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Word Nerd: 8 most commonly mispronounced British place names

10 Apr

The UK has bizarre place names. We’re not just talking about the tiny Welsh town with a name 58 characters long – Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, or Pity Me – a village in Durham County. Between these two places – the first of which we doubt you’ll ever wrap your tongue around, and the second you will never […]

Word Nerd: Why it’s important to write concisely

3 Apr

Business news reports sometimes refer to “manufacturing units” when they mean “factories”. One college library had a sign above its photocopier that read “Reprographic Unit”. We often use two or more long words when a short one would be enough. This sort of verbosity – sometimes the result of a shaky vocabulary, and at other […]

Word Nerd: 7 Impossibly Sophisticated and Smart Insults

27 Mar

Recently, we argued that poems can be as funny as they can be serious. In this Word Nerd, we’re making the same case for insults. Add enough wit to insults and they become glorious – masterpieces which are likely to offend and impress in equal measure. And if you’re finding it hard to think of […]

5 Funny Poets You Need to Read

22 Mar

Poetry, for most of us, is like an embarrassing aunt. The one we want to avoid at social gatherings, the one we nod at absently when she grabs us and talks nineteen to the dozen, the one we are reluctant to be seen with in public, for fear that she will bore or embarrass the […]

Word Nerd: 8 words for boring nonsense that just won’t stop

20 Mar

Every party has a crashing bore who will corner you and launch into a labyrinthine story. Every seminar has that one gasbag in the audience who will share a personal opinion disguised as a never-ending question. Every family gathering has that dreaded relative with a chronic case of verbal diarrhea. Verbosity is a common hazard, […]

Word Nerd: What You See is Not What You Say

13 Mar

Is English a phonetic language? Yes. No. Maybe. If it was as phonetic a language as Hindi or Spanish, we would speak it just as we spell it. Instead, we have the silent k’s (knowledge, knight, kneel) and g’s (gnash, gnostic, gnome), the moody oe sound (shoes, does, goes), and the troublesome th (Thames, Thomas, […]

Word Nerd: 5 English phrases that only Indians truly get

27 Feb

English is a language that often seems to divide rather than unite its speakers from various parts of the former British empire. For example, when Americans speak of ‘boots’ and ‘bonnets’, they are referring to things you wear, but in British English, of course, the words refer to the front and back of a car, […]

5 tips to convince your parents to let you study abroad

22 Feb

So you’ve shortlisted universities, taken the exams you need to take, and even got great scores. And yet, your dream of studying abroad has screeched to a halt. The reason? Your parents aren’t ready to let their precious fledgling fly from the nest. If this sounds like your story, here are a few tips that […]

Word Nerd: Everyone speaks Romani, the language of the Gypsies

20 Feb

Languages are often more interconnected than we realize. They reflect centuries, or even millennia, of migration, trade, and cultural borrowing. Although many of us may feel no connection to the Roma people (a.k.a. Gypsies), we do, in fact, share quite a bit of vocabulary with them. If you’re a Hindi or Urdu speaker, for instance, […]

Word Nerd: How 8 Cities Got Their Famous Names

30 Jan

Ever wondered how a city or town gets its name? Places get their names from histories, geographies, and relentless change. For example, several Indian towns and cities have frequently changed names in order to reflect different perspectives. And in the UK, place-names are how invading armies – Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Norsemen & Vikings left their indelible […]