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International Lefthanders Day – how the notion of left-handedness as “wrong” is embedded in our language

International Lefthanders Day – how the notion of left-handedness as “wrong” is embedded in our language

Did you know that the notion of left-handedness as being “wrong” is embedded in our language already? For example, the adjective ‘sinister’ comes from the Latin ‘sinestra’ or ‘left hand’. Wonder what it’s like to see the world from a “left-handed” point of view? US Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were/are left-handed. Or there are artists Leonardo Da…

Why we have created new language for Coronavirus

Why we have created new language for Coronavirus

From ‘covidiots’ to ‘quarantine and chill’, the pandemic has led to many terms that help people laugh and commiserate. Throughout history, challenging circumstances have given rise to new ways of expressing those challenges. George Eliot, the 19th Century writer who was famously frustrated by rigid gender and lifestyle norms, is credited with the first recorded use of the word ‘frustrating’. More…

How did spoken language start?

How did spoken language start?

This is a great question, but it is such a hard question that in 1866 the Linguistic Society of Paris got sick of people writing about it with nothing more than guesses, and banned articles on the topic. Fortunately, scientific progress in the past 150 years has changed this situation. We don’t have all the answers, but we can make…

Linguists found the world’s “weirdest” languages – and English is one of them

Linguists found the world’s “weirdest” languages – and English is one of them

Is English a “weird” language? Many of us might feel this is true when we’re trying to explain its complex spelling rules, or the meanings of idioms such as “it’s raining cats and dogs” to someone who is learning it. Teaching or learning any language is, however, never an easy task. But what is a “weird” language anyway? As linguists,…

On 26 September 2022 is the next European Day of Languages

On 26 September 2022 is the next European Day of Languages

Let’s celebrate European Day of Languages together again! Throughout Europe, 800 million Europeans are represented in the Council of Europe’s 47 member states. All are encouraged to discover more languages at any age, as part of or alongside their studies. The Council of Europe is the continent’s leading human rights organisation and is convinced that linguistic diversity is a tool…

What’s the language of the future?

What’s the language of the future?

As English takes over the world, it’s splintering and changing – and soon, we may not recognise it at all This article is excerpted from the new book, “The Language Wars: A History of Proper English” from Farrar, Straus and Girous. No language has spread as widely as English, and it continues to spread. Internationally the desire to learn it is…