Learn British English with Anastassia

Exciting Adventures in the English Language and Culture

Month: June 2019

The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear

‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ is probably Edward Lear’s (1812-1888) most famous poem loved by kids as well as adults: in 2014 it was voted the nation’s favourite childhood poem.

Edward Lear wrote it in 1868 for Janet Symonds, 3-year-old daughter of the poet and literary critic John Addington Symonds.

The word ‘runcible’ that has eventually made its way into the Oxford English Dictionary as a nonsense word was coined by the author. Its meaning remains a mystery. It doesn’t help that Edward Lear himself used it to describe such different things as his hat, a wall and even his cat

Lear didn’t help matters: as well as applying the word to a spoon, he went on to use ‘runcible’ to describe his hat, a wall, and even his cat Foss.

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How Bad Punctuation Destroyed a Train Station

Image by Juan Guemez from Pixabay

Bad punctuation can be as destructive as bombs! In his book The Queen’s English and How to use it Bernard C. Lamb tells a story as amusing as it is sad about how one missing comma can have devastating consequences.

Back in 1984 a station in East Lothian, Scotland, was wrongly demolished because a comma was missing from the British Rail planning document. The list of items to preserve should have read: ‘Retain Drem Station, bridge…’ Unfortunately for the station building, the comma after ‘Station’ was missing, the station was pulled down and had to be rebuilt. The bridge survived.

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Is it all right if it’s alright?

You must have come across both variants, probably wondering which one is more preferable. Well, the quick answer to this question is all right.

The tea was all right.

Unlike much older mergers such as altogether and already that are fully acceptable, using alright, especially in formal writing, is still highly likely to make your readers think that your English is far from perfect.

So play it safe and use all right.

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It’s not rocket science

It’s not rocket science is commonly used to say that something is not very difficult to do or understand.

Designing a website may be a lot of work but it’s not rocket science.

The expression comes from the States.

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The Three Foxes by Alan Alexander Milne

Image by Amir Boucenna from Pixabay

Alan Alexander Milne (1882 – 1956) was an English author, known in all corners of the world thanks to his books about a teddy bear called Winnie-the-Pooh. He also wrote poetry. I chose his verse The Three Foxes to share with you today because it reminds me of a curious linguistic anecdote.

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The Mysterious Case of the Word ‘Ghost’

Have you ever questioned the purpose of the silent H in ‘ghost’? It’s absolutely useless, but there’s a great story behind it.

It goes back to William Caxton, an English merchant and diplomat, who lived in the 15th century. While in Germany, he became familiar with Gutenberg’s latest invention – the printing press, – and liked the idea so much that he set up one of his own in Flanders.

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Make Learning a Foreign Language a Habit

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

This is Part 1 of a series of posts about language learning

We’re all creatures of habit. Routines make life easier – instead of figuring out how to do something each time, you can rely on good old well-tested practices. Probably more importantly, once established habits stay with us forever, which means you can’t possibly get rid of bad ones; all you can do is replace them with new, better ones. Easier said than done though, as your old habits will resist to the last.

How can you win this battle? Start small. Set yourself a goal, say, to do 10 minutes of listening or make 5 flash cards a day. That’s pretty doable and will make you proud of yourself each time you achieve your daily objective. However, for it to become a habit you must do it every day. If you’re asking yourself ‘why bother?’, then it’s probably time to talk about reasons to learn a foreign language.

To be continued…

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