Here in the UK, it’s traditional to wish people a “Merry Christmas” at this time of year, as opposed to the North American greeting “Happy Holidays.” In fact, the word for Christmas in Old English is Cristes Maesse, and later Christ’s Mass. Mass, in religious context, means a death sacrifice. So maybe not a nice thing to wish, after all?
When some of us are sending our Christmas cards, some write “Merry Christmas,” whilst others use “Merry Xmas” as a shortened version of the former.
In Ancient Greek, the word Christ was spelled with an X – Χριστός (Xpistos) so some believe that the shortened version of the word stems from this.
Either way, the word “Christmas” undeniably has religious connotations and has certainly made me think of the meanings behind the phrase “Merry Christmas.” Maybe “Happy Holidays” is best after all?
Dmitry Golubovskiy, the CEO of Esquire Russia, has posted a video of himself pronouncing the longest word in the world, on Youtube. The video is over 3 hours long! The word, which has 189,819 letters, is the chemical name for the largest known protein, titin.
In fact, comparing the longest words in each language is not as easy as you may think. It actually depends on a number of factors. If you count scientific and medical words, as shown here, place names or compound words, then the letter count obviously has the capacity to be longer.
In the Oxford English dictionary, the longest word is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, which is a medical term meaning a type of lung disease. The longest non technical word is antidisestablishmentarianism.
Danish has the longest, non technical nor compounded word; at 51 letters long – Speciallægepraksisplanlægningsstabiliseringsperiode.
Agglutinative languages, such as Turkish, Tagalog, and Hungarian, can in theory have words of infinite length!
If you know of any words which are longer, let us know in the comments!
A group of Swedes have started a petition to have the word “nerd” redefined in the Svenska Akademiens Ordlista (official Swedish dictionary.)
The word nörd was added to the Swedish dictionary in 2005 and is currently defined as enkelspårig och löjeväckande person (a simple and laughable person.)
The aim of the petition is to change the definition to something more positive, and each of the people who have signed it have added their own definition.
The online petition, Nörduppropet, which has 5388 signatures so far, states that “a nerd is a person with strong interests, a person with enormous drive and commitment.”
Svenska Akademiens Ordlista‘s editor, Sven-Göran Malmgren concedes that “the word’s meaning has surely changed somewhat since 2005 and has become more neutral. We’ll be looking to see if the definition needs to be changed.”
In France, plans are afoot to ban the words “mother” and “father” from all legal documentation. President Francois Hollande has pledged to make same sex marriage legal, and the words will be replaced by the word “parents” in all marriage ceremonies and in the civil code. The plans have caused outrage amongst members of the Catholic Church. Of course, by definition, a “parent” is a protector or guardian, and has the same denotation as “father” and/or “mother.”
The draft law is due to be presented to cabinet members on October 31st.
I wonder if this would have the same impact, or even if people would notice the change, if the main issue here wasn’t same sex marriage?
The Commission for the Management of Language Use in Shanghai has reported that English sign accuracy has improved by 85% in the three years since its’ campaign launched to clear up any confusing signage in time for the Shanghai World Expo in 2010.
Signs such as “inform police immediately – if you are stolen” have been removed by volunteer translation students.
Websites such as Cheezburger’s Engrish Funny have been set up to publish photos of translation errors in all languages snapped by tourists, and this has added to the notoriety of such gaffes.
Newspaper Shanghai Daily says that whilst there is a Chinese-language government website for reporting “Chinglish” crimes against English, there were “few channels for ex-pats to report incorrect English signs.”
Have you seen any badly translated signs? Please share in the comments!
The US team have been busy making a series of videos ahead of the upcoming Games. The first two concentrate on the Americans trying their hands at a little Cockney rhyming slang. The first phrase they learned is: “If you win a medal, you can go chicken oriental.” Chicken oriental is slang for “mental” or crazy, and isn’t used widely in London! The second video shows the athletes working on saying “Now I’ll stick on the Hansel and Gretel, and make us a nice cup of Rosie Lee.“ The only rhyming slang we use here is Rosie Lee (tea).
Although none of the team have the accent correct at all, it’s nice to see them have a laugh with it and have fun! The videos are a very nice gesture, although I don’t think they’ll need to use either of these phrases whilst here in London!
You can see their channel, ThankYouBritain, on YouTube. More videos will be uploaded as it gets closer to the start of the Games.
Like history? Love languages? You may be interested in the Polish historical equivalent to Monopoly.
Kolejka (Queue) has been dubbed “the world’s more boring board game,” as it involves collecting items on your shopping list, mirroring the experiences of queuing for rations in Communist eras and during and after the War. Although it was initially launched in Polish, a multi language version has just been released. You can now play in English, German, Japanese, Polish, Russian, and Spanish. There are rules in each language available to download here.
The games maker’s have stated that they want to show young people how life was like under Communist rule. Karol Madaj, the creator of the game, says that it is best played with people of various generations, as it evokes memories from older people who can then recall and teach younger generations of their experiences.
There is a download, print and play version of the game available at the Institute of National Remembrance’s website.
Back in November, I posted about Globe to Globe, which is just one event in the calendar of the World Shakespeare Festival taking place around the UK. The Festival launched today, which is the 448th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birthday. The date also marks English Language Day at the UN.
During the next 6 weeks, the Globe Theatre in London is showing 37 of Shakespeare’s works in 37 different languages. The festival kicked off today with Troilus and Cressida in Maori, which has already been performed in Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand to standing ovations.
Director Rachel House advises audiences to “relax and enjoy it and not panic about the fact they don’t understand the language.”
She added, “there are tones and expressions and emotions that are easily identifiable because they are so universal.”
You can still book tickets to some shows here.
Source: BBC News
Paul McCartney’s music video for his latest single My Valentine features actors Johnny Depp and Natalie Portman using sign language to convey the lyrics of the song.
It has been widely reported that there are some errors in the sign language used, most notably, that both actors use the sign for ‘tampon’ rather than ‘appear,’ and ‘enemy’ instead of ‘Valentine.’ Whilst in British Sign Language, the sign is for ‘tampon,’ it’s important to note that the actors are using American Sign Language, for which the signs for some words differ slightly. Therefore, the sign they used to signify ‘appear’ is correct. There are actually two ASL signs for the word ‘appear;’ one means ‘to show up’ and the other is ‘to seem.’ Natalie Portman used the correct sign.
It’s a shame that Johnny Depp remained expressionless throughout the video, as all sign language relies on facial expressions to bring the language to life. Nevertheless, it’s nice to see sign language brought to the spotlight!
You can view a Johnny Depp solo video, a Natalie Portman solo video, AND the video featuring both actors on Paul McCartney’s YouTube channel.
Olympic fever is hitting London and there are some pretty condescending articles hitting the web regarding the English – American language “divide.”
Indeed, yes, there are some phrases and words which differ slightly, but we’re all adult enough to either work it out or ask if something is not easily understood. If you’re an American visiting London for the Olympics, you certainly wouldn’t ask for “chips” in a restaurant, and if you see it on a menu, you’d take it to mean “French fries.” English staff in hotels, restaurants and shops in this multi cultural city are well used to hearing a range of accents and requests. If you ask for “pants” in a clothes shop here, in an American accent, no-one would direct you to the underwear section without checking first!
The Internet, television and cinema imports all present opportunities to understand each other’s linguistic quirks. There’s no need to patronise people.
More helpfully, an Olympic Translator app has been developed to help with communicating between different languages. Users can speak into the phone and the app will produce the translation. At the moment, 5000 phrases are available for 20 different languages. Developers are working to complete a target of 50-60 languages. The app will be free for the duration of the Olympics and is due to be released within the new few weeks.
To volunteer to help translate, email firstname.lastname@example.org