Christmas crackers are an important part of Christmas celebrations in many English-speaking countries, especially in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa. A cracker consists of a cardboard tube wrapped in coloured paper with a gift, a crown-like paper hat, and a motto or joke on a small piece of paper inside the central chamber. One person pulling one end of the cracker, another person the other end. When the cracker splits a snapping sound, similar to the sound produced by a cap gun, can be heard. This is due to the presence of a card strip impregnated with a special chemical inside the cracker. Christmas crackers are commonly pulled at the Christmas dinner table. The joke or riddle is told and the hat worn during the meal. The tradition of pulling crackers at Christmas dates back to at least the mid 19th century.
Lay or Lie
Many people get confused over whether to use the words ‘lay’ or ‘lie’ in English.
Here’s our very brief guide.
Basically, lay means ‘to put something down’. Whereas, lie means to ‘recline’ or ‘to be in or put yourself into a flat position’.
Lay must have an object — something being laid. While lie cannot have an object.
For example, you might lay a plate on the table before eating. But when you feel tired, you lie down. You can’t lie a plate anywhere, and you can’t lay down when you want to go to sleep.
Lay is a regular verb. Lie is an irregular verb.
I hope this explanation about the difference between the words lay and lie helps in some small way.
Oh, and remember: lie can also mean ‘say something which is not true’.
As ever if you have any questions or comments to make on today’s language related point please make contact!
Here’s a question sent in by a recent visitor to the site: “who was the first king of England?”. The answer to this question is, however, not as simple as it might appear. Some historians will say it was King Alfred, others Cnut the Great, and still others Henry II. Here’s my answer.
Athelstan (c.894 – 939 AD), the son of Edward the Elder and grandson of Alfred the Great, was the first king to rule all of England. It was Athelstan who first united the kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria with his kingdom Wessex to create a united English kingdom. During his lifetime Athelstan was usually referred to as ‘King of the English’ (rex Anglorum), and on occasion as ‘King of all Britain’ (rex totius Britanniae). Althelstan reigned from 925 to his death at the age of 45 in 939.
However, to muddy the waters, it should be noted that Athelstan’s grandfather, Alfred the Great, was the first to be crowned ‘King of the English’, but, his kingdom did not include all of present-day England.
We’ll look at the equally contentious answer to the question ‘who was the first Queen of England?’ at a later date!
Today’s culture spot is dedicated to that most tasty of cheeses, Cheddar Cheese!
Some things you may not know about Cheddar Cheese:
– Cheddar cheese is named after the village of the same name in England where this most delicious of cheeses has been produced since at least the 12th century.
– Traditionally the cheese was matured in the many caves to be found in the village of Cheddar in Somerset, south-west England.
– A good quality strong Cheddar needs to be matured for at least 12 months.
– It is the most popular type of cheese in the UK, Australia, and Canada; and is the second-most-popular cheese in the US, behind Mozzarella.
Offsite link: Cheddar Cheese made in Cheddar in Somerset.
My word of the day is:
Disheveled / dishevelled
Dishevelled is an adjective meaning in disarray, unkempt or disorderly.
If you describe someone’s hair or appearance as dishevelled, you mean that it is untidy.
Synonyms of the word dishevelled include: disarranged, disordered, messy, scruffy, untidy, unkempt.
Example of the word dishevelled in use in a sentence:
“His appearance was dishevelled and he was wearing light-coloured clothing, possibly beige.”
Click here to listen the word dishevelled being spoken by a native speaker of English from the south-west of England.
Note: In American English the word is generally spelled disheveled. Whereas, in British English the more usual spelling is dishevelled.
Come back soon to discover another beautiful English word.
Foreign language Word of the Day
The word ‘anglik’ is Polish for ‘Englishman’.
On a related subject simply complete the form below to make contact with the anglik website.
To mark the arrival of new year we’ve decided to completely revamp the anglik website! Instead of the old, fixed html webpages all new content will use this easy to use, mobile-friendly WordPress system. One of us will post content related to either English as a second or foreign language, British Culture, or the History of English-speaking countries on a regular basis, so please come back soon and have a look.
The old site can still be accessed via the English index page.
Today’s language point …
Want to know how to say ‘Happy New Year’ in another language?
Here are a few ways:
Dutch – Gelukkig nieuwjaar.
French – Bonne Année.
German – Ein frohes neues Jahr / Ein gutes neues Jahr.
Polish – Szczesliwego Nowego Roku.
Feel free to add any other ways of saying Happy New Year in other languages to the comments section!