The World - The World in Words
Russian Pronunciation tips for the Sochi Olympics, and the language of...
Sochi, the venue for the Winter Olympics, is usually anglicised as SOTCH-i (-o as in not, -tch as in catch, -i as the "y" in happy)
Carl Reiner and Moshe Waldoks recall the brilliance of Sid Caesar's...
Sid Caesar, who died this week, was a master of what comedians call double talk: gibberish masquerading as a foreign language. Carl Reiner pays tribute to Caesar's mastery of double talk, while Moshe Waldoks traces it back to Caesar's multilingual...
In Canada, Olympic patriotism defeats pronunciation pettiness
When a TV host criticized others for their "pretentious" pronunciations of French names, Canadians of all stripes rounded on him-- and he was forced to apologize.
In Colombia, if you're a political candidate, forget about using your...
Colombian ballots contain only numbers, not names. So candidates have to get noticed in other ways. The favorite method: a memorable jingle.
Do you answer 'How are you?' the American or the Russian way?
Alina Simone's Russian family and American friends aren't on the same page — not even close — when it comes to responding to this simple question.
A modest French revival in Maine, USA
Fifty years ago, kids caught speaking French in Maine schools might be punished. Today, the state is proud of its French heritage and is trying to keep Maine French alive.
In search of the perfect email sign-off
Are you too mildly dissatisfied with your choice of sign-off? Don't like "Best"? Find "Cheers" to British? And "XO" creepy? Help is on the way.
How to apologize for the Cultural Revolution without blaming the...
The rhetoric of apology in China today is nuanced and coded. Though some people seem genuinely contrite for their actions during the vigilante violence of the Cultural Revolution, they are careful not to blame the government.
To be an autograph-hunter of top world leaders, you need commitment,...
Between them, Randy Kaplan and Zoltan Marian have collected more than two thousand autographs of heads of states, royals and popes. They share a kind of ethical code, but differ when it comes to who will they include in their collections.
The language of pregnancy seems pregnant with meaning. Is it?
In Russian, the word for “pregnant” can mean “burdensome.” In Chinese, “pregnant” appears to imply “happiness.” But be careful reading too much meaning into these words.
‘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.
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.
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.
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."
"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."
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
- Boston, MA
WGBH Educational Foundation
One Guest Street
Boston, MA 02135617-300-5750