Stranger Things

Strange can be a strange word. If I asked you to explain it, you’d probably have no problem. It means weird, unusual, not normal. Easy.

Now though, think of words related to strange.

You can probably think of strangely, stranger, and estranged. OK, strangely is the adverb form of strange, but what’s the link with the other two words?

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A Tricky Tourist Trap

Yesterday, I mentioned that I expect other languages to have an increasing influence on English due to the fact that there are more non-native speakers of English in the world than native speakers. I’ve already noticed this happening a lot with one specific word. Let’s see if you can guess what it is:

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When is a Chicken a Kitchen?

Well, never, of course. But these two words are quite often confused by English-language learners. It makes sense really. The two words obviously sound similar, and that’s particularly true for speakers of languages which don’t make such a distinction between the ch (/ʧ/) and k (/k/) sounds. And of course it’s logical to create an association between the two things: where else are you going to keep your chicken?

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Word Stress

This post is inspired by two common and related questions I often see posed online:

  1. Can an English word have two equally-stressed syllables?
  2. Can an English word have no stressed syllables?

Before answering (and mercifully, the answer to both questions is the same, and quite simple), let’s have a look at what word stress actually is. Continue reading

Sibling Rivalry

Sibling is an interesting word. It’s quite useful for the lazy among us. If you don’t want to say I have 2 brother and 1 sister, you can simply say I have 3 siblings. Easy! It’s understandable why we have separate words for brothers and sisters, as they’re obviously fairly distinct from each other. But it also makes a lot of sense that we have the word sibling, as it’s a quite distinct concept in its own right, and it’s not hard to see what a brother and sister share in common.

Curiously though, sibling is a difficult word to translate into other languages. Continue reading