Readability tips, literacy news, and English writing advice

Star Wars Day Cryptic

Taken in by Jedi's pose, Darth got shot (8)


Easter Cryptic

Head of empire, a more forbidding Bostonian perhaps (9)


April Fools' Day Cryptic

Hoax victim taken from pool, frail, shivering (5,4)


International Women's Day Cryptic

Small female in health resort rejected desires (9)


Valentine's Day Cryptic

A loveless sign? So be it! (4)

Answer: AMEN

Four Portuguese Words That English Really Needs

The Portuguese language might often be viewed as Spanish's little brother, but the truth is that Portuguese has a vibrancy all its own. In fact, Portuguese is one of the world's 10 most common languages, with over 200 million speakers. Portuguese speakers have not only shared gorgeous beaches, caipirinhas, and Piri-Piri chicken with us; they have also given names to the following four things we can't yet articulate in English.


Saudade describes a feeling of deep "missingness." It is a longing for someone or something lost, often accompanied by the pain of knowing it will never be recovered. Have you ever felt nostalgia for a memory you can never relive? Have you ever ached for a loved one far from home, or for someone dear to you who has passed away? That's saudade. Saying "I miss you" in English doesn't quite capture the melancholy and torture of saudade.


If you're not feeling saudade and instead have the luck of being next to someone you love, cafuné could be the word for you. Cafuné means to run your fingers through someone's hair. Although the word is most commonly used to describe a tender action between lovers, it can also describe running your fingers through a pet's hair. Sadly, the English "to pet" neither expresses the specificity nor the tenderness of cafuné.


Perhaps you're beginning to see why Portuguese is often described as a language of passion and romance. Apaixonar describes the action of losing yourself to love. Translated clumsily into English, it means to "impassion oneself." The Huffington Post describes apaixonar as "the word used for that period in between 'I like you' and 'I love you.'"


Some people say that desenrascanço is an ethos that is important to the heart of Portuguese culture. It means to "disentangle" or remove yourself from a tricky situation using whatever limited resources are available. English speakers may know how to get into a "pickle," but only Portuguese speakers have a word for how to get out of one.

Four lesser-known native English-speaking lands: Caribbean calling!

The main English-speaking countries in the world are familiar to most of us, but if you've already been to those or are looking to get off the beaten path a bit, check out these four exotic places that you may not know use English! Native speakers will feel right at home, and learners of the language will have the chance to practice their skills in an environment surrounded in English. Explore these exciting lands, all blessed with Caribbean seas, sand and sun, amidst the comfort of Anglophones!


Sandwiched in the middle of Spanish-speaking Central America and Mexico, Belize is an English haven with Caribbean vibes, and beaches boasting the same qualities. Hit the sand in style, not only in the latest swimwear trends but also with a couple of Belizean words to impress locals with. Try a spunky craboo or nanche fruit by itself or in a tropical drink, dessert or candy, refreshing after a day in the sun. As a former British colony, you'll find words straight from Britain that may be confusing. Take "peckish", for example, which is a funny way of saying that you're hungry! Perhaps for more craboo?


Beloved by foodies for its production of ginger, peppercorn, bay leaf, caraway seed, and much more, "the spice island" of Grenada welcomes visitors with open arms and tantalizing aromas. Navigate the spice markets of Grenz, as the locals call their spicy island, and look for popular spices as well as the more unusual and purely Grenadian. Bake a warming Grenada Spice Cake with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, or get experimental with exotic-looking mace, nutmeg ketchup, hot jerk mixes, and local curry blends.


Rihanna fans out there probably already know that Barbados is an English enclave, if they've ever heard the singer interviewed or know her background. Fit into this famous musician-producing island by working musical words like "chip" and "dingolay" into your vacation vocab. The former is to dance to the music's beat while moving down a street, while the latter is to simply dance joyously and enthusiastically. I guess it's time to find some good tunes and get your body shakin'!


With so much of its land devoted to natural protected areas and parks, pretty little Dominica of the West Indies has become fondly known as "the nature island". While out exploring this green oasis, you may find it useful to know about "mountain chickens" and "cribos", as you could encounter some along the way! If you see a frog as large as a chicken in the mountains, this is the Giant Ditch Frog, which is a delicacy for islanders. Another sizeable critter, the Clelia or cribo is a long snake that actually hunts other snakes, but luckily not humans!

Early American English

Need to sharpen up your English history trivia? Here are ten trivia factoids to keep handy for your next pub quiz!

  1. Early American settlers sometimes chose to pluralize words by adding an N to them instead of an S. For example: house would become housen or tree would become treen.
  2. A toilet was once called a "Quincy" because John Quincy Adams was the president who first installed toilets in the White House.
  3. Americans often replace why with the phrase "how come" because they have appropriated the Dutch word hoekom.
  4. American English isn’t the only dialect to blame for the differences across the pond. British English also continued changing post-1776, most notably by dropping the "r" sounds from words like "car" and "hard." This de-rhotacization led to what we know of today as the posh British accent. This means the rhotic pronunciation we often associate with American speech didn’t come from Americans — but rather the Brits of yore.
  5. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Americans liked to drink a concoction of chicken soup and beer called the "cockale". Many people believe that the cockale is the origin of the modern word "cocktail".
  6. Many common words, including "skunk", "chocolate", "bayou", "avocado", "hammock", "canoe", "hurricane", "squash", "hickory", and "toboggan" come from Native American languages.
  7. Another Dutch word "snoepen", which meant to put candy into your mouth without any one else noticing was transformed by the Americans into snoop, which means to spy on someone or to be nosy.
  8. American English in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries did not put much stock in being consistent in spelling. The creativity of your spelling was looked upon as a sort of intellectual plus. Learned men like Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin would often spell one word one way in one paragraph and the same word differently in the next paragraph, even in documents as important as the Declaration of Independence.
  9. "Goodbye" was originally just an abbreviation for "God be with you.
  10. If one man got his way, we would write "wimmen" instead of "women". In 1806, Noah Webster published the first American dictionary, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language, which was full of laughable suggestions for streamlining American spelling. He eventually arrived to a standardization of American English that was palatable enough to stick (such as our beloved "color" and "theater"), but a lot of his earliest attempts earned him the title of "prostitute wretch". His biggest crime? Wanting America to form a unique cultural identity, in which "tung" meant "tongue".

Four Silly Sounding English Words

To non-natives, the English language sometimes seems a little ridiculous – from its unusual grammar rules to deceptive vocabulary words like ‘driveway’. Even native speakers can admit that there are some parts of the English language that are just ridiculous. Take, for instance, these four English words that sound a bit too silly to be real:


Forrest Gump once said, “Me and Jenny go together like keys and parrots.” Wait, no, scratch that – they go together like peas and carrots. When you mix up syllables and somehow end up saying something completely different from what you intended, that’s a spoonerism. The word spoonerism is even more hilarious when you consider its history: it was named after William Archibald Spooner, who was notorious for mixing up his words this way. His legacy is a word that is just as silly as it sounds.


If you wanted to get out of work, you might tell your boss, “I have a bad case of the collywobbles.” It might sound like a fake word invented by a toddler, but collywobbles can mean everything from a bellyache to intense nausea – or any kind of intestinal disorder. Note: saying collywobbles out loud could make you laugh hard enough to give you the serious collywobbles.


The word bumfuzzle rather bumfuzzles me. To bumfuzzle is to confuse. Much like synonyms bewilder, perplex, and puzzle, the word itself is fun to say, even if it is impossible to say it with a straight face.


If you tipple too much, you might topple over. To tipple is to drink alcohol, typically on a semi-regular basis – which is fitting, because it sounds like the kind of absurd word you might make up while seriously intoxicated. You can also use the word tippler to refer to someone who drinks alcohol regularly.

These are just a few silly sounding English words out there that are guaranteed to induce giggles if you add them to your vocabulary.

Four Hawaiian Words That English Really Needs

In the late 1800's the Hawaiian language was banned in schools. As a result, the number of native speakers greatly diminished. Thankfully a revitalization has started and the language is becoming more and more popular. Hawaiian words are often multifaceted, representing a way of living as opposed to a single idea or thought. Listed below are 4 Hawaiian words for which English does not have a direct translation.


Loosely translated, pono means righteousness. However, in the Hawaiian culture pono extends to all facets of living within yourself and your surroundings. This includes mentally, by keeping positive thoughts; being stewards of the environment and taking care of the land; and keeping respectful relationships with elders, family and friends.


The most common translation for mahalo is thank you. To Hawaiian's mahalo is not simply a word said in response to kind act or gift. Mahalo is more in line with having gratitude. Gratitude for life, experience and the environment.


Aloha is commonly used to express the greetings, hello and goodbye. However, the word aloha contains the word, ha. Ha is loosely translated to breath. Ha has a very deep meaning and therefore aloha has a much deeper meaning as well. Ha is an acknowledgement of the spirit or breath of life that lives in and connects all of us. Therefore, saying aloha does not simply mean hello or goodbye, but instead is a way of saying to someone that you love and honor the spiritual being in them.


Ho'okipa loosely translates into hospitality, expressing the same level of giving to family, friends and strangers. It is welcoming anyone into your home with the same love and appreciation.

Besides finding new ways to express ourselves, learning words in other languages can also teach us values, morals and provide insight into other ways of living.

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