Uranus

Heh heh: Uranus!

No other celestial body has been so generous to the English language in terms of puns as Uranus, owing to its pronunciation. But you’ve probably noticed that there are two common pronunciations: Uranus (/jʊərənəs/, emphasis on the first syllable), and Uranus (/jʊreənəs/, emphasis on the second syllable: look, this is the one that sounds like your anus). Which one is correct? Continue reading

Time

I don’t have enough time to finish this project!

What time is it?

I’ve been to France four times.

Three times two is six.

Those four sentences are all pretty simple, aren’t they? They’re the kind of sentences you might use in everyday situations without thinking about them. But look more closely at that word they all have in common: time. Continue reading

Coquette

This morning I passed a touristy apron at a stall here in Palermo. It featured a map of Italy with different regional types of pasta. I spotted the word reginetta (beauty queen/young queen). I’d never seen the word before, but assumed it was a diminuitive form of regina (queen), as the suffix -etta is often used as a (usually) feminine diminuitive form in Italian.

Just like the -ette suffix in English, borrowed from French, and found in words like cigarette, etiquette, majorette, among many others. Just after seeing reginetta though, a particularly interesting example came to mind: coquette. Continue reading

My Genial Friend

I came across an interesting false friend recently, when a student referred to a person as genial. Now, this might seem fine to me, but is was clear from the context that a word like brilliant would have been more appropriate. How can we explain this seemingly strange error, confusing two such obviously different words? Continue reading