Exciting Adventures in the English Language and Culture

Month: January 2021

Bully: from sweetheart to tyrant

No doubt, bullying is shameful and bullies are nasty. However, they haven’t always been so. When the word bully made its first appearance in English in the 1530s it meant ‘sweetheart’, ‘lover’.

Image by rebeccadevitt0 from Pixabay

Then, at some point it took on an additional meaning of ‘protector of a prostitute’ and its fate was decided. Over time, the original meaning was forgotten leaving us with the current ‘harasser of the weak’.

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Beauty and Beauty

Image by Mariana Antoneag from Pixabay

It had been believed that Rupert Brooke (1887-1915) composed Beauty and Beauty for a male friend, until in 1999 a fascinating discovery was made.

Half a century earlier, a bundle of correspondence was presented to the British Museum library by the sister of Phyllis Gardner, an art student who had a secret love affair with the young poet before World War I. Among the letters, donated on condition that they should not be read for 50 years, was this poem, clearly dedicated to Phyllis.

The romance was short-lived but its electric atmosphere has been forever preserved in these lines of immense charm and drama.

When Beauty and Beauty meet
All naked, fair to fair,
The earth is crying-sweet,
And scattering-bright the air,
Eddying, dizzying, closing round,
With soft and drunken laughter;
Veiling all that may befall

After—after—

Where Beauty and Beauty met,
Earth’s still a-tremble there,
And winds are scented yet,
And memory-soft the air,
Bosoming, folding glints of light,
And shreds of shadowy laughter;
Not the tears that fill the years
After—after—


This poem is in the public domain.

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The Language of Friendship

Friendships… They enrich our life, provide comfort and support, boost our confidence and sense of belonging. And yet a true friendship is not that easy to find, takes a lot of effort to maintain and can be lost forever with one thoughtless word or action.

Image by Alexas Photos from Pixabay

Obviously, there are loads of words related to the topic of friendship. I’ve picked the ones I think you’ll find most useful – I myself use them a lot and so do native speakers.

Friendship is a kind of magic, don’t you think? You meet a lot of different people but you make friends with only a handful (=few) of them.

By the way, friend is also a verb meaning to add someone as your friend on a social networking website (i.e. Facebook).

– He’s got about ten thousand friends on Facebook! How’s that possible?!

– It’s because he friends every single person he meets.

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