Tomayto and tomato……

I read recently that we British are getting rather hot under the collar about the English language. If you Google the word “Americanisms” you will find red faced pedants claiming that the Americans are swamping, killing and absorbing British English. If the British are not careful, so their argument goes, …

Swan song……….

According to tradition, many ancient peoples believed that swans, creatures whose “voices” are not as melodious as those of other birds, burst into clear song when they felt death nearing. The fifth-century B.C. Greek philosopher Socrates is said to have explained that this voice transformation occurred because the swans were …

March 3rd……..

On this day, Christopher Columbus spotted three aquatic creatures off the Dominican coast and mistook them for mermaids. He described them in his journal as “not half as beautiful as they are painted.” Scientists believe that most of history’s mermaid sightings have actually been encounters with manatees, slow-moving mammals of …

A question of time……

Not everyone sees time in terms of past, present and future. The Kipsigis of the Nile region have three types of past tense: today’s past, yesterday’s past and the distant past. Several American Indian languages divide the past tense into the recent past, remote past and mythological past; other languages …

A very short history of Ink…..

The Greek verb egkaiein literally meant ‘to burn in’, being a compound of en-, ‘in’, and kaiein,‘to burn’. In fact the term denoted a particular method of painting which was practised by the ancients. According to a first-century account in the writings of Pliny the Elder, the process involved mixing …