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The Best of the Blog

Febbraio 2015
The Speak Up blog answers any questions you may have either about the English language or our articles. Write to us (preferably in English) at: http://blog.speakuponline.it. The most interesting questions will be published on this page. A word of warning, though: our blog is not a translation or homework service!

Mardi Gras
Please can you tell me something about carnival in Britain?

Carnival is an event that British people tend to associate with Italy (particularly Venice) and Brazil. There is, however, the “Notting Hill Carnival” in London, but this takes place in August. It began in the 1960s, in an attempt to improve relations between white Londoners and the West Indian immigrant community.
The advent of Lent (Quaresima) is celebrated in Britain in a different way.  Shrove Tuesday (Martedì Grasso) is the subject of a famous parade in New Orleans (USA) and a colourful Gay Pride Parade in Sydney (Australia), but the British simply make pancakes. The town of Cowes on the Isle of Wight used to organize a carnival parade on Shrove Tuesday but the tradition was abandoned. It was revived a few years ago, but now it takes place at the end of July. One of the reasons why the British don’t have carnival parades in the winter is because of the bad weather!

How come ‘confetti’ is the English for the
Italian ‘coriandoli’?

It’s hard to say “Why?” when it comes to languages. This is because the answer is usually “That’s just the way it is!” Confetti is, of course, the same word: in English it refers to the little bits of paper that are thrown at weddings (or at carnivals), while in Italian it refers to the sweets that are given to wedding guests. The English used to throw rice and sweets at weddings too, but they changed to little bits of paper at the end of the 19th century. This is because they considered it too dangerous as these objects could hurt people. They still use the same word, however.

I have a doubt about the pronoun I have to use when I talk about someone whose gender is unknown. Example: I told someone I love him/her/them?

Most native speakers use the plural, as in “tell someone you love them.” It’s grammatically incorrect, but it has become the correct form! Nowadays only a foreign speaker of English would use the singular.

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