Posts

What is the origin of the word feminist?

Image
The feminists (excuse this neologism) say .... all the evil rises from the fact that we will not allow that woman is the equal of man.   Alexandre Dumas (fils) 1873 The author of The Three Musketeers  is credited with coining the word in French, with a translation of his work by G Vandenhoff introducing the English version. Interestingly, Dumas was not a sympathiser with the emerging campaign for women's rights. Even by the standards of his time he had a particularly patrician view of life "as a battle between the woman and the man."   He was very censorius about prostitution, for example, blaming the prevalence of prostitutes in Paris for the fall of the city to the Prussians in 1870. This did not prevent him from calling on their services from time to time - presumably in the interests of research

What will the English of the future look like??

Image
English is currently the world's dominant language - the lingua franca of science, medicine, technology and many other areas. A present there are here is no obvious threat to English on the near horizon.  But a recent article in The Economist suggests that while English may remain dominant, it is likely to evolve along Globish lines to suit the majority of non-native (L2) speakers Interestingly, about two-thirds of English-speakers are not first-language speakers of English .... Shaped by the mouths of billions of non-native speakers, what will the English of the future look like? A look into the past can give us an idea. English is of course not the first language learned by lots of non-natives. When languages spread, they also change. And it turns out, they do so in specific directions. For example, a 2010  study  by Gary Lupyan and Rick Dale found that bigger languages are simpler. In more precise terms, languages with many speakers and many neighbours have simpler sy

Do the languages we speak shape the way we think?

Image
The Tower of Babel' by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, 1563 Do they merely express thoughts, or do the structures in languages (without our knowledge or consent) shape the very thoughts we wish to express? Stanford psychology professor  Lera Boroditsky makes has some surprising observations about the relationship between language and thought. How do we come to be the way we are? Why do we think the way we do? An important part of the answer, it turns out, is in the languages we speak.  Full text here Language & Thought: Chicken & Egg English Language 100 FAQ Teaching Pack     -  only £1.99 using discount code  CQDWKF0

Why are we “the giraffes of altruism.”?

Image
According to the neuro-scientist, Jonathan Haidt, humans are instinctively unselfish in some key respects. He sees altruism - acting for others rather than out of self-interest - as an evolutionary development.  What's the evidence, Mr Haidt? There are signs that some forms of altruism are instinctive rather than learned. Even a very young child will come to you aid if you are struggling to open a door, for example.  This suggests that an inclination to help others - is at least partially heritable.  But isn't evolutionary theory based on the idea of the 'survival of the fittest'? Co-operation gives humans a competitive advantage over other species But what's with the giraffe reference? The giraffe's long neck gives it an advantage over other species. Being nice - some of the time, anyway - is our equivalent of having a neck that gives you that extra bit of stretch when it comes to nabbing that fruit!  BTW: giraffes & humans share the

What is an eysore? And a sight for sore eyes?

Image
English can be a very confusing language. An eyesore is something - typically a building - which is not pleasing to look at. This building is an example:  Eyesore: this building site may turn into a swan one day! A sight for sore eyes is the opposite - something is which aesthetically pleasing to the eye. This is often used as form of flattery e.g. you're a sight for sore eyes What is the origin of eyesore? Shakespeare did not coin the phrase - though he is responsible for eyeball.   He did, however, provide an early example in The Taming of the Shrew, albeit one that is more metaphorical than is typical in modern English:  Why, sir, you know this is your wedding-day: First were we sad, fearing you would not come; Now sadder, that you come so unprovided. Fie, doff this habit, shame to your estate, An eye-sore to our solemn festival! And sight for sore eyes? First recorded example comes in another giant of literature: Jonathan Swift   in A complete collection of gen

Key World Cup Words: What is a dummy?

In football a dummy is a body movement or feint which misleads your opponent. The classic example comes from perhaps the greatest footballer of all time in the 1970 World Cup. 100 Essential Football Words Down download the  Football Stories Teaching Pack   for only £1.99 - use coupon code CQDWKF0 at checkout.