Language Reports

Creatures With Character

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

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? 

Stories of the Older Type

In recent years, technology has drastically changed the way in which we communicate. While it has brought us countless new words, as shown in our last instalment of Word Stories, it has also superseded some older methods of communication. Still, for the time being, the printed page survives, and the language of printing and typography is very much alive.

Conflicting Data

Although Latin is a dead language, it has a funny way of coming back to haunt us from beyond the grave. Complex declensions and deponent verbs aside, aspects of Latin grammar and vocabulary continue to affect the English language today. One such linguistic haunting is the question of whether the Latin-derived word data should be treated as a plural or a singular. So which is it, data is or data are?

Web Words

While most people associate January 1 with the new year’s arrival, some also consider it to be the “birthday” of the Internet: TCP/IP, the protocol on which the Internet operates, was adopted on this day in 1983. Since then, this technology has changed our lives, and our language, in countless ways. The subjects of this month’s Word Stories were either unheard of or had very different meanings back in 1983. Read on to find out how these words have evolved alongside the Internet itself.

Why Are There So Many Ways to Spell Hanukkah (Or Is It Chanukah)?

Hanukkah is widely known across the English-speaking world as an important Jewish holiday. How do you spell it?

Spells and Curses

Autumn is well and truly here, and people across the English-speaking world have been celebrating Halloween: a fusion of Christian and pagan traditions with a heavy emphasis on magic and the occult. Accordingly, spells and curses are the subject of this month’s Word Stories, although, in the case of one of our words, the connection might seem mysterious at first sight.

Write Smart, Speak Loud, Think Quick: The Score on Suffixless Adverbs

Many English adverbs end in -ly (beautifully, honestly, merely), some other adverbs end in -wise (clockwise, otherwise, date-night-wise), and some never take a suffix (inside, midflight, so, thus). When a flat adverb (such as smart, loud or quick) does have an -ly form (smartly, loudly, quickly), many writers wonder whether it is acceptable to use the suffixless form.

More or Less

With autumn just around the corner, students are heading back to school. Most of them will already be familiar with the theme of this month’s Word Stories, since plus, minus and equals are rudimentary components of any curriculum. However, the subject of the words themselves is rarely covered.

Is It Acceptable to Verb?

Verbing, also known as denominalization or verbification, refers to the creation of verbs from words belonging to other syntactic categories, typically nouns. It is common practice in English, and most of us encounter verbed words several times a day, on subjects ranging from texting to parenting and networking.

Noble Sports

After a succession of food and drink-based Word Stories, it might be time to turn our attention to some physical activity. Badminton, croquet and polo are all sports frequently associated with the English aristocracy, but their etymologies vary greatly, both in their origins and their complexity.

Controversial Usage Rules: the Case of Comprise

Comprise is a popular verb when discussing parts of a whole, but many writers are unsure of how to use it correctly. Do the parts comprise the whole, does the whole comprise the parts, or are both constructions correct? Can you use the passive form comprised of? This article will examine the traditional rule as well as the history of usage that challenges it.

Naturalized Flavours

The culinary theme continues in this month’s selection of Word Stories. After sampling a few recent additions to the anglophone diet, we return to some of its most common and best loved products: tea, chocolate and ketchup.

Using Accents and Diacritics in English

To many speakers of English, there is something distinctly foreign about those small symbols that accompany letters in words like piñata, café, and many more. The reason for this is no mystery; they have never been a prominent part of the English writing system, unlike most languages that use a Latin script. Although many people call them accents, the correct name for these symbols is diacritic mark or simply diacritic.

Lexical Nourishment

Although the English language is a complex blend of diverse ingredients, the English-speaking world is not typically known for the richness of its cuisine. Our native culinary stock is particularly meagre when it comes to vegetarian and vegan options, which probably explains the large number of borrowings in this category. Meat-free anglophones borrowed two key components of their diet from opposite corners of the earth, helping themselves to their names while they were at it.

Millions, Billions and Other Large Numbers

The word billion was not introduced in the French language until the fifteenth century and didn’t find its way into English until the end of the seventeenth century, which is fairly late in the history of counting. What words were used before this time to talk about large numbers?

Mixed drinks

For some, there’s nothing better than a drink to get into the holiday mood. In that spirit, we invite you to start the year by partaking in this intoxicating mix of stories consisting of three words in equal parts: cocktail, punch and grog.

BC and AD, BCE and CE: What’s the Difference?

The Gregorian calendar is the global standard for the measurement of dates. Despite originating in the Western Christian tradition, its use has spread throughout the world and now transcends religious, cultural and linguistic boundaries.

Noble Family

We continue our exploration of noble gases in this month’s edition of Word Stories, looking at two more members of this close-knit family. 

Metaphorical Gender in English: Feminine Boats, Masculine Tools and Neuter Animals

Why are ships frequently referred to as she and her? This question points to the phenomenon of using creative gender assignment on nouns in English. This article will provide an outline of gender in language and the creative use of gender in English.

Rooted in secrecy

Ammon- and krypto-, roots of this month’s words in question, have a common meaning: “hidden”. Despite their mysterious roots, each refers to a well-known chemical substance, the most famous of which is the fictional kryptonite.

River Thames, Mississippi River, Lake Michigan, Cayuga Lake: the Where and Why of Word Order

Why do the words “river” and “lake” sometimes follow the proper name, as in River Thames and Lake Michigan, and at other times come before them, as in Mississippi River and Cayuga Lake? Rivers and lakes have different sets of naming conventions.

Weird Stories

We pursue our exploration of the animal kingdom in the following Word Stories. Among the weird creatures inhabiting the earth, some enjoy more fame than others. Lexical good fortune has given the long-snouted aardvark a premium spot in most English-language dictionaries, while it has also starred in a number of popular TV series, including the Ant and the Aardvark (1969–1971). The kiwi, a flightless bird, gained celebrity status with its selection as the national symbol of New Zealand, subsequently developing its brand by lending its name to several other uses.

Navigating the British Isles: A Lexical Guide

The terms Britain, United Kingdom and England, among others, are a source of confusion for many people outside (and even inside) the British Isles. With so many overlapping names and entities, it is no surprise that people have trouble choosing their words when talking about these islands and their inhabitants. In this article, we will look at these different names, what they mean and how to use them.

Small Names for Big Beasts

The wild theme continues in this month’s Word Stories. We examine two remarkably similar beasts that hail from opposite corners of the earth: the African plains and the highlands of Asia. 

Migrant, Refugee, Immigrant and Expatriate: What is the difference?

The English lexicon for people living outside their country of origin has been shaped by the historical forces of colonialism, globalization, immigration and war. 

An Avian Runner

After beginning in Southern Africa, we now cross the Atlantic for our next selection of Word Stories. Such a journey would prove impossible for the subject of this instalment: a flightless bird known as the rhea or nandu

The Singular Forms of Criteria and Bacteria

English has borrowed numerous words from Classical Latin and Ancient Greek while conserving the original plurals, which are known as neoclassical plurals. Examples are vertebrae and syllabi.

Stories of Different Stripes

Every word has its story: its unique pathway into the English language. Some are longer and more intricate than others, while some follow a surprising route. The first instalment of this series looks at zebra and quagga, two words describing closely related animals. Like the creatures themselves, neither word is native to the English-speaking world. However, the commonality of their genetics does not extend to the names we give them, one of which originated far from the plains of southern Africa…

Native American, First Nations or Aboriginal?

Many users have wondered what the difference is between terms like Native AmericanFirst NationsAboriginalIndian, etc., and which ones are considered acceptable. 

Than I or Than Me?

Many English speakers wonder whether it is better to use subject pronouns (Iheshewethey) or object pronouns (mehimherusthem) after comparatives than and as.

Antidote: a Reference

As a user of Antidote, you might have wondered how to cite our dictionaries and guides in a reference.

Singular They

Of all areas of disputed English grammar, the use of they to refer to a singular antecedent is among the most prominent.