Friday, 18 April 2014

More on 'is' and 'are'

Consider the following two sentences, talking about prizes:

Two million pounds is paid out every day.
Two million pounds are paid out every day.

Both seem ok to me, actually, and I'm not sure which I'd be more likely to say. Because 'pounds' is grammatically plural, the plural agreement is fine, and because it's semantically one sum of money, the singular is also fine. But I do think there's a slight meaning difference. I think that perhaps the singular implies that there is just one prize, while the plural implies a multitude of prizes. But then perhaps I'm overthinking it.

Friday, 11 April 2014

It's the last day of term today! That means no more teaching for this year. Wow. In honour of this, we had a party for our students on Wednesday which was really fun:

I also learnt something interesting. We use the term 'fresher' colloquially to refer to a first year student, particularly when it's the start of the year and they're arriving for the first time (so you have a freshers' fair, etc). I always assumed it was a shortening of the American term 'freshman', which we don't use here but which is totally standard over there. Turns out that maybe it is, but they don't use 'fresher' there - only the full form. So it seems like we somehow borrowed a clipped form which doesn't exist in its original context without ever borrowing the full form.