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Gennaio 2016
The Speak Up blog answers any questions you may have either about the English language or our articles. Write to us (preferably in English) at: http://blog.speakuponline.it. The most interesting questions will be published on this page. A word of warning, though: our blog is not a translation or homework service!

Great Britain
I’ve always wondered why Great Britain is translated into Italian as ‘Gran Bretagna.’ Wouldn’t it be better to translate with Gran Britannia seeing that Britannia is the old name of the island whereas Bretagna is a French region?

This is an interesting question. The French region is called Brittany in English, whereas the old name for Britain was, as you say, Britannia. Brittany (in France) was originally known as Armorica but, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, many Britons (who were fleeing from the Saxon invaders) moved there from Britain.  The name Armorica changed to Britannia, but there was a distinction between Britannia minor (Brittany) and Britannia major (Britain). This is why Britain is called Great Britain: not because the British think they’re great!

I have a question for you. It is about the song “She don’t like the lights” by Justin Bieber. Why has the singer used “she don’t” and not the correct form “she doesn’t”?

Songs often contain grammatical errors. This is not deliberate, it just reflects the language of rock’n’roll, which is basically slang, or the fact that the singer needs to fit the metre of a particular line.

I’ve often wondered about the use of the simple past tense after SINCE. Or, rather, this is what I was told at school and that I no longer have the courage to teach my students. Lots of the people you interviewed used alternatively: It’s been ... years since I’ve seen him”, or “it’s been two decades since I saw her...”  Are they both correct? Is there any difference? Thanks from someone who has read Speak Up since the early days!!

Technically, it’s “years since I saw him” but you do hear people say “It’s years since I’ve seen him.” There’s no difference in meaning. One is grammatically correct, the other is not but is acceptable.

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