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Listed under:  Language  >  Language conventions  >  Spelling
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What's the plural for 'octopus'?

Do you know what the plural for octopus is? What about the plural for platypus? See if you can guess the plurals for both before you watch this video. What were your reasons for choosing the plurals you did?

Interactive Resource

BBC Skillswise: words to watch out for - homophones

This is a word game in which students recognise common homophones and pair them by turning over counters to reveal them one by one. There are three levels to the game. In level one, students match six pairs of homophones; in level two, they match eight and in level three, ten. Each word is read aloud and accompanied by ...

Interactive Resource

BBC Skillswise: wordsearch 'chr-' - activity

This is a wordsearch game in which students find ten examples of words beginning with the 'chr-' common letter pattern hidden on a grid of letters. Students circle the words, which are written horizontally, vertically or diagonally on the grid. Students can highlight a word if they need help. This resource is one of a series ...

Interactive Resource

BBC Skillswise: wordsearch '-cian' - activity

This is a wordsearch game in which students find ten examples of words ending in the '-cian' common letter pattern hidden on a grid of letters. Students circle the words, which are written horizontally, vertically or diagonally on the grid. Students can highlight a word if they need help. This resource is one of a series ...

Interactive Resource

BBC Skillswise: wordsearch '-ough' - activity

This is a wordsearch game in which students find 12 examples of words containing the '-ough' common letter pattern hidden on a grid of letters. Students circle the words, which are written horizontally, vertically or diagonally on the grid. Students can highlight a word if they need help. This resource is one of a series ...

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The Aussie Accent: whaddya reckon, mate?

Imagine a world where everybody sounded exactly the same when they spoke. What might that be like? Are there 'good' and 'bad' ways to speak? In this clip, listen to the opinions of many people about whether Australians have a bad accent.

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Vanishing words: the process of language change

The English language is full of strange contradictions and vanishing words. Have you ever wondered why we sometimes put words together that contradict each other, such as 'pretty awful' or 'terribly good'? If we can be 'ruthless', can we be 'ruthly' as well? Watch as Professor Kate Burridge explains these curious irregularities ...

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Word histories: how extraordinary!

Words can change over time and so can their meanings. The word 'extra' broke away from other words to become a word on its own. Professor Kate Burridge explains how this impacts on words like 'extraordinary'. She also explains the origins and meanings of the words 'hearse' and 'rehearse''.

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Challenging grammar rules, darlings and crowbars

Find out that what appears to be a straightforward grammar rule behind the use of the words 'fewer' and 'less' may not be as straightforward as it seems! Professor Kate Burridge explains that this grammar rule has been under challenge for centuries. She also explains the origins of the word 'darling' and why the 'crow' ...

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Why do we say the words the way we do?

What kinds of things might influence the way we pronounce words in English? Professor Kate Burridge explains why knowing when 'kilometre' came into English helps us to understand why it is pronounced differently from similar words such as 'kilogram' and 'centimetre'. She also explains what it means to 'barrack' for a team.

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Words and sayings over time

Have you ever wondered where sayings like 'hanging by the skin of your teeth' come from? Professor Kate Burridge explains the origin and meaning of this saying. She also explains the opposite word (antonym) to 'misogynist' (someone who hates or has a long and deep prejudice against women) and the origins of the word 'goodbye'.

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From possessive apostrophes to discombobulation!

People often worry about the use of apostrophes. See how Professor Kate Burridge answers a question about how to use the apostrophes after certain names, telling us how the rule has changed over time. She also explains the origins of the word 'discombobulate' and why the plural of house is not 'hice'.

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'Bought' or 'brought' and radio code

Changes in the use, pronunciation, and meaning of common everyday English words happen all the time. Professor Kate Burridge explains that we can see this in the way people increasingly switch the past tense of the verbs 'buy' and 'bring'. She also answers a viewer's question about why 'Roger' is used on two-way and CB radios.

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Dude: American words and pronunciations

Where does the word 'dude' come from? Why do speakers of English often pronounce words differently depending on their country of origin - not only because of their accent? Find out with Professor Kate Burridge when she takes on these questions from viewers.

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Got or gotten? What a nightmare!

Words have a history. Knowing their history helps us to understand what they mean and why some people use them in different ways. Professor Kate Burridge explains how the use of the past tense of the verb 'get' (gotten) has changed, but is still in use by many people. She also discusses the history of the word 'nightmare'.

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Changing letter sounds and butterflies

Have you ever wondered why you can't just add a prefix such as 'in-' to the beginning of a word to make its opposite? Professor Kate Burridge explains how a prefix is influenced by the sound of the letters that come after it. She also gives two explanations about the origins of the word 'butterfly'.

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Plum puddings, yelks to yolks and elfs to elves

Why are Christmas puddings called 'plum puddings' when they have no plums in them? How did the egg yolk get its name and why are the plurals for 'hoof' and 'roof' are spelt differently? Find out how Professor Kate Burridge answers these questions that the audience of 'Wise Words' send in for her.

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Evolving English: the role of social media

How many times have you heard teenagers berated for using the term 'like'? Yet this term has existed at least since 1586 when the term, 'Yon man is like out of his mind' was written into history. The truth is, our language is constantly evolving, with new words added, others dying off and some resurfacing again. In this ...

Audio

Different meanings for the same word

<span style="line-height: 1.4;">You've heard people speaking English with different accents, but have you noticed that the differences in accent come down to the way words are pronounced? Listen to this interview with linguist David Crystal and find out about accents and why the same word can mean something different or ...

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Chloe's spelling secret

Listen to the clues and discover how the Word Squad detectives solved the mystery of the missing letters in 'ch' words. Meet Miss Pronounced, the new secretary. Does she really want to help the detectives discover the 'ch' thief?