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

Category: Other languages

Horizontally written letters

‘Horizontally written letters’: Japanese debates on loanwords

The use of foreign loanwords can be a contentious issue. The public attitude towards loanwords not only reveals their view on foreign influences but also demonstrates how the national language or culture is perceived in a given society. The case of contemporary Japan constitutes an interesting case study in this regard. Three layers of the […]

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spanish

Loving Latin

Have you ever wondered just how far your language GCSE will get you in the wild? I set out to road-test my dusty Spanish qualification last year by travelling through Chile, Peru, and Bolivia, sometimes alone and sometimes with fellow English speakers, with a short stop-off as a classroom assistant in darkest Peru. My (lack […]

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sausages

Alles Wurst? German ‘sausage’ idioms

Bierwurst, Blutwurst, Bockwurst, Bratwurst, Currywurst, Feuerwurst, Fleischwurst, Knackwurst, Leberwurst, Mettwurst, Paprikawurst, Rindswurst, Rostbratwurst, Schinkenwurst, Weißwurst, Wienerwurst … Germans are all about diversity when it comes to their beloved ‘Wurst’. Sounds amusing, but it really is a rather serious topic. First, let me tell you a thing or two about the Germans’ famous national treasure. The […]

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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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