There are two French-accented items in the news this week: one about the inherent sexism of French grammar, and the other about a particular kind of Frenglish (or is it Franglais?), which you’re likely to hear when you’re north of the border … Continue reading
Offensive as the title of this post probably sounds to most American ears, the word fag, in at least some of its meanings and variations, is alive and well — and for the most part benign — in the mouths of Brits. This is one of those Yanks vs. Brits subjects that I’ve been reluctant to discuss on Glossophilia because of the word’s shameful meaning on one side of the Atlantic; however, it seems a pity not to take a look at this quirky piece of vocabulary that is so versatile, evocative and mostly innocent on British shores, where its only real shame is in its reference to a long and very un-PC tradition — now thankfully obsolete — in British public schools. Continue reading
It’s amazing how one letter can make such a difference to one’s productivity …
Hat-tip to Polly Smith on Twitter.
I’m reading Erik Larson’s fascinating book Devil in the White City, which is about the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. A lot of things came out of that fair or were inspired by it, including the ubiquitous ‘Snake Charmer Song’, the Ferris wheel, a notorious serial killer (sic), and several other brand names that have effectively become generic through their popularity — such as Juicy Fruit, Shredded Wheat, and Crackerjack — among other inventions and ideas. And then there was a word that had already been born a century earlier, but which had recently changed its meaning and then began to blossom in the very photogenic landscapes, buildings and attractions of the Columbian Exposition … Continue reading
For the Fallen
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free. Continue reading
… when you’re travelling in England: Continue reading
“The German language has lost its longest word thanks to a change in the law to conform with EU regulations. Rindfleischetikettierungsueberwachungsaufgabenuebertragungsgesetz – meaning “law delegating beef label monitoring” – was introduced in 1999 in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. It was repealed following changes to EU regulations on the testing of cattle.” The BBC has the full story (including the name of these very long words that are so common in German …).
Novemberish: adj. “Belonging to or characteristic of November; dismal, gloomy.” Earliest use found in Robert Burns (1759–1796), poet. (OED)
“Round, and round, and round they go — Mundell’s ox that drives his cotton-mill is their exact prototype — without an idea or wish beyond their circle; fat, sleek, stupid, patient, quiet, and contented; while here I sit, altogether Novemberish, a d-mnd melange of fretfulness and melancholy; not enough of the one to rise me to passion, nor of the other to repose me in torpor; my soul flouncing and fluttering round her tenement, like a wild finch, caught amid the horrors of winterand newly thrust into a cage.”
– – From a letter written by Robert Burns to Mrs Riddell, Woodley Park, November 1793
You’re right about that, Mr. President. You’re not at all presidential.
“The Kazakh language has long been unsure which alphabet to find a comfortable home in and it’s now in for another transition – but this is not without controversy. Last Friday Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev finally decreed that the language would shed its heavy Cyrillic coat and don what he hopes to be a more fashionable attire: the Latin alphabet.” The BBC has the story.