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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

What is the origin of symbols like '@' and '#'? + The Origin of Other Signs! (from Oxford Living Dictionaries)

@ ⇒ The '@' sign originated as a scribe's quick way of writing the Latin word ad, especially in lists of prices of commodities. It's usually just known as 'the at sign' or 'the at symbol': although it has acquired various nicknames in other languages, none of these has so far caught on in English.

# ⇒ The '#' sign has several names. The most common is probably hash
  • In North American English, it's sometimes called the pound sign and used as a symbol for pounds weight: this can be confusing for British people for whom a pound sign is £.
  • It's also known as the number sign in North American English, in contexts such as go to question #2. In a musical context, the symbol is known as a sharp
  • The picturesque name octothorpe has also been introduced: it's said to have been invented by an employee of Bell Laboratories in the 1960s, in honour of the American athlete Jim Thorpe (with the octo-part deriving from the symbol's eight points).
  • In the large form in which it appears on telephones it's sometimes called a square.
  • Recently, the hash sign has acquired a new role. On social networking sites such as Twitter, it's attached to keywords or phrases so as to identify messages on a particular topic (e.g. #volcano; #Iceland). These keywords or phrases are known as hashtags.
πŸ’‘ You may also be interested in:
  1. Is there a name for the dot above the letters i and j?  The dot above the letters i and j has a name – do you know what it’s called?
  2. What is the origin of the ampersand (&)?  The ampersand is the ‘&’ symbol that stands in place of ‘and’ – but where did it get its curious shape, and how long have people been using it?
  3. What is the origin of the dollar sign ($)?  Have you ever wondered where the dollar ($) sign came from? Our video explains the origin, and it might be different to what you think.
  4. What is the origin of the pound sign (£)?  Have you ever wondered where the pound (£) sign came from? Our video explains the origin, and it might be different to what you think.
  5. What is the origin of the question mark?  Rather fittingly, the answer is somewhat clouded in myth and mystery… we ask some searching questions on the topic.
  6. Is a question mark a full stop?  A question mark is used to indicate the end of a question. Which other functions does it have?
  7. Is emoji a type of language?  Emojis are everywhere – but do they count as a language? We explore the issue.
πŸ”— Go to Questions about symbols.

πŸ’‘ Or take a look at: What is the origin of the word 'quiz'?
πŸ’‘ You may also be interested in: What is the origin of the word 'OK'?

Monday, July 30, 2018

Why you really are as old as you think, by David Robson (from BBC Future)

Most people feel younger or older than they really are – and this 'subjective age' has a big effect on their physical and mental health.

As they get older, people with a younger subjective age are less likely to develop dementia and they even have a reduced risk of mortality (Credit: Javier Hirschfeld/Getty Images)
Imagine, for a moment, that you had no birth certificate and your age was simply based on the way you feel inside. How old would you say you are?

Like your height or shoe size, the number of years that have passed since you first entered the world is an unchangeable fact. But everyday experience suggests that we often don’t experience ageing the same way, with many people feeling older or younger than they really are.

Scientists are increasingly interested in this quality. They are finding that your ‘subjective age’ may be essential for understanding the reasons that some people appear to flourish as they age – while others fade. “The extent to which older adults feel much younger than they are may determine important daily or life decisions for what they will do next,” says Brian Nosek at the University of Virginia.

Its importance doesn’t end there. Various studies have even shown that your subjective age also can predict various important health outcomes, including your risk of death. In some very real ways, you really are ‘only as old as you feel’.

Given these enticing results, many researchers are now trying to unpick the many biological, psychological, and social factors that shape the individual experience of ageing – and how this knowledge might help us live longer, healthier lives.

This new understanding of the ageing process has been decades in the making. Some of the earliest studies charting the gap between felt and chronological age appeared in the 1970s and 1980s. That trickle of initial interest has now turned into a flood. A torrent of new studies during the last 10 years have explored the potential psychological and physiological consequences of this discrepancy.

One of the most intriguing strands of this research has explored the way subjective age interacts with our personality. It is now well accepted that people tend to mellow as they get older, becoming less extroverted and less open to new experiences – personality changes which are less pronounced in people who are younger at heart and accentuated in people with older subjective ages.

Interestingly, however, the people with younger subjective ages also became more conscientious and less neurotic – positive changes that come with normal ageing. So they still seem to gain the wisdom that comes with greater life experience. But it doesn’t come at the cost of the energy and exuberance of youth. It’s not as if having a lower subjective age leaves us frozen in a state of permanent immaturity.

Feeling younger than your years also seems to come with a lower risk of depression and greater mental wellbeing as we age. It also means better physical health, including your risk of dementia, and less of a chance that you will be hospitalised for illness.

Yannick Stephan at the University of Montpellier examined the data from three longitudinal studies which together tracked more than 17,000 middle-aged and elderly participants.

Most people felt about eight years younger than their actual chronological age. But some felt they had aged – and the consequences were serious. Feeling between 8 and 13 years older than your actual age resulted in an 18-25% greater risk of death over the study periods, and greater disease burden – even when you control for other demographic factors such as education, race or marital status.

There are many reasons why subjective age tells us so much about our health. It may be a direct result of those accompanying personality changes, with a lower subjective age meaning that you enjoy a greater range of activities (such as travelling or learning a new hobby) as you age. “Studies have found, for example, that subjective age is predictive of physical activity patterns,” Stephan says.

But the mechanism linking physical and mental wellbeing to subjective age almost certainly acts in both directions. If you feel depressed, forgetful, and physically vulnerable, you are likely to feel older. The result could be a vicious cycle, with psychological and physiological factors both contributing to a higher subjective age and worse health, which makes us feel even older and more vulnerable. (Continue reading)

πŸ’‘David Robson is a science writer based in London, UK. He is d_a_robson on Twitter.

Sunday, July 29, 2018


This post offers you a selection of recommended free online exercises, games, videos and resources so that you can improve your English language skills while having fun! ENJOY!

πŸ“œREADING PICKS – Articles, blog posts, quizzes and more:

Article from BBC EARTH: The river that runs through the dawn of life, by Vivien Cumming. Every river has a story to tell and this one covers 500 million years.
Rocks sculpted by the Coppermine River took us on a journey through 500 hundred million years of Earth’s history, starting over 1.5 billion years ago when the earliest multicellular life was beginning to emerge. By studying and sampling the rocks along the riverbanks, and hiking into the wilderness using drones to map the area, we hoped to expand our understanding of early life on Earth.
The Coppermine River winds its way through the high Arctic landscape, cutting the easiest path through a remote part of the world until it reaches the Arctic Ocean and the Inuit settlement of Kugluktuk, where we ended our journey. (Continue reading)

Article from BBC FUTURE: How your age affects your appetiteby Alex Johnstone. Our relationship with food changes through our lives, and there are seven stages of life that affect how we eat.
Do you eat to live or live to eat? We have a complicated relationship with food, influenced by cost, availability and even peer pressure. But something we all share is appetiteour desire to eat.
While hunger – our body’s way of making us desire food when it needs feeding – is a part of appetite, it is not the only factor. After all, we often eat when we’re not hungry, or may skip a meal despite pangs of hunger. Recent research has highlighted that the abundance of food cues – smells, sounds, advertising – in our environment is one of the main causes of overconsumption. (Continue reading)

🎬 VIDEO PICKS – Short and fun videos:

πŸ’‘ GRAMMAR PICKS – Assorted exercises and games:


Saturday, July 28, 2018

The US island that feels like Russia, by John Zada (from BBC Travel)

Unalaska Island in the remote Aleutian archipelago was part of an epic, but now mostly forgotten, military campaign during World War II.
(Credit:John Zada)
⇒ A slice of Russia in the US

After Danish explorer Vitus Bering and his Russian colleague Alexei Chirikov became the first known Europeans to visit the Aleutian Islands in 1741, waves of Russian fur traders flocked to the archipelago to hunt sea otters and fur seals. In the late 1700s, the islands became a colony of the Russian Empire. Today many inhabitants still have Russian surnames.

The Russian Orthodox Church followed the fur hunters, building small houses of worship across the islands and converting many Unangax to their faith. Although the US gained control of the Aleutian Islands when it purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867, the Russian Orthodox legacy has survived. Unalaska’s Church of the Holy Ascension (pictured above) is one of a few Russian Orthodox houses of worship that remain. Built in 1896, it is the oldest cruciform-style cathedral in North America and contains original icons and interior sections from earlier churches built on the same site in 1808 and 1825. (Credit: John Zada)

πŸ”— Go to FULL ARTICLE ⇒ The US island that once belonged to Russia

Thursday, July 26, 2018


πŸ’‘ How to use the language from the latest news stories:

Check out the videos below and click on the links above for more!

(New videos on YouTube every Tuesday)

Tuesday, July 24, 2018


πŸ’‘ Quick answer:
  • ANOTHER (otro/otra) + singular countable noun There is another book in my bag. (Hay otro libro en mi bolso.)
  • OTHER (otros/otras) + plural countable noun There are other books in my bag. (Hay otros libros en mi bolso.)
  • OTHER (otro/otra) + uncountable noun The embassy website has general information about visas. Other travel information can be obtained by calling the freephone number. (From Cambridge English Grammar Today)
πŸ”ΊWARNING: ANOTHER + NUMBER / 'a couple of' / 'few' etc. + PLURAL NOUN.
'ANOTHER' se utiliza con nombres contables en plural cuando incluimos un NÚMERO o frases como 'a couple of', 'few', etc.
  • Another 2,000 nurses are needed in NHS hospitals. (Macmillan Dictionary)
  • For another £30 (= for £30 more) you can buy the model with a touchscreen. (Cambridge Dictionary)
  • My passport is valid for another two years. (Cambridge Dictionary)
  • We’ll have to wait another three weeks for the results. (Longman Dictionary)
  • We'll have to wait for another two weeks / another couple of weeks.
  • I've decided to stay in the UK another few weeks after I finish my course.
    Al igual que en espaΓ±ol, podemos usar ‘otro/otra’ y ‘otros/otras’ como adjetivos y como pronombres.

    As an ADJECTIVE, they describe a noun.
    Como ADJETIVO, describen un nombre (sustantivo).
    As a PRONOUN, they replace a noun.
    Como PRONOMBRE, reemplazan un nombre (sustantivo).

    As a PRONOUN
    I need another book.
    (Necesito otro libro.)
    I don’t need this book; I need another.
    (No necesito este libro; necesito otro.)
    I don’t need this book; I need the other book.
    (No necesito este libro; necesito el otro libro.)
    I don’t need this book; I need the other.
    (No necesito este libro; necesito el otro.)

    As a PRONOUN
    I need other books.
    (Necesito otros libros.)
    I don’t need these books; I need others.
    (No necesito estos libros; necesito otros.)
    I don’t need these books; I need the other books.
    (No necesito estos libros; necesito los otros libros.)
    I don’t need these books; I need the others.
    (No necesito estos libros; necesito los otros.)

    πŸ”Ί WARNING: ‘OTHERS is always a PLURAL PRONOUN, meaning ‘other people or other things’
    ‘OTHERS’ en plural con -s es siempre PRONOMBRE ⇒ Some people think that Tom is a great teacher, but others think just the opposite.

    🎬 From Learn English with Adam [EngVid]

    πŸ”— Read more:
    πŸ”— Free online exercises:
    πŸ”— SEE ALSO:

    Sunday, July 22, 2018


    This post offers you a selection of recommended free online exercises, games, videos and resources so that you can improve your English language skills while having fun! ENJOY!

    πŸ“œREADING PICKS – Articles, blog posts, quizzes and more:

    Article from BBC CAPITAL: Your vocal quirks could be costing you jobs, Video by Kat Sud, Maeve Burke and Bowen Li, research by Debbi McCullough. These vocal tendencies can cost you at a job interview, but is it fair to judge people based on these vocal habits? (Continue reading)

    Article from BBC FUTURE: The dangerous diseases hidden in caves, by Zaria Gorvett. The rescued Thai boys faced infectious organisms underground and are now in quarantine – but which diseases could they have been exposed to, and how serious are they? (Continue reading)

    🎬 VIDEO PICKS – Short and fun videos:

    πŸ’‘ GRAMMAR PICKS – Assorted exercises and games:


    Wednesday, July 18, 2018

    The language of mental or physical disability (from OXFORD Living Dictionaries)

    Read full article: Avoid using dated or offensive words with these guidelines for use of specific terminology.
    The language that is now considered suitable to refer to people with physical and mental disabilities is very different from that used a few decades ago. The changes are due partly to campaigns by organizations that promote the interests of particular groups of disabled people and partly to the public's increased sensitivity to the issues. People are now keen to avoid using terms that might reinforce any negative stereotypes of people with disabilities, in the same way that they try to avoid the racist or sexist terms that were once commonly used.

    The word disabled itself came to be used as the standard term for referring to people with physical and mental disabilities from the 1960s onwards. It's still the most generally accepted term in both British and American English and has replaced terms that are now seen as offensive, such as crippled, handicapped, or mentally defective.

    If you want to use appropriate language you not only need to avoid words which have been superseded, such as mongolism or backward. You should also try to do the following:
    • avoid using the + an adjective to refer to an entire group of people, such as ‘the blind’, ‘the deaf’, or ‘the disabled’. This type of collective term is seen as dehumanizing: in essence, it reduces the people with a disability to the disability itself. It also ignores the individuality of those people by lumping them together in an undifferentiated group. The preferred forms are now ‘a person with …’ or ‘people with ……’ wherever possible, i.e. ‘people with sight problems’, ‘people with disabilities’, etc. If that isn't suitable, use ‘blind people’, ‘disabled people’, and so on.
    • avoid using terms such as victim, suffer from, be afflicted with, or wheelchair-bound which suggest that the person concerned is the helpless object of the disability. Instead of suffer from, you can just say have:
    Their youngest child has cystic fibrosis.

    Another alternative is ‘be diagnosed with’:

    In 1984, he was diagnosed with autism.

    Rather than describing someone as wheelchair-bound, you can just say that they ‘use a wheelchair’.
    • avoid using words which once related to disabilities, but which are now generally used as insults, such as mongol, cretin, spastic, schizo, dumb, etc.

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