If you have learnt a foreign language, or if you are bilingual in another European language, you may have noticed that there are a number of words that are similar to words in English. Perhaps you may even have been told that some of them are derived from Latin or Greek, or that they have Germanic roots. But why is the pronunciation so often so different in English?
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The idea that the Great Wall of China can be seen from space has been around since at least 1938 and is still popular today. It certainly seems plausible that such a large, linear structure would stand out from the surrounding landscape, but it’s actually not true.
Alan Bean, the fourth man to walk on the moon, said in 1969
“The only thing you can see from the moon is a beautiful sphere, mostly white, some blue and patches of yellow, and every once in a while some green vegetation. No man-made object is visible at this scale.”
But if you can’t see the Wall from the moon, how about somewhere closer to Earth? The International Space Station (ISS) maintains a low earth orbit of between 330-435 km above our planet’s surface.
I expect most of you have heard of antonyms, and even if you haven’t heard the word, you know them and use them every day. Antonyms are words that mean the opposite. For example, hot is the antonym of cold, rich is the antonym of poor.
But what happens when we have a word that doesn’t have another antonym – it is the antonym of itself?! You are probably wondering what on earth that could mean. Well, there are some words that have two meanings which are the opposite of each other. This makes the word its own antonym. Words like this are known as contronyms.
One very common one that we shall start with is a word that you use all the time without ever thinking about it being a contronym. This is left, which can mean “gone, departed” or “still there, remaining” . If you have gone, then you have left, but if everyone else except you has gone, then you are left!