Language

Learning Japanese

Official secrecy and institutional rivalry obscured the achievements of two crash programmes hastily launched to teach Japanese during the Second World War. 

The Invention of Chinese

Believing language would unify their struggling nation, Chinese officials began a project to create a national language and define what it meant to speak Chinese. 

Making Massacre

A Dutch conspiracy trial in the Indonesian archipelago gave birth to a sadly enduring English word.

The Early Life of Gibberish

What does it mean to speak gobbledygook, mumbo-jumbo or jargon? Such words are more fraught than the playful games of the Jabberwocky suggest.

Here Be Monsters

In Anglo-Saxon England a hill could be a dragon’s lair and a ditch the home of gods.