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.

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?

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Language, Quiz questions 5 Comments

English only in Lidl

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It’s been in the news recently that Lidl supermarkets in the UK have a policy that their staff should speak only English to customers, irrespective of their native language in order to ensure that staff and customers “feel comfortable”. Apparently this is “for the benefit of all our customers as well as our staff to […]

English, Language, Polish, Welsh 5 Comments

Paddling poodles and dibbling ducks

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Yesterday I discovered that poodles were bred to hunt ducks and other water fowl in Germany, and that the word poodle comes from the German Pudel, an abbreviation of Pudelhund (water dog), from the Low German Pudel (puddle), from pudeln (to splash about) [source]. The English word puddle is derived from the Old English word […]

English, Etymology, German, Language 3 Comments

Skeuomorphs

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I came across an interesting word and concept today – the skeuomorph [ˈskjuːəmɔrf], from the Greek σκεῦος (skéuos – container or tool), and μορφή (morphḗ – shape), and defined as “a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues from structures that were necessary in the original” [source]. This term was apparently coined by H. Colley […]

English, Etymology, Greek, Language, Words and phrases 2 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 6 Comments

Borborygmus

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I came across a wonderful word today – borborygmus [bɔrbəˈrɪɡməs] (plural borborygmi) – which refers to a rumble or gurgle in the stomach. It comes from the 16th-century French word borborygme, via Latin from the Ancient Greek βορβορυγμός (borborygmós), which was probably onomatopoetical [source, via The Week]. Are there interesting words for this phenomenon in […]

English, Etymology, Greek, Language, Latin, Words and phrases 1 Comment

Hollallu

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I came across a wonderful word in Welsh today – hollallu [hɔɬˈaɬɨ] – which means omnipotence or almightiness. It is a portmanteau of (h)oll (all, the whole, everything, everyone) and gallu (to be able (to), have power (to), can, be able to accomplish (a thing)), and there are a couple of variant forms: ollallu and […]

English, Language, Welsh, 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 7 Comments

Agley

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I came across the interesting word agley today when looking up something else in a Chinese dictionary – the Chinese equivalent is 错 [錯] (cuò). It is a Scots word, pronounced [əˈgli/əˈgləi], that means “off the straight, awry, oblique, wrong”. It comes from the word gley (to squint), according to Wiktionary, which is possible related […]

English, Etymology, Language, Scots 2 Comments

Languages in Bhutan

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I listened to a very interesting programme on the BBC about languages in Bhutan today. It mentioned that although the 19 or so indigenous languages of Bhutan have equal status, in theory at least. In practise, particularly in education, the main languages used are Dzongkha / Bhutanese and English, and to a lesser extent, Nepali. […]

Endangered languages, English, Language 1 Comment