Monthly Archives: December 2007

Going to the ball

This evening I’ll be going to the office Christmas party. This year it’s called “the Ice Ball”, which got me thinking about the names of such events. A ball, as in a formal party involving dancing, comes from the Greek, ballizein, to dance, jump about, via the Latin ballare, to dance, and the Old French […]

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English, Etymology, Language, Words and phrases 1 Comment

Language and rhythm

Language and rhythm are inextricably linked, according to a blog post I found the other day. The post is about reading scripts for theatrical performances, but much of it applies just as much to every day speech. The main point is that language has inherent rhythms which are crucial because they are where the meaning […]

Language, Language learning, Pronunciation 7 Comments

Reinventing yourself

Imagine going from working in insurance in Liverpool, to becoming a pop star in China. That’s just what Barry Cox did, according to an article on the BBC News website. He was bored with his insurance job and wanted to try something different. After a visit to his local Chinese chip shop, he decided to […]

Chinese, Language, Language learning 5 Comments

Word of the day – constable

In the Roman and Byzantine Empires of the 5th and 6th centuries AD, the comes stabuli (count of the stable) was the person in charge of the stables at the imperial court. The Franks borrowed the title but changed the position slightly to the head of the royal stud. During the 12th century in France, […]

English, French, Language, Latin, Words and phrases 2 Comments

Language quiz

The image below shows the languages into which Brighton & Hove Council translates documents. Something like this appears on most council documents. Can you identify the languages?

Language, Quiz questions 22 Comments

Language quiz

Here’s a scan of a banknote from a mystery country. How many languages and writing systems appear on it and which ones? Can you also work out where it’s from, and its denomination and date?

Language, Quiz questions 19 Comments

Word of the day – lullaby

Lullabies, from the Middle English lullen, to lull, + bye, are soothing songs usually sung to babies to lull them to sleep. An alternative name is berceuse, from the French for lullaby or “cradle song”. According to an article I found today, lullabies are not only a good way to get babies to sleep, but […]

English, Language, Language acquisition, Words and phrases 1 Comment

Unusual characters

Believe it or not the Chinese characters shown below are all variants forms of the ‘same’ character. The character in question is 壹 (yī) – the complex form of ‘one’, which is used on banknotes, coins and cheques. Well actually the first one is a version of 一, the simple from of ‘one’. The first […]

Chinese, Language, Writing 14 Comments

Children’s language games

This week’s Word of Mouth, the programme about language on BBC Radio 4, was devoted to the games children play with language. The presenter, Michael Rosen, and the contributors found out some of the rhymes and counting games children are currently using and compared them to ones they remembered from their own childhoods. One interesting […]

Language 7 Comments

English as a Lingua (ELF)

There are about three times as many people who speak English as a second or foreign language as there are native speakers. Many people use English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) to communicate with others with whom they don’t share a common language. When they do so, the English they use isn’t necessarily the same […]

English, Language 7 Comments