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Peter Trudgill

How it could have been MacGregor’s, not Grieg's, piano concerto

Edvard Grieg may have been Norway’s greatest classical composer, but he actually inherited his name from his Scottish forebears

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Language tied up in knots

People may assume that the word ‘cravat’ comes from French, but its ultimate linguistic origin is much more complicated

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Bohemian rhapsodies

Why the ‘father of Czech classical music’ switched from a German Friedrich to a Czech Bedrich

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A question of emphasis

A meeting with Kim Cattrall conjures up thoughts of Anne Boleyn, and a shift in stress in the syllables of their surnames

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Playing havoc with tenses

Are devastation and destruction wreaked or wrought? And why did the word havoc change from ‘havot’ in the first place?

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The ballad of a refugee poet

Norwich’s literary legacy is a surprising one – both Meir of England and Jan Cruso were important poets from the city but neither wrote in English

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Italy’s Austrian national hero

Italian tennis star Jannik Sinner’s home region of South Tyrol is still largely German-speaking despite being in Italy for over 100 years

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How my mum lighted the way

A look at eight decades’ worth of a parent’s diaries shows how our use of language has changed in unexpected ways

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The law of possession

How we say and write the name of Newcastle United’s home ground is a lesson for those who worry about apostrophes

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The talk of a land of unrest

Sadly, the main four branches of the Iranian language are synonymous with areas currently involved in political and ethnic conflicts

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Roots of the two Dylans

Both Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas had interesting linguistic backgrounds, which may have contributed to their creativity with words

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The origins of your Burns Night haggis

These are the roots of the traditional feast to celebrate Rabbie Burns

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For old times past, my dear

The works of Robert Burns are known the world over, but many English speakers only have a vague understanding of the language he used

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Want a digestif with that?

Words can take on a whole new meaning when adopted into another language; French vocabulary is particularly susceptible

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Boris should have twigged

There are not many Gaelic loanwords in English, and the most common ones refer to specifically Scottish phenomena. But not all

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Taking a shufti at English slang

The adoption of some Arabic words into colloquial English came from British soldiers stationed in the Middle East and north Africa

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The origins of the Windrush

The name of the ship is well known these days, but the etymology of the Cotswolds village from which it took its name is less certain

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The Euro roots of a US holiday

The Americans have already had their big turkey meal of the year – and Thanksgiving owes a debt to Greece and to harvest festivals

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The United States of East Anglia

New England has many place names that must have been taken across the North Atlantic by homesick English people in the 1600s

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The land of one direction

Small islands have evolved vocabularies based on topography – including one place where you can go ‘east’ while heading west

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The fine art of having a dekko

English has a number of words borrowed from Urdu-Hindi, many of which arrived when British Indian Army soldiers returned to ‘Blighty’

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Masters of a remote outpost

The adventures of one carpenter and several British soldiers helped English become the native language on two isolated islands

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A pightle fight about dialect

This term for house or property might sound like it belongs to one region – but like many others, it’s in use across England

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Mexico’s call of the cowboy

How the raising of cattle by a mixture of Mexicans, African-Americans and Americans gave rise to a distinctive vocabulary

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Discovery and disgrace: the tragedy of Taino

After Columbus made landfall in the Bahamas in 1492, as many as 40,000 Taino natives were enslaved in the Caribbean

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A brief case for Americanisms

Many of us now use words imported from across the pond, like ’truck’ instead of ’lorry’. But the traffic isn’t only one-way...

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The name of ABBA’s game

In parts of Sweden and Finland, the practice of changing your surname to make it sound more learned goes back to the 1600s

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America’s slow path to English

The Dutch language survived in North America for many decades after the English had taken control of the formerly Dutch-controlled area

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Our pet names for dicky birds

The official titles of our feathered friends have been replaced throughout history with affectionate nicknames that a child might use

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When the Celts showed their metal

How direct contact with Welsh and Gaelic speakers left its mark on the migrant tribes who moved into what is now Germany

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The battles for the way we talk

The linguistic makeup of the British Isles was partly determined by three battles – in Yorkshire, Builth Wells and Culloden

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The English language and its long voyage south

English had been rooted in the northern hemisphere for centuries – until the transportation of convicts in the 1700s

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