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The diaeresis

30 Apr

Diaeresis

The diaeresis, or a black bear with pink eye looking in your window at night.

Remember that time I had a blog? Ah, good times. Well, get ready, because BLAM – here’s my return to that very same blog!

And this post is about the diaeresis – AKA the thing that looks like this: ¨. In English, it’s most commonly seen in the word naïve (when properly written), and in names, such as Brontë, as in the Brontë sisters. It has a Greek background and means “to divide”.

Basically, the diaeresis is used to indicate that the adjoining letters should be pronounced as two separate sounds. Naïve is the best example, as it shows how the two vowels are used as two syllables.

Fun fact 1: Diaeresis is pronounced “die heiresses”.

Fun fact 2: The New Yorker still uses the diaeresis on the words coöperate and reënter. The alternatives are, of course, to go without (cooperate, reelect) or to hyphenate (co-operate, re-elect), but decades ago they chose the diaeresis, and goddamn it, they’re sticking with it.

Fun fact 3: It’s really hard to write naïve without Microsoft Word changing it to naive. You can make it by pressing the option key + U on a Mac. I’m not sure about PCs though. Frankly, just buy a Mac.

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Quixotic

29 Dec

2012 resolutionsIt’s nearly New Year’s Eve! It’s time to come up with a list of things you swear you’ll achieve in 2012! Like “Subscribe to Literate Chicken’s blog/tell everyone about it!” and “Buy Literate Chicken a decent poultry-themed joke book” – you know, that sort of thing.

Anyway, before the new year rolls around, it’s time to learn one last word for 2011. Someone recently asked me the definition of this word, but I didn’t know the answer. “To the internet!” I cried (in my head, because I’m not completely obnoxious all the time).

That word, ladles and jellyspoons, was quixotic. And it turns out, according to Merriam-Webster, that it means:

foolishly impractical, especially in the pursuit of ideals; especially marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action.

(Interesting fact: my friend pronounced it “quicks-otic”. I thought she may have been wrong, but it turns out that’s how you’re supposed to say it. Huh.)

SO, neatly linking my introduction with this definition, I would just like to warn you against making any quixotic resolutions this new year. Sure, foolishly impractical and lofty aims are a great idea, but when it’s 31 December 2012 and you realise you never did lose that 20kg, run a marathon or start a vegie co-op with your neighbours you’ll just feel bad about yourself.

It’s probably best to just stick to the classics.

Oeuvre

24 Feb

With far too many vowels in a seemingly random order, ouevre is a head-scratcher when it comes to pronunciation. It seems French, kind of… so is there some secret French way to say it?

Well, I don’t know about that, but I can tell you the way it’s pronounced in good old Anglais: erv-ra.

And it means: the body of work of a painter, composer, or author.

Bonus fact: have you noticed that oeuvre makes up part of hors d’oeuvre? According to the most trusted of sources (Wikipedia), this is because hors d’oeuvre means “apart from the main work”. How about that.

Ralph Lauren

1 Feb

When I go shopping, I like to know how to pronouce the name of the shop I’m giving my money to. Luckily Kmart, Target, IGA and Liqourland are all pretty straightforward.

But should I ever have the need to purchase some overpriced polo-themed wankery, I’ll head to Ralph Lauren. This raises a question, however: is it Ralph Law-ren, or Ralph Low-ren?

To save us all future embarrassment, learn it now: the second word is pronounced like the girl’s name, as in ‘Ralph Lauren Bacall’. Think of this picture whenever you need to namedrop the makers of your latest overpriced t-shirt; no need to thank me.

Ralph Lauren Bacall

Nice tat, love.