The World - The World in Words
How English nearly got a language academy07/24/14
Back in the 17th century there was a big move to create rules for English, based on Latin. The man behind it, poet John Dryden, thought that Shakespeare and others had turned English into an unruly mess. Had Dryden succeeded, would his academy have...
Shakespeare's word coinages are just the start of his contribution to...
Shakespeare may not have invented as many words as once thought, but he turned the English language on its head. Perhaps that's the reason that both he and English have such global appeal.
From its beginnings to the present day, English has been a hodgepodge
Despite what grammar sticklers think, there was never a golden age of pure English: the language always been an unruly mishmash of other languages. Just consult the Venerable Bede, a 7th century monk who documented the beginnings of English.
What's the point of learning Russian?
During the Cold War, you could get a job at the Pentagon or State Department job if you spoke Russian. Today you're guaranteed nothing more than the agony of grappling with Russian grammar. Still, there are signs that a few Americans are taking the...
A "lexicon" of chimp gestures may tell us things about our own language
Researchers at the University of St. Andrews have compiled a list of 66 gestures that that they say chimpanzees use to communicate with each other.
How to sound simultaneously English and Spanish at the World Cup
Native Spanish speaker Fernando Palomo does English language TV commentary for ESPN. He offers US viewers instant analysis that draws on his soccer-obsessed Latin American background.
Comedian and former mayor of Reykjavik Jón Gnarr on language, satire...
The man Lady Gaga called the "mayor of Iceland" is obsessed by language: the language of professional politicians, the Icelandic language and the restrictive rules in Iceland that prevent him from officially changing his name.
How FIFA overcame soccer's language barrier
In a World Cup match in 1966, a German referee sent off an Argentine player. The player, who spoke only Spanish, says he didn't understand and refused to leave the field. Plus, Canada has its own racism controversy over the name of a sports team.
A history of Hebrew, told one word at a time
Before it became the predominant language of Israel, Hebrew hadn't been spoken for 1,700 years. That's presenting a challenge for the editors of the Historical Dictionary of the Hebrew Language. Also, Azerbaijan's war on Russian names.
Words and phrases that only make sense at the World Cup
What do 'handbags,' 'ringlets' and 'drogbacité' mean in a soccer context?
What happens when the doctor says 'hospice' and you understand...
Many words sound similar in English and Spanish: car, carro; fruit, fruta. But watch out: 'hospice' and 'hospicio' do not mean the same thing.
Russian leaders have tinkered with their alphabet for centuries, but...
From Peter the Great to Stalin, Russian leaders have issued edicts to reform the Russian language. But top-down language reform rarely works. And it may fail again now.
In Ukraine, the insults in both languages draw on sensitive historical...
Listen closely to the slurs being slung back and forth between pro-Russian separatists and pro-government Ukrainians, and you can hear the echoes of history.
At cocktail hour, would you prefer 'The Bitter Taste of Calm' or 'Seven...
Multilingual mixologist Joaquin Simo is steeped in cocktail culture. For his concoctions, the names are borrowed from foreign languages, overheard phrases and racehorses.
In Scotland's independence referendum, Lady Alba is voting 'Naw!'
What's the best way to campaign for Scottish independence? Create a fictional opponent who expresses souped-up, pro-British slogans to the tune of a Lady Gaga song.
"Dear Sir, I like words..." and other letters of note
British blogger Shaun Usher collects letters from and ancient and recent history. The best of the letters are now reproduced in his book, "Letters of Note."
Words written in secret: a history of invisible ink
Author Kristie Macrakis got interested in invisible ink a few years ago while researching the Stasi, East Germany's secret police. Now she's written a history of steganography, or "hidden writing."
A Canadian journalist escapes detention in Ukraine by speaking French
When Toronto Star reporter Mitch Potter was approached by a group of angry Pro-Russian separatists in the Eastern Ukraine town of Slovyansk, he thought he was going to be detained. Then he spoke French.
I have been given three Chinese names. Which one should I use?
Language editor Patrick Cox can't decide between three Chinese names given to him by Chinese friends and colleagues. The first uses clever wordplay, the second adheres to fortune telling conventions, and the third looks and sounds majestic.
‘Hello, my name is Yes,’ and other English names in China
China may be experiencing a golden age of memorable English names. Millions of young Chinese are giving themselves English names of all shapes and sizes. But there’s also evidence that the trend may be peaking.
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