Tag Archives: Usage

Alan S.C. Ross: Linguistic Class Indicators In The Present Day (1954)

It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman despise him. George Bernard Shaw, introduction to Pygmalion (1913) Alan Ross was Professor of Linguistics at Birmingham University when he published this paper in Neuphilologische Mitteilungen, the journal of the Modern Language Society of Helsinki, although The Dictionary of National … Continue reading Alan S.C. Ross: Linguistic Class Indicators In The Present Day (1954)


I must have gone for years without hearing or reading this word until the advent of the improbable television series “Outlander” in 2014 (based on Diana Gabaldon’s novels), which brought the word to the attention of (apparently) the entire English-speaking world, if not beyond. The first season of the series introduced a time-travelling twentieth-century nurse to Gaelic-speaking eighteenth-century Highland Scots, who call her a “Sassenach”. At which point, people started talking nonsense about the word on the Internet. So no change there.


The [Saharan] dust particles provide nuclei for the formation of ice crystals in clouds above the rain forest and so help to enhance or maintain precipitation over the Amazon rain forests. Equally important, trace elements within the dust such as nitrates, phosphorous [sic], and potassium are a major source of plant nutrients. Martin Williams, When … Continue reading Phosphorus

Hillwalkers’ Gaelic: Part 2

Last time, I introduced the concept of “Hillwalkers’ Gaelic”, which I abbreviated “HG” to distinguish it from Scottish Gaelic (“SG”). I did so in the context of a comic poem entitled “The Climber’s Guide to the Pronunciation of the Gaelic Tongue“, which appeared in the Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal of 1897, probably written by the … Continue reading Hillwalkers’ Gaelic: Part 2

Hillwalkers’ Gaelic: Part 1

The pronunciation of Gaelic hill names is fraught with difficulty for the non-Gael. One problem is the striking way in which some consonants are not pronounced at all. This is the Gaelic phenomenon of lenition, in which the addition of an “h” to a consonant changes and softens its pronunciation. Some lenited consonants, particularly “dh” … Continue reading Hillwalkers’ Gaelic: Part 1

Latin Plurals: Nouns Ending In -um

  DESIDERATA Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Those are the opening lines of Desiderata, by Max Ehrmann, originally written in 1927. The text has a rather complicated history of publication, and … Continue reading Latin Plurals: Nouns Ending In -um