This post is inspired by the moment I noticed that I finished a recent post with a sentence beginning with besides, and ending with anyway. Not so unusual, but it brought back some painful memories…
Quite a few years ago, I was teaching an IELTS class (IELTS is a tough Academic-English exam). The lesson was a vocabulary one, about using linking words in writing. Quite straightforward for me at that stage, as I’d been teaching for some time. I had a quick look at the main exercises (I’d like to say I wasn’t provided with much time to prepare the lesson, but I’m pretty sure my quick look at the materials was solely due to my overconfidence), and was satisfied: Ok, there’s furthermore, however, although, despite, in addition to… yeah, that’s easy, I’ve time to relax for a bit.
Into the lesson then, and everything was going ok. Ok, until I had a look at the exercise I’d just had the students start. It was pretty straightforward, the students had a text with gaps, and had to choose which words to put into the gaps. Normally, I’d get the answers from them afterwards, and get them to explain what they meant. Which would normally be fine, until I spotted that one of the words to be used was besides, and it was supposed to fit in the last gap. And I asked myself: What the hell does besides actually mean!?
It’s Pride Week this week, and this weekend sees a lot of Gay Pride events around the world. Here in Ireland there’s a Gay Pride Parade in Dublin today as a culmination of a week’s celebrations. It’s great that such an event is now a normal part of life here that people from all walks of life can get involved in and enjoy. It wasn’t too long ago that such a thing was inconceivable: homosexuality was only decriminalised here in 1993 after all. In line with the great strides many nations have made in dealing with sexual and gender identity in general, have been the developments in our language, as we learn to refer to ideas which were previously hidden, or which we’d never conceived of before. I’d like to take a look at a list of some of these terms and phrases:
This is something I often ask myself. And then, I look it up. When I get the answer I’m satisfied, and then I don’t think about it again. And then a few months later I ask the question again, and I can’t remember the answer. Partly because it’s not so important, I suppose. And partly because I struggle with 50/50, it’s-one-or-the-other style answers. Like what the difference between biennial and biannual is, which I’ve long struggled to remember (though I think I know it now, but I don’t want to google it in case I’m wrong: I couldn’t face such a setback).
Only, the difference between a tart and a pie isn’t so trivial to me. Because I enjoy baking occasionally. I’ve liked cooking for a long time, but there was always something stopping me from baking. Maybe it felt too difficult, or I was afraid I might fail, I don’t know. But I’ve made a few things now, and baking’s not so bad. It’s basically just cooking, but with more particular ingredients and techniques. And I’m pretty sure that I’ve made some things that could be either tarts or pies, and I want to know one which they are! In fact, at this very moment I have something in the oven (I checked to see if it was ready after the comma after cooking, three lines above) and I’m not even sure if it’s a pie, a tart, or a cake.
Well, I know it’s not a pie, because it just clearly isn’t one. And if you’d asked me to guess, I’d confidently call it a cake. The thing is though, the recipe calls it a tart, and I’m willing to defer to Mary Berry on this one. But I’m looking at it, and I still think it could be a cake. Rather than just google it again, only to forget it again later, I’m going to think about and try to figure out which is which, right before your eyes…
This evening, while cycling home from work, a thought occurred to me. A slightly panicked thought. I recalled that in my post yesterday I’d linked to an article, and I thought…
Did I include the link!? (Clearly my cycling thoughts aren’t as interesting as my running thoughts. I suppose I’m too focussed on the road)
You see, rather than write my post directly on my blog, as I usually do, yesterday I’d written it as a word document, as I wasn’t online at the time, and then copied it onto the blog later. And then of course I included all the links. Or did I? Because it would be very easy to forget to (spoiler alert: I didn’t). Before I got home and put my mind at ease, I felt a little annoyed. If I had forgotten it, how stupid would that look? It would be so obvious I’d forgotten the link, and it would be unfortunate for anyone reading it, as they’d miss out on what was a very interesting article. But then, another thought occurred to me: would that actually be so bad?
While I was running this evening, and my mind was wandering, I thought about the phrase a nice round number. I wondered to myself why we call them round numbers. And then almost straight away I answered my own question and said that it’s obviously because of the zero. Which is round. And round numbers always end in a zero.
Well, that’s that. Sometimes the answer is just that simple, and I’m even able to figure it out myself. Not that that stopped me thinking about numbers, and roundness of course.
Make and do. To make and to do. Two very simple verbs that you probably never think about (if you’re a native speaker). You probably literally use them every day. Nothing interesting about them really. Just common words that do their job without any fuss, without drawing attention to themselves. Nothing interesting about them at all, is there? Well, you might be amazed to find that actually, I find both words quite interesting indeed.
Read on to find out some of the most amazing facts about the English language! Facts such as…