Author Archive

  • Word roots and routes: band, bend, bind

    Posted by on November 17, 2014

    Next in a series of posts exploring some of the ‘roots’ and ‘routes’ of English vocabulary. What do all the following have in common? a jazz band a band of values, prices, ages etc (eg a higher or lower tax band) a rubber band a broadband connection a bend in the road bending the rules […]

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  • Not the same thing as writing, speaking, is it?

    Posted by on November 03, 2014

    One of the differences between writing and speaking is that when you’re writing, and especially when you’re writing on a computer, which of course makes it particularly simple to edit what you write as you go along, it’s quite easy to produce lengthy sentences which consist, as this one does, of a number of clauses […]

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  • Word roots and routes: pair

    Posted by on October 20, 2014

    Next in a series of posts exploring some of the ‘roots’ and ‘routes’ of English vocabulary. Pair (noun and verb) has made its way to us from Latin pār, meaning ‘equal’. As well as describing a set of two identical or near-identical items – e.g. a pair of shoes, a pair of eyes – it […]

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  • On the subject of whodunnit

    Posted by on October 06, 2014

    A typical English sentence consists, as a minimum, of a subject followed by a verb: They left. If there’s an object, it comes after the verb: They left town. Other elements can be added in various positions: They left town. They all left town. They all left town yesterday. Apparently they all left town yesterday. […]

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  • Word roots and routes: sit and stand

    Posted by on September 22, 2014

    Next in a series of posts exploring some of the ‘roots’ and ‘routes’ of English vocabulary. The verb sit has the transitive, causal equivalent set, originally to ’cause to sit‘, or ‘put into a seated position’, but of course the meanings of set have diversified greatly, and the usual way of expressing ‘put into a […]

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  • Exactly, but not exactly

    Posted by on September 08, 2014

    The basic meanings of ‘exactly’ are: 1 not more and not less – e.g. ‘Is it really important to measure the quantities exactly?’ 2 completely / in every way – e.g. ‘You haven’t changed at all – you look exactly the same’. Apart from these, ‘exactly’ has a number of other common, pragmatic uses, especially […]

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  • Word roots and routes: village, town, city

    Posted by on August 25, 2014

    Next in a series of posts exploring some of the ‘roots’ and ‘routes’ of English vocabulary. The word village is related to villa, which was originally a country dwelling with a farm and/or other surrounding houses, although it later became applied to an individual large, elegant residence with extensive grounds. Another word related to village […]

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  • Word roots and routes: bear

    Posted by on August 11, 2014

    Next in a series of posts exploring some of the ‘roots’ and ‘routes’ of English vocabulary. The verb bear has very deep, tenacious roots. It was beran in Old English, and this in turn was a development from an Indo-European root which already had the dual meanings of ‘carry’ and ‘give birth‘. One word related […]

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  • What kinda people say “could of”?

    Posted by on August 06, 2014

    In a survey of attitudes to disputed usages in English, respondents were presented with three sentences and asked the following questions about them: “Is it acceptable in English today, would you use it yourself? If so, where and when? If not, why not? If you think the sentence is unacceptable, why would that be the […]

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  • Word roots and routes: heart

    Posted by on July 30, 2014

    Next in a series of posts exploring some of the ‘roots’ and ‘routes’ of English vocabulary. Heart (Germanic) has relatives in words beginning with card- (from Greek) and cord- / cour- (from Latin/French).* The Greek root is used in medical terminology; cardiac arrest, for example, is a term used by medical professionals for what the […]

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