Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Good Gravy! - A Look at Whimsical Interjections

Quite some time ago, we dedicated a post to defining word categories such as nouns, verbs, and adjectives. At the time, we made a brief mention of interjections, words that are used to express emotions or sentiments. You might also know them by the name exclamation, which is much simpler to remember since interjections are generally followed by an exclamation point when written.

No matter how familiar you are with the English language, you undoubtedly know several interjections, such as ugh, pardon, ahem, and oops. However, English and most other languages have hundreds of distinct interjections that express a wide range of emotions or can be used in certain situations. Today we thought we'd look at some of the most whimsical and curious interjections that can be found in the English language. Many of these are slang terms, so if you're a non-native speaker wanting to liven up your speech a bit, make sure you know if they're appropriate for the situation first!

Good gravy! - The vast majority of the time that someone says this, they're not talking about delicious gravy on the dinner table. This exclamation and its cousin, good golly, are both euphemisms for good God, which is generally used to express surprise or anger. Depending on your religious views, you might find the use of "Good God!" to be blasphemous, which is why the euphemism golly appeared on the linguistic scene sometime in the 18th century.

At some point, someone clearly decided that the euphemism golly wasn't far enough removed from religious blasphemy, which led to the popular use of good grief, and more recently, the somewhat ridiculous good gravy. I can't tell you why gravy was singled out for this honor, but it is a good thing to have on the dinner table.

Cheese and rice! - In a similar vein, cheese and rice is a euphemism for Jesus Christ, another interjection of surprise frequently considered to be blasphemous. Supposedly, this similar-sounding yet ridiculous term was chosen when a film was edited to be shown on television in the United States. That said, if you're really not worried about offending anyone, you could always go in the opposite direction and say Christ on a cracker instead... but we wouldn't advise it unless you know your audience well.

A beautiful Swan River Daisy, which is native to Australia.
Whoops-a-daisy! - For most English speakers, the natural interjection that is uttered when they make a mistake is either oops or its precursor, whoops, or perhaps the popular uh-oh. However, if you really want to stand out linguistically, you can always go for the lively whoops-a-daisy. Perhaps the cuteness of the term will even make people be nicer to you despite whatever error you've just made!

Bish bash bosh! / Bada bing bada boom! - Both of these terms can be used when you've completed something quickly or easily. Bish bash bosh is most often heard in the UK, while bada bing bada boom is more popular in the United States. The latter term may have originated from Italian Americans, and is most often said on TV and in films by members of the mafia, so if you're in the U.S. you might be better off sticking to an alternative like voila, from the French term voilà.

Fiddlesticks! - When you need to express your annoyance about something, you can always use this handy term instead of a long list of popular expletives.

Cowabunga, dude! - This term is great for those who want to talk like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or simply need a radical or tubular term to express their surprise or amazement at something. Sadly (or maybe not), it has fallen out of favor since its height in the early 1990s.

Did we leave out your favorite whimsical interjection? Let us know in the comments below, and please include information about where and how it's used!

    Monday, April 27, 2015

    Country Profile: The Languages of Mozambique

    In recent weeks we've looked at the languages of countries in northern and western Africa, namely Morocco and Ghana. Today we're moving on to southeastern Africa to the coastal country of Mozambique.

    The Official Language

    Mozambique has one official language, and that language is Portuguese. Between 1498 and 1975, the area that is now Mozambique was known as Portuguese Mozambique, which was an important Portuguese trading post. When Mozambique gained its independence from Portugal in 1975, it kept Portuguese as its official language, undoubtedly due to its long-term use throughout the country.

    Portuguese is the native language of approximately 50% of the population, and is especially important in the country's largest cities. However, several other languages are spoken throughout Mozambique, albeit in much smaller numbers.

    Ponta do Ouro, a beautiful cape in southern Mozambique.
    Bantu Languages

    While Portuguese may be the most important language in Mozambique, there are approximately 40 other languages spoken throughout the country. The vast majority of these indigenous languages belong to the Bantu language family.

    The most spoken indigenous language in Mozambique is Makhuwa, the language of the Makua people, which boasts over 3 million native speakers. Another prominent Bantu language is Tsonga, which has over 1.7 million native speakers in Mozambique. It is also spoken in the nearby countries of South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Swaziland.

    The Lomwe, Sena, and Tswa languages all have over 1 million native speakers, while the Ronga language has over 700,000 and the Nyanja language has nearly 600,000 speakers. Nyanja is also known by the name Chewa, and is an official language of Malawi. Finally, two other notable Bantu languages are Swahili and Zulu, which are used by small groups in Mozambique.

    Friday, April 24, 2015

    Language Learning: The Importance of a Name

    Can you imagine what life would be like without a name? If you think about it, naming things is an essential part of human life. In large part, language exists and evolves because we are constantly naming new things and concepts in order to more easily communicate with each other.

    Long ago, this naming tradition was applied to newborn babies, which is how we all get stuck with our given names at birth, whether we love them or hate them. It's certainly a handy way to distinguish one person from the hundreds of others we personally know. That said, a name can also provide us with a lot of possible information about someone, such as their place of birth or heritage, their family's religion, or even their parents' musical tastes. (I say "possible" information because you generally wouldn't expect a Mexican child to be named Vladimir or a Christian child to be named Mohammad, but it's certainly possible.) Many people also feel that their names are symbolic of who they are, to the point that some young adults legally change their names when they feel more like a "Katie" than a "Martha".

    Let's name this adorable Russian Blue cat "Andrei".
    So what does all of this have to do with language learning? Well, back when I was in high school, a few of my favorite foreign language teachers made us choose names at the beginning of each school year in hopes that it would help us feel more connected to the cultures that spoke the languages we were learning. 

    For French class, I chose the name Anaïs, which in addition to being a popular name in France, was the name of a kind French girl whose family I had lived with for a few days one summer. While I doubt that writing the name Anaïs on my homework and responding to the name in French class improved my French skills in any significant way, I will say that it did definitely make me feel more "French" sometimes. Having confidence is incredibly helpful when learning a language, so as silly as it seems, I do think that adopting a name relevant to the language you're learning can actually have some benefits.

    That said, I never chose a new name for Spanish class, instead preferring to use my given name, Erica, only pronounced with a Spanish accent. It certainly didn't have the same effect as using Anaïs in French class did, but at the very least it was a small attempt to immerse myself in the culture!

    If you're currently learning a foreign language, consider adopting a foreign name for learning purposes! It certainly can't hurt... perhaps you'll put more effort into your Italian studies if you pretend your name is Francesca, or improve your German pronunciation if you transform into Friedrich. You can even be silly with it - two students in my Spanish class chose the names Taco and Frijoles ("beans"), undoubtedly to the chagrin of our teacher, but both were active participants in class, which is essential when learning a language.

    Have you ever adopted a new name while learning a language or living in another country? Do you feel that it helped you to feel more connected to the culture? Let us know in the comments below.

    Wednesday, April 22, 2015

    Why There's No Such Thing As "Untranslatable"

    A lacuna is also a type of hole, as illustrated
    in this beautiful picture of shells.
    While celebrating the diversity of language is somewhat of a hobby of mine, I am also somewhat irritated by words (often on the internet) that are labelled as "untranslatable". It often seems that most of these untranslatables merely lack a direct linguistic or cultural equivalent, known as a lexical gap or lacuna.

    If you throw "untranslatable" into a search engine, you'll be met with plenty of listicles (a portmanteau of "list" and "article", if you were wondering) designed to provide light reading online, generate ad revenue, and provide you with an opportunity to kill some time. Every one of these will give a number of "untranslatable" words along with a description of what they mean.

    Translation is often so much more nuanced and complicated than throwing out a word-for-word equivalent and, in the case of these articles, an actual translation appears alongside the words that are supposedly untranslatable!

    Depending on your outlook, translation can come in almost any form. You may remember from our "Intro to Translation Studies" posts that scholars Vinay and Darbelnet categorised translation into a number of methods, some of which don't require you to have found an exact equivalent to have translated a term.

    It's also important to consider what you need the translation for. If these "untranslatable" words had appeared in a novel, for example, the translator would probably be unable to provide a dictionary-style definition as has been done in these articles. However, while translating them may be difficult, it would not be impossible for the best translators. Sometimes even the best translators cannot find an equivalent term or phrase, and might have to make use of footnotes to explain the term. However, whether you consider this to be a good or bad translation, the word has technically still been translated.

    With that all said, most of these lists are very fascinating and I enjoy reading them. I just wish they wouldn't call them "untranslatable"!

    What are your favourite hard-to-translate words that don't have a direct equivalent in English? Put them in the comments below and don't forget to provide the translation... if you can!

    Monday, April 20, 2015

    Country Profile: The Languages of Nepal

    A few weeks ago, we looked at some of the many languages spoken in Malaysia. Today, we're back in Asia with a look at the equally impressive linguistic diversity of Nepal, which is home to 120 living languages. 

    The Official Language

    Unsurprisingly, the official language of Nepal is Nepali, a member of the Indo-Aryan language family. Nepali is the native language of approximately half of Nepal's population, and is also an important lingua franca that allows speakers of the country's many regional languages to communicate.

    The Recognized Regional Languages

    While Nepal's constitution recognizes all native languages spoken in the country as "national languages" that can be used for official purposes, there are fourteen languages in particular that are recognized as regional languages.

    Momo, a popular Nepalese dumpling which is
    often eaten at lunchtime with dipping sauces.
    The most spoken languages that fall into this category are Nepali, Maithili, and Bhojpuri. All three are Indo-Aryan languages. There are nearly 4 million speakers of Maithili in Nepal, as well as over 1.5 million Bhojpuri speakers.

    Next on the list is Tharu, which is actually a group of languages spoken by the Tharu indigenous group. There are over 1 million speakers of its various languages. The same can also be said of both Tamang and Gurung, though of course they are spoken by their namesake indigenous groups instead of the Tharu people.

    The final recognized languages are Awadhi, Newar, Magar, Sherpa, Kiranti, Rai, and Limbu. Awadhi, which is also widely spoken in India, is the native language of around 500,000 Nepalis, while Newar and the two major dialects of Magar boast over 700,000 speakers. The Kiranti language family, which includes the languages of the Rai and Limbu groups, are also spoken by several hundred thousand Nepalis. 

    You may have noticed we left the Sherpa language for last - that's because it's particularly interesting. While many English speakers associate the term "sherpa" with mountaineering experts, it is technically the name of an ethnic group! 

    Sherpa is the language of the Sherpa ethnic group that lives high in the Himalayas, and who also happened to be incredibly helpful to the earliest explorers that wanted to climb Mount Everest. Over the years, their name has become a general term for any kind of guide. While many of the guides in the Himalayas today are ethnic Sherpas, some are not, so use of the term isn't technically correct. That said, those who are not do occasionally learn the Sherpa language, presumably to be able to better communicate with their peers.

    Friday, April 17, 2015

    German Loanwords: Part 2

    Today we're concluding our exploration of German loanwords in the English language that we began on Wednesday, which included words like schadenfreude and wanderlust.

    Doppelgänger - Nowadays, people generally use this term to refer to someone who resembles someone else, usually physically. However, the term is also often found in folklore and fiction referring to a physical double of a living person. Creepy!

    Kaput - If something's kaput, it's broken or ruined. It comes from the German word kaputt, which means "destroyed, ruined, lost".

    Rucksack - This German term does the same job as the word "backpack", since Rücken refers to the "back", while sack is obviously "sack".

    Big Mouth Billy Bass is definitely kitsch.  
    Kitsch - This fun German term is generally translated as "gaudy" or "trash", and is used in reference to items that are popular, but considered to be "in poor taste". A couple of examples of kitschy things are plastic pink flamingos and garden gnomes that people like to use as lawn ornaments.

    Verboten - Occasionally, you might hear an English speaker say that something is verboten, which means it is forbidden. It became popular in the English language around 1912.

    Carabiner - These handy metal loops with spring-loaded gates are often used in activities that involve ropes, such as rock climbing, caving, and sailing. The name comes from a shortened form of the word Karabinerhaken, which translates as "carbine hook" (a carbine is a type of firearm).

    Loanword - While the English term loanword does have German origins, it's not actually a loanword! Instead, it's a calque, or "loan translation" of the German word Lehnwort. However, the term calque is a loanword, but from the French language.

    Did we leave out your favorite German loanword in the English language? Let us know in the comments below, and please include a definition!

    Wednesday, April 15, 2015

    German Loanwords: Part 1

    It has been ages since we last looked at some of the most fascinating loanwords in the English language! Way back in September we looked at Persian loanwords, but over the next few days we're shifting our focus to the German language, which is closely related to English due to their common Germanic roots.

    Most of the German words we'll be looking at were first borrowed by the English language in the last 100 years. However, we are skipping over well-known food terms like hamburger and bratwurst, as well as the numerous dog breeds that come from German, including dachshund and schnauzer.

    Blitz - This word is a shortened form of the German word Blitzkrieg, which means "lightning war". The term was originally used to describe a series of quick attacks used by the Nazis during World War II, and eventually became a general term in English for any sudden, overwhelming attack. Around 1959, the term was adopted by American and Canadian football, which use it to refer to a defensive play when numerous players try to disrupt the quarterback.

    An insanely long foosball table in Germany that
    accommodates 11 players on each side!
    Foosball - Some English speakers refer to the game of "table football" or "table soccer" as foosball. Its name is thought to come from Fußball, the German word for the sport.

    Gesundheit - Instead of saying "Bless you!" when someone sneezes, some English speakers prefer to use the German term Gesundheit, which means "health". Some prefer the German term because it doesn't have religious connotations, while others simply think it's much more fun to say.

    Kindergarten - You probably already knew this one: the German word Kindergarten literally means "children's garden" in English. The term was coined by German educator Friedrich Fröbel in 1840, who believe that young children should be nurtured, just like plants. Within about a decade, kindergartens could be found all over the world, including English-speaking countries.

    Poltergeist - It turns out that this German term literally translates as "noisy ghost". If you're not familiar with the term poltergeist, it generally refers to a paranormal being that causes physical disturbances. If your coffee cup has suddenly started levitating or sliding away from you across a table, a poltergeist is the likely culprit... if you believe in the paranormal.

    Schadenfreude - This term couldn't look any more German if it tried. It refers to pleasure derived from the misfortune of others, or as literal translation puts it, "harm joy".

    Wanderlust - We love this German term, probably because we frequently have wanderlust. Its definition is pretty clear... "lust for wandering", or perhaps the more apt "yearning to travel".

    We'll have several more interesting German loanwords for you on Friday!

    Monday, April 13, 2015

    Country Profile: The Languages of Ghana

    After several weeks looking at the languages of countries in South America and Asia, we're back in Africa with a new look at the rich linguistic diversity of Ghana.

    The Official Language

    The official language of Ghana is English. As with other African countries such as Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya, the use of English dates back to Ghana's colonial past under British rule.

    While English is its sole official language, Ghana's government does still recognize several other indigenous languages, and dozens of other languages are spoken throughout the country by small populations.

    Government-Sponsored Languages

    There are eleven languages that have been recognized as "government-sponsored languages" in Ghana. All of these languages belong to the Niger-Congo language family.

    Kintampo waterfalls, Ghana
    One of the most important languages in Ghana is Akan, which is spoken by over 8 million people. Three of Ghana's eleven government-sponsored languages are dialects of Asan which all have distinct orthographies. Asante Twi is spoken by approximately 2.8 million people, Fante is spoken by about 1.9 million, and Akuapem Twi is used by over 500,000 people. There is also a common orthography of the Akan language which is used in primary schools in Ghana.

    Two other closely related languages that are recognized by Ghana's government are Dagaare and Dagbani, which both have around 700,000 speakers. Also on the list is Nzema, which is closely related to Akan and is spoken by over 200,000 Ghanaians.

    The five remaining recognized languages are Ewe, Dangme, Ga, Gonja, and Kasem. Ewe is a tonal language spoken by over 2 million Ghanaians that is also used in Togo. The other four languages have smaller populations, with around 800,000 Dangme speakers, 600,000 Ga speakers, 230,000 Gonja speakers, and 130,000 Kasem speakers within the country.

    Other Languages

    Ghana is home to over 80 languages, so we thought we should look at a few more notable examples. There are over 800,000 speakers of the Farefare language, also known as Frafra, which is spoken in northern Ghana. The Mampruli language, also known as Mamprusi, is also widely spoken in northern Ghana by approximately 200,000 people.

    Finally, we'd like to mention Ghanaian Pidgin English, which is also known as Kru English. This creole is used as a lingua franca in various cities of Ghana, but is primarily used by two distinct groups: multilingual immigrants and male students. Members of this second group use the language as a form of rebellion, since the use of Ghanaian Pidgin English is discouraged in schools, but it is also seen as a mark of solidarity and camaraderie by those who use it. It is spoken by approximately 5 million Ghanaians.

    Friday, April 10, 2015

    Intonation: Music in Language

    After looking at speech tempo on Wednesday, I got distracted reading about intonation, and thought I'd share a bit of information on this wonderful linguistic phenomenon that occurs in spoken language.

    Pitch varies with frequency, much like these waves that represent
    visible light.
    Since spoken language is transmitted by sound, every word you utter has pitch. Intonation is how your speech changes pitch, which is one of the things that makes language so amazingly nuanced. Intonation serves a number of functions in speech, all by doing little more than increasing or decreasing its pitch.

    Intonation helps us to determine whether a statement is interrogative or affirmative (a question or an answer) by noting if intonation rises in pitch or falls. In English, a rising pitch indicates a question and a falling pitch indicates an answer. However, you may notice that if you doubt your own answer to a question, your speech tends to rise regardless.

    San Fernando Valley, California
    A number of English dialects around the world have a feature known as the high rising terminal (HRT) in which pitch rises at the end of the sentence. This is common mainly in a number of Australian and American dialects. This feature of speech has been popularised thanks to the valleyspeak sociolect spoken in southern California's San Fernando Valley, where everyone sounds like they're asking questions constantly.

    It can also be used to place emphasis on certain words or clauses in a sentence. In written language, this is often indicated by the use of italics (in the case of words) and parentheses in the case of clauses.

    Intonation also helps you to remember things. Next time you find yourself repeating your shopping list back to yourself in the aisles, listen to your rising intonation as you name each item. Apparently this is because the items are easier to remember that way. It's also a useful thing to know if you're studying for an exam!

    My favourite function of intonation is undoubtedly the way that it can give your speech emotion. Those listening to you talk can often guess how you're feeling due to the variations in your pitch.

    It is worth noting that intonation does not refer to tone, which is the change in pitch utilised in tonal languages to distinguish between words. I'll have to have a look at that one another day!

    Wednesday, April 8, 2015

    Speech Tempo: What is the World's Fastest Language?

    If you speak a foreign language, at some point you've probably been in that mildly embarrassing situation when you've had to ask somebody to speak either more slowly or more clearly. Then you may have wondered, "why do they speak so fast anyway?"

    From my experience, it seems quite clear that most people (regardless of their mother tongue) believe at least one particular language to be spoken more quickly than their own. I imagine that part of this is due to the fact that when hearing a foreign language (especially when first learning it), your brain is working so hard that you barely have time to keep up, making the language feel really quick with a sensation that you're trying to keep thousands of different plates spinning at the same time.

    How fast you speak a language is known as the speech tempo and, as I suggested, human perception of this phenomenon is largely subjective. However, there are ways to measure speech tempo, including measuring it as a rate of syllables over time, since the length of words varies wildly across languages. This measurement can be taken either with or without considering pauses in speech. It is known as speech rate when counting pauses and articulation rate when ignoring pauses.

    An interesting study on this subject was published a few years ago, which found that the quickly spoken languages (of those studied) tend to contain less information per syllable. However, those spoken more slowly tend to contain more information per syllable. I've put the results into an interactive chart below so you can see for yourself.



    As you can see from the chart, languages with a low information density had a high syllabic rate, and vice versa. Mandarin was shown to contain the most information per syllable (since Vietnamese was a reference) while Japanese contained the least. In terms of speed, Japanese was the quickest and Mandarin the slowest.

    Spanish was the fastest European language and German the slowest. Spanish also had the lowest information density of all European languages, while English had the highest. It seems to be that as humans, we all tend to deliver information at the same speed.

    Which languages do you think sound like they're being spoken the fastest? Do you struggle with the speed of native speakers' speech for any languages you've learnt? Tell us about your experiences with speech tempo in the comments below.

    Monday, April 6, 2015

    Country Profile: The Languages of Venezuela

    A few weeks ago we explored the languages of Peru, and today we're back in South America to learn more about the linguistic diversity of the nearby country of Venezuela. 

    The Official Languages

    It should come as no surprise that Spanish is an official language of Venezuela. It is the primary language used throughout the country in education, business, government, and daily life, and is spoken by the vast majority of its inhabitants. However, Venezuela technically also has many other official languages.

    Venezuela's constitution recognizes Spanish as the country's official language, but also gives official status to the languages of the country's many indigenous groups. There are around 30 such languages in Venezuela, though most comprise less than 1% of the country's total population.

    Indigenous Languages

    Canaima National Park, Venezuela
    The vast majority of Venezuela's indigenous languages belong to the Arawakan and Cariban language families, though some belong to smaller language families. Two of the most spoken indigenous languages in Venezuela are Wayuu and Warao. The Wayuu language is spoken by approximately 200,000 people in Venezuela, and is a member of the Arawakan language family.

    Warao, the language of the indigenous group of the same name, is spoken by nearly 30,000 people in Venezuela. It is a language isolate, which means that it hasn't been connected to any existing linguistic families.

    Immigrant and Foreign Languages

    Venezuela is also home to several small, but significant immigrant populations who speak their native languages. These languages include Arabic, German, Chinese, Italian, Galician, and Portuguese, which is generally spoken due to the country's proximity to Brazil. 

    English is the country's most popular foreign language, and is used throughout Venezuela, especially by those working in business or academic fields.

    Friday, April 3, 2015

    Good Friday and the Language of Easter

    For many Christians around the world, today marks the celebration of Good Friday, the day that marks the crucifixion of Jesus. Throughout human history, religion has been an important part of life for many people, so it is unsurprising that it leaves a lasting mark on language. Today we're looking at a few of the ways Good Friday, Easter, and Christianity have left their marks on the English language.

    Jesus being betrayed, with a kiss from Judas Iscariot.
    Good Friday

    For many English-speaking Christians, naming the day when their lord and saviour died good may seem a bit peculiar. While the meaning of Friday is uncontested, the explanation behind the term good is fairly complicated.

    Some believe that the use of good may refer to the actions of Jesus, rather than some of the other events of the day, meaning that the term is being used in reference to God and holy things instead of its more common everyday usage.

    Etymologically speaking, the good in Good Friday is also thought to have originated from "God's Friday", Gottes Freitag, or from the German Gute Freitag.

    Ostara, the Pagan goddess of spring and fertility.
    Judas Iscariot

    Judas Iscariot was the disciple who betrayed Jesus by delivering him to the Romans in exchange for thirty pieces of silver. Due to his betrayal, his given name, Judas, is sometimes used to refer to a traitor either by referring to them directly as Judas or even as a Judas. This is used across most varieties of English in a very similar way to how Benedict Arnold is used American English. Arnold defected from the American Continental Army to the British Army during the American Revolutionary War.

    Easter

    English differs from other languages in that it doesn't use a term related to the Latin word Pascha to refer to this holiday. The roots of Easter go all the way back to the Proto-Indo-European term aus, which refers to shining. This later become austron in Proto-Germanic from *aust-, referring to the East and the sunrise. This became Eastre or Eostre and then the Old English term Easterdæg before finally becoming Easter. It should be noted that the English term for the Christian holiday actually comes from the name of a pagan god of spring and fertility!

    Wednesday, April 1, 2015

    Book Club: The Language of Food by Dan Jurafsky

    If you're fascinated by language and love food, you might want to consider reading The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu, a recent book by Dan Jurafsky, a professor of linguistics and computer science at Stanford University. In it, he uses computational linguistics to look at things like menus and restaurant reviews to study how language is used in relation to food. The first chapters especially captured my interest and the very first chapter, entitled "How to Read a Menu", discusses the interesting linguistic patterns that can be found in restaurant menus.

    Not a mushroom you'd want to eat.
    If you've ever been to an expensive restaurant, you've probably noticed how their menus tend to feature a shorter than normal list of items that use foreign terms (for example, champignons instead of mushrooms) and long words (such as accompaniments instead of sides) far more often than your "average" restaurant. However, Jurafsky's research delves even deeper into the facts behind the language of menus, discovering that there is even a correlation between the length of the words used to describe a dish and its price!

    Another interesting insight was the fact that mid-range restaurants that fall between "cheap" and "expensive" often use lots of "vague positive descriptors" to try to convince us about the quality of their food. While I had never thought about it before, it is quite odd that such restaurants feel the need to use words like fresh and tasty in their menus. It seems like the natural assumption should be that every restaurant's food is fresh and tasty... why would they sell it otherwise?

    The book shares insights on this question and many other linguistic queries related to food, including the differing uses of the word entrée, which refers to different dishes in American and British English and has been the cause of plenty of linguistic squabbles in the past. I especially appreciated learning how both meanings of the word are technically correct, and merely retain different aspects of the original French term. I'll leave it to you to read the book and learn all of the juicy details.

    Have you read The Language of Food? What did you think of it? Do you have any other language-related book recommendations? Let us know in the comments below.