musical notation

Foreign words and musical notes

Anyone who’s ever had to learn to read sheet music will know what I mean when I say that it can sometimes literally be like learning another language. Besides parsing those tricky lines, dots, tails, and bars, there are also the snatches of foreign languages – mostly Italian, along with the occasional word of French, […]

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beer bottles

Suds or brewskis? American beer slang

What goes best with the crunchy leaves and azure skies of early fall? Beer, of course! Though this year’s Oktoberfest unfortunately came to an end yesterday in Munich, we’re not ready to stop talking about beer. After checking out our map of European beers, you might be interested to know what beer culture is like on the […]

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What do you call a baby rabbit, and other baby animals?

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Happy faces

Smiles for World Smile Day

You may be familiar with that old joke: what is the longest word in the English language? Smiles – there is a mile between s and s! Well, those of us in the know would cite the supposed lung disease pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis as the longest word in English, and that certainly isn’t something to smile about. […]

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Alleyways of language: regional words for ‘alleyway’

In these times of mass media and global communications, it is comforting to think that regional lexical variation in British English is alive and well—in fact it seems to be right up many people’s alley. When linguists set out to collect distinctive local vocabulary, one of the classic questions informants are asked is “What do […]

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UK flag

Quiz: how good is your British English?

If you’re an English speaker and have spent any time in an English-speaking country not your own, you know how different the language can be. Sometimes the differences are slight – for example, the stress on different syllables of weekend between British and American English (wiːkˈɛnd vs. ‘wēkˌend, respectively) – but sometimes the differences are […]

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Orwell’s Newspeak: a doubleplusgood language

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four astounded the literary world when it first was published in 1949, and its significance and cultural impact have only grown stronger in the years since. Orwell’s warnings against totalitarian authority and omnipresent surveillance are as relevant as ever. Beyond the familiar message that “Big Brother is always watching you,” what many […]

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Americano to zarf: a list of coffee words

To celebrate International Coffee Day, we thought we’d set aside our mugs and cups to take a look at some words every coffee-lover needs to know… Americano or café Americano: a drink of espresso coffee diluted with hot water. Arabica: mild-flavoured, high-quality coffee obtained from beans of the Coffea arabicai tree (the most widely grown […]

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