Living with a diacritic

No, this is not an article about living with an obscure illness. It’s an article about living with a name no-one can spell correctly. You see, my surname is Měchura and the second letter from the left is adorned with a diacritic called a caron. This diacritic is used a lot in Czech, the language of the Czech Republic, which is where both my name and I are from. It is not used a lot in Ireland, though, which is where both my name and I live now. So we both end up being misspelled a lot. Continue reading

Why we need more linguistics in schools

The art of advertising is, at least to some extent, the art of deception, and language is the tool of that deception. Let me illustrate that with this label I found on the back of a cider bottle I bought recently. It says:

The traditional type of cider press was called a rack & cloth press. This was used to crush the pomace and extract the apple juices. These cider juices were then left to ferment in their own wild yeast.

An ordinary Joe Public will probably think ‘ah that’s nice’ and enjoy his cider in the knowledge that what he’s drinking has been made in the good old traditional way. A linguist, however, will ask: why is this worded in the past tense? Surely, if they did actually make the cider in this way, they would have worded it in the present tense? So what, then, is the purpose of the past tense here? Continue reading