What are easiest, and hardest languages, to speak, and then write?

Tuesday, 28 March, 2017

If you’re an English speaker and wish to learn some other languages, where should you start? If it were me, lazy me, I’d probably go with the easiest choice.

According to Victor Mair, writing for the Language Log, I should learn to speak, but not write, Mandarin. He thinks it is the easiest to grasp. Contrast that with Sanskrit, or written Chinese, which he ranks as a little harder.

  • Mandarin (spoken)
  • Nepali
  • Russian
  • Japanese
  • Sanskrit
  • Chinese (written)

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There are 3000 words for being drunk (but I can’t remember any)

Thursday, 9 February, 2017

The English language is said to be possessed of no fewer than three thousand words for being in a state of intoxication, or drunkeness, says British lexicographer and etymologist Susie Dent, writing for the BBC.

“Alcohol” itself is 800 years old, taken from the Spanish Arabic al-kuhul which meant “the kohl”, linking it with the same black eye cosmetic you’ll find on any modern make-up counter. The term was originally applied to powders or essences obtained by alchemists through the process of distillation. This included both unguents for the face as well as liquid spirits of the intoxicating kind.

What – I wonder – does that say about English speakers?

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Visual representations of spoken words, that’s greentings

Wednesday, 28 September, 2016

Artwork by Jenny Green

Birmingham based designer and creative Jenny Green’s greentings project is a visual representation of well known, day to day, expressions. The trick, when you go the greentings Instagram page, is to guess what the image means before you click on it, to see the title. A fun idea, if ever there were one. See more of her work on Behance.

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There may be a word for that emotion you don’t quite understand

Tuesday, 21 June, 2016

Do we have a mere handful of emotions, or are we possessed of many more? I read awhile back that University of Glasgow researchers had determined we may only have four, being happy, sad, afraid/surprised, and angry/disgusted.

This list of extremely precise words for emotions we didn’t know we had, compiled by Melissa Dahl, writing for the New York Magazine, increases the count by another ten. Mind you, not all of these are exactly day to day emotions:

Kaukokaipuu: People of, say, Irish descent who have never actually been to the country of their ancestry may still experience an unexpected ache for it, as if they miss it – a strange, contradictory sort of feeling, as you can’t really miss someplace you’ve never been.

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The word of the day is liminal, but it’s best you don’t use it

Monday, 6 June, 2016

Could it be true that the word liminal, is the most pretentious word in the English language? Michelle Dean, writing for The Awl, appears to be of that opinion, and thinks the word threshold works just as well instead.

Good-faith question: If a 14,000-word Wikipedia entry is necessary to define and trace the history of a word, is it really a good word? Does it not at that point score high on the jargon spectrum, approaching one hundred percent?

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I love, actually, to hate the use of the word actually

Tuesday, 31 May, 2016

I probably use the word actually too much. That’s bad on two counts. First up, actually is an adverb. Tsk, tsk. Second, it’s become so overused, people now tend to think it suggests doubt, rather than an actual actuality.

The implied phrase here is, “which is weird because I didn’t think so at first. In fact I totally thought it was going to suck.” It’s a silent compliment killer, this ‘actually.’ I would wager that more than half the time it’s used, it’s not even intended that way, but instead tossed in as filler, which is actually the most common usage of ‘actually.’

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The use of a bad word, like bad, will not make a bad situation good

Thursday, 19 May, 2016

Words such as bad, dumb, weird, ugly, shy, fool, and incompetent, are among twenty-five words that should not be used when addressing another person, says John Rampton, writing for Entrepreneur Media.

Part of the problem is that using such words also reflects poorly on the speaker. Sure, if someone is doing something wrong, they need to be told, but in a fashion that is constructive, so they can remedy the situation.

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So there’s no confusion, a guide to the correct use of apostrophes

Wednesday, 18 May, 2016

Apostrophes, the source of so much confusion in written English. This infographic, by Curtis Newbold, will help you make better use of them.

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Hiraeth, a yearning for a time or place, or home, that is no more

Wednesday, 27 April, 2016

Hiraeth is a Welsh word without a direct English translation, that can indicate a longing, or nostalgia, for the Wales of the past. Hiraeth is also the title of a short film by New York City filmmaker Trent Jaklitsch, that alludes to a desire to return to a home, where that is not possible, or to one that no longer exists.

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If you’re looking for imaginary words, this is the place to find them

Wednesday, 20 April, 2016

Suplegness, the condition of being nearly chosen or selected. Adclamance, the process of the addition or increase of crying out. Disgregent, something that performs the action of expulsion from the herd, Ungastrient, an indication of the reversal of the stomach. Ecmorphless, missing an external shape or form.

Are these words familiar to you? I didn’t think so… they’re actually taken from the Dictionary of Fantastic Vocabulary, being a compendium of imaginary words and their uses.

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