In the news: is British irony stopping the Brits from being understood by non-native English-speakers?

‘The feast of Reason, & the flow of Soul’ – i.e. – The Wits of the Age, setting the Table in a roar, by James Gillray / Wikimedia Commons

“The British are proud of the idiomatic humour of their language. But an academic has argued that they are actually falling behind because they insist on using phrases that the rest of the world does not understand.” The Telegraph has the full story.

“Not only did the British keep to themselves but they also said that they [a group of Hungarian, German and Italian students] get along very well, they understand each other, and the only trouble comes when a really British person comes and joins the conversation.”

Sorry! — Ed.

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10 millennial words & phrases you might want to know

Top 10 Schools for Basic Bs / Wikimedia Commons

Does your 20-something daughter sometimes use words or phrases that you sort of get — because she’s gesticulating with her thumbs and pulling a face that kinds of give you clues about what she might mean — but you’re not completely down with the lingo? Well you don’t need to wonder any more, because Glosso brings you a mini-glossary of 10 millennial slang words you should probably know — especially if she’s calling someone fleek or swoll, or if the new bae is coming to dinner … Continue reading

Names of online scams

Here’s the ultimate 21st-century glossary — of online scams. Go phish … (And note: All definitions are courtesy of the Oxford English Dictionary, except where noted. These names are legit, even though the practices aren’t.) Continue reading

A Spellbound Palace

J. M. W. Turner: View of Hampton Court, Herefordshire, from the Northwest / Wikimedia Commons

A Spellbound Palace

On this kindly yellow day of mild low-travelling winter sun

The stirless depths of the yews

Are vague with misty blues:

Across the spacious pathways stretching spires of shadow run,

And the wind-gnawed walls of ancient brick are fired vermilion.

Two or three early sanguine finches tune

Some tentative strains, to be enlarged by May or June:

From a thrush or blackbird

Comes now and then a word,

While an enfeebled fountain somewhere within is heard.

Our footsteps wait awhile,

Then draw beneath the pile,

When an inner court outspreads

As ’twere History’s own asile,

Where the now-visioned fountain its attenuate crystal sheds

In passive lapse that seems to ignore the yon world’s clamorous clutch,

And lays an insistent numbness on the place, like a cold hand’s touch.

And there swaggers the Shade of a straddling King, plumed, sworded, with sensual face,

And lo, too, that of his Minister, at a bold self-centred pace:

Sheer in the sun they pass; and thereupon all is still,

Save the mindless fountain tinkling on with thin enfeebled will.

— by Thomas Hardy (Hampton Court)

“A-CHOO!” — “Bless you.” Sneezing and responding in different languages …

A-TISH-oo! Yes, when we sneeze, we sneeze in our own language, as you can see in James Chapman’s illustration above. It’s funny how some cultures end their sneezes with an “oo” sound and some with an “ee” (and a few even have consonants; like the Portuguese “atCHIM,” the French offer “atCHOUM”; the Filipinos add a little music, with their “hatSING”).

And then, in most countries (but not all), we respond to those who have just sneezed with words and phrases that offer simple blessings and wishes for good health or a long life. But not always … Continue reading

Some fun forgotten words …

When you do an image search on “Victorian slang” …

Do you know where to find your daddles, your sauce-box, your tallywags or your gas-pipes? Do you know what it means to feel shivviness or cosmognosis? [I have certainly felt the latter– Ed.] Are you oaf-rocked, or do you suffer from proditomania? Are you a gal-sneaker or a church-bell? Check out these (and many other) wonderful old long-forgotten words and expressions that have fallen into obscurity, brought to us by History Hustle (“25 Best Victorian Slang Terms”) and the BBC (“26 Words We Don’t Want to Lose”). Some of them have been mined from texts like Vocabulary of East Anglia (1830), A Dialogue of Proverbs in the English Tongue (1546), the New Sydenham Society’s Lexicon of Medicine and the Allied Sciences (1882), and Maine Lingo (1950), among others; you can find many more in Paul Anthony Jones’s new book, The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities. Or you can just do a Google image search on the terms “Victorian” and “slang”: do it when you’ve got the morbs, and you might get a gigglemug in the process. Now will you please go and bitch the pot?

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Thanksgiving, by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Friends by Louise Catherine Breslau / Wikimedia Commons

Thanksgiving

We walk on starry fields of white
And do not see the daisies;
For blessings common in our sight
We rarely offer praises.
We sigh for some supreme delight
To crown our lives with splendor,
And quite ignore our daily store
Of pleasures sweet and tender. Continue reading