Archive for the ‘Languages’ Category

ABC’s Gift Ideas: Fiction, Film/TV, Foreign Languages

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

The gift-giving season is upon us – hooray!

The ABC Staff has rummaged through their sections and order lists, and come up with another year’s worth of wonderful gift ideas for you: from fiction to history to cookbooks to children’s books to travel to non-books and onwards.

In a series of blog posts and recommendation lists throughout the coming month, you will find what we think will make great gifts, whether you celebrate Sinterklaas, Christmas or just like giving books to people. And since we’re a bookstore, these posts will be alphabetical by subject. :-)

Today you’ll find gift ideas for Fiction, Film/TV and Foreign Languages as picked out by section buyers Renate, Simone, Ester and Tom. Bear in mind that this is just the tip of the iceberg – come to either one of our stores to browse many, many more titles in any of these subjects.

We are ready as ever to be your personal shoppers again this year, and hope you will find our selections useful and inspiring!

You can find our gift ideas from previous years here (scroll down a bit pas 2013), and be sure to have a look at our ABC Favorites, too.


This Just In: Reference/Language

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Five Brand-New Titles from the Reference/Language Section:


Lit Links: for the lexically lacking

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Recently I’ve been getting quite a lot of compliments on how good my English is. On a recent trip to Birmingham (West Midlands,  not Alabama) a shop assistant told in me I had a lovely Dutch accent, and how clever I must be to have almost entirely gotten rid of it.

I could have been very flattered were it not for the fact that I’m British.  I spent years losing the Birmingham accent I picked up while studying there, and even more years before that trying to shrug off the Geordie accent I grew up with in the gray and green wilds of Northumberland.

But the lovely people who praise my command of English may have a point. Since I’m immersed in Dutch language most of the time, finding the right word in English is becoming more and more difficult, to the point that I have to ask my Dutch husband to translate for me sometimes.  I appear to have stopped picking up new words in English too.

So here, for myself and the other lexically lacking ex-word nerds, are some lit links to help repair those broken down English language synapses.

Eggcorns are similar to malapropisms in that they are examples of using the wrong word in a familiar phrase. Where malapropisms produce nonsense, eggcorns sound so similar to the original word that they appear to make perfect sense, to the extent that some are eventually are absorbed into the language. Here’s a fascinating essay on eggcorns, which suggests that “this process of the masses’ getting it wrong until it becomes right is common, ongoing, and unstoppable.”

WordPower is a simple but addictive vocabulary game that can be played online, or as an iPhone ap. I’ve tried quite a few vocabulary games recently, and this is the only one so far that has a nice interface and uses words I didn’t already know.

There’s another (slightly easier) vocab game online, that has the added incentive of donating ten grains of rice to the World Food Program for every answer you get right. Ten grains may not seem like much, but it can make a real difference.

Want to make those new words stick? Here are Ten Tips to Improve your Vocabulary.

As a fun exercise at school in my teens, the best English teacher I ever had taught us how to avoid ambiguity in our writing by having us spot misleading newspaper headlines. Soon  the wall of her classroom was papered in perfectly awful examples of headlinese, like “McDonald’s Fries the Holy Grail for Potato Farmers.” :-) There’s a wonderful term to describe these headlines: crash blossoms.

And then there’s the Cupertino Effect, the tendency of a spellchecker to suggest inappropriate words to replace misspelled words and words not in its dictionary, to which even the New York Times has fallen prey. It may also have inspired Candidate for a Pullet Surprise, also known as The Spellchecker Poem. has a surprisingly good blog, full of trivia about etymology, word meanings and the written word. The scope is broad, the topics are hot,  and the presentation is fun: you can find out out why New York is called the Big Apple, what to call the biggest numbers in existence, and where the word ‘hello’ comes from.

It’s fifty years since To Kill a Mockingbird was published.  I think a fitting way to mark the occasion would be by learning to cuss like Scout Finch.

If you feel that your command of English is just fine, thanks – and of course, if you’re Dutch then it probably is - how about working on your vocabulary in a few fictional languages, like Avatar’s Na’vi, Star Trek’s Klingon or Tolkien’s Sindarin?

This Just In: Dictionaries

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Five Brand-New* Dictionaries:


(all English-Dutch/Dutch-English, for those of you struggling with either language) (more…)

Native English for Nederlanders

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

Native English for NederlandersOn Monday, October 22nd, a book launch was held in the American Book Center in Amsterdam. Native English for Nederlanders was presented between 18.00 hrs and 19.45 hrs on the store’s second floor. Its author, Ronald van de Krol, is an American by birth, and regular columnist for, as well as deputy editor of, Het Financieele Dagblad.

The book, all in English, targets Dutch people who are already proficient speakers of the language, and attempts to reduce the mistakes they make with sayings and the “small” words (for example, “Welcome in the Netherlands” which ought to be “Welcome to the Netherlands”). It explains the cultural roots of the English language, as well as the customs English speakers generally have that impact the language.

Surely it can help any Nederlanders attempting to overcome their Dunglish?