Category: Word trends and new words

Pennsylvania German

Die wunnerbaare Sprooch: Pennsylvania German

As a native eastern Pennsylvanian, I tend to get a little misty-eyed when dreaming of shoo-fly pie or spotting a hex sign – such as the ones on the barn in the picture above. However, shoo-fly pie and hex signs are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the culture and tradition […]

The language of the summer solstice

The language of the summer solstice

It’s hard to believe, with spring only just about sprung here in Britain, but 21 June is midsummer. This is also called the summer solstice, from Latin sol “sun” and stitium “standing still”, because seen from the earth it looks like the sun halts in its tracks going northward, and moves back south. Because of […]

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Ballad

Lily-white hands and scarlet gowns: formulas in British traditional ballads

Traditional song can be a tricky beast. Stubbornly slippery in form, content, and definition, its remit encompasses an amorphous mass of vernacular songs that have been cherished by everyday people over time. These songs are of varying vintages, of both known and unknown authorship, some passed through generations by word of mouth, others emerging from […]

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Chasing the rainbow connection

Chasing the rainbow connection

Reflect and refract When was the last time you looked out the window and said, “Oh look! There’s a many-coloured refraction of light from drops of water!”? Well – OK, if you said that last week then feel free to skip the next paragraph, but most of us refer to the sudden splash of colours […]

Do we need the apostrophe?

Do we need the apostrophe?

“The apostrophe is the most troublesome punctuation mark in English, and perhaps also the least useful. No other punctuation mark causes so much bewilderment, or is so often misused.” R.L. Trask, The Penguin Guide to Punctuation The recent decision by Devon County Council to drop the apostrophe from its road signs was met with dismay and anger […]

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spanish internet

Spanish Internet terms – how to fill gaps in a language

Back when I was at school learning Standard Grade Spanish, the only computing word that we needed to know was ordenador, the word for the computer itself. While the Internet was becoming an increasingly useful adjunct to our lives, it was still something of a side issue, rather than the can’t-imagine-life-without-it behemoth that it is […]

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Le Geek, C’est Chic

Le Geek, C'est Chic

The Glorious 25 May, in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, is a day for wearing lilacs to celebrate the People’s Revolution. The 25th is also Towel Day, commemorating the life and works of Douglas Adams, whose Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy celebrated the towel as ‘the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have’. Furthermore, the […]

Beam me up, dictionary: Star Trek in the OED

Beam me up, dictionary: Star Trek in the OED

Star Trek is one of the most successful science-fiction franchises of all time: since the original TV series first aired in 1966, there have been four further live-action TV shows (plus an animated series), twelve films, and innumerable books. Only Star Wars and (particularly for the British) Doctor Who have achieved a comparable level of […]

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