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.

Pull up a pew

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One thing that came up in the French Conversation Group last night was church pews, and particularly how uncomfortable they are. We discovered that in French a pew is un banc (d’église). Banc also means seat or bench, and can mean other things in combination with other words: – banc de sable = sandbank – […]

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

The white light of the world

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An interesting and useful Russian word I came across today is свет [svʲet], which means light, and also lights, lighting, day, radiance, power, electricity, world and (high) society. It comes from the Old East Slavic свѣтъ ‎(světŭ – light; world), from Proto-Slavic *světъ ‎(light; world), from the Proto-Balto-Slavic *śwaitas, from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱwoytos / *ḱweytos […]

Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Etymology, German, Language, Norwegian, Polish, Proto-Indo-European, Russian, Slovak, Swedish, Words and phrases 2 Comments

Разговорник

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I came across a useful Russian word today when searching for Chechen phrasebooks – разговорник (razgavornik) [rəzɡɐˈvornʲɪk] – I guessed it meant phrasebook from the context, and also because разговаривать (razgavarivat’) means to talk (to). It is a combination of разговор (razgavór – conversation, talk) and the suffix ник (nik), which usually denotes a profession, […]

English, Etymology, Language, Russian, Words and phrases, Yiddish Leave a comment

Language quiz

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

Language, Quiz questions 6 Comments

Getting Past the Intermediate Plateau

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Today we have a guest post by Olly Richards of IWillTeachYouALanguage.com Behind The Scenes at the Fluent Spanish Academy If you’re starting to learn a new language, the internet is awash with advice and resources geared towards beginners. But as you make progress with your new language, and hit the dreaded intermediate plateau, it becomes […]

English, Language, Language learning, Spanish Leave a comment

Going through the motions

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In English you can use the verb to go to indicate any kind of travel – it doesn’t matter if you’re going on foot, by bicycle, car, bus, train, boat or plane. There are other verbs you can use: walk, stroll, hike, cycle, drive, travel, sail, fly, etc, but you can also just use go. […]

English, Etymology, German, Language, Proto-Indo-European, Russian, Words and phrases 1 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 9 Comments

A Tragic Goat Song

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How is the word tragedy connected to goats and songs? The answer is that tragedy comes ultimately from the Ancient Greek word τραγῳδία ‎(tragōidía – epic play, tragedy) which comes from τράγος ‎(trágos – male goat) and ᾠδή ‎(ōidḗ, – song). Apparently the goat reference comes from satyrc drama, which featured actors dressed in goatskins […]

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

‘Cuisinez-Vous Le Français ?’ Mixing Learning with the Joys of Cooking

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Today we have a guest post by the Language Chefs from Cuisinez-vous le français The new online tool, ‘Cuisinez-Vous Le Français ?’ is a fun way to learn French in a friendly, foodie manner. This new method, comprising of one recipe each week using a dedicated, online platform, allows you to improve your culinary and […]

English, French, Language, Language learning Leave a comment

Needle Mouse and the Clockwork Octopus

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There’s a Japanese word that means ‘needle mouse’ when literally translated. What kind of animal do you think it is? It is in fact a hedgehog. It is written 針鼠 and pronounced harinezumi: 針 (hari) means needle, pin, hook, stinger; thorn, hand (of clock), pointer or staple. 鼠 (nezumi, nezu, shi, sho) means rat, mouse […]

Chinese, English, Japanese, Language, Words and phrases 1 Comment
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