Tag Archives: history

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: 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: Curving, Carrying & Dropping Balls – 8 Fun Idioms You Should Know

16 Jan

In this Word Nerd, we are talking about balls, because, apparently, we talk about balls a lot! And not just in the context of sports. It is a common metaphor in politics, business, or any kind of conversation. Not surprising, given that humans have been preoccupied with balls for millennia. There are handball drawings on […]

Word Nerd: 5 expressions from the US presidential election

31 Oct

Cartoon of elephant and donkey standing against background that says 2016

One of the most historically significant elections of our lifetime is coming up on November 8 in the US. Unfortunately, each presidential election seems longer and more absurd than the last, resulting in trivialized campaigns riddled with half-truths and lies, and a bitterly divided electorate. Developing new shorthand for all kinds of absurdities seems to […]

Word Nerd: Is Your Autumn Mellow or Macabre?

26 Sep

Hit the average litterateur with the word autumn, and instead of stars, John Keats’ lines will swim before his or her eyes. And certainly, autumn is a “season of mists”, of “mellow fruitfulness”, of the “maturing sun” and other warm and romantic fantasies. But it is also a season of cooler air, longer nights and […]

Word Nerd: How Moody is the Monsoon?

29 Aug

As I write this Word Nerd piece, August is nearly at an end, and so is the rainy season. In the Indian subcontinent, the rainy season is also known as monsoon, a word which originates from the Arabic ‘mausim’. Mausim means that which comes around once a year. This could be a festival or a […]

Word Nerd: Democracy

11 Jul

July is when some of the oldest modern democracies celebrate freedom from tyranny and arbitrary rule – Canada on July 1, the US on July 4, and France on July 14. On July 9, Argentina celebrated 200 years of independence from the Spanish empire. The United States freed itself from British rule 240 years ago, […]

Word Nerd: The many meanings of Philadelphia

30 May

This week kicked off with the first of three sessions of the Knowledge@Wharton High School (KWHS) summer program. As we speak, 23 students are at the Wharton School in Philadelphia. Another 76 will head there for two more sessions, to be held in June and July. That got us wondering about all the possible meanings […]

Word Nerd: How to talk about race

9 May

Sometimes, students who are getting ready to go abroad to study have apprehensions about using words to describe race or ethnicity that may offend someone. Here’s a rough guide to talking about race. What is race? There is no scientific basis for race. No DNA defines black, white, or any other people. Some populations share […]

5 surprising facts about Cinco de Mayo

5 May

1.  It marks a small but stunning victory. Many people celebrate Mexican culture on May 5 each year, but not many know the story behind it. On Cinco de Mayo (pronounced ‘singko de maa-yo’; Spanish for the 5th of May) in 1862, Mexico defeated France at the Battle of Puebla. The fighting lasted just three hours, […]