Language quiz

Language quiz image

Here’s a recording in a mystery language.

Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken?

Language, Quiz questions 5 Comments


This week is Welcome Week at Bangor University when new students arrive for the first time, register, join clubs and societies, some of which they’ll actually go to, and so on. It’s also known as Freshers’ Week and the new students are known as freshers, though after this week, they’re generally known as first years.

I understand that in the USA a first year student at high school and college is known as freshman. Does this apply to female students as well? Is the plural freshmen used?

Freshman first appeared in writing in the 1550s meaning “newcomer or novice”, and was used to mean a first year student at university from the 1590s. The word freshwoman appeared in the 1620s. Related words include freshmanic, freshmanship, freshmanhood.

An alternative for freshman, underclassman, meaning “sophomore (second year) or freshman” first appeared in 1869 [source].

The word fresh comes from the Old English fersc (fresh, pure, sweet), from the Proto-Germanic *friskaz (fresh), from the Proto-Indo-European *preysk- ‎(fresh) [source].

What are first year students called in other languages?

English, Etymology, Language, Proto-Indo-European, Words and phrases 3 Comments

Do you come here often?

I’ve started to put together a new page on Omniglot with translations of the phrase ‘Do you come here often?‘. I got the idea after finding a Cornish version of this phrase (A wre’ta dos omma yn fenowgh?) on Learn Cornish Now.

Could you check the translations that are already on the page, and provide ones if other languages?

Have you ever used this phrase as a chat-up line or conversation opener?

What other phrases have you used?

Cornish, English, Language, Words and phrases 3 Comments

Language quiz

Language quiz image

Here’s a recording in a mystery language.

Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken?

Language, Quiz questions 1 Comment

A bit of a breeze

One of the words that came up at the French conversation group this week was brise (breeze), which appears in the following expressions:

– pare-brise = windscreen / windshield
– brise matinale = early breeze
– brise insulaire = island breeze
– brise de mer = sea breeze
– brise de terre = land breeze

The French word brise and the English word breeze come possibly from the Old Spanish briza (cold northeast wind), which was used from the 1560s in West Indies and the Spanish Main to mean a “northeast trade wind”, and then a “fresh wind from the sea”. Breeze came to mean a “gentle or light wind” from the 1620s, and something easy from the 1920s in the USA.

Alternatively the English word breeze might come from is from East Frisian brisen (to blow fresh and strong), or the Saterland Frisian briese ‎(breeze) or the Dutch bries ‎(breeze).

Apparently as well as being a light, gentle wind, a breeze can be:

– Any wind blowing across a cricket match, whatever its strength.
– Any activity that is easy, not testing or difficult.
– Ashes and residue of coal or charcoal, usually from a furnace.
– An excited or ruffled state of feeling; a flurry of excitement; a disturbance; a quarrel.

Sources: Online Etymology Dictionary, Wiktionary and Reverso

English, Etymology, French, Language, Welsh, Words and phrases 1 Comment

Omniglot app

There is now an Omniglot app for Andriod developed by علي الساعدي (Ali al-saaedi Ali shirpaz) from Iraq. It only works online at the moment, and is available here.

Any comments or suggestions on how it might be improved are welcome.

Many thanks to علي الساعدي for doing this.

English, Language, Technology Leave a comment

Joskins, bumpkins and yokels

Last week a friend asked me about the origins of the word joskin [ˈdʒɒskɪn], which I hadn’t come across before. According to the Urban Dictionary it is defined as follows:

North-Walian term used in both English and Welsh to describe anyone from a rural or farming background. It is used both affectionately and in a derogatory way depending on the audience.

Example: He’s a right joskin – he’s got a tractor and everything.

According to the Collins English Dictionary joskin is a slang word meaning “a country bumpkin; hick”.

Wiktionary suggests that is comes from the dialect word joss (bump) and (bump)kin. Alternatively it comes from the name Joseph + (bump)kin [source].

Bumpkin, a clumsy, unsophisticated person or a yokel, apparently comes from the Dutch boomken ‎(shrub, little tree) [source]. Or it might come from the Dutch bommekijn (small cask), from the Middle Dutch bomme (cask) [source], and was also used as a derogatory reference to short and dumpy Dutch people [source].

Yokel possibly comes from German dialect word Jokel, a diminutive of Jakob, or an English dialect word meaning woodpecker [source].

What other words are there for joskins?

Dutch, English, German, Language, Welsh, Words and phrases 2 Comments

Language quiz

Language quiz image

Here’s a recording in a mystery language.

Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken?

Language, Quiz questions 4 Comments

World Museum

World Museum in Liverpool

Information panel from the World Museum in Liverpool with Inuktitut syllabics

Last Sunday I went to Liverpool for a polyglot meet-up. Before the meet-up I went to the World Museum, which is fascinating and well worth a visit.

Among the artifacts and exhibits, there are examples of languages and scripts from around the world, including Cuneiform tablets from Sumeria, a Mayan codex and other artifacts with Mayan writing, and a collection of artifacts from the arctic with Inukutitut syllabics on the information panels (see photo).

English, Language, Travel, Writing Leave a comment

What is fluency?

There’s an interesting post on the lingualift blog today entitled “What is fluency in a language?”, which includes ideas and discussion of what it means to be fluent from various polyglots and language enthusiasts, including me.

How do you define fluency?

Which languages do you consider yourself fluent in, and which ones would you like to be fluent in?

How many languages do you think it’s possible to be fluent in (based on your definition of fluency)?

English, Language, Language learning Leave a comment
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