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

Category: Varieties of English

Sound and fury: cockney ducks and mimicking politicians

Cow in Glastonbury

Language has always been more fashion than science: as Bill Bryson once said, the way we use it ‘wanders around like hemlines’. A couple of weeks ago, the Washington newspaper the Olympian ran an article headed ‘When visiting the South, please leave fake accent at home’. Its writer, Kathleen Parker, finds political charlatan accents among […]

Explore the language of Irish English, from ‘gobdaw’ to ‘hooley’

Ireland

Tomorrow is St Patrick’s Day, which seems a perfect excuse to not only go out for a few beers and perhaps a couple of glasses of usquebaugh, but also to take a closer look at some Irish English words. However you choose to celebrate tomorrow, whether you’re planning to dance your socks off at a […]

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From ‘trousers’ to ‘Tories’: unexpected Irish words in English

Unexpected Irish words in English

Most English speakers would not be surprised to hear that words like banshee or shamrock have their origins in Irish, the Celtic language (also known as Gaelic) which is still spoken in the parts of Ireland known as the Gaeltacht. After all, most recognizable Irish words encountered in English have obvious connections to Ireland, like […]

“Music in your blood and poetry in your soul”: the beauty of Welsh English

Welsh Flag

To be born Welsh requires the genes of a chameleon. You must be a geographer (how many maps have I drawn to explain to anyone not from our little island the difference between “Britain” and “England”?), a musician (try singing “Bread of Heaven” in a Welsh pub: I give you two bars before you’re accompanied […]

A look at Australian English past and present

Australian English

The 26th of January is Australia Day. In this post, we look at Australian English. Professor Bruce Moore, director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre, Australian National University , has this to say about Australian English in an article on the OED website: Australian English differs from other Englishes primarily in its accent and vocabulary. […]

How to amuse friends and bamboozle people without even knowing it – reflections of a Scot down south

Reflections of a Scot down south

When people ask where I am from, the answer “Scotland” is not what they are expecting – that much is evident from my accent, which I haven’t lost after 14 years down south. For the most part, people find it easy enough to understand me – my Scots brogue isn’t all that impenetrable. Yet on […]

Lost in translation. . . so I was

Lost in translation… so I was

We were lost – having turned off a brand new and completely empty motorway that cut across the lush green hills of the West coast of Ireland in a quest to visit my Irish mother’s third cousins twice removed. So we finally pulled up next to an old road sign, which confusingly said: ← Knockroe           Knockroe […]

Putting the accent on English

Putting the accent on English

A recent article in the New York Times describes a somewhat controversial (and no longer current) program that was run in public schools in the state of Arizona for nearly a decade – sending monitors to judge whether English teachers had an accent. If a teacher was thought to have too strong an accent, he […]

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