English is a language of exceptions, with few concrete rules. When it comes to adjectives, however, there is a very specific hierarchy most English speakers know, instinctively, must be followed to avoid utter confusion. Those rules may be broken only at great risk -- including the risk of derailing one of the greatest literary geniuses in history.... Continue Reading →
Although English is not the hardest language to master (see this post for ten languages that are even harder), it frequently presents problems, even for its native speakers. Consider the problem with writing the sentence, "I never said she stole my money." What meaning are you attempting to convey? There are seven different meanings the... Continue Reading →
The Vatican Bank (officially known as the Institute for the Works of Religion) is the only bank in the world that allows the user to select "Latin" as the language of choice. Dominus providebit -- the Lord will provide.
There is one word in the English language that changes its meaning and pronounciation, depending on whether it is capitalized: polish. Uncapitalized, polish refers to a substance used to give something a smooth and shiny surface when rubbed in, or the act of making the surface of something smooth and shiny by rubbing it. With a capital, Polish refers to things... Continue Reading →
A Spanish delegate to a diplomatic conference turned on his microphone and said, “Estoy constipado, perdónadme.” Ordinarily this would translate as, “Please excuse me; I have a cold.” The French interpreter, instead, translated his words as, “Excuse me; I’m constipated.” Source: John Coleman-Holmes, Mâcher du coton, Entre-temps, 1971, p. 201.
Reposted from Unbabel Blog Learning a new language is never an easy thing to do, but there are ways to make it easier. There are also ways to make it more difficult. Aiming to learn French or Spanish comes with its own set of difficulties, but most of the learning is in new vocabulary... Continue Reading →
When a fake sign language interpreter managed to get the job of interpreting during the funeral for Nelson Mandela, President Jimmy Carter must have had flashbacks to a time that his life was complicated by an interpreter who was not up to the task. The occasion was the 1977 visit of President Carter to Poland. Steven... Continue Reading →
Photo credit: By me (w:User:pfctdayelise) (Image taken by me using Casio QV-R41) [CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons source
When Welsh Assembly Member Darren Millar asked Economy Minister Edwina Hart about unidentified flying objects, he got a surprising answer. The official response from the Welsh Government was, “jang vIDa je due luq. ‘ach ghotvam’e’ QI’yaH-devolved qaS,” which, in the language of the Klingon Empire, translates as "The minister will reply in due course, however... Continue Reading →
If you speak two languages, you are said to be bilingual. A polyglot can speak up to to six languages. When you get much beyond six, the term is hyperglot. So what do you call a guy who can handle 200 languages? Such a guy was Sir John Bowring, an English economist and writer who... Continue Reading →
When it comes to complexity of the written language, few can compete with the Chinese. Take, for example, the above character for the word nàng. It consists of 36 individual strokes, and it represents the sound one's voice makes as a result of having a congested nose. Few characters exceed the complexity of biáng, above.... Continue Reading →
If you are a lover of obnoxiously-long words, you already know the definition of hippopotomonstrosesquipidelian is "of or pertaining to extremely long words." Perhaps you already know these English language monstrosities that probably won't show up in a crossword puzzle any time soon: honorificabilitudinitatibus (27 letters): The longest word used by William Shakespeare, as well... Continue Reading →
In the vast majority of the world's languages, the word for mother begins with the letter M. Here are a few examples: Afrikaans: Moeder, Ma Albanian: Mëmë Aragones: Mai Asturian: Ma Belarusan: Matka Bergamasco: Màder Bolognese: Mèder Bosnian: Majka Brazilian Portuguese: Mãe Bresciano: Madèr Breton: Mamm Bulgarian: Majka Byelorussian: Macii Calabrese: Matre, Mamma Catalan: Mare... Continue Reading →
A French lady to an American who was trying to converse in French: "How wise of you not to attempt the French accent!" source