Author Archives: Simon

I have worked in various parts of the UK, and in a few other countries, doing a variety of jobs in hotels, farms and offices. I currently make my living from my website, Omniglot, an online encyclopedia of writing systems and languages that makes money from adverts. I also play a variety of musical instruments, sing and write songs.

Neither fur nor feather

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Today I came across an interesting Russian idiom in the book I’m reading (Moon Seed, by Stephen Baxter): Ни пуха, ни пера (Ni púkha, ni perá). It means literally “neither fur nor feather” and is used to wish someone good luck. The phrase was originally used by Russian hunters in a sarcastic/ironic way. The feathers […]

English, German, Hebrew, Language, Russian, Words and phrases, Yiddish Leave a comment

Trumped

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For some reason I thought I’d look into the word trump today. It has a number of meanings: 1. trump (noun): the suit, in a game of cards, that outranks all others; a playing card of that suit; something that gives one an advantage, especially one held in reserve. Etymology From triumph, from the French […]

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

Language quiz

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Here’s a recording in a mystery language. Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken?

Language, Quiz questions 8 Comments

Romance and Horses

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What does romance have to do with horses? Well, the word romance has a number of meanings: – A story relating to chivalry; a story involving knights, heroes, adventures, quests, etc. – An intimate relationship between two people; a love affair. – A strong obsession or attachment for something or someone. – Idealized love which […]

English, Etymology, French, Language, Latin, Words and phrases 2 Comments

Gorillas, monkeys and ponys

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With a title like that, you might be expecting a post about animals, but in fact it’s about slang terms for money – a gorilla is £1,000, a monkey is £500 and a pony is £25. These names apparently come from old Indian banknotes and coins: the 25 Rupee coin had a pony on it, […]

English, Etymology, French, Language, Latin, Proto-Indo-European, Words and phrases 2 Comments

Within walking distance

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This weekend I went to a friend’s wedding near Milton Keynes, and stayed in an AirBnB in Bletchley on Saturday night. In my review of the AirBnB I said that it was “within walking distance” of the centre of Bletchley. After writing this, I started thinking that the phrase walking distance probably means quite different […]

English, Language, Words and phrases 4 Comments

Language quiz

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Here’s a recording in a mystery language. Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken?

Language, Quiz questions 3 Comments

It’s in your east hand

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An episode of Word of Mouth I listened to recently discussed the language of directions, and how in some languages directions are absolute rather than relative. So you don’t have a right hand or left hand, for example, but a north or south hand, or an east or west hand, depending on which way you’re […]

English, Language 6 Comments

Spaghetti car bananas

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On a recent episode of Word of Mouth on BBC Radio 4, they discussed the interesting words children come up with. They might attempt say particular words but can’t quite manage all the sounds, or get them mixed up, sometimes with unintentionally funny results. They also get words mixed and muddled, or perhaps muddlixed. Can […]

English, Language, Words and phrases Leave a comment

Language quiz

s

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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