Whatever happened to the euphemism?….

Is the euphemism dying out? Growing up in 1960’s England there was an entire sub-lexicon of phraseology to cover just about everything.. It was the Golden age of euphemisms. Nobody died of pneumonia, diphtheria or tuberculosis, they were peaky, then poorly, then passed over. Some adults had to be watched …

The Fork…

Roman patricians and plebeians ate with their fingers, as did all European peoples until the dawning of a conscious fastidiousness at the beginning of the Renaissance. Still, there was a right and a wrong, a refined and an uncouth, way to go about it. From Roman times onward, a commoner …

Easter eggs….

Only within the last century were chocolate eggs exchanged as Easter gifts. But the springtime exchanging of real eggs—white, coloured, and gold-leafed—is an ancient custom, predating Easter by many centuries. From earliest times, and in most cultures, the egg signified birth and resurrection. The Egyptians buried eggs in their tombs. …

Hey you!…..

Most of us know the difference between the intimate French tu and the more impersonal (and polite) vous. A similar distinction exists in Arabic between anta (‘you’ singular) and antum (‘you’ plural) – addressing an important person with anta (anti is the feminine version)  rather than antum would be considered impolite. In Vietnam there are no fewer than eighteen words for ‘you’, the use …

Exclamations from around the world…….

Exclamations are generally used to express a sudden reaction: to something frightening, incredible, spectacular, shocking or wonderful. Best not attempted by the visitor, they are better heard from the mouth of the native speaker than read off the page:  aaberdi (Algerian) a cry used when learning fearful news  aawwaah (Dardja, Algeria) a …

March 26th…….

English novelist Arnold Bennett died trying to impress his girlfriend. When a Parisian waiter advised him against drinking the café’s toxic tap water, Bennett took a sip to show his lady companion that he wasn’t afraid of a little bacteria. “Ah, ce n’est pas sage, Monsieur, ce n’est pas sage!” …

The wonderful world of lipograms…..

The making of lipograms—writing that purposely omits a certain letter of the alphabet—has a long history in literature. The word comes from the Greek lipo, meaning “lacking,” plus gramma, meaning “something written or drawn.” The first lipogram may have been an ode to centaurs by Lasus of Hermione (born 568 B.C)which …

March 25th…..

After serving as President of Poland for five years,the splendidly mustachioed Lech Wałęsa resumed his old job as an electrician at the Gdansk shipyard, on the Baltic coast, repairing forklifts and electric vehicles for the equivalent of $1.40 an hour. When he returned to the shipyard gates on April 2, …