August 27th, 2009 - 9:02 pm § in shakespeare, word formation

Shakespeare’s Contributions to English (part 1)

(Looking for Part 2? Click here.) If you want to charge someone with a crime, there’s a word for it: you accuse them.  If you want to give a winning athlete a title, there’s a term for it: you call them a champion.  If you’re in a rush, you hurry.  If something’s grand and wonderful, [&he[...]

August 26th, 2009 - 9:53 pm § in mysteries of english, pronunciation

Knight versus Night

Have you ever wondered why we have silent k’s in words that begin “kn”? Words like knife, knight, knock, knob are all pronounced without the “k” sound at the beginning. In Old English, the k was not silent. Knight was pronounced “k’nite”, knob as ̶[...]

August 25th, 2009 - 12:30 am § in linguistic determinism, pinker, sapir, sapir-whorf hypothesis, whorf

Linguistic Determinism

Linguistic determinism is the idea that language shapes thought.  There have been myriad arguments for and against this claim. The main proponent of linguistic determinism was Benjamin Lee Whorf, a linguist who (like me) developed an interest in linguistics later in life. He graduated from MIT with[...]

August 22nd, 2009 - 2:21 am § in love of words

My Love of Words

In seventh grade I learned a trick for translating French into English.  It was this: if you change the é at the beginning of a word into an s, sometimes a cognate will emerge.  I did this with all the French I knew – école, état, élève – and became very surprised when sleve poppe[...]

August 21st, 2009 - 1:42 am § in mass nouns, word origins

Mass nouns (Pease)

One of the first things I remember learning in linguistics was the origin of the word pea (the green spherical vegetable). Pea used to be pease, a mass noun. Mass nouns are nouns that are uncountable and don’t exactly have a plural form. Some common examples are wood, ice, milk, rice, traffic,[...]

August 20th, 2009 - 12:32 am § in word origins

August Words

school. the oldest meaning I can find is “to hold, hold in one’s power, to have”. the word scheme shares this root. that root comes from PIE. in French, the word for school is école. in general, the rule about “é” in French is that it turns into “s” in English (écol[...]