Movie subtitles are often missing something important.
I was reminded of this recently when I saw Ai Weiwei’s The Rest. It’s an excellent documentary, and I feel a little bad criticizing it about anything, but its subtitles really needed one more thing – though, to be fair, very few movies include it. Continue reading →
The walls are alternating brick and panel, some painted white, some not; the tables are a mix of small two-person ones – no two of them identical, seven in total – plus a big heavy wooden high-top six-seater; the logo is painted big on one wall: a stylized lion shield with NINE BARS, whatever that means; the whole of it could be in some hip part of town and the place could be littered with hipsters, or it could be on a déclassé side of the city centre and packed with wage slaves. But this particular coffee joint is in Deer Park. It’s on St. Clair, just east of Yonge. It’s a good part of town to work if you’re a high-priced accountant. It’s a good part of town to live if you’re a high-priced accountant’s client. So the clientele here are largely a mix of quiet young ladies, guys in suits, and people well north of 50. Continue reading →
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The tree of English lexis produces many and varied fruit, and some are quite unexpected. Some are old and overripe to the point of… not rotting, but developing a dense, aged form that has made a mush of the original: a timeless tradition with the richness of antiquity. Others are strange blends and borrowings: they seem like gifts of the ancient but they are more grifts and grafts of the moderns. You may eat all day for many years of the many different fruits this tree bears and still, on some bright day, taste not one but two that you do not recall knowing before.
And so it was yesterday for me. I was wandering through the buzzing hay-meadow of Twitter and I saw a short sequence of tweets by an Italian friend, Costanza: Continue reading →
It’s time for another fresh old word from James Orchard Halliwell’s Dictionary of Archaic Words. And it’s a word for spring.
In fact, it’s a word for springing, For sproinging. Even for spronging. It’s for someone or something who’s spring-fresh, even frightfully so, like the friskiest fry or some other friendly tyke. Continue reading →
Does spurk seem like a word I just invented? It… sort of is, but it’s not. I wondered if it existed, so I looked, and it does. It has been in English for more than three centuries, though no one seems to use it these days.
We all know the result of an insult. If you jump at someone, you get push-back. Which, as it happens, is etymologically correct: the sult in both words comes from Latin saltare, ‘leap’. The re means ‘back’ (as in what springs back at you after you push); the in means ‘in’ or ‘into’ or ‘towards’ or ‘at’ – if you jump down someone’s throat, that’s covered etymologically by insult too, though in English idiom jumping down someone’s throat is usually going a little farther than just insulting them.
So what do we do if we want to diss someone without getting blowback? How do we cast shade without getting chopped down? We can dance around it. Or, more to the point, we can jump around. Continue reading →
Patrick Neylan, Eeditor of business reports. Permanently angry about the abuse of English, maths and logic. Terms and conditions: by reading this blog you accept that all opinions expressed herein will henceforth be your opinions.
The Economist "Johnson" language blog
In this blog, named for the dictionary-maker Samuel Johnson, correspondents write about the effects that the use (and sometimes abuse) of language have on politics, society and culture around the world