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It's all Greek to me: How to learn a foreign language

Q. What is the best way to learn a language A. For those of you who had to learn and be able to recite Latin or Greek irregular verbs by rote - while knowing that there would probably never be a01:00 Mon 24th Sep 2001


Q. What does eisteddfod mean A. Literally a 'session' from the Welsh verb eistedd, meaning 'to sit'. The idea is that both audience and artist sit throughout the performance. The proper Welsh plural01:00 Mon 24th Sep 2001

Ian Brady

Q. Why all the fuss over Ian Brady's new book A. Moors murderer Ian Brady is to publish a book this November. Publisher Feral Press of Los Angeles will be printing around 8,000 copies of the 320-page01:00 Mon 17th Sep 2001

Taking a ride to Tyburn: The Tyburn Tree

Q. What was the Tyburn Tree A. The 'tree' was the gallows at Tyburn, London. So 'to take a ride to Tyburn' was to go to one's hanging or, by inference, to one's death. In its heyday, Tyburn was the01:00 Mon 17th Sep 2001

Sweet FA

Q. Sweet what A. The full phrase is 'Sweet Fanny Adams', shortened to 'Sweet FA' or 'SFA', and it means 'nothing at all' in the sense that 'I got Sweet FA for my trouble.' Q. Why Fanny Adams A.01:00 Mon 17th Sep 2001

At the end of the day, Barry: Football-balls

Q. Is it a game of two halves A. Not half. The football clich has become part of everyday speech, with 'sick as a parrot', 'over the moon' and 'the lads done well' becoming intrinsic - to greater01:00 Mon 17th Sep 2001

English quirks

Q. Is English an odd language A. English is not in itself any odder a language than any other, though it is not a regular language in the way that Malay is. The spelling system, however, is one of01:00 Mon 10th Sep 2001

East is east...

Q. ...and west is west A. And never the twain shall meet. Not strictly true, at least not since the earth ceased to be flat. Go far enough westwards and you'll arrive back at your starting point01:00 Mon 10th Sep 2001

Blue is the colour

Q. Why do we get 'the blues' A. A fit of the blues or feeling blue, meaning that one depressed or in low spirits, is short for Blue Devils. Q. Why blue A. Studies have shown that workers in the01:00 Mon 10th Sep 2001

Blue Moon

Q. Once in a blue moon A. The phrase means 'very rarely', and it is derives from those extremely rare occasions that the moon actually does appear to be blue. Q. What makes the moon blue A. The01:00 Mon 03rd Sep 2001

Linguistic isolates

Q. What are linguistic isolates A. Literally, languages that have no recognised family relationship to any other living or known historical language. Q. As distinct from A. Most languages belong01:00 Mon 03rd Sep 2001

Why are bank holidays called bank holidays

Q. Why 'bank' holidays A. It's as obvious as it sounds. Bank holidays are days - literally - on which banks may close for business. Q. Why 'bank' and not 'fishmonger' then, if fishmongers are also01:00 Mon 03rd Sep 2001

Tell me about it: What is oral history

Q. What is oral history A. It is a method of gathering and preserving historical information through recorded interviews with participants in past events and disappearing ways of life. It is both01:00 Mon 27th Aug 2001

What is a thesaurus

Q. What is a thesaurus A. A thesaurus is useful for many things. It is a book of synonyms and antonyms, a dictionary of alternative expressions and a treasury of linguistic equivalents. In short, a01:00 Mon 27th Aug 2001

The Cornish language

Q. Ny gonvedhaf Kernewek. Do you A. Probably not, unless you're one of the few people who have taken it upon themselves to revive the ancient - though now officially 'dead' - Celtic language of01:00 Mon 27th Aug 2001

Over the moon: Sport speak

Q. Is what A. Love it or hate it, sport, and the way it affects the language that we speak, seems impossible to avoid. So lets 'get off the blocks' and see how many we can 'knock out'. Q. Speaking01:00 Mon 20th Aug 2001

Dish me the dirt on Polari

Q. What is Polari A. Polari (or Palarie) was a gay slang, almost an alternative language, and is best described as a mish-mash of expressions and words from many sources thrown together to make an01:00 Mon 20th Aug 2001

Plates of meat: How we use carnivorous dishes and fish in sayings

Q. Where's the beef A. Taken from a 1984 Wendy hamburgers advert, 'where's the beef ' now means 'cut the waffle and get to the meat of what you're trying to say'. In the ad an old lady bought a01:00 Mon 20th Aug 2001

Spin Doctors

Q. When did politicians' advisers start being referred to as 'spin doctors' A. The tag was first used in The New York Times in 1984, during President Reagan's campaign for a second term in office. 01:00 Mon 13th Aug 2001

The Snail and Roquet (with parmesan shavings): What happened to proper pub names

Q. The Horseshoe or Shoe's Bar A. Breweries are calling time on ancient pub names and are being accused of destroying Britain's cultural heritage. There is a growing fashion for rebranding pubs with01:00 Mon 13th Aug 2001

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