Mar 3

Latin Roots 5: "Seco, secare, secui, sectum" - to cut

The Latin root seco has provided English with numerous derived forms. This section of the blog will show how words in different languages intersect and will show how words so seemingly far apart as sex, insect and segment are all, in fact, derived forms of the Latin verb secare: to cut.

Confusion abounds with this root, though, as many seemingly related words, such as sect and...

Feb 20

Consonant Clusters 19: "Pl-" Advanced

Although the pl- cluster is used in hundreds of different English words and thus has many different meanings as a cluster, one of its common elements is describing thickness. The pl- cluster often denotes layered and deliberate design, usually regarding two dimensional space.

The prime origin of this is the Proto-Indo-European root *plek- "to plait, twist". Ploughmen plough thick furrows into...

Feb 15

English Surnames: 1. Thatcher

English surnames started to become widespread from the 11th century onwards. They generally come from one of four broad categories.

First, there are the names that are simply "son of". These include some of the most common surnames: Jones (son of John), Johnson, Williams, Wilson, Williamson, Thomas, Thompson, Davies and Davis.

Then there are the surnames derived from a nickname, such as Whitehead, Short and Beck (from beak, for a person with a big nose).

A third group...

Jan 19

Consonant Clusters 18: "Sw-" Advanced

The consonant cluster sw- swings and swishes, swivelling around and about.

From swanky swashbucklers strutting their stuff to snake-hipped swaggerers from the swinging sixties, this cluster often shows rotary motion.

Swiping, swishing, swooping and swirling, there...

Nov 30

Latin Roots 4 (Advanced) Teneo, tenere, tenui, tentum - To hold

The Latin verb teneo means hold or have. From this root, Latin derived a multiplicity of other forms, which spread into Romance languages and via Latin and French into English.

Teneo is an ancient root which can be traced back to Proto-Indo-European *ten meaning pull or stretch. This meant that many languages had words derived from *ten even before Latin influenced their lexicons.

For example, Ancient Greek had ...

Oct 20

Consonant Clusters 15 "Scr-" /skr/ (Advanced)


While the cluster sc-/ sk- deals with the extension of two dimensional space, the related cluster scr- basically combines two dimensional space with one dimensional movement.

Movements are made on a surface. Surfaces can be scratched or scribbled on, but the marks that are left will be superficial...

Oct 10

Consonant Clusters 16: "Sk-/Sc-" (Advanced)

The sound /sk/ can be written both as sk- or sc- in English, but both spellings often convey the same idea of extending something that is flat or two-dimensional.

If you think of skirts and scarves, they are basically flat pieces of cloth which have been stretched out to form items of clothing. When kids sketch the sky, it is usually with extended horizontal...

Sep 29

Bitransitive Verbs (Upper-intermediate)

A transitive verb is a verb which requires a direct object.

The sentence below would not be complete without the direct object:

John chose another slice of cake.(subject) (verb) (direct object)  

Some verbs are intransitive, that is, they don't require a direct object:

Prices are rising. (subject) (verb)  

Often verbs can be both transitive and intransitive:

Alun smokes too much. (Here smokes is intransitive because we don't state what he...

Sep 16

Consonant Clusters 15: "Sl-"

Consonant Clusters 15: "Sl-"   (Advanced)

The consonant cluster sl- has two major themes.

One refers to "where solid meets liquid". At this interface, things start to slide, conditions get slippery and snow turns to slush. On slippery snow and ice, the transport needs to slide too. Hence, sleds, sledges and sleighs all have smooth runners...

Sep 8

The French and the Dutch: Our Popular Neighbours! (Advanced)

The French and the Dutch: Our Popular Neighbours!

Neighbours inspire rivalry and jealousy. Although we hear that "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence", historically, (and some would argue, even today), the English have tended to disparage their neighbours. This has meant that the English language has acquired a number of less than complimentary...