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

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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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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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Russian alphabet

‘You speak Russian?!’

If you want to impress your friends, family, colleagues, and almost every English speaker you’ll ever meet, learn Russian. Russian – so I’m told – is hard. It is the language of spies, code-breakers, and Communists, and the preserve of Oxbridge intellectuals. Winston Churchill famously called Russia ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an […]

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Writing doggedly: dog idioms from around Europe

Writing doggedly: dog idioms from around Europe

In film and literature dogs are often shown as the protagonist’s companion through thick and thin. Dog owners will tell you that their pets are loyal and loving – yet the portrayal of dogs in many languages shows that man’s best friend is often regarded as lowly in status. You can read this earlier post about […]

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Celebrating Russian Language Day

Celebrating Russian Language Day

Pushkin 6 June is UN Russian Language Day, which coincides with the birth of Aleksandr Pushkin (Александр Пушкин), possibly the most well-known Russian poet, and often referred to as the founder of modern Russian literature. Pushkin was exceptional for not only writing about life as it was known, something unusual at the time, but also […]

Leap years around the world: from freak weather patterns to good fortune and baby whales

Leap of faith

What have Italian composer Rossini and American rapper Ja Rule got in common? A number of possible answers may leap to mind here, but the one I’m looking for is that the two musicians were both born on a date that is mysteriously elusive: 29 February. Except that 2012 is a leap year, and so […]

Let’s just “call a cat a cat”

Cat

Just a few weeks ago Christine Lindberg explored phrases and idioms that revealed the somewhat surprising way in which the English language describes man’s best friend. But what about that equally popular household pet – the beloved, fluffy, crazy cat? (Those three adjectives are among some of the most popular in the English language to […]

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