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Listed under:  Language  >  Language conventions  >  Language usage
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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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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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Golly gosh, what do those sayings mean?

Have you ever wondered where sayings like 'golly gosh', 'by gum' or 'drat' come from? In this video, Professor Kate Burridge explains the origins and meaning of these and other sayings. She also explains the history of the pronoun 'you'.

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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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Subjunctivitis! Fact or 'Furphy'?

Why is 'were' used in 'If I were king' and what is the subjunctive? What do water sources and gossip have in common? If you don't know then you need to watch and listen as Professor Kate Burridge and Peter Rowsthorn explore these questions.

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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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The climate change debate

Climate change is a hot topic. Watch this clip to see examples of how some well-known Australians use language and persuasive techniques in a very public Q&A panel discussion on the issue.

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Rainforest life: identifying living things

Help a scientist carry out field work in a rainforest. Explore the diversity of living things. Collect data about a rare plant. Examine the structure and function of leaves. Look at the process of photosynthesis. Dissect a flower and label its parts. Examine organisms found on the plant. Identify creatures that feed on ...

Interactive resource

Effects of light intensity on photosynthesis

Find out how light intensity affects the rate of photosynthesis in a plant. Adjust the light intensity of a torch beaming on a water plant and then observe how this affects the oxygen flow. Measure the amount of oxygen produced by the plant at various light intensity rates using the oxygen flow meter. Record your data and ...

Interactive resource

Life science: photosynthesis lab

Explore the effect of environmental factors on the rate of photosynthesis in an aquatic plant. Manipulate environmental variables including light intensity, carbon dioxide levels, temperature, and the wavelength of light to find out how each affect the rate of photosynthesis. Record and analyse the results in tabulated ...


Leaf section with stomata, mesophyll and epidermis

This colour image is a dissected cross-section of a leaf at 55 times magnification. It shows the structure of the leaf, the organisation of cells, spaces between some cells and some internal cellular features. The structure includes the epidermis, mesophyll and stomata cells.


Illustration of a marine food web

This illustration uses arrows to show how nutrients move through some organisms in a marine environment. The illustration contains producers and consumers, and a decomposer - a tube worm.


Plant seedlings bending towards light source

This photograph shows how shamrock seedlings in a pot bend towards a light source. The plant pot has been placed near a window and the seedling stems have grown towards the light coming through the window.


Stoma on surface of buttercup leaf

This photograph of a stoma (plural: 'stomata') and guard cells on a buttercup leaf was taken using a scanning electron microscope (SEM). Stomata are pores in the surface of a leaf. The stomata and guard cells regulate the gases entering and leaving a plant's leaf.


Single stoma on a leaf surface

This is a photograph of a thin slice from the surface of leaf. The specimen has been stained and magnified 350 times under a light microscope. The stoma is surrounded by two guard cells. Chloroplasts can be seen within the guard cells.


Photosynthetic phytoplankton

This is an image of a light micrograph of four specimens of 'Euglena sp', a photosynthetic phytoplankton. The image shows specimens of different shapes and sizes against a 100-micrometre scale. Clearly visible are the dark nuclei, cellular membrane and other internal cellular structures.


Strings of cyanobacteria in ultraviolet light

This photograph of a filamentous cyanobacterium was taken with a microscope using ultraviolet light. Cyanobacteria are blue-green algae, but they have more in common with bacteria than with algae. They contain chlorophyll and a blue pigment and are photosynthetic.


Synechococcus, a cyanobacterium

This is a photograph of a synechococcus cell, showing some of its internal structures. The internal thylakoid membranes are responsible for the photosynthetic process. This organism belongs to one group of cyanobacteria.