Tag: German

berliner

The day JFK did NOT call himself a jam doughnut

On the (in)significance of the indefinite article Earlier this month, on 9 November, Germany celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (initially called antifaschistischer Schutzwall, or ‘anti-fascist protective barrier’) in 1989; a momentous occasion in German history and a crucial milestone hailing the end of the GDR, which had been founded […]

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sax

How the saxophone got its name: an A-Z of instruments

6 November is World Saxophone Day, apparently. It’s the anniversary of the day the inventor was born – we’ll share his name a little later. We thought it was a good opportunity to produce an alphabet of interesting instrument names, from accordion to zither. As far as possible, we’ve tried to stick to common instruments […]

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Sheet Music

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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american flag

America’s war on language

2014 marks the centennial of World War I, time to take a closer look at one of its offshoots, America’s little-known War on Language. In April, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany. In addition to sending troops to fight in Europe, Americans waged war on the language of the enemy at home. German was […]

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colours

Colourful language: colours in international idioms

Although we have a plethora of words in our vocabularies to describe colour, it’s unlikely that we each perceive colour in the same way. What if your red is actually my blue, or my yellow is your green? We may never know if a Parisian’s rouge is identical to a Varsovian’s czerwony, but we can […]

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chess

The language of chess

Although the game itself may be viewed as the domain of grandmasters, child geniuses, and computer boffins, the language of chess has infiltrated everyday parlance in a number of ways. Any game or debate that ends in a draw may be said to have resulted in a stalemate, while check can refer to any form of […]

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untranslatable

Translatable vs untranslatable

In a guest blog post, and following on from her article about ‘untranslatable’ Russian words, Caroline James questions the idea that some words are simply untranslatable. For most language learners and lovers, translation is a hot topic. Should I translate new vocabulary into my first language? How can I say x in Japanese? Is this […]

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musical terminology

An A-Z of musical terms

Even if you’ve not picked up an instrument since you were eight and tootled away on a recorder, or stood at the back of a school hall holding a tambourine, you probably know the odd piece of musical terminology – forte, perhaps, or andante might ring a bell. Unsurprisingly, there are plenty more where those […]

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