Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

Category: Other languages

japan

Kotodama: the multi-faced Japanese myth of the spirit of language

In Japan, there is a common myth of the spirit of language called kotodama (言霊, ことだま); a belief that some divine power resides in the Japanese language. This belief originates in ancient times as part of Shintoist ritual but the idea has survived through Japanese history and the term kotodama is still frequently mentioned in […]

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leaves

Can a word really be untranslatable?

There’s no such thing as an untranslatable word. There, I’ve said it. Despite all the memes, blogs, and books to the contrary, all language is inherently translatable. However, whether the broader meaning of a text – the jokes, philosophies, and cultural peculiarities of its language – is translatable depends almost entirely on the individual with their nose […]

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french

Can the Académie française stop the rise of Anglicisms in French?

It’s official: binge drinking is passé in France. No bad thing, you may think; but while you may now be looking forward to a summer of slow afternoons marinating in traditional Parisian café culture, you won’t be able to sip any fair trade wine, download any emails, or get any cash back – not officially, […]

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skiing

10 Russian words to help you enjoy the Winter Olympics

Les Jeux olympiques d’hiver, Olympische Winterspiele, Juegos Olímpicos de Invierno – regardless of your first language or geographical location, you’ve probably struggled to escape news of this year’s Winter Olympics. The XXII Olympic Games open on 7 February in Sochi (Сочи), Russia, and promise to deliver two weeks of nail-biting sporting action. In honour of […]

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Dim sum small

Having a yen for dim sum this Chinese New Year: English words of Chinese origin

Chinese New Year traditionally means a time for families to gather together, usually over some delicious foods. There are certain foods that are associated with Chinese New Year, such as Buddha’s Delight, a dish made with many different vegetables, fish, dumplings, and mandarin oranges. These particular foods are chosen because the words used to describe […]

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stack of books

Deadly games, a blaze, and a song: book titles in translation

Speaking from experience, it is often incredibly difficult to come up with a good title for a book. A buzzword we often use is ‘catchy’. But what makes for a catchy title? And what are the implications for other markets? Once you’ve decided on what you proudly think is the best book title anyone has […]

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Russian alphabet

‘You speak Russian?!’

If you want to impress your friends, family, colleagues, and almost every English speaker you’ll ever meet, learn Russian. Russian – so I’m told – is hard. It is the language of spies, code-breakers, and Communists, and the preserve of Oxbridge intellectuals. Winston Churchill famously called Russia ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an […]

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Extra sausages, tap-dancing bears, and idiomatic tomatoes

dog in pan

What makes idioms so wonderful is that they make communication easier and, in my opinion, add an element of fun to language. By definition, an idiom is a figure of speech where the ‘meaning [is] not deducible from those of the individual words’. Thus, if you’re not a member of a certain ‘language club’, the […]

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