Flutes and buckles

Six weeks ago today I had a slight mishap while ice skating in London, and managed to dislocate and fracture my ankle – both the tibia (shin bone) and fibula (calf bone).

The word tibia comes from the Latin tībia (shin bone, leg). It originally referred to a stalk, or reed pipe, and came to mean shin bone as flutes were originally made with shin bones. It is possibly connected to the Ancient Greek word σίφων (síphōn – siphon, tube) [source].

The word fibula comes from the Latin fībula (clasp, buckle, brooch), from fī(gō) (to fasten), and -bula (a suffix denoting instrument, vessel, place, or person) [source].

My bones should be healed by now – it usually takes about six weeks. I went to the local hospital a few weeks ago for a check-up. They x-rayed my ankle, took off the plaster cast, gave me a special orthopedic boot. They said that my ankle is healing well. I’ll be going back there in just over a week. In the meantime, I’ve started to experiment with putting more weight on my injured leg, using just one crutch, or walking without the crutches. I can does this quite well, though still need the crutches for stairs and steps.

I’ve adapted as best I can to having reduced mobility. It’s frustrating not being able to walk four or five miles a day, as I usually do, but I hope to be able to do that again soon. Some things, like grocery shopping, are difficult, so I order stuff online and had it delivered. I’ve noticed that many places are not very accessible, and that simple things like heavy doors are tricky to manage on crutches.

English, Etymology, General, Greek, Language, Latin Leave a comment

Chinese learning tools

This is a guest post by Dimitrios Polychronopoulos

When I first started studying Chinese, in Taiwan, back in 1993, I started with the Mandarin phonetic alphabet and traditional characters. Primarily I used bopomofo to learn how to read, in the same way a Taiwanese child learns growing up on the island. Then just more than two years later, I left the island and found my progress in Chinese was mostly from books published the simplified characters. My tutors were from Beijing and Shanghai and I started learning the simplified characters.

Now more than twenty years have passed, and I’ve maintained my intermediate level of Chinese with a variety of tools. Back in 2015 I discovered LingQ and became a big fan and in 2016 I started my own website, Yozzi, to encourage myself to blog in different languages where I’d reached at least an upper intermediate level. The idea was for me to publish one article a week in each of my eight strongest languages. While I have been reasonably consistent at bringing new content to the site, so far I only have two articles up in Chinese. One of the greatest challenges is that when it comes to getting guest blogs on the site, I often have people saying they are interested in submitting, but they never get around to sending in their articles. The same thing happens with guest interviews. Several of the interviews have yet to be returned by the candidates who expressed their interest. One such interview is out there with a Chinese person who lives in Norway, but he hasn’t turned it in yet.

In this case could it be that Chinese is such an inconvenient language to write in? One of my Taiwanese friends who moved abroad says any time she has to write in Chinese, she always keeps putting it off, because even for her it is inconvenient. If a native Chinese speaker feels this way, no wonder as a non-native speaker, I myself have the fewest posts in Chinese up on Yozzi than any of the eight languages. I hope to change this in the long run. If there are any Chinese people who want to talk about their experiences in different countries, cross-culture experience and language-learning experience? I’d love to interview you for my site in Chinese. Please let me know

As for new ways to make progress in Chinese, in 2017 FlipWord has come along. I’ve been using FlipWord for nearly two months now. It’s been a lot of fun challenging my Chinese level. Anytime I want to read an article on line in English, I will open it up in my Chrome browser and let FlipWord replace English words with Chinese words. It will also quiz me as well from time to time on my syntax.

After United Airlines sent me an apology and an update about their changes after the terrible incident on board with the injuries of the passenger Dr. David Dao, I froze the letter in time with Chinese character changes, and published it on BeBee. With this letter, you can see an example of what FlipWord looks like if your settings are on ‘advanced’ for learning Chinese.

Regarding FlipWord, it feels good to see the new words and expressions I learn as I use it. It often happens that a word pops up in a context where I think I already know the word, but it presents me with a different option, for example to earn money I would normally think of “赚钱” Zhuànqián but FlipWord suggests 挣 ‘Zhēng’.

With FlipWord I find myself actively thinking about how I would express the same thing with my intermediate Chinese. There are many ways to express the same thing in a language. Language has nuances and shades. With FlipWord I’m beginning to understand nuances more than I expected to, with each new character that pops up. It also helps with syntax, as quizzes pop up and it asks me to construct my own sentences by putting characters in the right order. Another thing is that I never realised how bad my Chinese syntax was until FlipWord. At this point, my main question is how my learnings from FlipWord will become activated next time I find myself engaging in conversation among a group of native Chinese speakers. It’s the joy of the never ending tale and development of a lifelong language learner.

Chinese, English, Language, Language learning Leave a comment

When your gran is your granddad

In a book I’m reading at the moment – Border Country by Raymond Williams – one of the characters calls his grandfather ‘Gran‘, which strikes me as unusally. To me gran could only refer to a grandmother. Does it seem strange to you?

I only remember one of my grandparents – my dad’s mum – who I think we called granny. We used the same term for my mum’s stepmother, who was with us until 2013.

Some people I know have different names for their grandmothers. For example, their mum’s mum might be nan, and their dad’s mum might be gran or granny. I haven’t noticed people having different names for their grandfathers in English.

In Welsh though, people sometimes add the name of the place where they live to the words for grandfather and grandmother. For example, Taid Dinbych (Denbigh Granddad) and Nain Caergybi (Holyhead Granny), or in South Wales Tad-cu Casnewydd (Newport Granddad) and Mam-gu Caerdydd (Cardiff Granny).

What do you call, or did you call, your grandparents?

English, Language, Welsh, Words and phrases 5 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?

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Playing games

In English you play a game, but you don’t play a play. In Russian the words for to play and game come from the same root: играть (to play) and игра (game). To play a game is играть в игру.

I already knew the verb играть, but didn’t know that the word for a game was similar, until today.

игра́ть means to play; to act, to perform; to gamble; (of a storm) to rage; (of wine) to sparkle. It comes from the Proto-Slavic *jьgra (play, game).

игра́ means a game; a sport which is played; play (for amusement); acting, performance; role-playing; playing (a musical instrument). [source].

Related words include:

– игра́льный = playing
– игри́вый = playful
– игри́стый = sparkling (of wine)
– игрово́й = game, play, acting, playing
– игро́к = player, gambler

Words for game are the same or similar in other Slavic languages. However they have lost the initial i in most Western Slavic languages: hra (Czech & Slovak); gra (Polish); jhra, hra (Upper Sorbian); gra, igra (Lower Sorbian) [source].

Czech, English, Etymology, Language, Russian, Slovak, Words and phrases Leave a comment

Improvements to Omniglot

A proofreader

Recently I’ve been making a lot of small improvements to Omniglot. An American gentleman from Michigan has very kindly been proofreading parts of my site, and sending me long lists of corrections and improvements. So far we’ve worked through the languages written with the Latin alphabet from A-J.

I’ve corrected errors, edited and improved language descriptions, re-done many alphabet charts, added links to the Excel spreadsheets I use to create the charts, and added sample texts and videos, if I can find them. The alphabet charts (and other images) scale to fit the size of the screen you’re using to view my site, and I try to make them legible even on small screens.

Many other people send me suggestions for corrections and improvements, and I welcome all your feedback. If you spot anything on Omniglot that needs correcting, changing or improving, do let me know.

By the way, the number of visitors to Omniglot has diminished somewhat recently. I don’t know why, but would be grateful if you could recommend to site to everyone you know who is interested in languages.

English, General, Language Leave a comment

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 6 Comments

Harmony-loving chorus

Last night I went to an excellent concert at the Pontio Arts Centre featuring the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the brilliant harpsichordist, Mahan Esfahani.

As well as enjoying the concert, I started thinking about the word philharmonic – what it means, where it comes from, and why it features in the names of many orchestras.

According to Wiktionary, philharmonic means “appreciative of music, but especially to its performance” or “A full-size symphony orchestra”. It comes from the French, philharmonique, from the Italian filarmonico (loving harmony), from the Greek φίλος (phílos – dear, beloved) + αρμονικός (armonikós – harmonic, harmonious) [source].

The name philharmonic was adopted by the Royal Philharmonic Society, which was established in London on 6th February 1813 by a group of thirty professional musicians. Its aims were to promote performances of instrumental music, and to build an orchestra, which initially played at the Argyll Rooms on Regent Street. Before then there were no permanent orchestras in London. After the Society was formed, other orchestras started to the word philharmonic to their names.

The word orchestra comes from the Greek ὀρχήστρα (orchistra), which was the area in front of the stage in an ancient Greek theatre reserved for the chorus, and comes from the word ὀρχοῦμαι (orkhoûmai – to dance).

The word symphony (an extended piece of music of sophisticated structure, usually for orchestra) comes from the Old French simphonie (musical harmony; stringed instrument), from Latin symphonia (harmony, symphony; a kind of musical instrument), from Ancient Greek συμφωνία (sumphōnía – symphony; a concert of vocal or instrumental music; music; band, orchestra; type of musical instrument), from σῠν- (sun – with, together) +‎ φωνή (phōnḗ – sound) [source].

English, Etymology, French, Greek, Italian, Language, Latin, Music, Words and phrases Leave a comment

For the past several years

Does anything strike you as odd about the title of this post?

I came across this wording today in a book by an American author, and immediately thought, “don’t you mean ‘for the past few years’?”. For me that would be a more natural way to express this. Several in this context just sounds wrong. Maybe it sounds natural and normal to you.

Several is defined on WordReference.com as:

1. being more than two but fewer than many (there’s nothing like precision, is there?)
2. separate; different
3. individual; respective
4. several persons or things; a few; some

Several comes from the Anglo-Norman several (separate), from the Medieval Latin sēparālis, from the Latin sēparāre (to separate).

English, Etymology, Language, Latin, Words and phrases 4 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 5 Comments
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