Tag Archives: Usage

Sassenach

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.

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

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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 -a

First Latin scholar: Crispin, I have some fresh lime. Would you decline a tequila?Second Latin scholar: Certainly. Tequil-a, tequil-am, tequil-ae, tequil-ae, tequil-ā. Tequil-ae, tequil-ās, tequil-ārum, tequil-īs, tequil-īs. That’s a very old joke, referring to Latin first-declension feminine nouns. (My, what a laugh we used to have at the expense of those poor Classics students.) But … Continue reading Latin Plurals: Nouns Ending In -a

Bogus

ˈbəʊɡəs bogus (noun): a press for producing counterfeit coins; a counterfeit coinbogus (adjective): not real, counterfeit, existing in order to deceivebogus (adjective, 21st Century): bad, wrong, inappropriate  Bogus is a potentially expensive word. Back in 2008, the science writer Simon Singh wrote an opinion piece for The Guardian newspaper, entitled “Beware The Spinal Trap“, in … Continue reading Bogus