Sunday, December 26, 2010

Double Rook Sacrifice

In a game of speed chess at chess.com, I used a double rook sacrifice to mate. My opponent was Hautboiss of the USA who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 b6
2. d4 Bb7
3. Nc3 g6
4. Bd3 Bg7
5. Nf3 e6
6. Be3 Ne7
7. Qd2 0-0
8. 0-0-0 d5

I castle queenside because I want to use my kingside pawns for an attack on the black kingside.

9. h4 dxe
10. Nxe4 Nd5
11. h5 Nxe3
12. fxe3 Na6

The black knight is not well-placed on a6. For this reason I do not capture it.

13. g4 gxh
14. Rxh5 c5

Black wants to attack my queenside with his pawns.

15. Rdh1 h6
16. g5 hxg

Now I have an open h-file.

17. Nexg5 f6

Black makes a mistake because the pawn on e6 is now undefended and can be captured by my knight.

18. Bh7+ Kh8
19. Bg6+ Kg8
20. Rh8+ Bxh8

I sacrifice a rook. Black must accept the sacrifice.

21. Rxh8+ Kxh8

I sacrifice another rook. Black does not have to accept this sacrifice but if he refuses and plays Kg7, I play Ne6+ and win his queen.

22. Qh2+ Kg7
23. Qh7#

This is the only game I can recall in which I sacrifice two rooks. My decision to castle queenside allows me to push my kingside pawns and the open h-file gives me the opportunity to mate the black king. Without question, this is one of the most memorable games I have ever played.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Origins of Christmas Carols

Many Christmas carols are popular around the world. Ones such as "Silent Night" and "Joy to the World" are classics. Many, however, are not aware of their origins.

"Angels we have heard on high" is a traditional French carol.

"O Holy Night" is also of French origin.

"Silent Night" was originally written in German and is of Austrian origin.

"Hark the Herald Angels Sing" was written by Charles Wesley, the younger brother of John Wesley. The Wesley brothers started the Methodist church.

"It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" was written by Edmund Hamilton Sears, an American pastor, in 1849.

The music of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" was written by an American organist, Lewis Redner, in 1868.

"We Three Kings" was written by Reverend John Henry Hopkins, an American, in 1857.

"O Come All Ye Faithful" was written by an English hymnist, John Francis Wade.

"What Child Is This?" is also known as "Greensleeves." It was written by William Chatterton Dix, an Englishman, and is based on a traditional English melody.

The music of "Joy to the World" was written by Lowell Mason, an English composer of church music. It is believed that the melody was partly based on the work of George Frideric Handel, especially the oratorio "Messiah."

Many famous Christmas carols are of European origin but a number of them are also American. They are now sung in several different languages. For example, "Silent Night," originally sung in German, has been translated into numerous languages. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sensational Game

I recently played a game at chess.com which has to be one of my most memorable. In this game I mated my opponent with two pieces en prise. The game had a fork, skewer and pin. My opponent, Muliadi of Indonesia, was black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 b6
2. d4 Bb7
3. Nc3 e6
4. Bd3 Bb4
5. Bd2 Bxc3

Black decides to give up his bishop for my knight. I am happy to take control of the a1-h8 diagonal and control the dark squares.

6. Bxc3 Qg5

Black plays aggressively. He brings out his queen early and attacks g2.

7. Qf3 Ba6
8. Bxa6 Nxa6

My capture of the bishop helps black to develop his knight but it leaves it on a bad square. Black has no bishops in a game that could become very open. This is good for me because bishops are favoured over knights in open games.

9. Nh3 Qh6
10. Bd2 Qf6

Black offers an exchange of queens. I decide to keep my queen to increase my attacking possibilities.

11. Qe3 Ne7
12. 0-0-0 d5

I castle queenside because I want to use my kingside pawns in an attack. I expect black to castle kingside because it is better defended than the queenside. With d5 black fights for control of the centre.

13. e5 Qg6
14. Nf4 Qg5
15. h4 Qh6

My pawn attack begins.

16. g4 g5
17. hxg Qxg5
18. Qd3 Qxg4

My queen attacks the knight on a6.

19. Qxa6 Nf5

Now black cannot castle kingside because it is too dangerous and my queen prevents him from castling queenside.

20. Nh5 Nxd4

I prepare a knight fork.

21. Nf6+ Ke7
22. Nxg4 h5
23. Bg5+ Kf8

Though my knight is en prise, I decide to use my bishop in my attack and increase my control of the dark squares.

24. Qa3+ c5

Black cannot capture my knight because if he does, I capture his rook on h8 with check and then capture his rook on a8.

25. Rxd4 Kg7

My rook is immune from capture because this puts black in check. With his move, black unpins his pawns. My rook and knight can now be captured.

26. Bf6+ Kg6

I check black with my bishop. This move in which a piece is forced to move but a less valuable piece can then be captured is called a skewer.

27. Qd3#

My initial reaction is to play Bxh8 but it is not my best move. I notice that I have a move to end the game with my queen. My rook and knight are both attacked but it is of no consequence.

This is one of the most memorable games of speed chess I have ever played. I use a devastating fork to win the white queen, a pin to capture the black rook, and a skewer to force mate. My opponent plays aggressively but fails to protect his king.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Victory With A Pawn Fork

A pawn fork is a pawn which attacks two pieces at the same time. I played a game of speed chess at chess.com in which I used a pawn fork to win the game. My opponent, Jimflys of the USA, played white. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. d4 cxd
4. Nxd4 d6
5. Bb5 Bd7
6. 0-0 Nf6

I am ahead in development with three developed pieces versus two for white.

7. Nc3 g6
8. Bg5 Bg7
9. Bf4 e5

White makes a big mistake. I fork his bishop and knight. A better move for white is Be3.

10. Nxc6 bxc6

Now I have a double attack.

11. Be2 exf4
12. f3 Qc7

I want to protect my pawn on f4.

13. Bd3 0-0
14. Ne2 d5

My move is necessary to protect the pawn on f4.

15. exd Nxd5
16. Qd2 Ne3

My knight is dangerously close to the white king.

17. Rf2 Rfe8
18. c3 Rab8
19. b3 h5
20. Rc1 h4

I want to weaken the white kingside with my h-pawn.

21. g3 fxg
22. hxg hxg

White resigns. His rook cannot avoid capture. The key to victory in this game is my pawn fork on move 9. After this devastating move, white is unable to recover.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Frequency of Parts of Speech

The parts of speech which are most frequent are nouns and verbs. Every sentence must have a noun and verb. The exception is imperatives in which the pronoun "you" is understood as in "Come here!" To calculate the approximate frequency of parts of speech in English, I analyzed a part of the introduction of the book "The World's Greatest Chess Games." The part which I analyzed was 100 words long which was very convenient for calculation. Here it is:

The aim of this book is simple: to present the 112 greatest chess games of all time, with annotations that enable chess enthusiasts to derive the maximum enjoyment and instruction from them.

The first problem we faced was the selection of the games: how could we choose just 112 from the treasure-house of chess history? Clearly the games should be great battles, featuring deep and inventive play. We decided that the prime consideration had to be the quality of the play, not just of the winner, but of the loser. We rejected games where the loser offered little resistance.

I then counted the number of occurrences of each part of speech. Here are the results:

nouns 28
verbs 16
adjectives 26
adverbs 4
pronouns 9
prepositions 13
conjunctions 4
interjections 0

Nouns occurred more frequently than any other part of speech. However, adjectives occurred more frequently than verbs, 26% to 16%. It must be noted that articles were counted as adjectives because articles are not a part of speech. If articles are classified apart from adjectives, the number of occurrences of adjectives decreases to only 12. The only part of speech which never occurred was interjections.

More occurrences of adjectives than verbs were recorded, but this is because articles were included with adjectives. If treated separately, the number of verbs was greater than that of adjectives. It appears that articles are very common. Interjections, on the other hand, are not. The number of prepositions was high but this was because the infinitive marker "to" was classified as a preposition. If it had simply been classified as a part of the infinitive and thus a verb, the number of prepositions would have been much lower. The most common parts of speech were nouns, adjectives and verbs.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Offensive Battle

I played a game of speed chess at chess.com which was an offensive battle from start to finish. My opponent was Sahaladin of Bosnia who played white. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 c5
2. f4 d6
3. Nf3 a6

I want to prevent a check from the black bishop on b5.

4. Bc4 e6
5. a3 Nc6

White's fifth move does not seem necessary. A better move is Nc3.

6. 0-0 Nf6
7. d3 Be7

Now I am ready to castle.

8. f5 exf

Though it is possible to castle here, I decide to capture the f-pawn to win a pawn.

9. exf Bxf5

I have an extra pawn but my king is in the centre.

10. Nh4 Bg6

White targets my bishop. I want white to capture my bishop so that I can recapture with hxg6 and open up the h-file for my rook. My plan is to combine my queen and rook to target h2.

11. Nxg6 hxg

The game goes according to plan. I no longer want to castle kingside because I need my rook on the open h-file.

12. Qe2 Qc7

The black queen pins my bishop. My queen protects my bishop and prepares to target the h2 square.

13. Bg5 d5

It is possible for me to castle queenside here and unpin my bishop. I decide to play aggressively instead and attack the white bishop.

14. Ba2 Qxh2+

I have control of the h-file.

15. Kf2 Nd4
16. Qd2 Ng4+

I have the initiative.

17. Ke1 Bxg5

A better move for me is Qe5+ which attacks the bishop on g5.

18. Qxg5 Nxc2+
19. Ke2 Qxg2+

With no desire to face my four extra pawns and dangerous attack, white decides to resign. The game might continue as follows:

20. Kd1 Nce3+
21. Ke1 Rh2

If white plays Kc1, I play Qc2#.

22. Nc3 Qxf1#

White castles but loses the pawn shield around his king. I do not castle but generate sufficient threats to prevent white from continuing his attack. The key to victory in this game is my ability to maintain the initiative and control the h-file.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Strong and Weak Forms in Swedish

Many Swedish words have strong and weak forms. This is also the case in English. For example, the word "for" has the strong form identical to "four" and the weak form identical to "fir." As in English, the Swedish words with strong and weak forms are usually monosyllabic and the strong forms are pronounced with greater stress and duration. The strong forms are considered more formal than the weak ones.

The word "mycket" means much. It is not monosyllabic but nevertheless has strong and weak forms. The strong form has a word-final "t" but the weak form does not. The "y" is a high front rounded vowel as in the French word "tu" which means you.

The word "dag" means day. It can be pronounced with or without a word-final "g." The weak form ends with a vowel sound.

Another word with strong and weak forms is "och" which means and. The "ch" is pronounced as if it were a "k." The "o" is similar to the "o" of "cold." The weak form has no word-final consonant sound and sounds similar to "oh."

The word for "what" is vad. The strong form is pronounced with a word-final "d." The weak form ends with a vowel sound.

Another word which varies in pronunciation is "aldrig." It means never. The strong form is pronounced with a word-final "g." The weak one ends with a vowel sound.

The word for "I" is jag. The strong-form has a word-final "g." The weak one ends with a vowel sound.

The word for "good" is god. The strong form is pronounced with a word-final "d." The weak form is not. The "o" is pronounced like a very rounded "u."

Another word which patterns the same is "stad." It means city. The strong-form has a word-final "d." The weak form ends with a vowel sound.

The word "tio" means ten. It is different because both the strong and weak forms have the same number of sounds. The strong form has a word-final vowel which sounds like a well-rounded "u." The weak form has a word-final schwa.

Another word which is different is "morgon." It means morning. The strong form is pronounced with a word-medial "g". The weak form is pronounced with no "g."

Strong and weak forms in Swedish consist of common words which are often distinguished by their word-final consonants. In strong forms, word-final consonants are pronounced but in weak forms they are not. Another distinction is made in vowels. Strong forms have a full vowel but reduced forms have a schwa. Strong forms are most common in formal situations.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Basque

Basque is a unique language of Europe. It is one of the few European languages not classified as Indo-European. Other European languages which do not belong to the Indo-European language family are Estonian, Finnish and Hungarian. Basque speakers are mainly found in southwestern France and northeastern Spain. However, their language bears little resemblance to French or Spanish.

Here are a few Basque phrases to demonstrate the uniqueness of the language:

Welcome- Ongi etorri
Hello- Kaixo
Good morning- Egun on
Good evening- Arratsalde on
Good night- Gabon
Goodbye- Agur
Good luck- Zorte on
Excuse me- Barkatu
Thank you- Eskerrik asko
I love you- Maite zaitut

These few phrases illustrate that Basque is very different from other languages. It is so different that its origins remain a mystery. As a result, Basque is classified as a language isolate.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Quick Mate

In a recent game at chess.com, my queen and rook quickly mated my opponent. He was Gerakl of Israel who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e6

Black's reply is popular with defensive players.

2. d4 g6

Here black usually plays d5.

3. Nf3 Bg7
4. Nc3 Ne7
5. Bd3 b6
6. 0-0 Bb7
7. Be3 d6
8. Qd2 Nd7

I have good control of the c1-h6 diagonal.

9. Bh6 0-0
10. Bxg7 Kxg7
11. h4 f6

I prepare an attack against the black kingside.

12. Rae1 f5
13. Ng5 Rf6

My knight sits on an excellent square.

14. e5 dxe
15. dxe Nxe5
16. Rxe5 h6

Black makes a mistake. The f6 square needs to be defended. A better move is Bc8.

17. Nxe6+ Rxe6

Black must give up his rook to save his queen.

18. Rxe6 Nd5
19. Rfe1 Qxh4

I prefer to double my rooks at the expense of protecting my pawn. Here it is a mistake to play Nxd5 because then black replies with Qxd5 which threatens mate on g2 and the capture of my rook on e6.

20. Nxd5 Bxd5

My rook is under attack but I do not need to move it.

21. Qc3+ Kf8
22. Rf6+ Kg8
23. Rxg6+ Kf8

The black rook remains on its original square.

24. Qg7#

The black king has no escape. My queen and rooks dominate the board. I achieve victory because of my control of the centre, ability to expose the black king, and coordination of my two rooks and queen.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Canada and the USA

Canada and the USA share many similarities. They both have the same official language, English. American TV and movies are very popular in Canada and the two countries were both British colonies. However, they are also different in many ways.

In addition to English, Canada also has French. It is a country with two official languages. Britain defeated France at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759, a significant battle because it made English the primary language of Canada. Quebec, Canada's French-speaking province, has a beautiful capital, Quebec City, which preserves much of the city's historic past.

In population, the USA is much larger than Canada. According to the CIA World Factbook, the USA has 307 million people and Canada only 33 million. The USA is far more densely populated than Canada because it has a smaller area and a larger population.

The ethnic composition of the two countries is also different. According to Statistics Canada 2006, Canada's population is approximately 83% white, 10% Asian, 4%native and 2% black. The USA's is approximately 81% white, 13% black, 5% Asian and 1% native. Canada has a larger percentage of Asians and natives; the USA has a larger percentage of blacks. Canada has a slightly higher percentage of whites.

After English, French is the most widely-spoken language in Canada. According to Statistics Canada 2006, it is spoken at home by approximately 22% of the population. In the USA, Spanish is the second most widely-spoken language and is spoken at home by approximately 12% of the population.

According to the CIA World Factbook 2001, of those who profess a religion, Canada is approximately 52% Catholic and 28% Protestant. The USA is approximately 53% Protestant and 25% Catholic. The largest Protestant denomination in Canada is the United Church, a denomination unique to Canada, and the largest Protestant denomination in the USA is the Baptist.

Military expenditure is also different. According to the CIA World Factbook 2004, Canadian military expenditure is approximately 1% of GDP and American is approximately 4%. Thus military expenditure is considerably more in the USA than in Canada.

Differences also occur in the area of sport. The big three sports in the USA are football, baseball and basketball. Baseball has traditionally been considered the national sport of the USA, but football is undoubtedly the most popular. In Canada, hockey is unquestionably the most popular. Football and basketball are also popular, but not to the same extent as in the USA. Baseball is considerably less popular than in the USA. Canadian football, a form of football similar to that played in the United States, is only played in Canada.

Canada and the USA are neighbouring countries which may appear to be very similar. However, a deeper analysis of the two reveals that they also have a number of differences. These include population, ethnic composition, language, religion, military expenditure and sport.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Danish Spelling

English and French are two languages whose spelling systems are not so phonetic. However, another language which belongs to this category is Danish. A number of Danish words are pronounced quite differently from the way they are spelt.

The word "vejr" means weather. The "ej" in Danish represents the diphthong in the word "my" but in this case the "ej" is pronounced like the vowel in "ten."

The word "tredive" means thirty. Here the "e" is pronounced like an "a" and the "i" is silent. The "d" is a voiced interdental fricative similar to the "th" in "the."

Another number is "seksten" which means sixteen. Here the "k" vocalizes so that the first syllable sounds similar to "sigh."

The word "peber" means pepper. Here the "b" vocalizes so that the first syllable has a diphthong. It is heard in the Spanish word "deuda" which means debt.

The word "kobber" means copper. Again the "b" vocalizes so that the first syllable is a "k" followed by a diphthong similar to the one in "no."

Another diphthong is found in "jeg," the Danish word for I. The diphthong is similar to the one found in "my." The "j" is a palatal glide.

The same diphthong is found in "mig," the Danish word for me. The diphthong is the same one as in jeg.

The word "daglig" means daily. The first syllable has no "g" but rather a diphthong as in the word "now."

The word "havde" means had. The "v" is silent and the "d" is a voiced interdental fricative.

Another verb is the word "sagde" which means said. The "g" and the "d" are both completely silent.

The examples illustrate that many Danish words are relatively unphonetic. Their pronunciations need to be learned apart from the rules of spelling. Though Danish is not such a phonetic language, it is nevertheless more phonetic than English.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Norwich Accent

England has a number of different accents such as the accents of London, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle. Cockney is a famous London accent which was made prominent in the movie "My Fair Lady." An accent which is a southern accent but is nevertheless distinct is the Norwich accent.

In the book "English Accents and Dialects," the Norwich accent is discussed. Two speakers are featured on the CD. The older speaker has a stronger accent that the younger one.

In the Norwich accent, the palatal glide /j/ is lost after all consonants. The word "humorous" has the pronunciation of "who" in the first syllable.

The words "soul" and "sole" as well as "knows" and "nose" are distinguished. "Soul" and "knows" have the vowel of "no" and "sole" and "nose" have the vowel of "two."

The words "beer" and "bear" are not distinguished. Both words rhyme with "where."

The glottal fricative /h/ is often dropped. It tends to be preserved in stressed syllables such as "humorous" but dropped in unstressed ones such as "hello."

Certain words have the vowel of "foot" such as "home" and "suppose."

The glottal stop is often used instead of the voiceless alveolar plosive /t/ between vowels. Examples include "bottom" and "city."

The Norwich accent is distinct from other English accents. The pronunciation of words such as "sole" and "nose with the vowel of "two," the pronunciation of "home" and "suppose" with the vowel of "foot" and the loss of the palatal glide after consonants are typical of the Norwich accent.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mate With Queen and Bishop

I recently played a game of speed chess at chess.com in which my queen and bishop combined to mate. My opponent was Onyx of the USA who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e6
2. d4 d6

Here d5 is the most popular move for black.

3.Nf3 Bb7
4.Nc3 Bb4
5.Bd3 Nf6
6.e5 Nd5
7.Bd2 Bxc3
8.Bxc3 Nxc3
9.bxc3 0-0
10.0-0 f6
11.Qe2 fxe
12.Nxe5 d6

I capture the e-pawn with my knight because the black bishop threatens to capture my knight and weaken the pawn shield around my king. Black has yet to develop the queen knight.

13.Qh5 Rf6

I ignore the attack on my knight. Black defends the f-hile with his rook but a better move is to capture my knight with dxe5.

14.Bxh7+ Kh8

Black makes a mistake. A better move is Kf8 because it gives the king more escape squares. With best play, though, I prevail because I have a winning position.

15.Ng6+ Rxg6

Black is forced to give up the rook.

16. Bxg6+ Kg8
17. Qh7+ Kf8
18. Qh8+ Ke7
19. Qg7#

My queen and bishop combine to mate the black king. My bishop prevents escape to e8 and my queen prevents escape to f8. Black loses because of his lack of development. His queen rook, queen knight and queen remain on their original squares.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Dragons

"Dragons" is the title of a poem which I wrote in 2007. In this poem I try to capture the magic and power of these mythical creatures. Here is the poem:

Dragons

Fiery creatures with powerful tails,
Supported in air by magical wings,
Proudly protected by well-crafted scales,
Dragons belong to lands of fairytale kings.

In very high mountain caves they are found,
In wilderness that they claim as their own.
Their intelligence and power are renowned.
Legends foretelling their beauty have grown.

Though dragons vary greatly in colour,
Golden dragons leave lasting impressions.
Dragons are mythical beasts of wonder,
Filling our minds with vivid sensations.

With wings to ascend and descend through air,
And scorching fire to breathe upon their foes,
Dragons are very rare creatures that scare,
Living forever in legend and prose.

This poem consists of four stanzas with four verses. The even and odd verses rhyme with one another and each verse has ten syllables. The phrases which start "Proudly protected" and "With wings" are examples of alliteration. I hope you enjoyed my poem.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Castling Error

I recently played a game at chess.com in which my opponent castled queenside. It is more common to castle kingside but sometimes queenside castling is a good idea. If a player wants to initiate a pawnstorm on the kingside, queenside castling frees the kingside pawns for an attack. In my game, however, queenside castling is a mistake because I have a strong attack on the queenside. My opponent was Clearknighto of the USA who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 h6
4. 0-0 d6
5. d4 exd

I want to open the centre because the black king has not castled.

6. Nxd4 Bd7
7. Re1 Qf6

Black puts his queen on the best square for his king knight. My knight on d4 is attacked twice but it can be defended easily.

8. Be3 a6

It is better here for black to develop his knight or bishop to e7.

9. Nc3 b5
10. Bb3 Qe5
11. Nd5 0-0-0

Black makes a bad move. I have my pieces on the queenside and the black queenside pawns are easy to attack.

12. a4 Qxe4

I want to open the queenside for more lines of attack against the black king.

13. axb Nxd4
14. Bxd4 Qg6
15. bxa6 Bc6

My a-pawn is two squares away from queening. I must not move my knight here because the black queen and bishop can combine to deliver mate on g2.

16. a7 Kd7
17. Ba4 Bxa4
18. Rxa4 Ra8

I am happy to eliminate black's bishop. The black rook is reduced to a defensive role.

19. Qe2 Nf6

I want to check with my queen on b5. Black finally develops his king knight.

20. Qb5+ c6

Black forks my queen and knight. In this case, it is a mistake. Though he is lost regardless of how he plays, he can last longer with Kc8.

21. Qb7+

Black resigns. I can mate on my next move. Black must reply with Kd8. I can then play either Bb6# or Qc7#.

If black plays Kc8 on move 20, the game might continue as follows:

20. Qb7+ Kc8
21. Re8+ Nxe8
22. Qxe8+ Kb7
23. Rb4+ Ka6
24. Qa4#

If black plays Kd8 on move 20, the game might continue as follows:

20. Qb7+ Kd8
21. Qb8+ Rxb8
22. axb8=Q+ Kd7
23. Qc7#

Queenside castling is often a good move. In this game, however, it is not. It is better for black to castle kingside or leave his king in the middle. I am able to launch a quick attack against his exposed king.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Twenty Famous European Cheeses

The most famous cheeses in the world are from Europe. This is the reason that many other cheeses are based on European recipes. I have decided to select twenty of the most famous ones.

The country which consumes the most cheese per capita is France. Five famous French cheeses are Boursin, Brie, Camembert, Neufchatel and Roquefort. Brie and Camembert are probably the two most famous French cheeses. They are very similar cheeses but Brie is traditionally sold in a bigger wheel than Camembert and has a milder flavour. Boursin is a soft cheese flavoured with garlic and herbs. Neufchatel is also a soft cheese with the flavour of mushroom. Roquefort is a blue cheese which is ripened in caves of southern France.

Another country which produces many popular cheeses is Italy. Four famous Italian cheeses are Mozzarella, Parmesan, Provolone and Romano. Mozzarella was originally produced in the south of Italy. It is a very good cheese for baking. Parmesan is a hard cheese which is flavoured with brine. Provolone is a traditional semi-hard cheese. Romano is a hard cheese and is one of the oldest in Italy.

The Netherlands also produces great cheeses. Three well-known Dutch cheeses are Edam, Gouda and Leyden. Edam and Gouda are similar semi-hard cheeses. A notable difference between the two is that Edam is made with skim milk and Gouda is made with homogenized. Leyden is a hard cheese which is drier than Edam and Gouda.

Switzerland produces a number of fine cheeses. Two of the finest are Emmental and Gruyere. Emmental is also known as Swiss Cheese. It is a hard cheese famous for its holes. Gruyere is also a hard cheese which is flavoured in brine. Some varieties are also smoked.

England is the home of Cheddar. It is a semi-hard cheese which is originally white in colour. However, some Cheddars have colour added which makes them yellow or orange.

Spain produces Manchego, a hard cheese with small holes.

Greece is known for Feta, a soft cheese preserved in brine. It is one of the ingredients in Greek Salad.

Germany produces a number of fine cheeses. One is Tilsit, a semi-hard cheese with small holes.

Denmark is known for blue cheese and for Havarti, a traditional semi-soft cheese.

Norway is the home of Jarlsberg, a hard cheese with holes and a flavour of nut.

France and Italy are the two European countries which produce the greatest number and variety of European cheeses. Their cheeses are undoubtedly the most famous in the world. However, other European countries also produce popular cheeses of high quality.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Offensive Battle

I recently played a game of speed chess at chess.com which was an offensive battle from start to finish. My opponent was Bullsandrage of Colombia who played black. Here are the moves and commentary of this exciting game:

1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 e6
3. Bc4 d5
4. exd exd

Black has a strong pawn centre but is behind in piece development.

5. Bb5+ Nc6
6. 0-0 Bd6
7. Re1+ Ne7

Both black knights are pinned.

8. Ne5 Qc7
9. Nxf7 Kxf7

I sacrifice my knight to expose the black king.

10. Qh5+ g6
11. Qf3+ Kg7
12. d4 Bxh2+

I push my queen pawn to open a diagonal for my dark-squared bishop. The check takes me by surprise.

13. Kh1 Bd6
14. Bxc6 Nxc6
15. dxc Bxc5

The black bishop is no longer on the same diagonal as the queen.

16. Nc3 Bf5

I finally develop my queen knight.

17. Nxd5 Qd6

Black must move the queen.

18. Bf4 Qd7

The black queen must move again. Though black has one more piece, his two rooks are not active. They remain on their original squares.

19. Rad1 Bxc2
20. Qc3+ Bd4
21. Rxd5

Here black resigns. The resignation may seem premature but if black plays Nxc4 I play Re7+ and black loses his queen. If black plays Rac8 or Rhc8, I play Rc4+ and black is in trouble. The three possible moves for the black king are Kf7, Kf8 and Kg8.

If black plays Kf7, I play Qf6+. Black must play Kg8. I then play Bh6 and mate soon follows.

If black plays Kf8, I play Bh6+. Black must play Kg8 and then I play Nxf6 which wins the black queen.

If black plays Kg8, I play Nf6+ and win the black queen.

In this game, black establishes a strong pawn centre but does so at the expense of piece development. My knight sacrifice exposes his king and turns the game in my favour.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Speech Errors

An important but often understudied area in linguistics is the study of speech errors. A speech error can be defined as a conscious or unconscious deviation from a speech utterance. Five kinds of speech errors are omission, addition, metathesis, substitution and word exchange.

An example of omission is the utterance "They can come" instead of "They can't come." Here the word-final "t" of "can't" is omitted.

Addition is the exact opposite. In this case, more is uttered than is intended. For example, the phrase "us and me" in "He saw us and me" instead of "He saw us" is an example of addition.

Metathesis is a speech error in which segments switch place in an utterance. The utterance "feel run" instead of the intended "real fun" is an example of metathesis. Here the word-initial "r" of "real" and word-initial "f" of "fun" switch position.

In substition, one word is substituted for another. For example, the utterance "I can't find my bat" instead of the intended "I can't find my ball" is substituton. This kind of utterance often occurs with words which sound similar to one another.

Word-exchange is similar to metathesis. However, it is not segments which are exchanged but rather words. For example, "I must put the pot in the rice" instead of the intended utterance "I must put the rice in the pot" is an example of this type of error.

Speech errors can be categorized into many different kinds. They are deviations from intended utterances which speakers may or may not be conscious of. If they are not conscious of their error, they cannot correct it. Among the most common speech errors are omission, addition, metathesis, substitution and word exchange.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rules of English Word Stress

Though most English words are stressed on the first syllable, English stress is invariable. It can fall on any syllable in a word. With the knowledge of a few rules, however, it is easier to predict stress in English.

In a number of cases, disyllabic nouns and verbs are stressed differently. The nouns are stressed on the first syllable but the verbs are stressed on the second. This is all that serves to distinguish them. Examples include "decrease," "increase," "import," and "export."

Words which end in the suffixes -ic and -tion have penultimate stress. Examples include "historic," "economic," "acidic," "situation," "organization" and "civilization."

Words which end in the suffix -al have antepenultimate stress. Examples include "geographical," "philosophical," and "biological."

Compound nouns are usually stressed on the first syllable. Examples include "greenhouse," "airport" and "newspaper."

Compound verbs are usually stressed on the final syllable. Examples include "overlook," "disagree" and "underrate."

English word stress is not as irregular as many think. It is true that stress can fall on any syllable in an English word, but the majority of words are stressed on the first syllable. In addition, a number of rules are useful for predicting stress in an English word.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Controlling the Centre

Controlling the centre is a very important part of chess. In a recent game of speed chess, my central pawns played a key role. My opponent was Oezolivo of Venezuela who played black. Here are the moves along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 h6
4. 0-0 Bc4
5. c3 a6

Black's fifth move does not develop a piece. Here it is better to play Nf6.

6. d4 exd
7. cxd Ba7
8. d5 Nce7

My central pawns are very strong.

9. d6 Nc6
10. Nc3 Nf6

Black can finally castle.

11. e5 Nh7
12. e1 0-0
13. Bf4 b5
14. Bb3 B8

Black's move is very defensive. A better move is Bb7 which develops the light-squared bishop.

15. Qd2 cxd

I am preparing a bishop sacrifice.

16. exd Qf6

The black queen prevents my bishop sacrifice.

17. Nd4 Qd8

Now the sacrifice is possible.

18. Bxh6 gxh6
19. Qxa6 Ba7
20. Neg5 Bxf2+

Black's bishop sacrifice is a surprise. It is a desperate attempt to generate counterplay.

21. Kxf2 Nxg5
22. Nxg5 Qb6+

The check is not dangerous.

23. Kf1

Black resigns because he cannot prevent Qh7#. He can delay mate if he moves his rook to d8. Then I can play Qh7+ and after Kf8 I play Qf7#.

My control of the centre, quick development and forceful moves lead to a decisive victory. Black fails to counter my strong centre and develop all of his pieces. This leads to his downfall.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Old English

From approximately 450 to 1100, England was the home of Old English. Though this language is the ancestor of the modern English that is spoken today, it differed from modern English in many ways. These included pronunciation, vocabulary and syntax.

Many of the differences in pronunciation were reflected in the vowel system. Unlike in modern English, Old English had a front high rounded vowel as in the French word "lune" (moon). The vowels were monophthongs, not diphthongs. Furthermore, Old English had a number of diphthongs which no longer occur in English such as "eo."

The consonants were similar but Old English had palatal and velar fricatives as in German. A word with a palatal fricative was "night" . Also, the interdental voiced fricative of "mother," the voiced labiodental fricative of "vest" and the voiced alveolar fricative of "zero" were allophones of their voiced counterparts and not phonemes as is the case today.

Much of the vocabulary of Old English was quite different from that of modern English. Here is a list to illustrate:

English: I, king, name, life, now, bread, tree, eye, lake, cheese
Old English: Ic, cyning, nama, lif, nu, hlaf, beam, eage, mere, ciese

The syntax of Old English was also different from that of modern English. Old English was a V2 language. This means that in sentences where the first word was not the subject of the sentence the second word had to be a verb. For example, in the sentence "Now we must go" Old English had to put "must" in second position. This resulted in the sentence "Now must we go" which is ungrammatical in modern English. Another difference was that inversion was used to generate questions with main verbs. The auxiliary "do" was not inserted. The question "Do you like fish?" was "Like you fish?" which is ungrammatical in modern English.

The ancestor of modern English is Old English, a language which differed significantly from the language of today. This is the reason that Old English texts are often translated. Without question, English has undergone many changes since its earliest days.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Crushing Victory

I recently had a crushing victory in a game of speed chess at chess.com. My opponent was Gameraus8 of the USA. He brought out his queen early and I took advantage. In this game I played black. Here are the moves along with my commentary:

1. e4 c5
2. Bc4 e6
3. Qf3 Nc6

White brings out his queen early. With my second move, f7 is not a target for the black queen and bishop. Another problem is that this move takes away the best square for the black king knight.

4. a3 Nd4

I immediately attack the white queen. I also threaten to fork the white king and rook with Nc2+. With this move I expect black to play Qd1 on his next move.

5. Qd3 Qg5

Qd3 stops Nxc2+, but it blocks the d-pawn and makes it difficult to develop the queen bishop. After my fifth move, I expect g3 which weakens white's pawns.


6. Nf3 Qxg2

Nf3 attacks my queen but leaves the kingside vulnerable.

7. Rg1 Nxf3+

Black is in big trouble.

8. Kd1 Qxg1+
9. Ke2 Nd4+
10. Ke3 Qe1+

The king is very exposed.

11. Kf4 Bd6+

I bring out the king bishop to aid in the attack.

12. e5 Qxe5+
13. Kg4 Nf6+

The king moves to the only available square. My king knight comes out to aid in the attack.

14. Kh3 Qxh2#

The game is over after only fourteen moves. Before mate I check black seven times in a row. White loses quickly because he brings out his queen prematurely and is unable to get his king to safety.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Median, Average and Standard Deviation

Mathematicians often use the terms "median," "average" and "standard deviation." They are important for data analysis. I will provide examples to illustrate how these can be applied.

Imagine that seven students write an exam and obtain the following scores: 60%, 65%, 65%, 75%, 80%, 90% and 95%. The total number of exams is seven. The median is the number which separates the higher half from the lower half. This is known as the central value. In this case, it is the fourth highest/lowest score. There are three lower scores and three higher scores from the central value. The median is precisely in the middle. In this case, the median is 75%.

With an odd number it is easy to find the median. With an even number, however, the method is a little different. Imagine that instead of seven exams we have eight. The scores are: 60%, 65%, 65%, 75%, 80%, 90%, 95% and 100%. To calculate the median it is necessary to determine the average of the two scores in the middle. In this case we have two scores below the top three and two scores above the top three. They are 75% and 80%. To calculate the average of these two scores, we add them together and then divide by two. 75+80=155. 155/2=77.5. 77.5 is the median of the eight exam scores.

The average in a data set is the value obtained by adding up all the values in a set and dividing them by the number of values. For example, if we have the scores 60%, 65%, 65%, 75%, 80%, 90%, 95% and 100%, the total is 630. We now divide this number by eight, the total number of scores. 630/8=78.75. Thus, 78.75 is the average of the eight exam scores.

Standard deviation measures average variation from the average value of a data set. Low standard deviation indicates that values tend to be close to the average and high standard deviation indicates that they are spread over a wide range. To calculate standard deviation, we first determine the average value of our data. Next we compute the difference of each value from the average and square the result of each. Then we divide the this number by the total number of values minus one and calculate the square root.

Consider the following scores on an quiz out of ten: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 9, 10, 10. To find the average, we need the sum of the eight scores. This is 64. We now divide 64 by 8. 64/8=8. The average value is 8.

Next we compute the difference of each value from the average. Here are the results:

5-8=-3
6-8=-2
7-8=-1
8-8=0
9-8=1
9-8=1
10-8=2
10-8=2

Negative values are not a problem for calculating standard deviation. Now we square these values. -3x-3=9, -2x-2=4, -1x-1 =1, 0x0=0, 1x1=1, 1x1=1, 2x2=4 and 2x2=4.

The next step is to calculate the sum of these values. 9+4+1+0+1+1+4+4=24. The sum is 24.

We must now divide by the number of values minus one. We have eight values so we divide by seven. 24/7=3.42.

The final step is to determine the square root of 3.42. The square root of 3.42 is approximately 1.85. This means that the average variation from the value of 8 is 1.85. In other words, most exam scores deviate 1.85 points from the average value of 8 which is from 6.15 to 9.85. Of the eight exam scores, five fall within this range.

Mathematicians often calculate the median, average and standard deviation of a data set. They are very useful in the interpretation of data. For this reason, it is a good idea to become familiar with their many applications.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Grammatical Case

All languages have grammatical case. The number of cases varies from one language to another but all have nominative case. This is the subject form of a noun/pronoun. Grammatical case refers to the change in form of a noun/pronoun in a sentence.

English has two cases for nouns and three for pronouns. The cases for nouns are nominative and genitive. For example, the noun "friend" is "friend" in nominative and "friend's" in genitive. Nominative case is for subjects and genitive case is for possession.

Of course English can express many other cases but they are not inflected. Accusative case is used for direct objects but English nouns are the same in nominative and accusative. Dative case is used for indirect objects but this is also indistinguishable from nominative in English. This is illustrated by the following examples:

I want to meet your friend. (accusative)
I gave the ticket to my friend. (dative)

English pronouns have three cases. They are nominative, accusative and genitive. The following sentences illustrate the three cases:

I can play the piano. (nominative)
He doesn't know me. (accusative)
This is my car. (genitive)

The first person singular pronoun has three forms: I, me and my. Another form is "mine," a possessive pronoun, but this can also be analyzed as genitive.

Many languages have more inflected cases than English. German pronouns have four (nominative, accusative, dative, genitive) and Russian has six (nominative, accusative, dative, genitive, instrumental, locative).

Instrumental case indicates the manner in which an action is performed. For example, in the sentence "He kicked the ball with his left foot," the noun "foot" is in instrumental case.

Locative case is used for location. In the sentence "They live in Vancouver", the city "Vancouver" is in locative case.

Another case found in a number of languages is vocative. This is used to address people. In the question "Julius, how are you?" the name "Julius" is in vocative case.

Case is an important feature of grammar. Found in every language, it is thus universal. However, the number of cases can vary significantly from one language to another. English nouns are inflected for two cases, Russian for six, Finnish for fifteen and Hungarian for eighteen.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pig Latin

Pig Latin is the name of a pseudo-language used by English speakers. It is often spoken by children and adults who do not wish to be understood by others. It can thus be characterized as a secret language.

The rules of Pig Latin are simple. To change an English word to Pig Latin the onset of the first syllable is transferred to the end and "ay" is added. For example, "Pig Latin" becomes "Igpay Atinlay and "speak" becomes "eakspay." If the word begins with a vowel, the onset is unchanged but "way" is added. Other variations of Pig Latin add "ay" and "hay".

Here are eight questions with their Pig Latin equivalents:

How are you? Owhay areway ouyay?
What's your name? Atswhay ouryay amenay?
Can you help me? Ancay ouyay elphay emay?
Do you speak English? Oday ouyay eakspay Englishway?
What did you eat for breakfast? Atwhay idday ouyay eatway orfay eakfastbray?
Where do you live? Erewhay oday ouyay ivelay?
How old are you? Owhay oldway areway ouyay?
Do you like French cuisine? Oday ouyay ikelay Enchfray isinecuay?

Pig Latin is a fun game which many enjoy. The rules of Pig Latin are simple but it can be a challenge to have an entire conversation in this language. Even if one is familiar with the rules of Pig Latin, it takes practice to become good at speaking and understanding it fluently.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Victory with a Material Deficit

Most chess games are won with more material or the same amount as that of one's opponent. It is not so common to win with less material. In my case, however, I managed to win with two fewer pieces than my opponent. Though he had an extra rook and bishop, I was victorious. My opponent was Rootsrocker of England who played black. Here are the moves and commentary of this game of speed chess:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 Nf6

Black employs the Two Knights Defence. A popular fourth move for white here is Ng5 which targets f7. I choose to play a different move.

4. 0-0 Nxe4

I do not mind the loss of my e-pawn because black has not completed his development and the knight on e4 is unprotected.

5. d4 d6
6. dxe dxe

Material is almost even but the black king is exposed.

7. Bxf7+ Kxf7

I sacrifice my bishop to prevent the black king from castling.

8. Nxe5+ Ke6

Black cannot capture the knight because then I can capture the black queen.

9. Qg4+ Kxe5

The black king is exposed but black has seven pieces and I have only five. I must also be careful because my queen is attacked by black's light-squared bishop.

10. Bf4+ Kd5

My bishop joins the attack. Black's king moves to a vulnerable square. Kf6 is a better move for black.

11. Rd1+ Nd4

Black must block the check to prevent the loss of the queen.

12. Nc3+ Nxc3
13. Rxd4+ Kxd4
14. bxc3+ Kc4

Black does not capture the pawn on c3. He fears that Kxc3 exposes his king to too much danger by bringing it too close to enemy territory. Another option on move 14 is Bxc7+. The queen cannot capture the bishop because of the check from my queen. With this move I can capture the black queen on move 15. I miss this move and thus fail to play it.

15. Qe2+ Kxc3

Black now changes his mind and captures the pawn on c3. Once again Bxc7+ is an option but my move is effective.

16. Be5+ Kb4
17. Rb1+ Kc5

The checks are relentless.

18. Qb5#

Though I have less material than black, I am victorious. The keys to victory are my ability to develop quickly, protect my king and exploit black's exposed king. I manage to check the black king eleven times in a row. This is critical because it allows me to seize the initiative.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Currencies of the World

Despite the introduction of the Euro as a common currency and a shared name for many currencies, a number of countries have unique names. With the adoption of the Euro, currencies such as the Dutch guilder, German mark, Portuguese escudo, Greek drachma, French franc, Spanish peseta and Italian lira ceased to exist. Other countries share the dollar, shilling, pound, peso and dinar. Nevertheless, many currencies have very different names.

Here is a list of currencies used by countries around the world. This list includes countries whose currencies are relatively unfamiliar.

Albania-lek
Afghanistan-afghani
Angola-kwanza
Armenia-dram
Azerbaijan-manat
Bangladesh-taka
Bhutan-ngultrum
Botswana-pula
Brazil-real
Bulgaria-lev
Cambodia-riel
Costa Rica-colon
Croatia-kuna
Czech Republic-koruna
Eritrea-nakfa
Estonia-kroon
Ethiopia-birr
Gambia-dalasi
Georgia-lari
Ghana-cedi
Guatemala-quetzal
Haiti-gourde
Honduras-lempira
Hungary-forint
Indonesia-rupiah
Kazakhstan-tenge
Kyrgyzstan-som
Laos-kip
Latvia-lats
Lesotho-loti
Lithuania-litas
Malaysia-ringgit
Mauritania-ouguiya
Mongolia-tugrik
Morocco-dirham
Mozambique-metical
Nicaragua-cordoba
Nigeria-naira
Papua New Guinea-kina
Paraguay-guarani
Poland-zloty
Romania-leu
South Africa-rand
Swaziland-lilangeni
Tajikistan-somoni
Thailand-baht
Venezuela-bolivar
Vietnam-dong
Zambia-kwacha

The reason many of the currencies on this list are relatively unfamiliar is that they are not likely to be listed in a foreign exchange rate table and are not in high demand. In many countries with weak currencies, the US dollar and Euro are very popular and can be freely used. Nevertheless, the use of a separate currency serves as a mark of sovereignty, history and pride.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Winning the Queen with a Sacrifice

It seldom happens that I win my opponent's queen with a sacrifice. However, it happened in a recent game of speed chess that I played at chess.com. My opponent was Gattacci of Italy who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 d6
3. Bc4 h6

Black wants to prevent my bishop from going to g5.

4. 0-0 Nf6
5. Re1 Nc6
6. c3 a6
7. d4 exd
8. cxd Be7

Black can now castle.

9. e5 dxe
10. Nxe5 0-0
11. Nxc6 bxc6
12. Nc3 Bd6
13. Be3 Re8
14. Qc2 Be6
15. Bd3 Nd5
16. Nxd5 Bxd5
17. Qd2 Qf6
18. a3 g6

Black makes a bad move. Qh4 is a better move because it forces me to weaken the defence of my king.

19. Bxh6 Kh7
20. Bg5 Qxd4

Black is now equal in material but he fails to see my next move.

21. Bxg6+ Kxg6
22. Qxd4 Rh8

I sacrifice my bishop to win the black queen. With Rh8 black threatens to capture my pawn on h2.

23. Bf4 Bxf4
24. Qxf4 f5
25. Qg3+ Kf6
26. h4 Rag8
27. Qc3+ Kg6
28. g3 Kf7
29. Qe5 Rxh4

Black makes a move that takes me by surprise. I cannot take his rook because this puts me in check.

30. Qxf5+ Kg7
31. Re7+ Kh8

The black king is now trapped in the corner.

32. Qf6+ Rg7
33. Qxg7#

Black threatens mate with Rh1 but I do not give him the opportunity to play it. My bishop sacrifice which wins the black queen is the turning point of the game. It gives me a decisive material advantage which I convert to victory.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Position of Adverbs in English Sentences

The position of English adverbs often varies in active and passive sentences. It tends to be more restricted in active voice than in passive. In certain cases, however, it is equally distributed in passive and active.

Consider the following sentences:

a) He detonated the bomb carefully.
b) He carefully detonated the bomb.

Though sentence a is more common than b, both are acceptable.

c) The bomb was detonated carefully.
d) The bomb was carefully detonated.

In sentences a-d the adverb can be placed before or after the verb. Here the adverb position is equally distributed in active and passive.

Now consider the following sentences:

e) They treated her unfairly.
f) *They unfairly treated her.

g) She was treated unfairly.
h) She was unfairly treated.

In active voice the adverb must be placed after the verb. In passive voice, however, the adverb can also be placed before the verb.

Here are more examples:

i) Laura sent the invitations electronically.
j) *Laura electronically sent the invitations.

k) The invitations were sent electronically.
l) *The invitations were electronically sent.

In sentences i-k the adverb must be placed after the verb in both active and passive.

Now consider the following sentences:

m) She sang beautifully.
n) *She beautifully sang.

o) It was sung beautifully.
p) It was beautifully sung.

In sentences m-p the adverb position is not equally distributed. The adverb must come after the verb in active but is not restricted in passive.

The rules for adverb position in English can vary in the active and passive voices. In certain cases the adverb can precede or follow the verb in both voices. Sometimes it is equally restricted and must be placed after the verb. Other times the adverb can precede or follow the verb in passive but must follow the verb in active. Though the adverb in English sentences can be equally distributed in active and passive, the adverb position tends to be more restricted in active than in passive.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

French Orthography

French orthography is one of the challenges of learning French. The French language has many silent letters and sounds which can be spelt in more than one way. Without question, it is not a phonetic language.

The word "eau" means water. Though it is composed of three letters, it has only one sound. It is pronounced similarly to "oh" in English.

The word "dansent" means dance in third person plural as in "They dance." The last three letters of the word are silent. It is pronounced somewhat similarly to the word "dance."

The word "noix" means nut/nuts. It is pronounced as if it were spelt "nwa." Though it has four letters, it has only three sounds.

The word "pays" means country. Though it has four letters, it has only three sounds. It is pronounced as if it were spelt "pei" with the "e" and the "i" pronounced separately.

The word "chaud" means hot. It is pronounced similarly to the English word "show."

The word "doux" means sweet. It is pronounced similarly to the English word "do."

The word "oeufs" means eggs. Though it consists of five letters, it has only one sound. It is pronounced with a mid front rounded vowel and sounds somewhat similar to the English word "uh."

The word "sept" means seven. In this case, the final letter is pronounced but the "p" is silent. It sounds similar to the word "set."

The word "mais" means but. Though it has four letters, it has only two sounds. It is pronounced somewhat similarly to the word "may" but with a monophthong as opposed to a diphthong.

The word "oiseau" means bird. It has six letters but only four sounds. The word is pronounced as if it were spelt "wazo."

One of the challenges of learning French is the orthography. Many sounds can be represented with a variety of spellings and many letters are not pronounced. French orthography is thus relatively unphonetic.

Monday, September 27, 2010

English Tongue Twisters

Tongue twisters can be quite tricky to say. This is especially true when they are uttered quickly. The following are a few popular English tongue twisters:

She sells seashells by the seashore.
The shells she sells are surely seashells.
So if she sells shells on the seashore,
I'm sure she sells seashore shells.

The sixth sheik's sixth sheep's sick.

If you keep a lot of liquor in your locker
It is wise to put a lock upon your stock
Or some fellow who is quicker
Will trick you of your liquor
If you fail to lock your liquor with a lock.

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
How many pecks of pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

I'm not a pheasant plucker, I'm a pheasant plucker's son.
I'm sitting plucking pheasants till the pheasant plucker comes.

The first and fourth tongue twisters are especially well-known. A peck is the equivalent of two gallons which is a little less than 9.1 litres.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lady MacBeth

In Act 1 Scene 5 Lady MacBeth speaks to MacBeth. The powerful words she uses encourage him to carry out the plan to murder King Duncan. Her lines are also among the most memorable of the play.

She says to her husband:

"O, never
Shall sun that morrow see!
Your face, my thane, is as a book where men
May read strange matters. To beguile the time,
Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,
Your hand, your tongue: look like th'innocent flower,
But be the serpent under't. He that's coming
Must be provided for: and you shall put
This night's great business into my dispatch;
Which shall to all our nights and days to come
Give solely sovereign sway and masterdom."

Lady MacBeth compares King Duncan to the sun. As the sun in the sky rules over all below, King Duncan rules over Scotland. The plan is to murder King Duncan during the night. Once the plan is complete, he will not see morning.

She calls MacBeth a thane because he is not yet king. A thane is a Scottish prince.

She warns her husband that his face could make others suspicious of his intentions. It is like an open book. She wants him to remove any feelings of guilt about the plan.

To fool time, one must look like time. With these words, she reminds her husband that he must look and act the same as always. He must not draw any attention to himself. He must welcome King Duncan as if he were an honoured guest. His looks, actions and words must convince King Duncan that MacBeth is to be trusted. Though he should appear to be an innocent flower, he must be the serpent under it. He must be the exact opposite of what he appears.

The guest who is coming, King Duncan, must be given good care. Lady MacBeth makes it clear that she is the one in charge of the murder. The night's great business shall fall under her control. In the days and nights following the murder, she and her husband, the future queen and king of Scotland, shall have complete control and mastery of the kingdom.

Lady MacBeth's words are critical because she senses her husband's hesitation. To assure him, she tells him that they will soon be the ones in control of the Scottish kingdom. The irony of the play is that Lady MacBeth is later consumed with feelings of guilt and seems to regret her actions. MacBeth, on the other hand, loses his feelings of guilt as he becomes more self-centred and power-hungry.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Power of the Queen and Bishop

The queen and bishop on the same diagonal can be very powerful. In a recent game at chess.com, I used my queen and bishop to mate my unsuspecting opponent. In the game, my opponent was Aszasz of Romania who played white. Here are the moves of the game with my commentary:

1. d4 Nf6
2. Bg5 e6
3. Nf3 Be7
4. Nc3 a6
5. e4 Nc6
6. e5 Ng8
7. Bxe7 Ngxe7

I capture with my knight on g8 to bring it back into the game.

8.Bd3 0-0
9. Ne4 b5
10. c4 bxc
11. Bxc4 Bb7
12. Qc2 Nf5
13. 0-0 Nfxd4

I calculate that I can win a pawn.

14. Nxd4 Nxd4
15. Qd3 c5

I push the pawn to keep my knight in the centre.

16. Nd6 Bc6

Here I decide to target the g2 square.

17. Rfe1 Qg5
18. Rad1 Qxg2#

Black fails to notice the mating threat. My queen and bishop provide victory. At this stage, material is quite even. I only have two extra pawns but my powerful queen and bishop are the difference.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Bringing Out The Queen Early

The queen is the most powerful piece on the chessboard. However, it is often a mistake to bring the queen out early. The reason is that there are many pieces on the board and it is often possible to attack the queen. I recently played a game of speed chess at chess.com. My opponent and I both had eight minutes on our clocks. My opponent brought his queen out early and lost quickly. My opponent was Erickthegreat of the USA who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 d6
2. d4 e6
3. Nf3 b6

Black's third move prepares Bb7.

4. Nc3 Bb7
5. Bd3 g6

Black's fifth moves prepares Bg7.

6. 0-0 Bg7
7. Re1 Nd7
8. Bg5 Ne7
9. e5 dxe

My goal is to open lines of attack against black's uncastled king. Black should castle here instead of capturing my pawn.

10. Nxe5 Nxe5
11. dxe5 Qd4

Black wants to win my e-pawn. His queen and bishop both attack it. I only have my queen to defend it. However, his king is too exposed.

12. Bb5+

Black resigns. No matter how he responds, he loses his queen. Black loses quickly because he brings the queen out too early and fails to get his king to safety.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Geysers of Glory

The poem "Geysers of Glory" was inspired by a visit I made with my mom to Yellowstone National Park in 2001. It was truly an unforgettable visit.

Geysers of Glory

Steaming inside,
Ready to surface,
Time after time,
Geysers roar,
Pressure building,
Heat escaping,
Visitors watch,
Waiting and waiting.
Time after time
A little water
Escapes
And falls
To the ancient ground.
The show
Seems to be over,
The steam subsides,
Quiet takes over.
And...
Then the water releases
High into the air,
Up and up,
Higher and higher,
The water shoots
Over the trees,
Towards the clouds.
Geysers of glory,
Wonders of nature
Carrying water
Through surrounding air,
Continue to inspire
Year after year.

In this poem I hope to capture the beauty and mystery of geysers. I will never forget my visit to Yellowstone National Park, one of the most spectacular parks I have ever been to. One of the most popular attractions of the park is the geysers which fascinate so many.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Speed Chess Game

Speed chess is a very exciting form of chess. In speed chess you have to beat both your opponent and the clock. It is possible to have a winning position and lose on time. Though many enjoy speed chess, many more blunders and inaccurate moves occur than in regular play. I recently played an eight-minute game against Jackate of Canada at chess.com. In this game I played white. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nf6

This is known as Petroff's Defence. White's next move is usually Nxe5.

3. Bc4 d5

I encourage white to take my pawn. I want to target the f7 pawn with my bishop and knight.

4. exd Nxd5
5. 0-0 e4

I castle because it is dangerous for my knight to take the e-pawn with my king in the centre.

6. Ne5 Bd6

Black has not castled. I decide to take advantage.

7. Nxf7 Kxf7
8. Bxd5+ Kf8

My knight sacrifice has given me an extra pawn and an exposed black king.

9. Re1 c6
10. Bxe4 g6
11. Qf3+ Kg7
12. Nc3 Rf8

I anticipate black's move and prepare to put my queen on the same diagonal as my dark-squared bishop.

13. Qe3 Qe8

Black pins my bishop.

14. d3 Bb4

My bishop and queen are poised to strike.

15. Qh6+ Kh8
16. Bd2 Bc5

Black cannot capture my knight because then I can recapture with Bc3+.

17. Be3 Bb4

I want to exchange bishops and bring my e1 rook into the game. Black declines the exchange but now I can check with my dark-squared bishop.

18. Bd4+

Black resigns here because I have mate in one. If he plays Kg8, I play Qg7#.

In this game, I use a knight sacrifice to prevent black from castling, expose the black king and gain a pawn. It is truly the highlight of the game. Since I suspect that black plans to castle on his next move, I must sacrifice as soon as possible.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Currency Trading

The trading of currency, also known as the foreign exchange market, is the largest market in the world. It is estimated that two to three trillion US dollars are exchanged every day. Most of the exchanges are conducted by banks and multinational corporations.

Currency trading can be very profitable but involves a high level of risk. Currencies such as the Swiss franc are considered very stable and thus do not involve much risk. Other currencies, however, fluctuate much more.

The value of a currency is determined by the market. The higher the level of confidence that traders have in a particular currency, the higher the currency will be. This is related to the economic theory of supply and demand.

However, governments can greatly influence the value of a currency. This can be accomplished in several ways. One is corporate tax policy. A favourable policy encourages investments and boosts the value of a currency. Another critical factor is the amount of currency a country prints. If supply is low, the demand for a currency tends to increase. If supply is too high, the value of the currency decreases. The trade balance of a country and financial situation are also very important. A country with a positive trade balance and good finances has a currency that investors value.

Despite government policy, the main factor which determines the value of a currency is the market. In other words, it is currency trading. The most valuable currencies are in high demand. Countries with stable governments, good conditions for investment, natural resources, a high level of technology, good infrastructure and education, and transparent business practices are countries with strong currencies.

The value of a currency is primarily determined by the foreign exchange market. Currency trading represents the largest market in the world. Trillions of dollars are exchanged every single day. The market is so profitable that banks and multinational corporations make great profits. Individuals can also profit but need considerable knowledge to be successful.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New Zealand and Australian English

To many people the English of New Zealand and Australia sounds very similar. It is true that they share a number of common features. However, the two varieties of English can be distinguished from one another.

The vowels of New Zealand and Australian English are not identical. In words such as "sit" and "this," New Zealand has a centralized vowel which corresponds to the schwa of unstressed syllables. The New Zealand pronunciation of "fish and chips" is quite different from the Australian.

In words such as "too" and "cool," Australian English has a diphthong but New Zealand English has a monophthong. The New Zealand vowel is centralized and thus pronounced with a more advanced articulation than the Australian vowel which is a back vowel.

In words such as "boat" and "home," Australian English has a low back vowel in the first component of the diphthong but New Zealand English has a low mid central one. The first component in New Zealand English is the vowel of the word "up."

In words with the letter "r" such as "pear" and "beer," the "r" is not pronounced. The exception is a part of the South Island of New Zealand which was influenced by a large number of Scottish immigrants. However, Australian and New Zealand speakers have different pronunciations of these words. Australians have a single vowel in "pear" and "beer." New Zealanders, however, pronounce these words with two vowels. The first vowel is a front vowel and the second is a schwa. This pronunciation is also common in England.

Words such as "first" and "service" have a lower and more rounded vowel in New Zealand English than in Australian. The New Zealand pronunciation is unique among varieties of English.

The words "woman" and "women," distinguished in Australian English, are pronounced alike in New Zealand. New Zealanders pronounce both words with the central unrounded vowel known as a schwa.

Though Australian and New Zealand English may be difficult to distinguish for many, they are not identical. They have a number of differences and these differences are particularly evident in their vowels. Knowledge of these differences can make it possible to identify the two varieties of English.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

National Anthems

National anthems are musical compositions that represent the history, pride, traditions and struggles of a country. They are often heard at sporting events such as the olympics and official government ceremonies. Famous national anthems include those of the United Kingdom, France, Russia and the United States.

I would like to mention ten national anthems that are not so famous but nevertheless are among my favourite anthems. They are from North America, South America, Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

From North America I have selected the national anthem of Belize. It is titled "Land of the Free" and was adopted in 1981.

My favourite South American anthem is from Colombia. It is titled "National Anthem of the Republic of Colombia." It was adopted in 1920.

From Asia I want to comment on two national anthems. The first is the national anthem of South Korea. It is titled "Patriotic Song" and was adopted in 1948. The second is the national anthem of Mongolia. It is titled "National Anthem of Mongolia." The lyrics have changed many times but the music was adopted in 1950.

Three European anthems which I have selected are from Iceland, Hungary and the Netherlands. The national anthem of Iceland is titled "O, God of our Land". It is a beautiful hymn which was adopted in 1944. The national anthem of Hungary is a very emotional one that expresses the nation's struggles through history. It is titled "Hymn" and was adopted in 1844. However, it is usually known by the first verse which translates "God bless the Hungarians." The national anthem of the Netherlands is titled "The William." The music is one of the oldest of any national anthem. It is about William of Orange and his Dutch revolt against Philip II of Spain. The anthem was adopted in 1932.

My favourite African anthems are from Kenya and Botswana. The national anthem of Kenya is based on a Kenyan folk song. It is titled "Oh God of all Creation" and was adopted in 1963. The national anthem of Botswana is titled "Our Land" and was adopted in 1966.

From Oceania I have selected the national anthem of New Zealand. The title is "God Defend New Zealand." It was adopted in 1977. Prior to this date, the national anthem of the United Kingdom was New Zealand's official anthem.

The music and lyrics of these anthems are available on the internet. Many relatively unknown anthems have beautiful music and lyrics that await discovery. If you listen to them, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Variation in Australian English

Australian English is considered a relatively uniform type of English. The English spoken in cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane is very similar. In fact, it is so similar that Australians cannot distinguish the English of one city from another. However, they can distinguish the city accent from the rural accent.

The English which is spoken in cities tends to be closer to standard British English than that spoken in rural areas. However, it is important to note that few Australians today speak a variety of English that could be mistaken for British. The intonation and vowel qualities of Australian English are remarkably different from British.

One area in which Australian English exhibits variation is in the pronunciation of the intervocalic /t/ or /d/. In the word "butter," the "tt" can be pronounced as a voiceless alveolar plosive, as a voiced alveolar plosive or as an alveolar flap. The use of the voiceless alveolar plosive is most typical of a city accent.

Another sound which varies occurs in words such as "day" and "say." This diphthong can be pronounced as in standard British English. In this case, the first component of the diphthong is a mid front unrounded tense vowel. However, the diphthong can also be pronounced similarly to the diphthong in the word "side." The latter pronunciation is more characteristic of a rural accent but is also heard in city accents. This diphthong can vary so significantly that many speakers use a pronunciation in which the first component of the diphthong has an intermediate quality between the mid front unrounded and low back rounded vowels.

Also notable in its variation is the vowel in words such as "car" and "park." It can be pronounced as in standard British English. In this case, the vowel is a low back rounded vowel. However, the vowel can also be a low mid unrounded vowel as in the word "up." In this case, the vowel has a longer duration than in the vowel of "up." These speakers tend to distinguish words such as "cut" and "cart" simply by vowel duration. For them vowel length is indeed phonemic. The standard British pronunciation is typical of a city accent.

Though Australian English is remarkably uniform, speakers exhibit a certain degree of variation. This variation is particularly noticeable in intervocalic alveolar plosives, diphthongs and vowels. The most significant variation occurs in the difference between the city accent and the rural one.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

English of Southern and Northern England

The English spoken in southern England is rather different from that of northern England. Many of the differences occur in the sound system. In particular, the two often use different vowels.

The Canadian and American vowel of words such as "up" and "come" does not occur in the accents of the north of England. In these accents, the vowel of words such as "put" and "book" is used instead. The southern English vowel of "up" is relatively recent in the history of English and developed from the older vowel of "put." In fact, German has the vowel of "put" but not the vowel of "up" as spoken in southern England.

As a result, northern England does not distinguish word pairs such as "luck" and "look." These sound the same in the north but sound distinct in the south. They also sound distinct in Wales, Scotland and most of Ireland.

A few words which have the vowel of "up" in southern England have the vowel of "far" in the north. Examples include "one" and "none" which rhyme with "gone" in these areas and "tongue" which rhymes with "song."

Another well-known feature which distinguishes these two varieties concerns the low vowels in "trap" and "bath." In the south, these are distinguished but in the north the vowel is the same. As a result, southerners have the vowel of "palm" in "path", "laugh," "grass" and "dance" but northerners have the vowel of "cat" in these words.

Also distinctive is the final vowel of words such as "money," "happy" and "city." In most of northern England these words have the lax vowel of "sit" but in southern England most people pronounce these words with the vowel of "seat." The accent of Liverpool is an exception because here it patterns with the southern accents of England.

A consonant difference is found in the pronunciation of the /r/. In northern England it is often an alveolar tap. In southern England, however, other articulations are more common. The southwest favours a retroflex approximant and the southeast favours an alveolar approximant.

Speakers from the north and south of England pronounce many words differently. Though these differences in pronunciation concern both vowels and consonants, it is mostly the vowels which are affected. This lends support to the view that vowels are more unstable than consonants and thus more likely to change over time.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Victory with a Fork

A fork in chess is an attack on two or more pieces at the same time. In my chess game against Asada of Georgia, I fork his king and queen with my bishop to end the game. In this game I play white. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. d4 d5
2.c4 dxc

I sacrifice my c-pawn to gain greater control of the centre with e4.

3. e4 e6
4. Bxc4 Nc6

I regain my pawn.

5. Nf3 Bb4+
6. Nc3 a6
7. a3 Bxc3+
8. bxc3 Nf6

I control the centre but the black knight attacks e4.

9. Bg5 h6
10. Bxf6 Qxf6
11. 0-0 0-0
12. a4 Na5

I want to prevent b5. Black's move attacks my bishop but this is a bad move because I can easily move the bishop to safety and the black knight is now far from the centre.

13. Ba2 b6
14. Re1 Bb7
15. Ne5 Qe7

My move threatens to fork the rook and queen with Nd7. Black sees this and moves the queen.

16. f4 f6

The move f6 attacks my knight but it is a mistake because now my knight has access to g6.

17. Ng6 Qd7

I fork the queen and rook. Black moves his queen to safety.

18. Nxf8 Rxf8
19. Qg4 Nc6

I target the weak e6 pawn. It is pinned because if it moved the black king would be in check. Black fails to see the danger. Here he needs to protect the pawn with Re8 or Kf7.

20. Bxe6+

Black resigns because he cannot save his queen. The keys to victory in this game are my control of the centre, the fork by my knight which wins a rook and the devastating fork by my bishop to win the black queen. Black makes a critical mistake with the move Na5. It decentralizes his knight and takes it out of the game.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

German and Dutch

German and Dutch are both Germanic languages. They share a number of similarities. Many of the sound differences between them are the result of the High German consonant shift. This consonant shift affected consonants which did not change in Dutch. High German originated in the highlands of southern Germany and formed the basis of the standard language. Low German originated in the lowlands of northern Germany.

In many cases a Dutch "p" or "pp" is a "pf" in German. Here are examples:

German: Apfel (apple), Pfad (path), Pferd (horse)
Dutch: appel (apple), pad (path), paard (horse)

In other cases a Dutch "p" is an "f" or "ff" in German. Compare the following:

German: Dorf (village), Schaf (sheep), Schiff (ship)
Dutch: dorp (village), schaap (sheep), schip (ship)

A Dutch "t" is often an "s" or "ss" in German. Here are examples:

German: besser (better), Strasse (street), was (what)
Dutch: beter (better), Straat (street), wat (what)

There are many examples in which a "t' in Dutch is a "z" in German:

German: zehn (ten), zwei (two), Zwilling (twin)
Dutch: tien (ten), twee (two), tweeling (twin)

A Dutch "d" often corresponds to a German "t". Here are examples:

German: Tag (day), Tier (animal), Vater (father)
Dutch: dag (day), dier (animal), vader (father)

A Dutch "k" is often a "ch" in German. Compare the following:

German: Buch (book), ich (I), Kirche (church)
Dutch: boek (book), ik (I), kerk (church)

As a result of the High German consonant shift, German and Dutch have many regular sound differences. They include affrication, a sound change in which the Dutch "p" or "pp" became a "pf" in German, spirantization in which the Dutch "t" became an "s" in German, and weakening in which the Dutch "k" became a "ch" in German. Knowledge of the High German consonant shift can make it possible to predict related words in both languages.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Long-awaited Dream

I wrote "Long-awaited Dream" when I was living in Japan. It is one of my most romantic poems.

Long-awaited Dream

I want to love you deeply, let you know
I want this feeling to last forever.
My heart never knew I could love you so,
Magic moments I'll always remember.

I see you in dreams with passionate mind
From sunrise of morning to late at night.
So loving, wonderful, gentle and kind,
Your soft skin and sweet smile my heart's delight.

Scent of your hair and breath upon my face,
Sparkling eyes of beauty placed next to mine,
Your soft whispers and light touches of grace
Enchant me with their wonder so divine.

We are creating paths of adventure
Learning and growing on each stepping-stone.
We have now become part of each other.
Parts of innermost hearts we have made known.

Place your hand into mine, then close your eyes.
Feel my wild heart beating just for you.
Bond your soul with mine, forge eternal ties,
Become my long-awaited dream come true.

"Long-awaited Dream" consists of five stanzas with four verses each. The rhyme scheme is a regular one in which the first and third verses and the second and fourth verses of each stanza rhyme with one another. The number of syllables in each verse is ten. In order to achieve a syllable count of ten, the word "wild" in the second verse of the final stanza must be counted as two syllables. For me this poem will always be very special.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

English Orthography

English orthography presents a number of inconsistencies. It is not nearly as phonetic as the orthographies of languages such as German and Spanish. Though many grammarians have called for a more phonetic spelling system, traditionalists prefer to maintain the current one.

The "f" sound can be represented with more than one spelling. Besides the "f" as in "fish," this sound can also be represented with the "gh" of "laugh", the "ff" of "cliff" and the "ph" of "phone."

The "sh" sound can be represented not only by the "sh" of "shower" but also the "ss" of "pressure and the "ti" of "nation."

The "ee" sound of "feet" can also be represented by the "ie" of "believe," the "ea" of "wheat," the "ei" of "receive," and the "y" of "city."

The "u" sound of "up" can also be represented by the "o" of "government," the "ou" of "rough" and the "au" of "because." The word "because" is subject to dialectal variation and not pronounced with this vowel in all dialects.

The "k" sound of "key" can be represented in various ways. They include the "ck" of "luck", the "q" of "queen" and the "c" of "car."

Finally, the ,vowel known as the schwa has a number of possible spellings. They include the "a" in "ago," the first "o" in "potato" (some speakers pronounce the final "o" as a schwa), the "i" in "turnip," the "e" in "wooden" and the "o" in "question." It is clear that the schwa has many possible spellings.

English orthography is relatively unphonetic. This is particularly true in comparison to the orthographies of many other languages. However, many people are opposed to a spelling reform and as a result, the current orthography is likely to remain.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hungarian Fried Cheese

Hungarians like to make fried cheese, a very simple and tasty dish. For this recipe you need:

one pound of cheese such as swiss or mozzarella
one egg
breadcrumbs
flour
a quarter cup of oil
salt

Slice the cheese into thin slices. Beat an egg and add salt. Cover each small slice of cheese with flour. Then place the slice in the mixture of beaten egg and salt,and finally cover in breadcrumbs. Cook in hot oil until each side is golden brown. This dish is best eaten warm and can be eaten as an appetizer or served as an accompaniment to many different dishes. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Phobias

The word phobia refers to an irrational fear. English borrowed it from Latin which in turn borrowed it from Greek. In Greek the word is phobos. The terms for the many different kinds of phobias understandably have Greek and Latin roots. A knowledge of Greek and Latin is valuable for deciphering the meanings of the different phobias.

The word photophobia does not refer to a fear of light in the world of medicine. It simply means extreme sensitivity to light. Other common phobias include pyrophobia, pathophobia and xenophobia. They mean the fears of fire, disease and foreigners.

The phobias thermophobia, apiphobia, entomophobia, arithmophobia and acoustiphobia refer to the fears of heat, bees, insects, arithmetic and noise. Another phobia, claustrophobia, is the fear of closed spaces.

A common phobia is undoubtedly the fear of heights. This is known as acrophobia. Another common phobia is the fear of spiders. This is arachnophobia. The fear of men is androphobia and the fear of women is gynaephobia.

Other phobias are zoophobia, autophobia, hemaphobia, noctiphobia, hydrophobia and heliophobia. They are the fears of animals, being alone, blood, night, water and sunlight. The fear of books, bibliophobia, has the same root as in the most widely-read book of all time, the Bible.

An inexplicable fear is a phobia. Many kinds of phobias exist but some are far more common than others. Without question, the fear of heights, acrophobia, is more common than the fear of books, bibliphobia. Another phobia, one that can comprise several, is the fear of fear- phobophobia.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Three Riddles of Turandot

The opera "Turandot" features an Asian princess who many men wish to marry. However, if they wish to do so, they must answer three riddles correctly. Failure to do so leads to death. No man can answer the three riddles correct until Calaf appears.

Turandot is so beautiful that many men long to be with her. Though the penalty for failure is death, many men risk their lives to marry her. Calaf's father begs his son not to accept Turandot's challenge, but he does so.

The first riddle is "What is born each night and dies at dawn?" When I first heard this riddle, I thought of the moon. It appears at night and disappears during the day. But this is not the answer Turandot seeks. It is "hope."

The answer to this riddle does not seem obvious. Perhaps hope appears at night when one goes to bed and then dreams but it could just as easily appear during the day and die at night. In addition, one could argue that hope never dies but is always present.

The second riddle is "What flickers red and warm like a flame, yet is not fire?" The answer is "blood." Blood is red and warm like a flame but it does not flicker. The definition seems inaccurate. A big difference between fire and blood is that fire is a gas and blood is a liquid. Had Turandot asked "What is like fire and water?," the riddle would have been more accurate. Blood is red and warm like fire and it is a liquid that flows like water.

The third riddle is "What is like ice yet burns?" The answer is "Turandot." The riddle implies that Turandot is cold. She is a cruel ruler who rejects love. At the same time, she burns because she is a woman filled with anger and has warm blood flowing through her veins. The problem with this riddle is that many answers are possible. Besides Turandot, many others could satisfy the definition. However, the key is to give the answer that Turandot wants and that is written on her ministers' scrolls.

The answers to the rules of Turandot are not wholly satisfactory. Nevertheless, Turandot does not care because it is her intention to make them so difficult that no man can solve them and thus claim the right to marry her. Prince Calaf's ability to solve the three riddles astounds not only the princess but all the citizens of her kingdom.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Operas and Musicals

Operas and musicals are similar in many ways but they are also quite different. Nevertheless, many people are not quite sure how they differ. One obvious difference is that operas are usually considerably older but this is not the only one.

Operas such as "Don Giovanni" and "Fidelio" are classics of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven. They are from a time period which predates musicals. However, operas such as Giacomo Puccini's "Turandot" are considerably more recent. Along with Giacomo Puccini, Giuseppe Verdi is one of the most famous composers of opera. Without doubt, "La Traviata" and "Aida" are two of Giuseppe Verdi's most popular operas. "La Boheme" and "Madame Butterfly" are among Giacomo Puccini's most popular.

Operas are almost always completely sung. In essence, operas are long songs which tell a story. However, this is not the case with musicals. They are better known for their stories and acting. Thus musicals can be characterized as stories which have songs. In an opera, the music is foremost but in a musical the story takes precedence.

The music of operas and musicals is also different. Operas often have very elaborate orchestras with a wide range of instruments. This is not always so with musicals. The music of operas can be classified as classical music. In the case of musicals, the music is usually much more contemporary.

The training necessary to sing opera is usually far more rigorous than that required for singing a musical. As a result, many opera singers also perform in musicals. Musical performers, however, often dance and act very well. They do not focus on singing as much as those who perform opera.

Operas and music share a number of similarities. The two tell a story through music. However, operas predate musicals. Operas use music to tell a story and musicals tell a story with music. In addition, the two use different musical styles. The style of opera is classical and that of musicals is contemporary.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Uvular /r/ in Europe

The uvular /r/ has spread into many languages of Europe. At one time, all European languages had an /r/ that was pronounced as an apical trill or flap. This is not surprising because the apical trill and flap are the most common /r/ sounds. However, the /r/ of Parisian French changed from an apical trill to a uvular. This pronunciation spread not only into French but also to other languages. As a result, it is now standard not only in French but also in German and Danish. It is also common in many varieties of Swedish, Norwegian and Dutch.

The change in the pronunciation of the French /r/ may have taken place in the 1600's. In an area of Sweden located between Stockholm and the southernmost part of the country, the uvular trill has replaced the alveolar trill in certain contexts but not in others. The alveolar trill occurs word-finally and the uvular trill occurs word-initially. This is the opposite of southern Germany and Austria where many speakers have a word-initial alveolar trill and a word-final uvular fricative.

In the Portuguese of Lisbon, the syllable-initial /r/ is uvular. It is a tap when it occurs intervocalically but the orthographic "rr", a multiple trill in Spanish, is a uvular trill in Lisbon. This uvular pronunciation does not occur in the rest of Portugal. As it only occurs in the area around Lisbon, it may be termed an urban phenomenon.

The adoption of the uvular /r/ is more common in urban centres than in rural ones. It appears that innovations tend to spread in urban centres. Rural areas, on the other hand, tend to resist them. The diffusion of the uvular /r/ which originated in Parisian French is one such example.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Base and Strong Adjectives

Languages have different kinds of adjectives. Among these are number adjectives, possessive adjectives and demonstrative adjectives. Many adjectives fall into one of two categories- base and strong. Base adjectives often have a strong counterpart. The strong counterpart cannot be modified with the adverb "very" because this is an inherent quality of the adjective. On the other hand, base adjectives cannot be modified with the adverb "absolutely." The adverb "really," however, can modify both. Also, base adjectives always have comparative and superlative forms but many strong adjectives do not.

The adjective "delicious" is strong. The base counterpart is "tasty." The adjective "tasty" can be modified with "very." Thus "very tasty" is the equivalent of "delicious." The adjective "huge" is another strong adjective. The equivalent is "very big." Notice that it is possible to say absolutely huge but not possible to use "absolutely" with "big." Likewise it is possible to say "absolutely delicious" but not possible to combine "absolutely" with "tasty."

The strong counterparty of "dirty" is "filthy." We can say "very dirty" and "absolutely filthy." The strong counterpart of "good" is "perfect." We can say "very good" and "absolutely perfect." The strong counterpart of "beautiful" is "gorgeous." We can say "very beautiful" and "absolutely gorgeous." The strong counterparts of "hot" and "cold" are "boiling" and "freezing." We can say "very hot" and "very cold" with the base adjectives and "absolutely boiling" and "absolutely freezing" with the strong adjectives. Notice that we can say "A is hotter than B" and "C is colder than D" but we can not use comparatives with "boiling" and "freezing." This is a clue that "freezing" and "boiling" must be strong adjectives.

Strong and base adjectives belong to a large class of adjectives. It is often the case that a base adjective has a strong counterpart such as "surprising" and "astonishing." By remembering that only base adjectives can be modified by "very" and only strong adjectives can be modified by "absolutely," it is easy to determine whether an adjective is a base adjective or strong adjective.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Romeo and Juliet

The balcony scene from "Romeo and Juliet" provides the most famous dialogue of the play. The language expresses Juliet's feelings beautifully and makes it clear that she and Romeo are destined to be together. Here are the popular lines:

Juliet:

O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love
And I'll no longer be a Capulet.

Romeo:

(aside) Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?

Juliet:

'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? It is nor hand nor foot,
Nor arm nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O be some other name!
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for thy name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.

Juliet asks why Romeo is Romeo. She wants to know why he is her family's enemy. She asks him to go against his father and refuse his name. If he does not, she asks that he swear to be her love and she'll refuse her own name.

Juliet is unaware that Romeo is listening. Romeo wonders if he should continue to listen or speak out. He chooses to keep quiet. Juliet says that only Romeo's name is a barrier to their love. It is not a part of him in the same way that the hand or the foot is a part of the body. She wishes he had another name and exclaims that names are not important. A rose would smell just as sweet if it had another name. Likewise, Romeo would be just as perfect if he had another name. She asks Romeo to remove his name which is no part of him and take all of her.

This scene clearly indicates that Juliet is prepared to go against her family's wishes and give herself to an enemy. For her, the historic rivalry between the Capulets and Montagues is of no importance. She chooses her heart over her mind. It is this decision which leads to the play's tragic ending.