Language Use

Grammar, English language usage, learning English, etiquette, speech


Language generalists will most likely know that English has a Germanic foundation, even if students struggle to see the likeness as they plough through German relative clauses tables.

On the surface the two languages are distinct but here’s an example of subtle similarities in vocab. Cruising thefreedictionary reveals this:

nigh (naɪ)

adv., adj. nigh•er, nigh•est,
prep., v. adv.

1. near in space, time, or relation.
2. nearly; almost (often fol. by on or onto).


3. near; approaching.
4. short or direct.
5. (of an animal or vehicle) being on the left side.


6. near.

v.i., v.t.

7. Archaic. approach.
[before 900; Middle English nigh(e)neye, Old English nēah, nēh, c. Old Frisian nēi, nī, Old Saxon, Old High German nāh (German nahe), Old Norse nā-, Gothic nehwa
A rich history indeed – 1,200 years ago, people in Saxony, Belgium and England were saying Nah, Nei and Neah to our Nigh. Wonder what the inside word was down near the stables?

Mister, Mister

If you’re a bloke and I call you Mister, call yourself lucky. Mr means I respect you or admire you either for your seniority, your talent, or your wisdom (or all three if you’re so blessed). Mr Arnison, former Headmaster, came to our wedding but still I’d dive into a vat of bubbling tar before calling him “Barry”.

A request that I call someone by [FirstName] is processed by my external communications department. Once you’ve shared a few work shifts, come to mine for a cuppa, or, better still, washed my car, then I’ll call you [FirstName].

It might seem overly old-fashioned but the Mr adds a crashpad of comfort to interactions.

Like the polite German “Sie”, the use of Mr / Sir / Ma’am / Mrs is a custom that’s hard lost.

How else do you refer to teachers or seniors you barely know?