The Full JohnLarrysson

This file contains a full description and summary of the John Larrysson articles. It is nessesarily long. A more compact list, divided into topics, is available in the concise John Larrysson list. An up to date list can be found at John Larrysson of Ming Pao.

1. Good King Wenceslas (2)What is the meaning of the words? (First Half) Publishing Date: 2015/12/16
  The song Good King Wenceslas is popular at Christmastime. However many Hong Kong people do not fully understand the meaning of the song. Last week I explained who Wenceslas was. This week I will explain some of the more difficult words in the first-half of the song. Next week, I will explain the rest of the song.

2. Good King Wenceslas? (1)Who was Good King Wenceslas? Publishing Date: 2015/12/9
  The song Good King Wenceslas is often heard at Christmastime. However many second-language learners do not fully understand the meaning of the song. This week I will explain who Wenceslas was. Next week, and the week after, I will explain some of the more difficult words in the song. Even though school children are asked to sing it, this is not an easy song to understand.

3. The Order of Adjectives Publishing Date: 2015/12/2

"You will be staying in the local best hotel."

4. British Synonyms Publishing Date: 2015/11/25
  An English teacher from the UK once complained that teaching Hong Kong children that British people say brolly and Americans say umbrella was a cartoon-version of England and the English language. This week I will cover British synonyms. These are words that are not the most common word used in the UK, but are also accepted. My first example is that a brolly, is UK slang for umbrella, but the word umbrella is more common in the UK. The word brolly is a clipped and shortened form of the word umbrella. The word umbrella has been used in England since about 1600 and brolly has been used since 1866. American English only uses the word umbrella.

5. Is it really British Food? Publishing Date: 2015/11/18
  This week is about food words that should not be on lists of words translated from British to American English. These lists are often created by people's general impressions and not serious study.

6. Parcel & Package Publishing Date: 2015/11/11
  We have all seen many lists of words that are British English words and their American English synonyms. Some of these simplistic lists include many errors. It is often claimed that parcel is British English and package is American English. Certainly in British post offices the word parcel is used and in American post offices the word package is used. However is this true of the wider use of these words?

7. Is shredded really an exclusively British word? Publishing Date: 2015/11/4
  There are many lists of words that are British English translations for American English. These amateur lists are often flawed. One of the most commonly repeated errors, in these lists, is the claim that desiccated is American English for shredded. Desiccated is a high register synonym (see article High-Register Synonyms) for dried. Shredded means: ripped into small pieces. These words do not mean the same thing!

8. Silent D Is Not Always Silent Publishing Date: 2015/10/28
  Some people claim that D is silent before J or a soft G. As I will show you, their claim is not quite true. DG is used to spell the J-sound as in wedge. The original Latin alphabet (ABC) did not have a letter J. For example: The word judge comes from the Latin iudicare. So when English was first written using the Latin Alphabet instead of runic (see articlesYe and the Lost Letter and The Invention of the Alphabet) something else had to be done to represent the J-sound. In Old English the J-sound was often written CG. The word bridge comes from the Old English brycge. The CG spelling changed in Middle English to GG. The word ledge comes from the Middle English leggen. Finally in modern English the J-sound was spelt DG, as in badge, bridge and ledge. The D is not really silent, instead DG should be treated as a diagraph for the J-sound.

9. D Publishing Date: 2015/10/21
  This week I will cover three short topics about the letter D. Like most of our letters, the letter D is Roman. It was first used in English when writing Old English in the Latin alphabet (ABC). The Romans borrowed their alphabet from the Greeks and they from the Phoenicians.

10. The Names of the Week Publishing Date: 2015/10/14
  In Chinese, the days of the week are numbered. In English they have specific names, which makes them more difficult to learn. As proper names they must be capitalised. Worse, very few native speakers even know what the names mean. Sunday and Monday are of course easy to guess. They are the days of the sun and moon. All the others are named after gods.

11. CK Publishing Date: 2015/10/7
  Last week we covered the spelling CC. Most of these words are from Latin. Words with CC that are not from Latin may have other pronunciations. The pattern we found was that words with the CC before an I or E make a /ks/, if they are from Latin, otherwise they make a /k/. At first CC seems to be the same as CK, however there are important differences.

12. CC Publishing Date: 2015/9/30
  The double C is usually pronounced either /k/ or /ks/. It would be so much more useful if this diagraph (two letters that make one sound) could represent one sound, but English is a messy language and C is an especially messy letter. The usual guideline is that double C often has a /ks/ before the vowels I, E or Y. Otherwise the pronunciation is usually /k/.

13. Stranger Pronunciations of C Publishing Date: 2015/9/23
  The letter C can make a s-sound, a k-sound, a sh-sound , a ch-sound and can be silent. C makes an sh-sound in various suffixes.

14. SC Publishing Date: 2015/9/16
  There is a spelling rule that C is silent in SC, with some exceptions. However there are so many exceptions that it is not much used as a rule. So I will explain why.

15. The Letter C is Useless Publishing Date: 2015/9/9
  The letter C has no sound of its own; it represents either a k-sound or an s-sound and sometimes even a ch-sound . I have seen student worksheets for the alphabet with /s/, /k/ and /c/. The first two notations represent the s-sound and the k-sound respectively. However the letter C has no sound of its own and the notation /c/ is meaningless nonsense.

16. John Larrysson Column : The Story of Her Father and the voice in the Forest Part 2Summer Story Chapter 3 (The Long Rifle) - Part 7 Publishing Date: 2015/9/2
  When her father was a nine-year old boy he had to go every afternoon to find the cows in the forest and bring them home. His father told him never to play, but to hurry and bring the cows home before dark, because there were bears and wolves and panthers in the forest. However he did play and forgot to get the cows. Now night is coming, the forest is getting darker and he cannot find the cows.

17. John's Kitchen : Borscht Publishing Date: 2015/8/26
  Many restaurants all over Hong Kong are lying to you. To be fair, many restaurants in western countries do the same. They have borscht on the menu. What they really do is serve a British tomato soup and call it borscht. To get more sales they use an interesting-sounding Russian name. Borscht is a healthy Russian soup made with beetroot. It is not British and is not a watery tomato soup.

18. John Larrysson Column : The Story of her father and the Voice in the ForestSummer Story Chapter 3 (The Long Rifle) - Part 6 Publishing Date: 2015/8/26
  "Tell us about the Voice in the Forest," Laura would ask him.

19. John's Kitchen Yoghurt and Cheese Publishing Date: 2015/8/19
  Yes it is true, westerners eat rotten milk instead of tofu. They take a pail of milk, add bacteria and let it sit in a warm place. The bacteria eat all the milk and make waste. A day later the milk in the pail has turned into a mixture that includes live bacteria, dead bacteria and their waste. This semi-solid mixture is called yoghurt. Greek yoghurt is made by straining regular yoghurt through a cloth to remove some of the liquid.

20. John Larrysson Column : Where and Why to Keep a GunSummer Story Chapter 3 (The Long Rifle) - Part 5 Publishing Date: 2015/8/19
  When her father was at home the gun always lay across those two wooden hooks above the door. Her father had cut the hooks out of a green (wood newly cut from a tree) stick with his knife and had driven their straight ends deep into holes in the log. The hooked ends curved up and held the gun securely (safely). Children must never play with their father's gun.

21. John's Kitchen : Steak Tartare Publishing Date: 2015/8/12
  During the European Dark Ages civilisation fell into ignorance and ruthless barbarians rode into Europe from the east. Villages were burned, women enslaved and men put to the sword. One of the most famous and bloody of these nomadic barbarian tribes were the Tatars (also spelt: Tartars). Nomads like these did not live in one place, but kept moving and taking what they wanted.

22. Loading the GunSummer Story Chapter 3 (The Long Rifle) - Part 4 Publishing Date: 2015/8/12
  Now he was ready to load the gun again and Laura and Mary must help him. A gun has to be loaded, and ready to shoot, before it can be used to shoot a bullet. Standing straight and tall, holding the long gun upright, while Laura and Mary stood on either side of him, her father said:

23. John's Kitchen¡RBannock beloved by man and bear Publishing Date: 2015/8/5
  In Scottish English, bannock is a type of bread made from oats. In Canadian English, it is a type of bread cooked over a camp fire. This story takes place in Canada.

24. John Larrysson Column : Cleaning the GunSummer Story Chapter 3 (The Long Rifle) - Part 3 Publishing Date: 2015/8/5
  Her father would take his gun down from the wall and clean it. Out in the snowy forest all day, it might have gotten wet and the inside of the gun was sure to be dirty from gun-powder smoke. It is very important to clean your tools. Her father was a hunter and they lived on the meat he could get in the forest. People today do not need guns to get meat. However we still need to keep our tools clean whether it is a computer, wrench or a gun.

25. John's Kitchen : Hard Tack Publishing Date: 2015/7/29
  Hard tack was the bread that made the British Empire. Sometimes it was called ship's biscuits. In the USA it is called pilot bread. This type of bread would stay fresh for years as long as it was kept dry and wrapped against bugs. This bread allowed old sailing ships to carry enough food to sail from London to Hong Kong without refrigeration.

26. John Larrysson Column : Making BulletsSummer Story Chapter 3 (The Long Rifle) - Part 2 Publishing Date: 2015/7/29
  Laura's father was a hunter. His gun was very important to him. That was how he got meat to feed his family. We live in a modern city and do not need a gun to get food.

27. John's Kitchen : A Boy Can Cook Publishing Date: 2015/7/22
  When I was a little boy, my mother taught me to cook. This was very weird and controversial at the time. Western societies had strict sex roles. There were different things that boys and girls were expected to do. Boys were expected to play football and girls were expected to play with dolls. Boys learnt how to do maths and use machines. Girls learnt how to cook and clean. Boys were not supposed to cook.

28. The Long RifleSummer Story Chapter 3 - Part 1: Introduction Publishing Date: 2015/7/22
  This summer, I will read to you the next part from the book called The Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Over the last two years I have read a chapter each summer. Each chapter in this book stands on its own. This is a true story based on the life of the author, Laura.

29. Orientalism Publishing Date: 2015/7/15
  Once I was told that I should not refer to Go as an Oriental game, because that was derogatory. What! Why? Why should calling Go an Asian game be any different?

30. East and West Publishing Date: 2015/7/8
  This week I will explore a common language problem. Why is the USA a Western country? It is east of China! What exactly do the words Western and Eastern mean? What about Oriental and Occidental?

31. High-Register Synonyms Publishing Date: 2015/6/24
  In English, and other languages, some words are more formal than others. The use of these words can indicate a difference in status between two people. It can also be misused and create offence. An example of such use is the title sanitary officers used in American English instead of garbage man. The same job in British English is dustman, which is sometimes replaced with refuse collector. These are simple examples of using a high-register word to artificially create status. These examples are harmless and even amusing. Also potentially confusing, since in the UK, sanitary officer or sanitary engineer usually means someone concerned with sewers, not dustbins. However the improper use of high-register words can cause trouble.

32. Holiday, Vacation and Leave Publishing Date: 2015/6/17
  Some teachers have taught that holiday is the British English word and that vacation is the American English word. This is not true. Both sides of the Atlantic use both words. The words holiday, vacation and leave are synonyms. They are often used interchangeably, but have a slightly different meaning.

33. No Perfect Synonyms Publishing Date: 2015/6/10
  In class, students are taught that a synonym is any word that means the same as another word. The problem is that it usually does not exist. A synonym is "a word or phrase that has the same or nearly the same meaning as another word or phrase in the same language" (Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary: Other dictionaries have similar definitions). I would like to suggest a flaw in that definition. Perfect synonyms that mean exactly the same thing do not normally exist. The synonyms big and large appear at first to be identical. However big also has its original meaning: important. The word large only refers to size or number. There is usually some sort of subtle difference between two words "with the same meaning".

34. One in Fixed Idiomatic Phrases Publishing Date: 2015/6/3
  Usually I avoid teaching idioms. For most people learning the basics of a language is difficult enough. Native speakers learn idioms by context and examples in which they are used. Even for native speakers, idioms also need to be avoided in formal situations, such as business letters and legal contracts. They also should be avoided when talking to most second-language learners. However these idioms are a good way to end this set of articles on the word one. These idiomatic expressions use the word one in a very fixed sense.

35. Stranger Uses of the Word OnePossessive & Contraction Publishing Date: 2015/5/27
  These articles were started when I was asked which word, ones or one's, should be used in this sentence: ¡§A resume should list ones/one's education and work experience.¡¨ This week's article will continue to explain the word one and answer that question.

36. One as a Pronoun Publishing Date: 2015/5/20
  The more complicated meaning of one is as an indefinite pronoun. A pronoun is a word used to replace a person's name. In some sentences one can replace you. This use of the word refers to any person in general or to all people. Using one in this way is considered very formal in US English, but is more commonplace in UK English. In the US, the indefinite pronoun one is often replaced by you. However both words are correct in both countries. The first example sentence may seem overly formal in US English.

37. One and Oneself Publishing Date: 2015/5/13
  The word one appears simple, but in fact is unusual and has many confusing functions in the English language. The first thing we should notice about this word is that it is not phonetic. The word one began as the Old English word an. The original pronunciation exists in some local English dialects in the form good 'un and young 'un. The now-standard pronunciation began about six hundred years ago and became widespread about two hundred years ago. These examples show the simplest uses of one.

38. Dangerous Euphemisms Publishing Date: 2015/5/6
  To sleep together is a euphemism for having sexual intercourse. Using euphemisms when teaching children about where babies come from can be dangerous. There was once a young girl who was afraid she was pregnant because she and her boyfriend fell asleep watching a boring movie. She did not know how baby-making was actually done and had only been told the euphemism. So she went and told the school councillor that she was pregnant.

39. Euphemisms:Polite Lies Publishing Date: 2015/4/29
  Euphemisms are words or expressions that politely replace something too disturbing to say in plain language. Students ask to go to the washroom. We do not want them to tell us what they really need to do. We know that they do not need washing. The word washroom is used as a polite lie, called a euphemism.

40. RACE, the R-Word Publishing Date: 2015/4/22
  The word race, meaning groups of people, is so general that it is meaningless. Race, the act of running, by people, horses or water is a different word from Old English (ras). The word for people is from Old French (razza) and came into English in the 16th century.

41. Twenty Years in Hong Kong Publishing Date: 2015/4/15
  This is my twentieth anniversary of arriving in Hong Kong. So instead of talking about the English language, I will review what changes I have seen in Hong Kong for the past twenty years.

42. SIC Publishing Date: 2015/4/1
  The word sic can cause some confusion. It has more than one meaning and has often been ill-defined. This word is often found in brackets after a spelling mistake in a quotation. The writer wants to quote someone and to be accurate copies the spelling mistake.

43. Overseas and Abroad Publishing Date: 2015/3/25
  An English word (adjective and adverb) that can cause confusion for second language learners is overseas. It is generally used to mean foreign, although the dictionary definition is a place that you have to go over a sea (or ocean) to get to. Since the United Kingdom is an island, this association is natural. The word overseas can be used both as an adjective and adverb. However the word foreign is only an adjective. The word abroad is usually used as an adverb with the same meaning as overseas. However the word abroad is occasionally used as a noun or an adjective.

44. The use of the wordinternational in Hong Kong English Publishing Date: 2015/3/18
  According to dictionaries, the word international can be a noun or an adjective. As an adjective (describing word), it means involving two or more countries, or existing between countries. Examples: international mail, international food... As a noun (a person, place or thing) it is part of the name of a thing that is described by the adjective Examples: Rugby International, First International... In Hong Kong English it has an additional meaning both as a noun and adjective. Here, it also means upper-class. (The term upper class is not normally hyphenated. I do so here for the sake of clarity.)

45. Names of Cockroaches Publishing Date: 2015/3/11
  Cockroaches are common and troublesome pests in many homes. Another troublesome thing about them is that their English names and (Latin) scientific names make no sense. The most common type of cockroach in Hong Kong is the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana). Others found here are the Australian cockroach (Periplaneta australiasiae) and the German cockroach (Blattella germanica). Significantly the oriental cockroach (Blatta orientalis) and the Asian cockroach (Blattella asahinai) are not usually found here in Hong Kong. These cockroach names appear to be insulting to the named countries. As I will explain, these names have little to do with where the insects came from.

46. Online Dictionaries Publishing Date: 2015/3/4
  In my classes only about 1% of the dictionaries my students use are printed on paper. I have talked to people working in bookstores and they confirm that dictionary sales have fallen. Online dictionaries are easy to use; the word in question is just typed in. The user can listen to the pronunciation instead of using the IPA. Why should students pay for a dictionary when some are available online for free?

47. The New Abbreviations Publishing Date: 2015/2/11
  On a test a student wrote: U are in a bakery.

48. Scottish English Publishing Date: 2015/2/4
  Scotland is the wild, hilly northern part of the island England is on. The two ethnic groups have warred for centuries, but finally were united when a Scottish King, James VI, inherited the English throne and became known as James I of England. Traditionally the men wore a dress called a kilt. They ate stuffed sheep's stomach called haggis and drank whisky. They threw tree trunks around for sport, called caber tossing. The men are real men, the women are real women and the hills are purple with heather (a wild flower).

49. B Publishing Date: 2015/1/28
  Look at the letter b; at first it seems simple. There is only one sound for this one letter, the way a good letter should be. That is much easier to understand.

50. English Errors by Native SpeakersMixed Metaphors Publishing Date: 2015/1/21
  Native-English speakers sometimes make style errors that make understanding English more difficult. One of these is the mixed metaphor. A metaphor is a word or phrase that means one thing, but is used to describe another thing to show their similarities in an interesting way. For example, "Don't make a pig of yourself." means Do not eat too much. or Do not act like a pig.

51. "I Could Care Less" Publishing Date: 2015/1/14
  There is a phrase native English speakers use that does not seem to make sense. They express their contempt and lack of concern for something by saying, "I could care less". Technically this should mean that they do care, at least a little.

52. Discourse Markerswhen words don't mean anything Publishing Date: 2015/1/7
  Many people, who have studied English for years, have difficulties with casual conversation. One reason for this problem is that English speakers often add an extra word onto the front of a sentence. Native speakers know to just ignore such words. These words include several grammatical types, including particles, connectives, expletives, prepositional phrases and adverbs. They have no actual dictionary meaning and are called discourse markers. Their function is to show that you are ready to speak or want to keep speaking. Also using a discourse marker gives the speaker a pause while they think of what to say.

53. Public Domain in 2015 Publishing Date: 2014/12/31
  Something important will happen soon. On January 1, 2015, a whole year of copyrights will expire under Hong Kong law (Copyright Ordinance Section 17). Copyright lasts for the life of the author plus fifty years. That extra fifty years is to provide for the author's widow and orphans. After that their work becomes public property. Anyone can use, copy, sell or rewrite these books, stories and songs. So which writers died in 1964?

54. Deck the Halls (Part 2 of 2)To Troll a Christmas Song Publishing Date: 2014/12/17
  Last week I started my explanation of the popular and traditional Christmas song Deck the Halls. Here is the second half.

55. Deck the Halls (Part 1 of 2)To Deck the Halls with Evergreen Publishing Date: 2014/12/10
  Last year I explained the old song We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Originally the singers would assemble outside the house of a very rich person and demand food and drink. This year I will tell you about the old British/Welsh song Deck the Halls. There is so much to explain about this popular song that it will have to be spread over two weeks.

56. English Errors by Native SpeakersPronoun confusion Publishing Date: 2014/12/3
  Some words (pronouns), such as he, she, they, etc... refer to someone or some group. They replace another word (noun). The word he might mean Mr. Smith, his son Tom or their pet cat. To understand the sentence one needs to be told to whom the word refers.

57. Food Descriptions Publishing Date: 2014/11/26
  One area where people have trouble with English is food descriptions. Native speakers generally know to ignore certain words or phrases on food packages. They are false advertising, but almost everyone knows they are lies, so it is ignored.

58. Words for Meals Publishing Date: 2014/11/19
  Last week I explained about the confusion between dinner and supper. This week I will explore the many words used in the English language to refer to different meals. Most people only use a few of them. Nobody, unless they are morbidly obese, eats all of these meals. It is important to understand that the names used for the different meals varies greatly depending on the person's social background, class, the time of day and the size of the meal.

59. Dinner vs. Supper Publishing Date: 2014/11/12
  There was a young man who was invited to dinner by the parents of his girlfriend. He showed up at their house at noon. They had expected him at about six in the evening. Native speakers do not always agree on the definition of the word dinner. Does dinner have the same meaning as supper or lunch?

60. I Both Love and Hate Spell-Checkers Publishing Date: 2014/11/5
  Spell-checkers are so useful, because English is a very difficult language to spell. We have a mixture of several different languages with different spelling rules. More than 90% of English words are foreign. As a comparison, almost all Chinese words are from China. English spelling is based on word history and so English often keeps the foreign spelling!

61. Like vs. As (2)The Many Uses of Like Publishing Date: 2014/10/29
  The word like is not well described by the traditional word categories. As I described last week, it is both a preposition and a conjunction with the same meaning. In fact the word like is used in many ways. Here are a few more:

62. Like vs. As (1) Publishing Date: 2014/10/22
  One teacher said, "Tom did his homework like a good boy should." Another teacher said that this is wrong and it should be, "Tom did his homework as a good boy should." Who is correct?

63. The Invention of the Alphabet Publishing Date: 2014/10/15
  The ancient Egyptian language was difficult to write and took a long time to learn. In the Middle East, the Semitic people used some simplified forms of Egyptian writing. They used simpler Egyptian symbols and matched them to the sound of a word. This is similar to the use of Chinese characters to write the sounds for foreign words, for example bus. One of the more advanced Semitic tribes were the Phoenicians. They were creating great trading businesses around the Mediterranean Sea. They needed a cheaper and easier way to write. So they took the bits and pieces of the simplified Egyptian-Semitic writing and put it together into the first alphabet. All other Western alphabets are descended from this alphabet.

64. The Invention of Writing Publishing Date: 2014/10/8
  Writing is a very special invention. Language developed spontaneously in all humans, civilised or not, due to some underlying biological function. Having a language is like having hands. However written language is not the same. It was only invented five times. The Sumerians invented writing first in about 3100 BC. The only other people to independently develop writing are the Egyptians, Chinese, Indians and Meso-Americans. All other writing systems are descendants of these ancestors.

65. AW Publishing Date: 2014/9/24
  One of the biggest problems with the alphabet is that English has more vowels than A E I O U. The aw-sound is one of the others. It is a vowel sound and one must round the lips to pronounce it properly. There was no letter in the Roman alphabet for this sound when English started using the alphabet. So two letters are used together as a digraph to represent one sound. The aw-sound is not a blend of 'a' and 'u' or 'uu' (w).

66. Dead Metaphors Publishing Date: 2014/9/17
  Metaphors are the part of language where a word or phrase is used to suggest a likeness or similarity between it and another situation. It is not literally correct, but is figurative. For example: An angry summer sun turned Hong Hong into an oven. Even if the temperature is over 40¢J, an oven would be between 100¢J and 250¢J. Also the sun is never angry nor happy. The comparison is exaggerated to show how hot the weather was in Hong Kong this past summer.

67. Herb Island Publishing Date: 2014/9/10
  Long long ago in a land far far away called Newcastle, I remember my primary three English teacher telling me that Americans had lazy English and that the British pronunciation was the original. She told me about the words herb and island.

68. The Myth of British English Publishing Date: 2014/9/3
  In many Hong Kong schools, teachers say that they teach British English. I have to hold my tongue and not ask: Which one? There are always different opinions about the English language. There is no official standard that everyone will accept. However when teaching we must not correct each other in front of the students. That would only confuse the students even more. We talk about such issues privately. However in the case of the myth of British English I usually say nothing at all.

69. British and American English Publishing Date: 2014/8/27
  Arguing about which is better British or American English is like two brothers arguing about whose father is stronger. American English is a variety of British English! The same is true of English in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. These countries were all settled by people from Britain. Other immigrants assimilated to the local variety of English. (The very small remnants of the native populations and unassimilated immigrants add only a little to the national culture.)

70. John Larrysson Column : The Story of Grandfather and the PantherSummer Story Chapter 2 - Part 8 Publishing Date: 2014/8/20
Your grandfather went to town one day and was late starting home. It was dark when he came riding his horse through the forest. It was so dark that he could hardly see the road and when he heard a panther scream he was frightened, because he had no gun.

71. John Larrysson Column : Father Told StoriesSummer Story Chapter 2 - Part 7 Publishing Date: 2014/8/13
  When Laura and Mary asked him for a story, he would sit them on his knees and tickle their faces with his long whiskers and beard until they laughed aloud. His eyes were blue and happy.

72. John Larrysson Column : Her Father Began to Play his Fiddle and SingSummer Story Chapter 2 - Part 6 Publishing Date: 2014/8/6
Yankee Doodle went to town,

73. John Larrysson Column :The Best Time of AllSummer Story Chapter 2 - Part 5 Publishing Date: 2014/7/30
  The best time of all was at night, when her father came home. He had been walking through the snowy forest with tiny icicles hanging on the ends of his moustache and beard. He would hang his gun on the wall over the door. Then he would throw off his fur cap and coat. He took the mittens off his hands and called: "Where's my little half-pint of sweet apple-juice half drunk-up ?" That was a silly name for Laura, because she was so small.

74. John Larrysson Column : Churn on ThursdaySummer Story Chapter 2 - Part 4 Publishing Date: 2014/7/23
  Butter is made from cream. Cream is the richest milk from the top of fresh milk. In winter the cream was not as yellow as it was in summer. Butter made, or churned, from it was white and not so pretty. Mother liked everything on her table to be pretty, so in the wintertime she coloured the butter.

75. John Larrysson Column : Laura and Mary Helped Mother with the HouseworkSummer Story Chapter 2 - Part 3 Publishing Date: 2014/7/16
  Every morning there were dishes to clean. Mary cleaned more of them than Laura because she was bigger, but Laura always carefully cleaned her own little cup and plate. When the dishes were all cleaned and put away, they put away the trundle bed.

76. John Larrysson Column : Jack FrostSummer Story Chapter 2 - Part 2 Publishing Date: 2014/7/9
  The snow kept falling on the house. Big piles of snow were blown by the wind partly covering the little wooden log house where Laura's family lived. In the mornings the glass window panes were covered with frost in beautiful pictures of trees and flowers and fairies. Frost is a very thin layer of ice covering everything. (Frost crystals on glass often form very pretty patterns. It is easy to imagine pictures of trees and flowers and fairies.)

77. John Larrysson Column : Winter Days and Winter NightsSummer Story Chapter 2 - Part 1 Publishing Date: 2014/7/2
  Last summer I read you the first chapter of The Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This summer I will read you the second chapter. It is the story of a little girl growing up in America in the old days before it was a developed country. She lived long ago when there was no electricity, telephone or internet. She lived in a forest where there were no roads, no stores and no school. There was only her family and around them were trees and beyond them were more trees. There was nothing but trees and wild animals. In this chapter it is wintertime. Winter was a difficult time. They can not grow any food and hunting was difficult.

78. Silent lettersand why English spelling is such a mess (2): Fake Latin Publishing Date: 2014/6/25
  Modern English words have many silent letters. Last week I covered those created by Old English history. This week I'll cover those created by troublesome teachers, such as the p- in psalm and the -b- in debt. Old English was spelled the way it originally sounded, but the spellings of psalm and debt are not from Old English. These new spellings are fake Latin and were created by reforming teachers, who tried to change English spelling to match Latin words.

79. Silent lettersand why English spelling is such a mess (1): Old English Publishing Date: 2014/6/18
  English words have many silent letters, such as the k- in knife and the -gh- in night. Old English was spelled the way it sounded. Then there were some pronunciation changes as the Britons learned to speak the language of the invading English. It changed again as the Danish and Norman invaders added to the language. When people wrote down words they often kept older spellings, even when pronunciation changed.

80. Book ReviewIntellectual Property in Hong Kong Publishing Date: 2014/6/10

81. Lasagne vs. Lasagna Publishing Date: 2014/6/4
  A local English teacher was recently told about a new English rule and I had to check it out. This rule is about lasagne. It claims that lasagne with an -e ending is the plural and lasagna with an -a ending is the singular.

82. The Viking share of the English LanguageJohn Larrysson Column Publishing Date: 2014/5/28
  Modern English is a mixture of many languages. One of the early contributors was the Vikings or Norsemen, who spoke Old Norse. Their raids of England began in 793 with the robbing of the monastery Lindisfarne and lasted more than 200 years. During this time much of England was either under Viking rule or living in fear of them. People prayed to God, "From the fury of the Norsemen deliver us, O Lord."

83. What do political words mean? Publishing Date: 2014/5/21
  What do words like pro-China, democrat, left wing, moderate, republican or communist actually mean? The short answer is nothing. Very often when people use political labels the intended meaning has little or nothing to do with the dictionary definition of the word. This week I will suggest some guidelines to figuring out what people really mean.

84. The Schwa Sound Publishing Date: 2014/5/14
  The schwa sound is a lazy vowel and the IPA symbol for it is an upside down lower case letter 'e'. It is a soft, neutral replacement for the other vowels. Although not always taught, the schwa sound is the most common English vowel. Long ago, in Old English, vowel letters represented their own sounds. However during the Middle English period (1066 to 1485) vowel pronunciation varied and changed. Although the schwa sound was created by lazy pronunciation centuries ago, today it is a necessary part of English pronunciation.

85. Trademarks Publishing Date: 2014/5/7
  Have you ever been told that you must not use trademarks, but were unsure what exactly that meant? Today I will cover the basics of Hong Kong trademark law.

86. The Magic-e Publishing Date: 2014/4/30
  In school we are taught about the silent magic-e on the end of words, like 'crate' and 'late', that make the vowels before them long. There are three types of words with the magic-e.

87. A Famous Fake Rule Publishing Date: 2014/4/16
  One of the most famous fake grammar rules is the one about not allowing prepositions at the end of sentences (terminal prepositions). 'Preposition' is a grammar word labelling a word (or group of words) used to show the place, time or direction of a noun. Usually prepositions appear before the word they describe.

88. The Letter A a Publishing Date: 2014/4/9
  The letter A began long ago in Egypt as the image of an ox's head. Later it was aleph at the beginning of the Phonetician alphabet, the world's first full alphabet. The Greeks, needing vowel symbols, used it for alpha. The Romans used it as A in their alphabet and passed it to the British. Much later the English started using the Roman alphabet instead of their own runic script.

89. Counting Words (3 of 3)A Dozen Other Counting Words Publishing Date: 2014/4/2
  There are many words in English for certain numbers, oh, naught/nought, nil, couple, pair, brace, half dozen, dozen, baker's dozen, score, gross and great gross.

90. Counting Words (2 of 3)The Multiplicatives and So On Publishing Date: 2014/3/26
  After the cardinal (one, two, three) and ordinal (first, second, third) numbers, there are some other English counting words. These use the number words once, twice, thrice also single, double, triple and primary, secondary and tertiary. Sometimes these number words have been called multiplicatives, but the word is uncommon.

91. Counting Words (1 of 3)Cardinals, Ordinals and Prefixes Publishing Date: 2014/3/19
  This week I will talk about counting in English. Like almost all languages English counting is based on groups of ten. The three most common ways of counting in English are using cardinals, ordinals and prefixes. The word cardinal means very important. The cardinal numbers is simply how many objects there are.

92. How to Fake a British Accent? Publishing Date: 2014/3/12
  Some people want to pretend to be from the UK, so that their English ability is never questioned and can be used to dominate others. In this article I will explain the basic steps on how to pretend to be a British English speaker. First it is important to never meet anyone who has ever been to the UK. Certainly avoid meeting anyone who has ever lived there. They will instantly be able to tell that you are faking.

93. One Space or Two? Publishing Date: 2014/3/5
  Should you use one or two spaces after a sentence? This is one issue about which many people disagree. Many people assume that whatever they are used to doing must be the correct method.

94. Many British Englishes: The Midlands and the NorthJohn Larrysson Column Publishing Date: 2014/2/26
  Last week I surveyed some of the many southern varieties of British English. This week it is the turn of the Midlands and northern varieties. There are a great many exotic varieties of English in the central and northern areas of the UK including Brummie, Yorkshire, Geordie and Scots.

95. Many British Englishes: The SouthJohn Larrysson Column Publishing Date: 2014/2/19
  There are many varieties of British English and no one standard British English accent that everyone in the UK uses. I will survey a few of these local variations. The most commonly recognised British English accents are RP, Cockney, Brummie, Yorkshire, Estuary, Geordie, Welsh and Scots. I will roughly divide them geographically. This week I will cover the southern varieties and next week the Midlands and northern varieties.

96. No English words end with the letter i? Publishing Date: 2014/2/12
  Yet another fake rule.

97. Why do some people insist on obscure language rules?John Larrysson Column Publishing Date: 2014/1/29
  An American English speaking teacher taught her students to spell the word 'among' according to what she said was the original correct British English spelling, 'amoung'. This is not the British English spelling! It looks like a misspelling for 'among' and it is. Modern England does not use this spelling. Also my handy historical dictionary lists 15 old spellings for 'among', but 'amoung' is not one of them. Even if this spelling was historical, it would still be wrong.

98. Two Conversations about GrammarJohn Larrysson Column Publishing Date: 2014/1/22
  Recently I have had two conversations about a grammar topic in one of my articles. ('cannot' or 'can not') One conversation was live and the other was by email. The first conversation was with a person who teaches a very complex explanation and disagreed with my simpler explanation. This native English speaker and self-described grammar expert complains that people don't understand proper English grammar. I will not tell you what her explanation was for two reasons. One, her explanation is not true. It is not found in any major publisher's grammar books, dictionaries or style guides. Two, it is very complex.

99. Cannot or Can Not Publishing Date: 2014/1/15
  I do not want people to think that, every time I write about grammar, it is another rule to learn. Often it is a rule not to teach. Some teachers, whose own English is poor, teach bad rules (native speakers included). It is easier for students to not be taught extra stuff that is not real. Here is another garbage rule that should not be taught.

100. How to Read a Wine LabelJohn Larrysson Column Publishing Date: 2014/1/8
  Most people can greatly expand their knowledge of wine by just being able to read the label on the bottle. This week I will explain the most basic details. First some wine regions have ranking systems to judge the quality of their wines. Second there are some special words to describe wine. Third, there are different types of grapes. Wine is only made from grape juice; beer and vodka are not wines. (Wines made from other fruit, such as cherries, are called cherry wine, not wine.)

101. A Christmas Song Explained Publishing Date: 2013/12/23
  In school, year after year I have seen and heard Hong Kong children singing Christmas songs they have memorised. Then I ask them what some of the words mean and they don't know. It is almost as bad as when I was singing o Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, in school with only the briefest understanding that it was a German song about a Christmas tree. So this year I will explain a Christmas song.

102. 2014 Public Domain Publishing Date: 2013/12/18
  Copyright is a property right. It means that someone owns the right to make copies of a book, in the same way that a person owns a shirt. One of the little known things about copyright laws is that, unlike owning a shirt, there is a time limit. In Hong Kong copyright lasts for the life of the author, plus fifty years. Afterwards the book is in the public domain. (HK Copyright Ordinance Section 17.2) (Note: This is Hong Kong law, other countries may have different time limits.)

103. This is the year A.D. 2013 Publishing Date: 2013/12/11
  AD (or A.D.) is short for Anno Domini. The term Anno Domini is Latin, meaning In the year of our Lord (Jesus Christ). In British English, some very commonly used abbreviations do not use the full stops. American English usually keeps the full stops. So this is the year AD 2013 in the UK and A.D. 2013 in the US. The letters AD always go before the year number.

104. The Origin of English Publishing Date: 2013/12/4
  The story of how English came to be, does not start with that island off the north-west edge of Europe. The English were a German barbarian tribe from Asia. About two thousand years ago many of these barbarian tribes started moving into Eastern Europe. Why is not clear, but it has been speculated that the rise of China as a great country was pushing these wild tribes to move some place else. The Great Wall and the rise of China may have pushed the original English out of Asia.

105. Shakespeare's New Words Publishing Date: 2013/11/27
  Shakespeare's England was very different from today. The English language had just become the language of power in England. For centuries the colonial kings of England spoke French. Suddenly, after a bit of fighting called the War of the Roses (1455 - 1485), new English-speaking kings & queens came to power. People started using English in courts of law, in government meetings, in literature and in science. Before Shakespeare's time English was the language of the poor and the king spoke French. That social divide had changed violently. Shakespeare wrote plays for both nobles and commoners who spoke the same language, English.

106. Why bother with Shakespeare? Publishing Date: 2013/11/20
  Why do English teachers take William Shakespeare so seriously? Many people have written plays, books and songs in English. Why is he so special?

107. Between vs. Among Publishing Date: 2013/11/13
  Another fake, or badly taught, rule.

108. Book ReviewThe Dictionary of Hong Kong Biography Publishing Date: 2013/11/6

109. Sensible Nonsense Publishing Date: 2013/10/30
  Some grammatically correct English expressions appear illogical. This week I will cover a type called oxymorons and how to use them and why not to. The most common structure of an oxymoron is when one word describes another, but also contradicts it. For example:

110. How to Use Idiomsin One Simple Rule Publishing Date: 2013/10/23
  One simple rule: Don't

111. Strange Plurals: Things That Are Naturally Plural& A Summary (John Larrysson Column) Publishing Date: 2013/10/16
  There are certain things that have no singular form. For various reasons they are countable, but naturally plural. Some diseases are always plural, because the word does not historically refer to the disease, but instead to the symptoms.

112. Strange Plurals: Old English WordsJohn Larrysson Column Publishing Date: 2013/10/9
  Last week I covered the irregular plurals of foreign words used in English. Strangely enough the set of irregular foreign words also includes words from older versions of English. I'll cover those this week. The original Old English is not understandable by modern English speakers. The more recent Middle English is about as similar to Modern English as it is to German. So some strange plurals come from Old English and Middle English. They are equivalent to foreign languages when it comes to non-standard spelling and plurals in Modern International English.

113. Strange Plurals: Foreign WordsJohn Larrysson Column Publishing Date: 2013/10/2
  Modern English is a combination of many languages and has become an international language. The problem is that the combination is not always standardised. That makes learning English more difficult.

114. Strange Plurals : AnimalsJohn Larrysson Column Publishing Date: 2013/9/25
  I want to explain some of the stranger irregular English plurals. It is easy to explain non-standard plurals as irregular. In fact they are regular, but follow some patterns that are not well understood.

115. Double Negatives Publishing Date: 2013/9/18
  Sometimes English speakers use two negative words, called a double negative, in a sentence. However English teachers teach that this structure is an error... What is really going on? Sometimes two negative words are used for emphasis.

116. Words for Cows Publishing Date: 2013/9/11
  This week I want to talk about words for cows. These are words many HK people get wrong. A Hong Kong yan was describing the Calgary Stampede, a cattle farmer's festival in Canada. He told people about the "boy cows". There is no such thing as a boy cow. Cows are female. Bulls are male. Calves are the babies. (The singular of calves is calf.) The person talking about the festival should have used the word bulls.

117. John Larrysson Column : About the Author & Where to Find the BookSummer Story Part 10 Publishing Date: 2013/9/4
  About the Author :

118. John Larrysson Column : Winter NightSummer Story Part 9 Publishing Date: 2013/8/28
  The best times of all were at night. After supper Pa brought his traps in from the shed to grease (cover with oil) them by the fire. He rubbed them bright and greased the hinges of the jaws and the springs of the pans with a feather dipped in bear's grease.

119. John Larrysson Column : WinterSummer Story Part 8 Publishing Date: 2013/8/21
  The little house was fairly bursting with good food stored away for the long winter. The pantry and the shed and the cellar were full, and so was the attic.

120. John Larrysson Column : After Butchering TimeSummer Story Part 7 Publishing Date: 2013/8/14
  Uncle Henry went home after dinner, and Pa went away to his work in the Big Woods. But for Laura and Mary and Ma, Butchering Time had only begun. There was a great deal for Ma to do, and Laura and Mary helped her.

121. John Larrysson Column : Butchering TimeSummer Story Part 6 Publishing Date: 2013/8/7
  Then one day Uncle Henry came riding out of the Big Woods. He had come to help Pa butcher. Ma's big butcher knife was already sharpened, and Uncle Henry had brought Aunt Polly's butcher knife.

122. John Larrysson Column : Food for WinterSummer Story Part 5 Publishing Date: 2013/7/31
  One morning Pa went away before daylight with the horses and wagon, and that night he came home with a wagon-load of fish. The big wagon box was piled full, and some of the fish were as big as Laura. Pa had gone to Lake Pepin and caught them all in a net.

123. John Larrysson Column : Smoked MeatSummer Story Part 4 Publishing Date: 2013/7/24
  Pa skinned the deer carefully and salted and stretched the hides (skins), for he would make soft leather of them. Then he cut up the meat, and sprinkled salt over the pieces as he laid them on a board.

124. John Larrysson Column : VenisonSummer Story Part 3 Publishing Date: 2013/7/17
  In the yard (garden) in front of the house were two beautiful big oak trees. Every morning as soon as she was awake Laura ran to look out of the window, and one morning she saw in each of the big trees a dead deer hanging from a branch.

125. John Larrysson Column : Wolves in the NightSummer Story Part 2 Publishing Date: 2013/7/10
  At night, when Laura lay awake in the trundle bed (a bed in a box), she listened and could not hear anything at all, but the sound of the trees whispering (talking quietly) together. (Note: The trees only sound like they are talking...) Sometimes, far away in the night, a wolf howled. Then he came nearer, and howled again.

126. John Larrysson Column : IntroductionSummer Story Part 1 Publishing Date: 2013/7/3
  This summer, I will read to you from a book called The Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I will only read the first chapter as an introduction. Each chapter in this book stands on its own. It is about a little girl who grows up in the American wilderness about a hundred and fifty years ago. At the time America was an undeveloped country without modern factories, electricity, roads or cars.

127. Why is an English boydoing so badly in my English class? Publishing Date: 2013/6/26
  A teacher was worried. She was teaching English in a local Hong Kong primary school. In her class was one Western boy, everyone else was Hong Kong Chinese. The boy got along well with his classmates and could even speak with them in Cantonese. The trouble was that the English boy, born in England, was doing badly in English class.

128. Do Books Talk? Publishing Date: 2013/6/19
  An English teacher corrected her student when he wrote:

129. Whose for Objects Publishing Date: 2013/6/12
  The word who is generally used for people and not things. Can the word whose, a form of the word who, be used for things? This leads us to another fake rule. According to this fake rule, the word whose can only be used for people. This rule is another fake because in normal English usage whose is used to refer to objects as well as people. However it is a style choice and sentences can be written to avoid using whose for objects.

130. Who or That for Organisations of People Publishing Date: 2013/6/5
  Usually the word who is only used (as a relative pronoun) for people. Things are usually referred to using the word that. However some teachers tell their students that it is always this way. There are some cases where it is not. Do organisations count as people or things? Sometimes this is a question of corporate law, here it is an issue of grammar and style-choice.

131. Who or That for Animals Publishing Date: 2013/5/29
  Some teachers tell their students that animals should be referred to as "it" and "that" unless you know the animal's sex or unless the animal has a name. This advice is only half true.

132. Who or That Publishing Date: 2013/5/22
  Often Hong Kong teachers make their students learn a fake grammar rule that says: One can never use the (relative pronoun) word that to refer to people. To be fair it is not just Hong Kong teachers. I was taught the same rule and only later realised that it was not true. The English word that is often used instead of who to refer to people in statements, but not questions.

133. Common Titles - Mr Surgeon Publishing Date: 2013/5/15
  In British English, surgeons, at least male ones, use the title Mr and not Dr, although this distinction does not exist in American English. Generally Hong Kong English follows American usage on this point, even if the surgeon was trained in England. Traditionally surgeons are Mr and not addressed as Dr unless they have a Ph.D. Someone might finish medical school, earn the title Dr, take additional training as a surgeon and then revert to the title Mr to show off their new elite status.

134. Common Titles - Mr Publishing Date: 2013/5/8
  This week I'll discuss the most common title for a man, Mr. Last week I discussed the most common titles for a woman Mrs, Miss and Ms. They are all abbreviations for Master or Mistress that have become new words. These titles are used before the family name and not the given name alone. Example: Mr Wong and Mr David Wong are used, but not usually Mr David. (In older UK English, Mr David can be used in the case of a son or younger brother e.g. if Robert Wong is called Mr Wong, his little brother may be called Mr David by a servant or employee.)

135. Common Titles - Mrs, Miss or Ms Publishing Date: 2013/5/1
  My next topic is common titles. The most common titles for a woman are Mrs, Miss or Ms. The most common title for a man is Mr. The old social rule is ladies first, so this week I'll cover the female titles and the males will have to wait until next week.

136. Do Eskimos really haveone hundred words for snow? Publishing Date: 2013/4/24
  There is a story about language that is often repeated. It claims that Eskimos, the native people in northern Canada, have a very large number of words for snow, where English only has one word. Northern Canada is quite cold and has a lot of snow. People in northern Canada must talk more often about snow than people in England. Some people who study language claim that our environment has a great influence on our languages and this example is proof. There are many problems with this claim.

137. Nice Publishing Date: 2013/4/17
¡§I am sure,¡¨ cried Catherine, ¡§I did not mean to say anything wrong; but it is a nice book, and why should I not call it so?¡¨

138. Two Old Latin Symbols Publishing Date: 2013/4/10
  This week I will cover two very old Latin symbols used in English. Today they are standard English. Both of them are abbreviations from Latin and were used to save money. Long ago when paper was very expensive, people shortened what they wrote to use as little paper as possible.

139. Parts of a Book (3 of 3) Publishing Date: 2013/4/3
  This is the end of three articles on the different parts of The Ming Pao Book of Examples. This week I¡¦ll cover what is at the back. Earlier I covered the front of the book and the main text.

140. Parts of a Book (2 of 3) Publishing Date: 2013/3/27
  We are examining the different parts of a pretend book called The Ming Pao Book of Examples. This week we will be covering those parts at the front that introduce the book. Last week we covered reference material from the front. Next week I'll cover the back of the book.

141. Parts of a Book (1 of 3) Publishing Date: 2013/3/20
  For the next three weeks I¡¦ll cover what the different parts of a book are. Usually any one book will not have all of these parts, but all will have some. I will use the hypothetical The Ming Pao Book of Examples. For convenience I am dividing the parts into those added for reference and those that are introducing the book. This week I will cover the reference material and next week I¡¦ll cover the introductions and the main text. In the third week I¡¦ll cover the additions at the back of the book.

142. Money Symbols (2 of 2) Publishing Date: 2013/3/13
  This week I will finish exploring the more common English symbols used with money. Last week I covered: and . Their origins were Spanish and Latin. This week it is and @.

143. Money Symbols (1 of 2) Publishing Date: 2013/3/6
  This week, and next week, I will explore Hong Kong's favourite subject, money! Specifically I will examine the more common English symbols used with money: , , and @. The first two are this week and the second two are next week. Some people will immediately think that that last symbol is for computers and not money. There is more to it than that; read next week's article.

144. Plurals, Capitalisationand the Alphabetical Order of Compound Words Publishing Date: 2013/2/27
  When there is more than one of a compound word, the plural of that compound word is created by adding ¡Vs, to the key word and not necessarily to the last word. Although some words have plurals that do not involve adding -s.

145. When a prefix is hyphenated Publishing Date: 2013/2/20
  Usually words with prefixes are written as one word. (unhappy, disabled, reabsorb ¡V the prefixes are underlined.) New prefix-words and less common words will often hyphenate a prefix to avoid confusion. Originally the idea of e-mail was new and was hyphenated to make it clear that it was electronic mail. Today it has become very common and there is no longer any need to hyphenate email.

146. Hyphens in Compound Words Publishing Date: 2013/2/13
  Some English teachers try to teach rules about when to hyphenate words and when not to. The problem is that English has no firm rules and each example is judged on its own. One of the attempts to create a rule is the walking stick rule.

147. 26 Alphabets Publishing Date: 2013/2/6
  A very important Hong Kong person once said,

148. Anniversaries Publishing Date: 2013/1/30
  English speakers often refer to wedding anniversaries by special names. After one year of marriage is the paper anniversary, going up to the diamond anniversary at sixty years. On the first wedding anniversary a husband should give his wife anything made of paper from a book to the deed to a house. However this list is not consistent and English speakers disagree. There are often different versions of what gift is proper for what anniversary.

149. -ize Endings Are Not American English Publishing Date: 2013/1/23
  English speakers create new words by taking a noun and adding ¡Vise or ¡Vize to the end of the written word. An ¡Veyes sound is added to the end of the spoken word. This allows the person to create new words. I can change a traditional British dinner by making it in small separate pieces useful for eating with chopsticks. There is no word for this process, so I have to describe it or create a new word. I can add ¡Vise or ¡Vize to the end of dim sum to create this new word. I will dim sumise that dinner. This is a newly coined, or created word. It is not wrong, but it is not standard.

150. The Rule: I before E, except after C Publishing Date: 2013/1/16
  "I before e, except after c" Many school children are taught this rule. Then they quickly learn that it does not seem to work. What is not taught is that it usually works only for words where the "ie" is pronounced with a long e sound. (That is e as in eat.) So with that adjustment we can get rid of most of the exceptions, such as efficient, forfeit and science.

151. What is a Native Speaker? Publishing Date: 2013/1/9
  Last week we looked at some teachers whose ancestors were not English, but were native speakers of English. So what is a native speaker? Does a native speaker have to be a Caucasian from the UK?

152. What is a NET? Publishing Date: 2013/1/2
  A Hong Kong primary school with a band one reputation, and band three performance, tried to hire a native English speaking teacher through a local agency. The agency sent them three candidates. Alex Anderson, Brian Bulgakov and Clara Chan (not their real names). All three of them were born and raised in England and were native English speakers (NETs).

153. Ye and the Lost Letter Publishing Date: 2012/12/19
  Last week I explained how English used to use ye instead of you. This reminds me of an English teacher who showed their class a picture of a modern store with the name "Ye Old Shop". The store was trying to look old fashioned and sell souvenirs at high prices. You Old Shop does not make sense, what was meant was The Old Shop.

154. You, the Easy Pronoun Publishing Date: 2012/12/12
  Someone (an English teacher) recently told me that I should use one and not you when refereeing to a class or other group of people. Their (incorrect) reason was that you should only refer to a single person.

155. 'I' or 'Me'?And other leftovers from ancient English... Publishing Date: 2012/12/5
  I and me are often used incorrectly by second language learners. A different word is used depending on whether or not the person is the subject or object of the sentence. The subject is the thing doing the action, the object receives the action.

156. The Apostrophe ' (Part 2, The Messy Part) Publishing Date: 2012/11/28
  Last week we covered the standard rules for using an apostrophe. To show ownership, or association, and shortened words. We also covered the conflict between its and it's. As usual in English there are messy exceptions.

157. The Apostrophe ' (Part 1, The Simple Part) Publishing Date: 2012/11/21
  One part of writing English that people often get wrong is the use of the apostrophe ('). There are two main uses for an apostrophe.

158. How much is a... Publishing Date: 2012/11/14
  So the other day a student asked me, "How much is a ton?" Great, and she was expecting a quick and easy answer like 1000 kg. The problem is that this word has many meanings.

159. How Many Words Are There in English? Publishing Date: 2012/11/7
  There is not an easy answer to this question. First what do you mean by a word? When you have a 300 word writing assignment to hand in as homework you count anything separated by spaces. However let me give you a few more things to think about.

160. Should a litrebe abbreviated with a capital L or a small l? Publishing Date: 2012/10/31
  Should your one litre bottle of orange juice be labelled 1 l or 1 L? Chemists use letters as symbols for units, such as m for metre and g for gram. They have always had the rule that units named after people are abbreviated with a capital letter and others are not. For example: The hertz (cycles per second), has the symbol Hz, because it is named after Heinrich Rudolf Hertz. However when students write one litre, it is abbreviated as 1l, which looks like eleven. So many teachers wanted to use a capital L, not a small l, as the abbreviation for litre. The word litre is from litron, an old and no longer used French unit once used for measuring grain; so litre should not be abbreviated with a capital letter.

161. When to Use Fewer or Less and Why the Rule Is Wrong! Publishing Date: 2012/10/24
  The simple rule about when to use fewer and when to use less is that fewer is used with countable things and less is used with uncountable things. The problem is that this rule is not always true. Some English teachers will say that exceptions are the result of modern people being lazy with English. One good way to check this idea is to look at a very respectable old book, such as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

162. When to Use Is or Are Publishing Date: 2012/10/17
  This is one of the most common English mistakes in Hong Kong. As a grammar lesson it is simple. When should you use is or are? (subject verb agreement) However this problem causes many mistakes in the English of Hong Kong people. The real problem is something else more complicated: what are you counting?

163. Last Names and Family Names Publishing Date: 2012/10/10
  Modern English family names come from many sources. Some are old tribal or clan names like McDonald or Saxon. Other family names are from old professions like Smith or Taylor. Still others are where the family came from, such as Hill or Murray (from Moray Firth). Two of the four American presidents carved on Mount Rushmore have family names taken from English towns. A few names were from physical characteristics, like Short. Women when they get married take the family name of their husband; their previous family name is called their maiden name.

164. An Unsung Hero Publishing Date: 2012/10/3
  The other day someone told me that English is a funny language because there are so many things that don't make sense. She gave me unsung hero as an example and asked me if I had ever heard of a sung hero. To which I answered, of course I have! Do you have any idea what part of the world my name comes from? That brings us to this week's topic: How the Norse added to English.

165. Words Commonly Confused in Hong Kong Publishing Date: 2012/9/26
  I want to add something extra to this weekly column. At the end of the column each week I will add a few words that get commonly confused in Hong Kong. At the bottom of this article is the first part. Over nearly two decades of correcting students¡¦ work in Hong Kong I have made an alphabetical list of words they often get wrong. I have also added to that list some words that English teachers (local and NET), English panel heads, head teachers, government officials, politicians and other important people also got wrong. This list is of both written and spoken mistakes.

166. Non-Literal Literally Publishing Date: 2012/9/19
  Literally is a very commonly misused word. It is the opposite of figuratively.

167. Which Floor Is It? Publishing Date: 2012/9/12
  One English problem that causes confusion in Hong Kong is the British and American systems of counting floors in a building. To add to the problem Hong Kong has its own variation on counting floors. Consider this conversation.

168. What Is Hong Kong English? (2 of 2) Publishing Date: 2012/9/5
  The words shared between languages show us how the people speaking those languages interact. Hong Kong English shows us how English speaking people in Hong Kong interact. In the old 18th and 19th century Chinese Pidgin English most words were related to business. Chinese Pidgin English had fewer words than a full language. It was really only used to do business and was never a full language. The Chinese and British people did a lot of business, but did not interact socially.

169. What Is Hong Kong English? (1 of 2) Publishing Date: 2012/8/29
  Hong Kong English has new words used in proper English sentences. This is different from Chinglish which is an inter-language or creole. Hong Kong English is a modern language variety and is not Chinese Pidgin English. Chinese Pidgin English was a trade creole, used in South East Asia in the 18th and 19th centuries and was a mixture of the Malay, Portuguese, Cantonese, English and Indian languages.

170. Octopuses, Octopi, Octopodes Publishing Date: 2012/8/22
  Some English teachers insist that the correct plural of octopus is octopi and remove marks from student's work if they use the spelling octopuses. The argument goes that since the word octopus comes from the Latin language it should use a Latin plural. English teachers who love Latin so much should take a Latin course. If they did they would learn that the Latin word for octopus is polypus, not octopus.

171. What Is English Publishing Date: 2012/8/15
"The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary."

172. The Ultimate Penultimate Publishing Date: 2012/8/8
  If someone says that you are the ultimate salesman, smile and say thank you. If they call you the penultimate salesman, don't take it as a compliment. They just said that you are second best. (Actually, being in the top two out of the millions of salespeople on Earth wouldn't be that bad an insult.)

173. The Split Infinitive Publishing Date: 2012/8/1 boldly split infinitives that no man had split before -

174. Passive Voice Publishing Date: 2012/7/25
  Some teachers mark student's work as wrong if they use the passive voice. This structure is not a grammar error. It may not always be the best choice of style, but it is not an error.

175. Indian English in Hong Kong 2 of 2 Publishing Date: 2012/7/18
  There are many different varieties of English around the world. The two most important varieties of English are British and American. (Which of those is most important is a discussion for another day.) The third most important is Indian English. It is different from the first two because it is a second language variety and not a native speaker variety. Hong Kong English has its own characteristics, but it is not as developed, nor as important internationally as Indian English. When people are doing international business they need to be aware of the different varieties of English. Even simple things can cause trouble, such as the difference in floor counting between British and American English.

176. Indian English in Hong Kong 1 of 2 Publishing Date: 2012/7/11
  Hong Kong is an international city. Although we are part of China, people from many places have lived and worked here for a long time. Some of the people of Indian origin in Hong Kong today were born here and it was their grandparents or great-grandparents who first came from India. Many of the first British people to come to Hong Kong had worked in India and spoke Indian English as well as British English. In Hong Kong we still use some Indian words.

177. Keep It SimpleA Short Guide to Good Writing Publishing Date: 2012/7/4
  Good writing is easy to read. A sentence should not have any unnecessary words. A paragraph should not have any unnecessary sentences. If you are building a car, you would not add an extra engine that just sits in a seat and does nothing. This suggestion does not mean that all sentences should be short and without detail, but that every word should be useful to the reader.

178. How to Learn English Publishing Date: 2012/6/27
  One of the most common questions I get is, "What should I do to improve my child's English?" The answers that many people expect are wrong.

179. Using the Wrong Grammar Word Publishing Date: 2012/6/20
  In earlier articles I covered some of the more common mistakes made by Hong Kong People who learn English as a second language. These included preposition use, countable nouns and so on. This article is about common mistakes caused by using the wrong word and I am specifically covering grammar words. (Yes, grammar word is not an official term, but I am trying to keep things simple.) These words sound the same, the spelling is similar, but they have different uses.

180. Letter Writing Format Publishing Date: 2012/6/13
  Dear Reader,

181. How to Read a Poem Part 2 of 2 Publishing Date: 2012/6/6
  What does the poem try to say?

182. How to Read a Poem Part 1 of 2 Publishing Date: 2012/5/30
  Many Hong Kong people learn English only for practical function. This includes reading manuals, medical books, business contracts and so on. This is good, but stories and poetry are optional extras. Poems are read for pleasure, they are not always practical, but you might enjoy them anyway.

183. And at the Beginning of a Sentence Publishing Date: 2012/5/23
  Many English teachers often repeat the fake rule that an English sentence should not begin with the word and. The same rule is given for other words like so and but (all conjunctions). This rule banning the word and from the start of English sentences is an old Latin grammar rule that has been added to English classes by excitable English teachers. It is not real English.

184. Countable Nouns Publishing Date: 2012/5/16
  One topic that causes a lot of trouble for second language learners of English is countable vs. uncountable nouns. The problem is that counting things is often taught as a grammar problem. It is actually a problem with knowing exactly what words mean.

185. Singular They Publishing Date: 2012/5/9
  We have all been taught in English that the word they is the plural of he or she.

186. Capitalisation in Captions, Titles and so on... Publishing Date: 2012/5/2
  In captions, titles and other text the capitalisation rules are not as strict as in sentences and depend more on the writer's judgement. Too often people are taught over complicated capitalisation rules. You may have read some rules claiming that certain parts of speech must be capitalised in titles and captions. These rules are false and memorising them makes learning English more difficult.

187. Capitalisation in sentences Publishing Date: 2012/4/25
  In English sentences there are rules for capitalisation. Sometimes there are whole lists of them. Here they are combined and simplified in three short rules.

188. The 3 most dangerous words in English Publishing Date: 2012/4/18
  There are some words in English so prone to misunderstanding that they should not be used. We already know that some words, like hot, have many meanings. (High temperature, attractive, spicy, radioactive, stolen and so on...) Usually we can choose the correct meaning of hot from context, but not always.

189. How to choose a dictionary Publishing Date: 2012/4/11
  There are three main types of dictionaries, children's, standard and speciality.

190. When to use the Publishing Date: 2012/4/4
  When is the used or a/ an? The first choice is between specific or general.

191. Is rosemary a herb or an herb? Publishing Date: 2012/3/28
  We all know this English rule: Use an before vowel sounds...

192. Consistency of tense Publishing Date: 2012/3/21
  Some of what students are taught about English is false. One of the biggest English grammar myths is that all sentences in a story or other text should be in the same tense. When students are told to write a story the instructions on tense sound like this:

193. Place Names Publishing Date: 2012/3/14
  Hong Kong people often say in instead of near when confusing place names. It may be common, but it is still wrong. For example, there is no area or district of Prince Edward.

194. Commas and quotations Publishing Date: 2012/3/7
  A comma is used to separate a quotation from the rest of the sentence. A quotation is when you repeat something another person has said or written. The British and American styles have slight differences. The Americans put the comma before the quotation mark, the British put it afterwards.

195. Comma rules simplified and the comma splice Publishing Date: 2012/2/29
  Commas are used to separate extra parts of a sentence, called clauses by English teachers. They make a long complex sentence easier to read. There are pages of long detailed rules governing this use of commas. However they can be summarised as:

196. The Oxford Comma Publishing Date: 2012/2/22
  You may have seen some long detailed sets of comma rules and despaired of ever learning and understanding them all. I will give you some short quick guidelines. As we will see native speakers sometimes disagree on correct comma use, so don't try to please everyone. Just make sure that what you write is not confusing. The Oxford Comma is one use of the comma that many people disagree on.

197. Married maids Publishing Date: 2012/2/15
  Maid Marion is an important person in the story Robin Hood. She has never cleaned a floor. She does not wash Robin Hood's clothes. And she is not a domestic helper. The original meaning of maid is "a girl or young woman who is not married or has not done yucky biological baby-making things". In most English speaking countries, the word maid has two meanings. The first meaning has been lost in Hong Kong English. The second meaning is a type of servant.

198. Prepositions - in ten? at ten? Publishing Date: 2012/2/8
  Many people in Hong Kong have trouble with English prepositions. Prepositions are those extra grammar words in sentences that tell you things like how, when and where. English teachers like to explain that they make sense and so should be easy. A common example is that we ride 'in a car' not 'on a car'. A horse is ridden 'on' and not 'in'. That sounds easy; we can picture someone sitting on top of a car as wrong and riding in a horse would be uncomfortable.