Readers' Feedback


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Generated : 24th November 2017



Erik Schaug

I have made a study of Indian scripts, and, not meaning to be pedantic, I disagree with your statement that "[The languages of India] either use Devanagari script or a derivation (if the people are Hindus) or the Arabic Nastaliq script (if the people are Muslims)".

The scripts of India are almost entirely derived from Brahmi, an ancient script, itself derived from the Semitic alphabets - or so most linguists believe. Devanagari is derived from this, as are Bengali, Gurmukhi/Punjabi (indirectly), Telugu, Kannada, Oriya, and from "Grantha", a version of Brahmi used in the South, Tamil and Malayalam.

The only major scripts derived totally from Devanagari are Gujarati and Tibetan. Apart from that, Gurmukhi has had some influence, and that's all.

KryssTal Reply: Thank you.

You are, of course, correct. My account is a simplified version of your excellent analysis and I will update as soon as I have time. Thank you for taking the time to write.


Michael Black

Dear Kryss,

I found your site via google because I was curious about Latin and it's origin. My brother-in-law, who is Greek, insists that Latin came from Greek. From what I've read on your site, and please correct me if I am wrong, it seems that the only thing Latin got from Greek was the alphabet. Am I correct in this assertion? My brother-in-law is very much like the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when it comes to his Greek heritage. :) I wasn't for certain on this so that's why I wanted to check on it.

Many thanks!

P.S. GREAT site! I find etymology to be extremely fascinating.

KryssTal Reply: Hello, Yia sou.

In linguistic terms Ancient Greek and Latin are SISTER languages. They have a common ancestor (like Italian and Spanish, Hindi and Urdu OR Russian and Polish)).

In writing terms, the (vowel-less) alphabet was invented in (what is modern day) Lebanon and was passed to the Greeks who added vowels and passed it to the Romans (the Latin speakers).

And this is from a Greek!


William Fritz

Hi Krysstal,

I am a 7th grader from PA. I have a project to do this week, and I am stuck. One thing I have to do is write the words "Byzantine Empire" in the Cyrillic Alphabet. I can not figure it out. Especially the "y". Can you help me?

Thank You,

The 7th grader.

KryssTal Reply: Hello William,

I can't write it in Cyrillic because the characters are not supported by this email software but I will try to describe it. Assuming we're using the Russian alphabet from my web page...

The B is the second character. The Y is from the Greek spelling but would be an i sound so you can use the backward N character on the first line. The Z is the character that looks like a 3. A is A. The N is the H on the second line. I is the backward N. Another N (the H) and another backward N.

The pronunciation would be BIZANTINI.

Hope that is OK. The word EMPIRE is English, I don't know what the Russian equivalent is.


Mimouna Ouaaba


Je vous remercie pour toutes ces valeureuses informations sur les langues et les familles des langues.

J'aimerai cependant attirer votre attention sur une erreur ( peut être involontaire) : vous présentez l'arabe en tant que langue du Coran et de l'Islam, or l'extrait d'écriture arabe que vous exposez comme exemple n'est pas du coran et n'est pas en accord avec la religion musulmane qui stipule que Dieu n'a pas de fils. Ce qui pourrait mener à une confusion.

Je vous remercie pour votre compréhension.

KryssTal Reply: Bonjour et Salaam,

Il est un peux de Bible Christianne. Mecri.


Dan Short

I enjoy your website very much, in particular your list of things that have different names between British English and American English. You might be interested to note that "dumpster" is a trademark for that particular kind of container and technically should be capitalized. However, dumpster is one of those words, like jello and kleenex, that are (still) trademarks but have passed into popular usage as common words for their generic types and are often incorrectly written without the initial cap. Someday I would like to compile a list of all such words. I'm sure that you have similar words in British English.

KryssTal Reply: We do indeed:

Biro - ballpoint pen
Hoover - vacuum cleaner

are just two. Let me know when you complete your list and I'll add a link to it.

* * * * * * * * *

Here is a submission for your "One Meaning - Two Words" list:

Meaning: a beam supporting railroad tracks
UK word: sleeper
USA word: (railroad) tie

(If the topic of discussion is railroad tracks, one would just say "tie." If it is not understood that "tie" is a reference to railroad tracks, one would say "railroad tie.")

Now that I think about it, is "tracks" used in British English? Maybe you say "rails."

Here is another one that I am not entirely sure of: Americans refer to "asphalt" as the substance to make some paved roads ("an asphalt road", "laying asphalt"). I believe that you British refer to "macadam" for this type of surface. "Macadam" is rarely if ever used in the USA. Asphalt is also quite often informally called "blacktop."

KryssTal Reply: They're all correct. Macadam is named after the inventor. We tend to shorten it to tarmac. That word is also used for "runway" at an airport as in "the craft was waiting on the tarmac".

Also the UK uses railway as oppsoed to the USA railroad.


Jens Möller

Dear KryssTal webmaster,

I am hoping that you can help me?! But first of all, let me introduce myself. My name is Jens and I am 25 years old. I`m currently studying English language and literature at the university of Bayreuth in Germany.

I will have to write an academic paper in the next few weeks and my topic is the following:

The Dialect Regions of England: Historical Background and Overview

1. Historical development of English dialect regions: describe / compare maps of the Old English and Middle English dialect regions to those of Present-Day English (both traditional and modern)

2. Give a classification / taxonomy of the present-day dialect regions; what are similarities / differences between traditional and modern dialects (concerning the regions where they are spoken and their speakers..

Note: the main focus of this topic will be on historical and geographical matters, rather than linguistic details, but a few examples to support your results would be fine.

Here is my problem: it is very difficult to get useful material on this topic here in Germany. Maybe you can help me? Do you have any papers on this topic? Maybe you can send me some maps or information on this topic via e-mail?! That would be great and I would appreciate it very much!


KryssTal Reply: Sorry I am unable to help with material. I hope you managed to solve your problem and got a good grade.


Chevreuse, France

First, I'd like to say how much I appreciated your site. I'm quite impressed by both the amount of information and the presentation. I have only looked at the linguistics section to date, but have found it a mine of information. I would like to point out what I think are several errors in your page "English Usage in the UK and the USA". I was born and grew up in the United States, so I generally feel qualified to comment on American usage, although it is, of course, only the experience of one person, and since I left the United States over thirty years ago, it may be dated.

KryssTal Reply: I think that the usage varies within the USA itself anyway.

Concerning the following definitions:

four wheeled private vehicle:
The word "car" is far more frequent in the US than the word "automobile". I suspect that the difference is more one of register: "automobile" will be used in more formal situations, mostly written, whereas "car" is more familiar and spoken.

KryssTal Reply: both are used in the USA, automobile is never used in common speech in the UK except in the name of the "Automobile Association"

fuel for vehicle:
The usual word is "gas", not "gasoline", although both are present. Here again, there is a distinction of register, with "gas" being less formal and more frequent in the spoken language.

KryssTal Reply: gas or gasoline is never used in the UK - we say petrol (unless we watch too much American TV)

what you put on bread:
There are three possibilities: jelly, jam and marmalade. Jelly is a gelatinous substance, jam is stewed fruit with sugar, and marmalade is more or less a jelly with bits of the fruit (or the rind) in it. Which one will be made depends on the fruit: jelly is almost always apples or grapes, marmalade one of the citrus fruits, and jam anything else.

KryssTal Reply: we never put anything called "jelly" on bread; jelly would be eaten with cream or custard in England.

When I was a child, by far the most common was grape jelly. This is what you expect on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, for example (which was the standard sandwich for children when I was young). This prevalence may have been the result of the commercial activities of one brand name: Welch's grape jelly; I remember a lot of commercials for it.

soft long green vegetable:
Squash is yellow, not green. It is also more pear shape (although a lot larger than a pear). I'm not sure what a marrow is in Great Britain, but the only long green vegetables I can think of are cucumbers and zucchini (unless you are thinking of something smaller, like string beans).

KryssTal Reply: I'll check squash with my wife - she's the vegetable expert. Zuccini is the Italian word; we use the French word, obergines.

arthropod with six legs:
An insect in American usage. A bug is a type of insect (hemiptera). The word bug is often misused in American English. In this context, however, it can be any creepy, crawly thing: a spider or a millipede might be called a bug, but a butterfly certainly wouldn't. I was taught that such usage was substandard; I don't know if this is still the case.

KryssTal Reply: I was on safari in Africa with two New Yorkers in late 2002. I said to them: "If it's in your tent and you're talking coloqually, you can use 'bug' for any creepy crawly. If we're looking at a creature on a leaf and discussing it biologically then 'bug' must only be used if it a type of beetle with sucking mouth parts".

game played by two teams with bats and balls:
Cricket and baseball are two very different games. This is not a case of two different words for the same thing.

KryssTal Reply: This was me trying to be funny!

Under one word - two meanings, I would mention that tea can be served either hot or cold in America -- you usually have to specify "iced tea" if you want it cold, except in the south-east. It is the same drink; iced tea starts out hot (since you can't brew tea cold), and is then chilled by putting ice cubes in it.

KryssTal Reply: Captain Pickard on Star Trek TNG says "Earl Gray Hot". Nobody in England would add the word "hot". England is too cold for us to bother with cold tea!

If you want some more entries, check out some of the animals living in more northerly climats:


elk, moose
reindeer, caribou
red deer, elk
lynx OR bobcat, wildcat

KryssTal Reply: thank you - I'll add these when there's a break from the Iraq crisis.

It's interesting to note that there are the same differences between continental French and Quebecois: apparently, the early settlers weren't too familiar with these animals, and adopted new names for them. In German, a similar distinction exists for Mediteranean fruits and vegetables: the Rhineland regularly adopts the French word, whereas the southeast (Bavaria and Austria) uses the Italian.

KryssTal Reply: Spanish and Portuguese in South America and Europe have similar differences. Brazilians say "morning coffee" for breakfast while the Portuguese say "little lunch".

Finally, one comment on your history of the English language: you state that "The Germanic form of plurals (house, housen; shoe, shoen) was eventually displaced by the French method of making plurals: adding an s." The situation is considerably more complicated than that. Most Germanic languages have a large class of plurals in s already: this is true of Dutch, Friesish, low German and the Scandinavian languages. From what I have read, English was already well on its way to standardizing on the -s before the Norman invasion.

KryssTal Reply: Yes, you're right. I tried to keep it simple.

With regards to spelling, of course, modern English spelling is largely based on a phonetic transcription of 11th or 12th century English using (middle) French phonetic values: "ou" for /u:/, etc., with additions for the sounds not present in middle norman French: sh for /S/ (even today, Norman French pronounces ch as /tS/, as in English), gh for /x/, etc.

Unlike German, English has not updated the spelling as the pronounciation changed. Thus, in the middle ages, we have English "house", pronounced /hus@/, German "hus", pronounced /hus/. Today, the English spelling is still house, although the pronounciation is now /ha:ws/, in German, the pronounciation has also become /ha:ws/, but the spelling has followed: Haus.

KryssTal Reply: Thank you for your email. Merci.


Peter Harris
ASSM Americas Region
BBC World Service

London Place Names

How about Moorgate? Any ideas - Spanish / Moorish connection perhaps?

KryssTal Reply: Hello, there.

Moor as in the Moors is unlikely. More likely is a piece of moor ground.

Thanks, I thought that was more likely. However the possibility of a Moorish connection was thrown up by a favourite childhood book by Eleanor Farjeon called The Tale of Tom Tiddler. She wrote it in the 1920's. Each chapter heading was a famous London place name with its own little story woven around it. The Moor's Gate, Chapter 3 I think, was indeed about the City of London gatehouse in which lived the gatekeeper, a giant Moor wearing a turban!!!

Just a good story after all.

KryssTal Reply: My pleasure.


Mike Pope

Great site! I'm just poking around in it so I'm finding many things to comment about -- hope this is not too much all at once.

From "Words Created From Nothing" -- the term "yuppie" derives from the acronym Young Urban Professional ( Sociologists have coined others as well, such as "dinks" (dual income, no kids --, etc.

And then a number of comments on the UK<-->USA list, which is impressively comprehensive. ;-)

pissed off/pissed -- American usage recognizes both terms; the latter is a shortening of the former. I was somewhat surprised while in the UK to learn that "pissed" can mean "drunk."

"autumn" and "fall" -- both terms are used. There's a beautiful jazz standard called "Autumn Leaves." "Fall" is more common, tho. As you might know, since we use "fall" for the season that begins in September, we have a good mnemonic for how to reset one's clock to accommodate daylight savings time: "spring forward, fall back."

The term "pocket book" is very old-fashioned in the US. Common usage is "purse" for practically any manner of handbag that a woman might carry, unless of course it's a backpack.

FWIW, the term "downtown" originated in New York City; it refers to the lower part of Manhattan island, as distinct from (of course) "uptown." The latter term is now synonymous with "elegant." However, "downtown," as your site suggests, is used generically to mean any city center.

The term "zip code" is a manufactured acronym -- in the 60s when the post office introduced postal codes, they back-formed the supposed phrase "zone improvement program," but it's an example where the acronym probably came first. (

The term "pull-off" isn't used (AFAIK) as a noun, although "to pull off" of course means to leave the main road. Formal stops are now known as "rest areas" as maintained by the highway department.

The term "car" is probably more common than "auto."

In the US, both "jam" and "jelly" are sweet substances for bread. Jelly is made from clarified fruit juice (hence has no seeds); jam is made by simply cooking fruit. There's also marmalade, which is just like in the UK -- contains zest from citrus fruits. (There are also various kinds of "butter" -- peanut butter, nut butters, etc. A curious concoction is something called "apple butter," which is a kind of opaque jelly made from apple juice. Better than it sounds.) The fruit-flavored wibbly-wobbly stuff is "jello," a trademark. (See below.)

Speaking of which, "dessert" is universal here. I remember encountering the word "pudding" in the UK as a generic term for the after-meal sweet, but got the impression it was an older usage.

The word "popsicle" is actually a trademark and refers specifically to fruit-flavored frozen water on a stick. If you put ordinary ice cream on a stick (and then perhaps cover it with chocolate), then it's an "ice cream bar." The suffice "-sicle" is part of the trademark, so the same company has a product called a "fudgesicle," which is chocolate-flavored ice cream on a stick. (This isn't as confusing as it sounds.) Other terms that are technically trademarks but that are quite commonly used generically include kleenex (tissues), xerox (photocopy, verb and noun), hoover (vacuum cleaner, only among old people), frigidaire (refrigerator, an old term), jello (offically Jell-O), coke (to mean any soft drink), weedeater (garden trimmer), frisbee (the flying toy), and a bunch more I can't think of at the moment. The trademark holders do attempt to keep these words out of the common lexicon for obvious reasons, but I'm talking here about actual usage. Most people don't realize these are trademarks, is I guess my point.

"Bug" is the common term for anything small and creepy, including spiders, even though they're arachnids. (That's common use; entomologists use "bug" in a specific way.) But "insect" is pretty common as well, slightly more formal -- for example, if you want to buy a substance to keep bugs away, it will be labelled "insect repellent."

"Show" and "program" (not UK spelling, tho) are both used for television offerings. The slew of offerings made available on a channel is referred to as that channel's "programming."

"See-saw" and "teeter-totter" are both used. The latter might be an older term, but I think everyone would recognize it. "See-saw" is also used as verb meaning to oscillate, with the implication of extreme changes.

"bathroom" is interesting. You're correct that the primary plumbing fixture in a bathroom is a toilet. As adapted from the conventions of real estate, bathrooms can be "half bath" (toilet and sink), "three-quarter bath" (toilet, sink, shower) and "full bath" (toilet, sink, bathtub). Most bathtubs are also fitted for showers.

"Bill" is also used to mean "statement of amount due," although you are correct that it describes a piece of paper money. One has to "pay one's bills" and there is at least theoretically such a person as a "bill collector."

"bomb" has emerged via hip-hop to mean "excellent thing," but primarily among the younger generation. To get the flavor correct, it is often used with its original article, thus "Ocean's 11 is da bomb." This is now probably a little dated.

"buns" are also soft rolls -- most specifically rolls used to server hot dogs (sausages) and hamburgers. If one wants to be thought of as a folk philosopher, one poses the question as to why hot dogs come in packages of ten, but hot dog buns come in packages of eight.

"presently" is used to mean "soon" by educated speakers.

"tea" -- we do have real tea here, too. ;-) Iced tea is an American invention, it is true (St. Louis World's Fair in the early 1900s, if I remember correctly), but all sorts of tea is available. As for iced tea, Southerners are famous for drinking theirs very sweet -- and they don't ask first whether you want yours that way, too.

"ground meat" is almost universally called "hamburger" informally, although when you buy it in the store it's referred to as "ground beef." Thus the term "hamburger," which has already survived a somewhat tortuous path from Hamburg to the name of a sandwich, has been further generalized to mean refer to the definitive component of the hamburger sandwich.


Mary Hooper
in North Carolina


My husband asked me this question, for which I have no answer and found your site which is amazing and think perhaps you or one of your excellent correspondents might have the answer:

Why is it some languages are written left to write and others, right to left?

If you can shed any light on this, I would appreciate it very much. Best regards.

KryssTal Reply: Hello,

An interesting question. And one for which there is no real answer. There is nothing special about writing going one way or the other. Greek originally used to go both ways... and then they settled on left to right. The Mongolian language is interesting as it is written downwards!

Thank you for your kind comments. How's the weather in North Carolina?

Well, Hey, Kryss! You are on top of things. Thanks for the personal reply.

It's cool but not uncomfortable daytimes. Last night it was about 18 F. I live in the mountains and the weather is different from one mountainside to another! My cuz in Worcester said in his last note that it was rainy over there....and of course, dark early. I love UK which is my natal and spiritual home.

Thanks again for your speedy reply. We now have something else to discuss of an evening.

KryssTal Reply: Cool (in the literal sense). 18F is less than zero C, isn't it. I have a page that gives the equivalent:

You realise, of course, that had I been French, Spanish, Latin American or Asian, the phrase "18F" would have been meaningless. I often get questions that ask me for help for "10th graders" (a purely USA term) and I have to ask "how old is that?" Similarly it's only the USA (and the older people in UK) that use the German system of temperature (Fahrenheit). Check out my essay below about writing for a WORLD audience...

Hope it warms up for you.... And yes, our days are very short now - we're 51 degrees north of the equator.

10th graders stumped my brit cousin last summer. Now she knows it means the 16 year olds. I guess you know our schools have 12 grades (besides kindergarten) and the young hooligans go til they are 18, if they can keep them in school. The 16 yr olds are allowed to leave at that age --without their diplomas. Become menial laborers if they are not computer whizes and racking up a fortune by that age.

Yeah, ain't it weird, the biggest meanest anti-social bully country in the world and we think we can keep our old ways of doing things and still get along. Has to do with US geographic isolation, I think. And the determination of the dinosaurs in Congress not to be told what to do. No wonder Worcester UK looks good to me! We do have 2 and 3 liters Coke and Pepsi--Americans know what is important in intercultural relations, that's for sure!! ;-)

Actually, I have C on my outdoor thermometer. 18 degrees F is a bit warmer than -10C

Right now I am tryingto get my mind and tongue around Spanish, so won't think too much about temperatures. Spanish verbs are driving me nuts. But I push on with my flashcards. I will read your essay on writing for world audience as I'm thinking of going back to writing and travel seems like a good topic. I love to travel and my photos are sometimes pretty good. Thanks for the link.

Cheerio and keep warm......

PS, I meant it is my honey and I that had something to discuss of an evening....... He reads Will Durant for pleasure.......

© 2017, KryssTal