, 2013
How do you spell HERE?
Wrong, it’s H-E-A-R.
Just how does the English language end up with so many words that sound exactly the same, yet have quite different spellings and meanings? Part of the answer lies the way the language has developed over time, in particular the influences of Latin and French, and the way people have spoken during different periods, among other things.
English, etymology, language, words
Thursday, 22 November, 2012
2012 has been a momentous year for GIFs, or in plainer English, the animations that adorn many websites. Not only have they now been with us for 25 years, the very term has now been named as the Oxford Dictionaries USA Word of the Year:
GIF verb to create a GIF file of (an image or video sequence, especially relating to an event): he GIFed the highlights of the debate
language, web-design, words
Thursday, 27 September, 2012
Portland based copywriter Ted McCagg has determined diphthong to be the best word ever… it’s a new one on me, and means:
In phonetics, a gliding vowel in the articulation of which there is a continuous transition from one position to another. Diphthongs are to be contrasted in this respect with so-called pure vowels-i.e., unchanging, or steady state, vowels. Though they are single speech sounds, diphthongs are usually represented, in a phonetic transcription of speech, by means of a pair of characters indicating the initial and final configurations of the vocal tract. Many of the vowel sounds in most dialects of English are diphthongs: e.g., the vowels of “out” and “ice,” represented as [au] and [ai], respectively.
Winning, by the way, was no amble down the aisle, diphthong had to see off a number of worthy contenders in order to reach the top spot.
drawing, language, words
Friday, 14 September, 2012
The way someone speaks can say a lot about a them, but you may be able to glean a few more insights into what makes a person tick by tuning into the “crutch” words they use, expressions such as “basically”, “like”, “honestly”, and of course “at the end of the day”:
If you use the English language’s worst phrase, you are the forward thinker of crutch-word users. You know each day has an end, and some day we will reach it, and therefore this phrase will be relevant, except really it’s not. See also ultimately. If you need an ultimately or an at the end of the day to give your point punch, you should probably just phrase your point a bit differently, or simply place verbal emphasis on the words that hold the most meaning. “At the end of the day, we all learned something” can just as easily be said as “We all learned something.” At the end of the day gives you a sense of backstory with no real backstory, so it’s dissatisfying at best, the end of an experience without the context or even sometimes the beginning. Hold your ultimately.
expressions, language, words
Tuesday, 21 August, 2012
Scrabble tournaments… mostly serene, even docile, affairs? No, not necessarily…
Scrabble is a game of personal honor; opponents police themselves and each other. As a result it is rife with feuds and imagined slights and muttered complaints. Players are as sensitive as flowers to any sign of “coffeehousing” – the practice of trying to throw off an opponent by slurping a drink, writing loudly… or talking during a match. After losing to Sam Kantimathi in Las Vegas, Geary stomped out of the room, growling, “The one guy I didn’t want to lose to.” Why? “He’s an ass. I just don’t like him. If I could find a way to kick his ass, I would. He tends to rattle his tiles whenever you play but manages to be so quiet when he’s playing. Aggghhh. Sam. Sam I am.”
board games, Scrabble, words