November 26, 2007
by Graham
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Beijing vs Peking

A letter in the Independent newspaper last week (Wednesday 21 November), from Shirin Tata of London, explained the spelling and pronunciation of Peking as ‘a close approximation to the Cantonese name for the city (“puck-ing” with a hard “p”)’. This … Continue reading

November 12, 2007
by Graham
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Dictionary writers

Samuel Johnson famously defined a lexicographer as “a harmless drudge”, and there were a few other semi-humorous comments in his dictionary, including the non-definition of ‘trolmydames’: “Of this word I know not the meaning”. Chambers (or, as it used to … Continue reading

November 4, 2007
by Graham
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The Really Terrible Orchestra

Yesterday evening, the Really Terrible Orchestra, founded in Edinburgh by Alexander McCall Smith and his wife, gave a concert in London, and, according to the press reports, received a standing ovation at the end. How often are children told that … Continue reading