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Posted in August 2017

Troublesome words 6 Posted on 9 August 2017 by James Cowan in Troublesome words

A pair of non-interchangeable words that are sometimes in fact interchanged anyway, is "hung" and "hanged". "Hanged" is used almost exclusively to refer to a method of killing, usually following a judicial process. It is an instance of "passive voice", meaning that the process was or will be carried out on the person by someone else, generally unspecified. Thus "I sentence you to hang" or "to be hanged", and "Dick Turpin was hanged". "Hung" on the other hand, rarely involves ... Read more

Poor old Coventry Posted on 19 August 2017 by James Cowan in English language

I recently had the experience of trying to explain being "sent to Coventry" to my daughter, and was almost immediately out of my depth. I simply had no idea whence it came. I knew that during the Wars of the Roses, which was a to-and-fro between two major houses with pretensions to the English throne in the back half of the 1400s, culminating in the accession of the Tudors to the throne in 1485, every time Coventry was threatened or ... Read more

Learning English Posted on 29 August 2017 by James Cowan in English language

I recently proofread some work created by a native speaker of a language which was not English. I am sure I could not have done as well as he did in a foreign language (least of all his – I have tried), and I found only a few errors (far fewer than I usually find in English-first-language writers' work!). But it set me to thinking about the differences between English and a number of other European languages. The main one relates ... Read more

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