Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Hungarian Cheese Biscuits

Hungarian cheese biscuits are delicious and easy to make. Here is a recipe:

(makes about 30 biscuits)

1/4 cup milk, heated
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon salt
1 egg
7 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup sour cream

In a bowl combine the milk, yeast and sugar.
Let stand about 10 minutes.
Add flour, salt, cheese, eggs, butter and sour cream to mixture.
Mix until dough comes together.
It should be smooth and not sticky.
Roll dough 1/2 inch thick on a floured surface.
Cut out biscuits and sprinkle cheese on top.
Arrange in rows on a baking sheet.
Set oven temperature to 200 C.
Bake for about 25 minutes until cheese biscuits are nicely browned.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Words without Pairs

Many English words are negatives whose opposites are either obolete or very rare. These negatives often have prefixes such as -dis, -in and -un. Here is a list of words without pairs:


The word unkempt comes from the Old English word kemb, which means comb. It used to mean uncombed but now means neglected.

The word ruly was once common and meant law-abiding. It is now very rare. To be reckless is to be unconcerned about the consequences of an action. The opposite doesn't exist.

The word nonchalant can be defined as indifferent and unconcerned. The opposite doesn't exist. The opposite of innocent is guilty; nocent is rarely used.

English has a number of words which don't have antonym pairs. These words are negatives whose antonyms are either no longer used or have become very rare. It appears that the negative of an antonym pair is more likely to survive than the positive.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Lord Byron wrote the famous poem Solitude. Here it is:

To sit on rocks, to muse o'er flood and fell,
To slowly trace the forest's shady scene,
Where things that own not man's dominion dwell,
And mortal foot hath ne'er or rarely been;
To climb the trackless mountain all unseen,
With the wild flock that never needs a fold;
Alone o'er steeps and foaming falls to lean;
This is not solitude, 'tis but to hold
Converse with nature's charms, and view her stores unrolled.

But midst the crowd, the hurry, the shock of men,
To hear, to see, to feel and to possess,
And roam alone, the world's tired denizen,
With none who bless us, none whom we can bless;
Minions of splendour shrinking from distress!
None that, with kindred consciousness endued,
If we were not, would seem to smile the less
Of all the flattered, followed, sought and sued;
This is to be alone; this, this is solitude!

Solitude consists of two stanzas with nine verses each. The rhyme scheme is a.b,a,b,a,c,a,c,c in the first stanza and d,e,d,e,e,f,e,f,f in the second. The poem evokes many scenes of nature with descriptions of rocks, forests, mountains and waterfalls.

The poems explains that we are surrounded by nature. Lord Byron admires nature and feels that to be alone in nature isn't truly solitude because we can relax, think and appreciate all around us. On the other hand, the second stanza explains that we can be surrounded by people and noises. This seems the opposite of solitude. However, even in a large crowd, we can be alone. Lord Byron writes that with none to bless us, none who we can bless, we experience solitude. In other words, if we are not surrounded by people who care for us, we are alone.

The poem Solitude expresses a deep appreciation of the beauty in nature. We learn that to be alone with our thoughts in the beauty of nature is not the same as in a big city surrounded by strangers. Connected to nature and filled with admiration of the beauty we see, we can feel happy. However, in a large crowd of strangers, we can feel solitude.

Monday, September 12, 2016


Blends are words made from parts of two or more words. Unlike compounds, they do not combine full words. English makes extensive use of blends.

Here are examples of blends:

camcorder = camera + recorder
clash = clap + crash
electrocute = electricity + execute
infotainment = information + entertainment
flare = flame + glare
moped = motor + pedal
motel = motor + hotel
sitcom = situation + comedy
smog + smoke + fog
sportscast + sports + broadcast

In the blend sportscast, the first part of the blend consists of a full word. This is different from the other examples of blends. Eight of the ten blends are nouns and two are verbs. It appears that blends are most likely to be nouns.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Meaning of the Days of the Week

The Greeks named the days for the five known planets and the sun and moon. These were named after Greek gods. The Romans substituted their own gods for the Roman gods. Germanic peoples also substituted the Roman gods for their own with the exception of Saturn.

Sunday was named after the sun. Sunday is thus the day of the sun.

Monday was named after the moon. It is thus the day of the moon.

Tuesday was named after Tiu, the Germanic god of war and sky.

Wednesday was named after the Anglo-Saxon god Woden. He was the leader of the wild hunt.

Thursday was named after Thor, the Norse god of thunder.

Friday was named after Freya, the Teutonic goddess of love, beauty and procreation.

Saturday was named after Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture.

The English days of the week correspond to the sun, moon and five planets. These planets were named after gods. Saturday was named after a Roman god, but the others were named for gods of the Germanic peoples. In the past only five planets were known

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Differences between British and American Pronunciation

The two main dialects of English, British and American, have a number of differences between them. This also extends to pronunciation. The following discusses the main differences in pronunciation between Received Pronunciation and General American.

In General American, the /r/ is pronounced at the end of a syllable. In Received Pronunciation, however, it is either not pronounced as in car or a schwa is produced instead as in here.

Most speakers of General American make no distinction between father and bother. They pronounce both words with the same vowel. However, in Received Pronunciation, they are pronounced with different vowels.

The vowel of words such as coat is different in General American and Received Pronunciation. In General American it tends to have a shorter duration and the vowel is articulated farther back than in Received Pronunciation. The General American vowel can be a monophthong, but in Received Pronunciation it's always a diphthong.

Flapping is very common in General American. It occurs intervocalically in words such as bottle, city, and ladder. The result is that the words medal and metal sound the same in General American, but they are distinguished in Received Pronunciation.

Yod-dropping is also common in American English. Many Americans make no distinction between do and dew. However, speakers of Received Pronunciation do. In the word stew, American speakers always apply yod-dropping, but Received Pronunciation speakers don't.

The trap-bath split doesn't exist in General American. Speakers of General American pronounce can and can't with the same vowel. Speakers of Received Pronunciation don't. In General American, words such as dance, fast and laugh have a front vowel while in Received Pronunciation they have a back vowel.

General American and Received Pronunciation exhibit a number of differences in pronunciation. These include syllable-final /r/, the trap-bath split, flapping and yod-dropping. The trap-bath split and lack of syllable-final /r/ in Received Pronunciation are relatively recent developments which weren't adapted by General American.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Open and Closed Vowels of Italian

Italian has seven vowels. The letters e and o have both an open and a closed pronunciation. The closed vowels are high-mid vowels and the open vowels are low-mid. However, this distinction is lost in a few varieties. In parts of northern Sicily, only the open vowels occur and in parts of the north of Italy, only the closed variants occur.

In stressed position, both the open and closed vowels may occur, but in unstressed position, only the closed variant may occur. A famous example of the difference between the open and closed variants is the word pesca. Pronounced with the open vowel, it means peach and pronounced with the closed one, it means fishing. Another example is the word botte. Pronounced with the open vowel it means blows (plural noun) and with the closed one it means barrel.

Here is a list of Italian words with open and closed vowels:

open- bene (well) festa (party) presto (soon) vento (wind) bello (beautiful)
closed- e (and) me (me) fede (faith) neve (snow) mela (apple)
open- cosa (thing) moda (fashion) no (no) posta (mail) rosa (rose)
closed- dono (gift) mondo (world) nome (name) o (or) posto (place)

In Italian the letters e and o have both an open and a closed pronunciation. This is different from other languages such as Spanish in which no such distinction occurs. In stressed position, both vowels may be realized, but in unstressed position the distinction is neutralized and only the closed variant occurs.

Sunday, September 4, 2016


Collocations are sequences of words that occur with one another. These sequences can be viewed as fixed expressions. Collocations can be classified as strong and weak. Strong collocations are collocations in which the link between two words is restricted. On the other hand, weak collocations have a word which can combine with many other words.

The words fast and quick have similar meanings, but speakers say fast food and quick meal. In the case of big and great, they say big surprise and great fun. When the topic is size, speakers say small, medium and large. Here the word big is incorrect. Both high building and tall building sound fine, but speakers use high temperature and tall man.

Few words can precede wish. It's possible to say grant a wish, make a wish and express a wish. Since few words can combine with wish, the ones that do form strong collocations. Another example is winding. This word is often used in the phrase winding road. It doesn't combine with many words and is thus another example of a strong collocation.

However, the word big can combine with many words. A few include big house, big disappointment and big idea. For this reason, it's classified as a weak collocation. Another example is strong:  strong coffee, strong boy and strong character.

Words which combine naturally are collocations. Though words can often be used interchangeably, i.e., run fast, run quickly, this is not so for collocations. They are word sequences whose order is fixed.

Saturday, September 3, 2016


A euphemsm is a word or expression used instead of one which may be considered too direct or offensive. The euphemism may intend to amuse or to express politeness. Many euphemisms are a regular part of daily conversation.

Many people use the euphemism pass away rather than die. Another example is ladies' room, which is less direct than ladies' toilet. Fertilizer is less direct than manure. 

The term enhanced interrogation is far less direct and expressive than torture. Instead of euthanize, the term put to sleep is often used. The term family planning often replaces contraception.

A euphemism refers to the practice of substituting an unpleasant or harsh word with one which is inoffensive and indirect. This is common in formal situations and in polite company. Many people use euphemisms for sensitive subjects and for decreasing negativity. They're an important part of language.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Schwa in English

The schwa is a mid central vowel that is very common in English. In English it is mainly found in unstressed positions, but in other languages it also occurs frequently in stressed positions. The term was introduced into linguistics by Jacob Grimm in the early 19th century.

The English schwa does not correspond to a single letter. Notice that it is represented by different letters in the following words:


Some speakers produce a high front unrounded vowel instead of a schwa in certain words. For example, some speakers use the high front vowel of sit in words such as chicken, needed and boxes. In British English, the names Lennon and Lenin contrast. The first is produced with a schwa and the second with a high front vowel. In American English both names are usually pronounced with a schwa. In both varieties of English, however, roses and Rosa's are distinguished. The first word has a schwa and the second has the vowel of but.

The schwa is a very common vowel in English. It is a short vowel that usually occurs in unstressed syllables. It is so common that it can correspond to a number of letters.

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