The Dragon that Almost Ended the Lord of the Rings

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 →

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English is Hard, But Can Be Understood Through Tough Thorough Thought Though

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 →

What a Difference a Capital Letter Makes

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 →

The Translated Version Hasn’t Come Out Yet

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.

Japanese, Finnish or Chinese? The 10 Hardest Languages for English Speakers to Learn

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 →

Translator Wanted — Knowledge of the Language Preferred

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 →

English: No Suspicious Alien Activity Here! Welsh: Oes estron weithgaredd amheus yma! Klingon: pagh pIH nov activity naDev!

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 →

Hodgepodge of Hippopotomonstrosesquipidelian Homeruns

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 →

M is For the Many Things She Gave Me….

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 →

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