Monthly Archives: April 2006

Word of the day – dreich

dreich, adjective = cold, wet, dismal, dull, bleak, misearable, dreary, overcast, drizzling Origin: from Middle English dreig, drih (enduring), possibly from Old English drēog. Related to the Old Norse drjugr – lasting. Examples of usage: It’s gey dreich the day (It’s very dismal today). Which it was, in Brighton at least. It can also mean […]

Language, Scots, Words and phrases 9 Comments

Code switching

If you speak two or more languages fluently it’s quite natural to switch between them occasionally or frequently when chatting with other people who speak the the same languages. This type of behaviour is known as code switching. For example, as I mentioned in a previous post, we used to switch between English and Mandarin […]

Language 8 Comments

Word of the day – dialect

dialect, noun = a form of a language which is peculiar to a specific region or social group (from: Compact Oxford English Dictionary). Another definition, from Wikipedia, is “a complete system of verbal communication (oral or signed but not necessarily written) with its own vocabulary and/or grammar.” Origin: from the Greek διάλεκτος (dialektos) – discourse, […]

English, Language, Words and phrases 14 Comments

What do you do for a living?

Continuing yesterday’s theme of identity, describing what you do for a living can be tricky if you don’t work in a well-known profession. If someone tells you they’re a doctor, teacher, lawyer or police officer, you have a pretty good idea what their job entails. However, if you work in such professions as web development, […]

Identity 6 Comments

Where are you from?

The answer to this question may depend on who’s asking it, where you are at the time, and what and how much you want to reveal about yourself. In many countries it’s rare to meet people who have lived all their lives in one place. Most of us move, at least a few times, to […]

Identity 9 Comments

Language choice

If you’re with a group of people who speak various languages, which language do you all choose? In some cases you may switch between several languages, in others you may all settle on a single language. In many parts of the world, English is used as a lingua franca, though it is not the only […]

Language 7 Comments

Which languages are the most difficult to learn?

This question was posed in one the emails I received today. I managed to find some information about the relative difficulty of learning particular languages for English speakers, but not for speakers of other languages. The difficulty of learning a particular language depends on which language(s) you already know. Each language presents you with a […]

Language 54 Comments


e-books have been with us for quite a few years, but have yet to gain widespread popularity. Maybe this is due to the lack of suitable devices on which to read them. Reading text on a back-lit screen tends to strain the eyes more than reading text on paper. Perhaps the new Sony Reader for […]

Language 5 Comments

Word of the day – diphthong

Diphthong, noun = a vowel sound, occupying a single syllable, during the articulation of which the tongue moves from one position to another, causing a continual change in vowel quality. For example, the ou in doubt. Origin: from Latin diphthongus, from Greek δίφθογγος (diphthongos) – with two sounds, which is made up of δίφυες (diphues) […]

Chinese, English, Language, Words and phrases 17 Comments

What is a word?

The dictionary definition of a word is: one of the units of speech or writing that native speakers of a language usually regard as the smallest isolable meaningful element of the language. In most written languages, words are separated by spaces so it’s easy to see where each word begins and ends. In spoken language […]

Language, Writing 6 Comments
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