Monthly Archives: September 2006


When chatting with some Iranian friends yesterday, the subject of British humour came up. My friends told me that British humour, particularly language-based humour, has much in common with Persian humour, and that the Iranians really appreciate British jokes, unlike many other nationalities. The things people laugh at seem to vary from country to country. […]

English, Language 8 Comments

Word of the day – tintinnabulation

tintinnabulation = the act or an instance of the ringing or pealing of bells. From Latin tintinnāre to tinkle, from tinnīre to ring. Related words tintinnabulte = to ring, to tinkle tintinnabulary = a bellringer tintinnabulum = a small high-pitched bell tinnitus = medical term for a ringing or buzzing in the ears I came […]

English, Language, Words and phrases 13 Comments

Verbal gestures

According to an article on ScienceDaily, we unconsciously use ‘verbal gestures’ when we speak. These verbal gestures or ‘analog acoustic expressions’ add extra information to our utterances not provided by the words themselves. For example, when we talk about things, such as the stock market, going up or down, we tend to raise or lower […]

Language 8 Comments

Which languages are spoken in your neighbourhood?

A comment on a previous post got me thinking about which languages are spoken in Brighton, my current home. Ziad Fazah, the incredible polyglot, apparently learnt most of his 58 languages using materials available in the public libraries of his hometown in Lebannon, and by talking with foreign residents and visitors, particularly visiting sailors. Using […]

Language 13 Comments


Recently I registered with the language exchange site, Mixxer. This is a free service hosted by Dickinson College where you enter some information about yourself, particularly the languages you want to practise, and can then search for native speakers of those languages who want to practise speaking and/or writing your mother tongue. You can then […]

Language, Language learning 4 Comments

Hippopotami and paninis

English contains more foreign loan words than you can shake a stick at. In some cases both their singular and plural forms have been adopted, but sometimes only one of these forms makes it into English. For example, panini is the plural of panino, an Italian-style sandwich, but only the former is normally used in […]

English, Language, Words and phrases 18 Comments

Language quiz

Can you identify the language in this recorded snippet? Here are a few clues: this language is spoken mainly on one continent by about 40 million people. It is generally written with the Latin alphabet these days, but used to written with the Arabic alphabet. The recording comes from the BBC World Service.

Language, Quiz questions 4 Comments

The two Koreas

According to an article in The Boston Globe, the Korean spoken in North Korea has drifted apart from the Korean spoken in South Korea. This is hardly surpising as there has been very little contact between the two sides for over 60 years. They both jam each other’s radio signals, and it used to be […]

Language, Language learning 4 Comments
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