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Showing posts from April, 2021

Where does the word robot come from?

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Photo by  Franck V.  on  Unsplash  The word  Robot means to 'work slavishly'. It is a rare example of a Czech word ('robota') being incorporated into English.  From Start the Week 24/01/11 Robot  first came to public attention through Czech writer Karel Čapek in his play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), published in 1920.  Androids The play opens in a factory that makes machines that replicate human form. These machines are closer to what today would today be termed androids.  As in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein the ethical issues explored relate to individual autonomy and the danger inherent in 'playing God'.  Dictionary dispute Čapek credited his brother Josef with coming up with the word robot. He also wrote to the Oxford English Dictionary to correct their etymology.  Karel had originally used another neologism labori based on the Latin word for work,  labor, but was dissatisfied. His brother then pointed to the Czech word robota,

Where does the word meme come from?

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Why does the USA not have an official language?

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US states where English is an official language.  Light blue is where there are two official languages (Louisiana - French & English, New Mexico - Spanish & English, Hawaii - Hawaiian & English) 58 countries have English as an official language - but not the USA. This was a conscious decision of the Founding Fathers . They believed that an official language would be divisive and undemocratic in a multi-lingual country.  English is clearly the de facto first language of the USA - but only around 78% of the population speak it as a first or joint first language. Extended script  here About English: Fun Facts & FAQ     -  download free teaching pack

Why 'as mad as a hatter'?

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'Mad as a hatter' is usually used to describe extreme eccentricity.  The phrase appears in The Clockmaker (1817) by Thomas Haliburton. Perhaps surprisingly, it is not used directly by Lewis Carroll  in either  Alice in Wonderland ' (1865) or Through the Looking Glass (1871).  Chapter VII of the former is, however, called A Mad Tea Party. It also  attended by a hatter, who the Cheshire Cat calls 'mad. It is the  zany antics at the tea party that are being referenced in modern usage. Mercury poisoning The phrase is commonly believed to allude to the grim effect of mercury poisoning on workers (hatters) manufacturing felt hats.  Mercury poisoning  affects the nervous system, with dementia a common symptom.  Victims developed severe and uncontrollable muscular tremors and twitching limbs, called 'hatter's shakes'; other symptoms included distorted vision and confused speech. Advanced cases developed hallucinations and other psychotic symptoms. source Da