Tag Archives: english


Ghoti can either be silent or pronounced like “fish” or “goatee”, ghoti is an amalgam of parts of other English words, where gh from enough, o from women (plural) and ti from nation are combined to spell the word fish. Ghoti is one example of weirdness in English pronunciation which has been used to promote spelling reform in the English language. Silent ghoti uses gh from though, o from people, t from ballet, and i from business.

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From the Archives: Lacuna (Matata) (August 24)

A lacuna is the untranslatability of a word from a given language to another, or the accidental absence of a word that is allowed by that languages grammatical rules. In the case of accidental absence, you can turn some verbs in English (recite, arrive, etc.) into nouns by dropping the “e” and adding “al” (recital, arrival). However, describe does not have it’s noun form (describal). Similarly, in English, there is no gender neutral form of “uncle” or “aunt”, and there are no male or female forms of “cousin”. In the case of untranslatability a concept that has a word in one language might not have a word in another. For example, English has no word for someone who is not a virgin (specifically no noun), Romanian has no word for shallow (as in shallow water) and Welsh has no word for 11 (really it’s something like tenty one, but that’s two words so it doesn’t count). Untranslatability is overcome by borrowing words from other languages, creating new words, or translating into a phrase in order to convey that missing concept.

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A demonym is a word, typically (but not always) a noun, used to describe where people are from. For instance, people from Canada are Canadian, people from England are English, people from China are Chinese, people from Peru are Peruvian, people from Moscow are Muscovites, people from Iceland are Icelanders, and so on. Those were all typical demonyms, made from slightly changing the name of the place of origin. Other demonyms are stranger and possibly less clear. For instance, New Zealanders are sometimes referred to as Kiwis, people from the Netherlands are Dutch, people from Sweden are Swedes, people from the Isle of Man are Manx and people from Indiana are Hoosiers. Science fiction writers have taken the liberty of making demonyms for people (or aliens) from other parts of the solar system. Jupiter is Jovian, Venus is Venusian, Mars is Martian. People from Earth have several demonyms, including Earthling, Terran, Tellurian, Earther or Earthican. Finally, some demonyms can cause cultural problems. For instance, people from North Korea and people from South Korea are both Koreans, people from Niger are Nigerien while people from Nigeria are Nigerian, and people from the Greek island of Lesbos are Lesbians.

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