Archive for the ‘Language’ category

Zhou Youguang (1906–2017)

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Zhou Youguang, who died today, the day after his 111th birthday, was known as the “Father of Hanyu Pinyin” due to his role in designing the Romanization system widely used for representing Mandarin Chinese. Today, Pinyin is the official Romanization system for Mandarin in China and many other countries, is used in millions of people’s […]

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Chinese New Year: sheep or goat?

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The Chinese New Year is upon us, and I have always been uncertain as to whether it is the Year of the Sheep or Year of the Goat, despite it being my birth year. In fact, it is neither, or perhaps I should say it is both. The Chinese character for the animal, 羊, pronounced […]

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What a twit

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Conservative leader David Cameron caused a stir last week when he used inappropriate language during a live radio interview. While explaining why he doesn’t use Twitter, Cameron exclaimed that, “Too many twits might make a t*at.” I’m sure many people will sympathise with Mr Cameron’s ignorance of the etymology of the word as it is […]

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Beijing is not French!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

With the 2008 Olympics under way, it is becoming increasingly irritating to hear presenters on TV and radio pronouncing the name of the Chinese capital with a French-sounding “j”. It is as if they think, “Beijing is a foreign word, so it must be pronounced in a foreign way”, and as French is the most […]

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Mothering Sunday or Mother’s Day?

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Today is Mothering Sunday in the UK, on which people honour their mothers, often giving gifts and cards. However, unlike the American Mother’s Day, which is celebrated on the second Sunday in May and is a 20th century invention, Mothering Sunday has much earlier origins as a date in the Church calendar, when people returned […]

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