Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good


(of a person, especially a woman or child) attractive in a delicate way without being truly beautiful.

‘a pretty little girl with an engaging grin’


To a moderately high degree; fairly.

‘he looked pretty fit for his age’

‘it was a pretty bad injury’

Pretty is, well, a pretty interesting word. The definition that immediately comes to mind for you is probably the first one above. What really interests me about this definition is that last part: without being truly beautiful. Pretty is certainly a less powerful word than beautiful. Because of that it, like nice, feels almost like an insult to use it to describe someone. Sure, it’s technically a positive word, but when you’ve got so many other adjectives you can use, calling someone pretty feels like a deliberate choice to not use something more unambiguously complimentary.

Continue reading

Why We Call the Planet Earth, and  What I’ll Miss about It

You might be aware that we could all be killed soon. Or else the planet will be rendered uninhabitable for a few survivors. I don’t think it’s very likely, but at least if we are all killed there’ll be no future generations left to wonder how we could let two immature, insecure babies destroy us all because of their thin skins and senses of inadequacy.

It probably won’t happen, and even if it does does, the planet will probably survive. Still, the news has got me thinking about how much I’ll miss the planet, and wondering where it got the name Earth

Continue reading

“Boy, those Germans have a word for everything!” Part II

Sometimes you really appreciate the Germanness of English. I was thinking about this, naturally enough, after the resignation of the short-lived U.S National-Security Advisor Mike Flynn (yes it’s often written as National Security Advisor, but it’s logical to hyphenate it). While watching reports on Belgian TV, I noticed that the French for National-Security Advisor is conseiller à la sécurité nationale. Oof! 5 words instead of 2 (or 3, but National-Security can be considered as one, as it’s hyphenated), 13 syllables instead of 10. This doesn’t really give a true impression of the difference though, as French syllables are generally longer than English ones, as in English we have weak forms; short vowel sounds for unemphasized syllables. Think of how brief the io sound in national is, for example, and how many people almost skip it when speaking. Continue reading