Tag Archives: language

‘Origins Unknown’

It’s such an American thing, an impartial observer might say: taking pride in an unclear ancestry. But as lovers of words know, etymology, like genealogy, gets mixed up in interesting ways. Most words have traceable origins. Sometimes, though, we have nothing to go on, and so we get the dictionary’s best guesses: • from Wolof […] … learn more→

Communicating with the public

The last time I dared to look at Tom Chivers’s article about my work and my views online (published in Seven, the Sunday Telegraph magazine, March 16, 2014, 16–17), the number of comments had risen to more than 1,400. And they formed a sorry spectacle. I couldn’t bear to do much more than skim a […] … learn more→

Goodbye, goodbye. . .

Here’s something we wouldn’t say nowadays. It’s in a “parlor ballad” published in The Social Harp (1855): Farewell, farewell is a lonely sound, And always brings a sigh, But give to me that good old word That comes from the heart, good-bye. Adieu, adieu, may do for the gay, When pleasure’s throng is nigh, But […] … learn more→

Pedal to the medal

Pedal to the medal

The manufactured snow has barely melted at the Sochi Winter Olympics, but I’ll take a moment to reflect on what I thought was the rise of the verb to medal, meaning of course to win gold, silver, or bronze in Olympic competition. If you’re an Olympic athlete, you want to medal. You want to medal […] … learn more→

Moths to the flame of meaning

At the end of the English-syntax course I co-taught last semester, my colleague and I set a number of examination questions designed to test students ability to argue points about syntactic structure. This one will serve as an example: Although the following two sentences exhibit a superficial similarity, they contrast sharply in syntactic terms: [1] […] … learn more→

What would James Murray think

Apart from Far Right efforts to legislate against the use of Spanish in American public life, it is not often that a linguistic topic becomes one of the top headlines of the day. But this month, one of the headlines read: “’Selfie’ Tops ‘Twerk’ as Oxford’s Word of the Year.” The folks at Oxford collect […] … learn more→

Music – or language in action?

In present-day Western cultures, we tend to underestimate the remarkable overlap between music and language in the functions they fulfil as communicative media. At first glance, music seems to us quite different from language; after all, we clearly cannot exchange information through music as we do through language. But if we shift our cultural perspective, […] … learn more→

Mining the language of science

Ask any biomedical scientist whether they manage to keep on top of reading all of the publications in their field, let alone an adjacent field, and few will say yes. New publications are appearing at a double-exponential rate, as measured by MEDLINE – the US National Library of Medicine’s biomedical bibliographic database – which now […] … learn more→

Master of Arts (Classics)

The Master of Arts specialising in Classics – by coursework and thesis – is designed for students who wish to undertake study in the language, history, literature, art, or other aspects of ancient Greek and Roman culture. … learn more→