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, …

March 24th…..

According to Italian tradition, the city of Venice was founded at the stroke of noon on Friday, March 24th, 421, when a group of Paduan refugees gathered in the marshlands off the northern coast of Italy and laid the cornerstone of San Giacomo Church. Venice’s creation myth was part of …

Dionysus and ale……

Greek tradition has it that the god of wine, Dionysus, fled from Mesopotamia in disgust because its people were so addicted to beer – or, more correctly, ale, since the preservative herbs used in true beer were not introduced until the end of the Middle Ages. Certainly, a staggering amount of the …

March 23……..

In the early hours of March 23rd, 2003, while transporting cargo from Cork, Ireland, to Lübeck, Germany, the RMS Mülheim ran aground at Land’s End, a rocky headland on the west coast of England. By the afternoon, conspiracists were bubbling over with theories. Like the Bermuda Triangle, Land’s End, with …