Author Archive

  • Are you -ish, -ic, -ese or -ian? (Or none of these?)

    Posted by on April 09, 2014

    Most people in Spain are Spanish and speak Spanish. Most people in Italy are Italian and speak Italian. There are many countries that give their name, plus a suffix, to both a language, and an adjective for things from the country. Of course there are lots of languages without countries, and plenty of countries that […]

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  • New Year’s resolution: no adverbs

    Posted by on January 17, 2013

    Nouns are what the world is made of. Verbs are how you put them together. Adjectives are straightforward. And adverbs are … monsters. Try this exercise: go through a piece of writing, ideally an essay of your own. Delete all adverbs and adverbial phrases, all those  “surprisingly”, “interestingly”, “very”, “extremely”, fortunately”, “on the other hand”, […]

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  • Google the ecosystem: what is a word worth?

    Posted by on October 29, 2012

    In his TV documentary The Deep, David Attenborough relates how his team found a recently-dead whale at the bottom of the sea. The vast beast is food for millions. The hagfish find the corpse, and start scraping away at the skin with two rows of horny teeth. Seven-meter-long sweeper sharks dig deep holes into the […]

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  • Three English singletons

    Posted by on December 01, 2010

    This post comes from Adam Kilgarriff, a linguist and a specialist in the area where linguistics, computers and dictionaries meet. Adam was at Brighton University until 2004 when he set up his own company, Lexical Computing Ltd. He lives in Brighton. _________ Spelling rules … if only they didn’t have exceptions. There are three words […]

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  • Geoffrey was a subtle salmon

    Posted by on August 02, 2010

    When I was thirteen, I went to a chess championship in Southend-on-Sea. It was grey and windswept, and I was a little lonely and homesick, and as far as I remember I lost all my games. I remember just one spark of colour in this otherwise cheerless scene: my partner in one game, delighted with […]

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  • Google the verb

    Posted by on June 24, 2010

    Our next guest post comes from Adam Kilgarriff. Adam is a linguist, and a specialist in the area where linguistics, computers and dictionaries meet. He was at Brighton University until 2004 when he set up his own company, Lexical Computing Ltd. He lives in Brighton, and will be taking a lunchtime swim in the sea […]

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