Some of you will be Dundonians. There also will be Forfarians among you, and some Arbroathians, and Fifers, and Brechiners. These area-specific titles are demonyms, the word stems from the Ancient Greek word for “people” or “tribe”.
There is a war of words raging across the globe. The opposing forces are, on one side, the entire North American continent, and a battalion of etymology experts at the Oxford University Press (with support from The Oxford English Dictionary). And on the other side . . . me.
More than any other single aspect of the language, I find delight in the nuances of idioms. I’m fascinated by their ability to convey meaning in just a few words, yet if you take what is said literally it is often gibberish. Idioms, of course, are those figures of speech that don’t actually mean what they say. Kick the bucket (for death), lose face (a reputation drop), paint the town red (celebrate). English is full of them.
It is often claimed that there is no such thing as a true synonym. Many dictionaries’ definitions of “synonym” are along the lines of (I give the Collins version): “A word that means the same, or nearly the same, as another word. Such as bucket and pail”.
Litotes - it's not bad, is it. English speakers love litotes. We use this figure of speech all the time. Indeed litotes could be described not just as a defining feature of the language, but an example of a mode of behaviour that is common to virtually every person who resides upon these isles.
Despite the plangent clamour that passes as Brexit debate, I am slightly surprised to find myself a little in love with one of the terms widely circulated in these past few weeks. I think the term “Team UK” is a very interesting construct.
I was nine years old and watching television with all of my family, as families used to do. I didn’t hear the question my brother asked, but heard my mother’s reply. She pointed at the screen and said: “He’s jimmied your auntie”.
This will separate the young from the more seasoned among Courier readers. The question is: can you name the nine parts of speech? For some of us, that question evokes memories of schooldays. For whippersnappers, it is often met merely with an inability to understand the question.
Scotland’s rugby fifteen play England this afternoon. They will have a disadvantage before they start. Prior to kick-off, the dirge Flower Of Scotland will be played.
I freely admit some of what I’m about to claim is biased, or even just my imagination.