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The best of the blog

Marzo 2019
The Speak Up blog answers any questions you may have either about the English language or our articles. Write to us 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!

Hello Speak Up!
In the article 'Reach for the stars' (issue n. 406) there's a doubt that crossed my mind.
Valentina Mercuri writes that astrology is "not a forecast" but "a set of personality characteristics that can open up new possibilities and help us live." How do you say: "live" or "to live"?
Thank you very much for your help. Edgardo

Dear Edgardo,
Thank you for your question. In the case of the infinitive after the verb ‘help’, both alternatives are grammatically correct, although in conversation or informal English, ‘to’ is often left out.


Dear Speak Up,
I must admit I was skeptical about yet another article about Lady Gaga. I always thought of her as a second-rate Madonna just trying to shock the public with cheap tricks. But I was pleasantly surprised by her earnest discourse in the interview, and also by the fact that she took inspiration from Queen's song 'Radio Gaga' for her stage name. But still a question haunts my mind: Where does this 'gaga' word come from?  Does it mean anything at all? Thanks! Giorgio

Dear Giorgio,
We’re glad you liked this article. Actually, your question has deep roots in etymology. The first recorded use of the word ‘gaga’ is in France, in the late 18th century. It is a word with a strong onomatopoeic element: it means ‘senile’ or ‘stupid’ (so it appears to imitate the sound of someone that cannot talk.) As pop legend goes, the original title of Queen’s song was “Radio Caca”, which were the words uttered by Roger Taylor’s (Queen’s drummer) infant son to convey that he didn’t like the music on the radio.

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