Are you a neweeter, a tweetaholic or a notweeter?

The English language has evolved from many different dialects and languages, orginally Germanic from the Anglo-Saxons but also taking in Latin, Norse and many others along the way. And it carries on evolving with new words, expressions and slang arriving every day.

Twitter birdOne of the most recent waves of new words has been spawned by the technological revolution, not least the world of Twitter where a whole host of twee words have been born.

So, tweeple, are you a tweeter? Are you guilty of twagiarism or twitterhoea? Perhaps you’ve indulged in a little twisticuffs or twirting? Or have fallen foul of twittiquette?

Or perhaps you are a twitter hater or even just a twitter, meh – whatever… It will be interesting to see whether Twitter has a long-term affect on the language or if it is just a tweet in the pan. What do you think?

If you want to learn more about the language of tweeting – here are a couple of interesting articles from the BBC and Mashable. And don’t forget to follow us!


How to become a noun…

How do you become a noun? Easy – just invent something so utterly fabulous that it is named after you and becomes forever synonomous with your name!

Or you could even just like something a lot. Merely a shadow before unpopular 18th-century French finance minister Etienne Silhouette made known his love of the art of cutting out figures (much cheaper than painting) – the silhouette lives on.

M. Jules Leotard, French trapeze artist, invented and wore with great aplomb the ever-so-flattering one-piece so beloved by aerobics enthusiasts all over the world.

And we all know that the Earl of Sandwich invented the, well, sandwich (or at least, as legend has it, his valet did…) but did you know that “guy” – as in “that guy over there” – originates from the original firestarter, Mr Guy Fawkes? The word became slang for effigies, then for men wearing unusual clothes, and then just for men in general. Though I like the ‘men in unusual clothes’ bit the best.

For more people that became nouns, take a look at this great Slate magazine article. Can you think of any others?


End of the road?

Recent research suggests that hitchhiking has reached the end of the road. The AA/Populus survey has found that the number of drivers unlikely to stop for hitchhikers has risen from 75% to 91% in the last two years, just 1% of drivers have hitched themselves in the last year and only 1% said they were “very likely” to stop for someone thumbing a lift.

When my sister and I were children, my parents would regularly pick up hitchhikers and stick them between us to stop us fighting. How often some poor startled Swede or German would uncomfortably sit between two small silent girls staring at each side of his (occasionally her) head. Worked every time!

But hitchhiking is one of those activities that has its own international sign – the raised thumb! In most countries, this will be enough to indicate a lift is required, although it does vary is some countries. Although nowadays it is usually accompanied by the ubiquitous cardboard sign heralding the final destination.

What universal signs can you think of?


Relax, it's FridaySomebody told me today that Tweeting is at its highest on Friday afternoons – not particularly surprising you might think. It is often a time when people are begining to relax ready for the weekend (although there is always that mad Friday afternoon rush that pops up now and again!).

If you are looking for a minor distraction today, why not take a mentally stimulating diversion at With more quizzes than you can shake a stick at, it’s a fun way to while away a couple of minutes or ten. And for all you wordies there are some great language quizzes – common words, slang words, foreign language words – they’re all there.

Beware though, it could take over your life!

It all ends…

Readers of the blog will be glad to know I have now seen the final episode of the Harry Potter series, which was absolutely amazing and well worth the wait (and the sobs).

Leaving the cinema, I felt slightly bereft – as if a really good friend had moved away. For the millions of Potter fans across the world, the people and places of JK Rowling’s incredible books have become like friends and we have mourned the loss of favourite characters (Dobby!) and celebrated the victories of others.

Like Tolkien before her, JK Rowlings invented many words and names which helped to bring her magical world to life, and some of these have found their way into everyday speech (well, perhaps not every day…). The word ‘muggle’ has even made it into the dictionary (definition: a person who is not conversant with a particular activity or skill). Some of the words and names are completely Rowling’s own, where others come from mythology, Latin (how could a spell be anything else?) or combinations and blends. Take a look at this fantastic blog from the Oxford English Dictionary for a fascinating look at the background of names, spells and places featured.

Right, now time to re-read the books!


Harry Potter fever!

Have you been caught up in Harry Potter fever this week? I have yet to see the final installment (am I the only one?!) but can’t wait. 10 years, 7 books, 8 films. And of course the phenomonen is not just in Harry’s native UK – the books have been officially translated into at least 67 other languages, with a number of unofficial versions also available for those who just couldn’t wait (with varying results…).

The titles of the books and films are often not a direct translation of the English – even in America the “Philosopher’s Stone” was replaced with “Sorceror’s”. And the translators had great fun with the whole “Tom Marvolo Riddle/I am Lord Voldemort” wordplay challenge, not to mention the various other rhymes, acronyms, dialects, jokes, invented words, initials and spellings so vital to the plots.

The books have even been translated into Latin and Ancient Greek – a great way to raise interest in the languages and provide modern reading texts. According to the translator (and Wikipedia!) the Ancient Greek version is the longest text written in Ancient Greek since the novels of Heliodorus of Emesa in the 3rd century AD, and took about a year to complete.

In all versions, the high profile status of the books demanded extremely high quality local translation, with some of the original translations being updated when readers complained. Many of the translators involved were already well known and highly respected.

But what a great job!