Reports

Darker Matters

November, 2019 Word Stories

Our last instalment of Word Stories, with its focus on divine attributes, was all goodness and light. Now, as the days of late autumn get rapidly shorter, we, too, find ourselves in gloomier territory, turning our attention to darker matters. 

These Kinds of Words are Kind of Tricky

October, 2019 Language Matters

Kind, type and sort are three common words in English that denote category membership. They are useful words for our pattern-seeking brains. This article will address some tricky questions about grammatical agreement in type-noun expressions and examine how these expressions have extended their usage to convey a variety of notions.  

Divine Attributes

September, 2019 Word Stories

Who wouldn’t welcome a person who brings spirit, enthusiasm and inspiration to any situation? It may come as no surprise that these words, before they came to describe those transcendental human characteristics, were all used in relation to the divine. We hope that their stories leave you suitably inspired. 

The Difference Between People, Persons and Peoples

August, 2019 Language Matters

English plurals can be puzzling. The plural of goose is geese, but a snake needs to be on the lookout for mongooses. The plural of fish is fish, unless you’re speaking about different species of fish, in which case fishes is also correct. 

Timeless Tales

July, 2019 Word Stories

Every June, around the 21st day of the month, the year reaches a milestone. With the sun at its highest latitude, the northern hemisphere experiences its longest day in terms of daylight hours. This day, known as the summer solstice, has played an important part in how we humans measure and record time. Our methods for doing so have evolved considerably over the years, as have the words we use to describe them.  

And/or: The Janus-Faced Conjunction?

June, 2019 Language Matters

And/or is a common term in written English, particularly in legal, technical and journalistic texts. It is also widely criticized: the Chicago Manuel of Style warns writers to “Avoid this Janus-faced term.” Meanwhile, it has been described in courts of law as a “grammatical monstrosity”, a “bastard conjunction”, and worse. So why is and/or so controversial? And how did the term come about in the first place? 

Creatures With Character

May, 2019 Word Stories

Although we humans are quite different from our fellow inhabitants of Earth, we can’t help but see a little bit of ourselves in them. Just look at how often we liken our own physical characteristics or personality traits to those of other creatures, or consider the number of animal-inspired words and expressions used to describe people. 

A Curious-Minded Look at Nouns With-ed

April, 2019 Language Matters

Words like talented and glossy-paged represent a curious feature of English: adjectives that seemingly take the past participle verbal ending -ed, but that do not derive from verbs. Why can you say talented when there is no lexicalized verb to talent? Why does a glossy-paged book sound natural but a paged book, a concreted wall or a five-houred drive sound strange?  

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