Archive for the ‘Interesting And Historical Facts About The English Language’ Category

Practise Your English. Read This Article. Why Do We Put The Clocks Forward One Hour For British Summer Time?

Spring Forward: 100 years of British Summer Time

British Summer Time

Read through this interesting article and see if there is any new vocabulary for you.

The Shepherd Gate ClockThe Royal Observatory’s public clock, the Shepherd Gate Clock, set permanently to Greenwich Mean Time ©NMM. Repro ID: D56012007 marked 100 years since British Summer Time was first proposed by William Willett. Changing the clocks for summer time is now an annual ritual in Britain and countries around the world. But why change the clocks, which way should they go, and whose idea was it in the first place?

William Willett saves the daylight, 1907–15

Bridle path through Petts WoodBridle path through Petts Wood ©NMM. Repro ID: F6423-039The idea of British Summer Time (BST), also known as Daylight Saving Time, was first proposed in Britain by a keen horse-rider, William Willett, who was incensed at the ‘waste’ of useful daylight first thing in the morning, during summer. Though the sun had been up for hours during his rides through the local woods in Chislehurst and Petts Wood, people were still asleep in bed.

Willett was not the first to propose such a scheme; in 1895 an entomologist in New Zealand, George Vernon Hudson, presented a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society outlining a daylight saving scheme which was eventually trialled successfully in New Zealand in 1927.

In 1907 Willett published a pamphlet called The Waste of Daylight, outlining plans to encourage people out of bed earlier in summer by changing the time on the nation’s clocks. He spent the rest of his life fighting to get acceptance of his time-shifting scheme. He died in 1915 with the Government still refusing to back BST. But the following year, Germany introduced the system. Britain followed in May 1916, and we have been ‘changing the clocks’ ever since.

The first day of Summer Time, 1916

Home Office poster announcing restoration of Greenwich TimeHome Office poster announcing restoration of Greenwich Time, 1916 ©Private collectionBritain first adopted William Willett’s Daylight Saving Time scheme in 1916, a few weeks after Germany. For years, the British Government had refused to introduce Daylight Saving Time, but by then, Britain and Germany were fighting each other in the First World War (1914-18), and any system that could save fuel and money was worth trying. The Summer Time Act of 1916 was quickly passed by Parliament and the first day of British Summer Time, 21 May 1916, was widely reported in the press.

Clocks and watches were very different from those we use today. Many clocks could not have their hands turned backwards without breaking the mechanism. Instead, owners had to put the clock forward by 11 hours when Summer Time came to an end. The Home Office put out special posters telling people how to reset their clocks to GMT, and national newspapers also gave advice.

Changing times, 1918–39

The Willett memorial in Petts WoodThe Willett memorial in Petts Wood ©NMM. Repro ID: F6423-060William Willett, the tireless champion of the Summer Time scheme, died in 1915. By the 1920s, however, he was becoming a posthumous hero, as more and more people backed his daylight-saving plan. Public money was raised to buy and preserve Petts Wood. This was partly to act as a living memorial to Willett, but mostly as local residents wanted to prevent building development encroaching on their green spaces. A sundial – keeping British Summer Time, not Greenwich Mean Time – was erected there in a clearing.

Willett had become an icon of daylight. A portrait was painted; a bronze bust was sculpted; a pub was named in his memory, and in 1931 a wax figure was unveiled at Madame Tussaud’s in London. But not everybody had come round to Willett’s way of thinking: over the subsequent years, dissenting voices were heard.

Permanent summer, 1968–71

In 1968, the clocks went forward as usual in March, but in the autumn, they did not return to Greenwich Mean Time. Britain had entered a three-year experiment, confusingly called British Standard Time, and stayed one hour ahead of Greenwich until 1971.

This was not the first experiment to shift the clocks in winter. In the Second World War (1939-45), Britain had adopted Double British Summer Time, with the clocks one hour ahead of Greenwich in winter and two hours ahead in summer.

When the British Standard Time experiment ended, the Home Office carried out an exhaustive review to find out whether it had been successful. The answer was both yes and no. There were ‘pros and cons’ to having the clocks forward and, on balance, the Government decided to return to the original British Summer Time.

A century of saving daylight, 1907–2007

The Waste of Daylight by William WillettWithin a few years of its introduction, most countries reasonably north or south of the equator had adopted Daylight Saving Time. But it has been controversial since the day it was first proposed.

After a century of daylight saving, we still cannot agree on whether it is a good thing or not. When proposals to extend the system are occasionally made in Parliament, protest soon comes from those affected by its disadvantages. Daylight Saving Time tries to treat a complex network of symptoms with one solution. But not everybody sees it as a cure. So the debate continues.

When I was young I always wondered why the clocks went forward and back every year and what was the history behind it.

Don’t forget the clocks go forward this Sunday !

Good luck with your English language learning.


Ok english

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English Words with Multiple Applications Part 1 – ‘Up’

Polysemy comes from Neo-Latin polysemia, which comes from Greek polusemous [poly- (many) + sema (sign)] giving us a linguistic term, “having many meanings” or multiple meanings. We also have polyseme (singular) [puh LIS uh mee], and polysemes (plural) [puh LIS uh meez].

The words polysemy [puh LIS uh mee or PAWL i see” mee] and polysemous [puh LIS uh muhs or pawl” ee SEE muhs] are defined as “having or characterized by many meanings; the existence of several meanings for a single word or phrase”.

As said earlier, these terms refer to “words” or other “items of language with two or more senses”; for example, “walk” as in “The child started to walk” and “They live at 500 High Walk”. Such senses may be more or less distant from one another: walk, “action”, walk, “street” are relatively close, but crane, “bird” and crane, “machine” are much further apart.

It is generally agreed that in each case only one word is being discussed, not two that happen to have the same form; to which the name homonym is given.

Senses of the same word are seldom ambiguous in context, but the less specific the context, the greater the possibility of ambiguity; for example, if someone who is looking at a picture says “What big cranes!”, it may not be immediately clear to anyone who can not see the picture whether the comment refers to birds or machines.

Polysemy and homonymy

There is an extensive doubtful area between the concepts of polysemy and homonymy. A word like “walk” is polysemous (went walking, went for a walk, walk the dog, Hill Walk Drive), while a word like “bank” is homonymous between at least “bank” for money and the “bank” of a river.

The coexistence of several meanings in one word, which is extremely common, as stated earlier, is called polysemy. Some words develop a whole family of meanings, each new meaning often forming yet another starting point for more definitions.

If in a good dictionary you were to look up such words as “natural, good, loose, free”, and “real”; you would be surprised at the number of meanings listed.

Being able to distinguish between polysemy words and homonym words is not easy

Dictionaries treat cases of multiple meanings either as polysemy or as homonymy, but in fact it is not always easy to decide which one we are dealing with, and dictionaries sometimes differ in their decisions.

Are “table” (furniture) and “table” (arrangement of data) two different words, or the same word with two meanings? Dictionaries usually go for the latter solution, on the grounds of a shared etymology.

On the other hand, “a pupil” (in school) and the “pupil” (of the eye) are usually listed as different words; although in fact they have the same historical origin.

Would you identify the following variations in the meanings of “up” as polysemy or homonymy?

There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other English two-letter word, and it is “up“.

It’s easy to understand up, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake up?

At a meeting, why does a topic come up? Why do we speak up and why are the officers up for election and why is it up to the secretary to write up a report?

We call up our friends and we use it to brighten up a room, polish up the silver, and we warm up the leftovers and clean up the kitchen. We lock up the house and some guys fix up the old car.

At other times the little word has real special meaning. People stir up trouble, line up for tickets, work up an appetite, and think up excuses.

To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed up is extra special. Another use of up is confusing as a drain must be opened up because it is stopped up.

We open up a store in the morning but we close it up at night. Do you have the impression that we seem to be pretty mixed up about up?

To be knowledgeable of the proper uses of up, look up the word in the dictionary. In a desk size dictionary, the word up, takes up almost 1/4th the page and definitions add up to about thirty.

If you are up to it, you might try building up a list of the many ways up is used. It will take up a lot of your time, but if you don’t give up, you may wind up with a hundred or more.

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding up. When the sun comes out we say it is clearing up. When it rains, it wets up the earth. When it doesn’t rain for awhile, things dry up; as a result, they can even heat up. According to some British speakers and writers, things can even “hot up”.

We could go on and on, but I’ll wrap it up, because now my time is up; so, I’ll shut up.

Ok thanks for your attention, this as the titles says is part 1, more on words with multiple meanings in future blogs. In the mean time can you think of anymore? Feel free to leave a comment on my blog. If you are UP for it ! :-)

Good luck with your English language learning.


Ok English

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10 Most Conflicting Proverbs in the English Language.

1. Actions speak louder than words .The pen is mightier than the sword. A silent man is a wise one. A man without words is a man without thoughts.

2. Knowledge is power. Ignorance is bliss.

3. Look before you leap. He who hesitates is lost. Cross your bridges when you come to them. Forewarned is forearmed.

4. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Better safe than sorry.

5. Two heads are better than one. If you want something done right, do it yourself.

6. Many hands make light work. Too many cooks spoil the broth.

7. Great minds think alike. Fools seldom differ.

8. Birds of a feather flock together. Opposites attract.

9. The bigger, the better. The best things come in small packages.

10. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Out of sight, out of mind.

Do you know any more ?

Good luck with your English language learning.


Ok English

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Why English pronunciation is so difficult, or is it? Is it all just so contradictory??

1) The bandage was wound around the wound. 2) The farm was used to produce produce. 3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse. 4) We must polish the Polish furniture. 5) He could lead if he would get the lead out. 6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert. 7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present. 8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum. 9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes. 10) I did not object to the object. 11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid. 12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row. 13) They were too close to the door to close it. 14) The buck does funny things when the does are present. 15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line. 16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow. 17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail. 18) After a number of injections my jaw got number. 19) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear. 20) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests. 21) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple.

English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candles while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat.

Quicksand works slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig. And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham?

If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth beeth? One goose, two geese. So – one moose, two meese? Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend. If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it? Is it an odd, or an end?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? In what language do people recite a play and play a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship?

Have noses that run and feet that smell? How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are the opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out, and in which an alarm is going off by going on. English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all.

That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

This blog is just for fun, however it truly highlights the diversity and complexity of the frustratingly, contradictory, and almost absurdity of the English language. :-)

Good luck with your English language learning.


Ok English

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A Brief History Of The English Language

English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria. Following the extensive influence of Great Britain and the United Kingdom from the 18th century, via the British Empire, and of the United States since the mid-20th century, it has been widely dispersed around the world, becoming the leading language of international discourse and the lingua franca in many regions.It is widely learned as a second language and used as an official language of the European Union and many Commonwealth countries, as well as in many world organisations. It is the third most natively spoken language in the world, after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish.[12] It is the most widely spoken language across the world.

Historically, English originated from the fusion of languages and dialects, now collectively termed Old English, which were brought to the eastern coast of Great Britain by Germanic (Anglo-Saxon) settlers by the 5th century – with the word English being derived from the name of the Angles, and ultimately from their ancestral region of Angeln (in what is now Schleswig-Holstein). A significant number of English words are constructed based on roots from Latin, because Latin in some form was the lingua franca of the Christian Church and of European intellectual life. The language was further influenced by the Old Norse language due to Viking invasions in the 8th and 9th centuries.

The Norman conquest of England in the 11th century gave rise to heavy borrowings from Norman-French, and vocabulary and spelling conventions began to give the superficial appearance of a close relationship with Romance languages to what had now become Middle English. The Great Vowel Shift that began in the south of England in the 15th century is one of the historical events that mark the emergence of Modern English from Middle English.

Owing to the assimilation of words from many other languages throughout history, modern English contains a very large vocabulary. Modern English has not only assimilated words from other European languages but also from all over the world, including words of Hindi and African origin. The Oxford English Dictionary lists over 250,000 distinct words, not including many technical, scientific, or slang terms

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