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.

A load of old claptrap

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Claptrap is a great word that means ’empty verbiage or nonsense’. A claptrap was a also device that produced a clapping sound and was used in theaters to encourge applause from audiences. It can also mean ‘a trick or device to gain applause; humbug’. Synonyms include waffle, hot air and palaver. The word apparently comes […]

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

Horse horse tiger tiger

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In Mandarin Chinese there’s an idiomatic expression that translates literally as “horse horse tiger tiger”. What do you think it means? There is some interesting discussion about this idiom on the podcast Global Pillage, where they discuss idioms and customs from around the world. Suggestions for the meaning of this idiom included “social classes don’t […]

Chinese, English, Idioms, Language, 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 5 Comments

Sweet dreams are made of snov

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The most common way to say good night in Russian is спокойной ночи (spakóynay nóchi). Which is a contraction of the phrase Желаю тебе спокойной ночи (I wish you a quiet night). Спокойной is a form of спокойный, which means ‘calm, gentle, pacific, secure, sober, collected, cool, level, quiet, settled, tranquil, cosh, comfortable, immovable, peaceful, […]

English, Language, Russian, Words and phrases 2 Comments

Synesthesia and Language Learning

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I came across an interesting article today about a possible link between synesthesia and language learning. The article reports a survey of students in Prague and British Columbia which found that those who learn a language or languages after reaching school age are somewhat more likely to have synesthesia than those who are bilingual from […]

English, Language, Language learning 4 Comments

Plains, pianos and floors

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The Welsh word llawr [ɬau̯r] means floor, deck, gallery, stage, platform, cellar, basement, ground, face, and a few other things. I discovered today that it has cognates in all the other Celtic languages: – leur (Cornish) = floor, ground – leur (Breton) = area, ground, floor, soil – lár (Irish) = ground, floor, middle, centre […]

Breton, Cornish, Dutch, English, Etymology, German, Irish, Italian, Language, Manx, Proto-Indo-European, Russian, Scottish Gaelic, Spanish, Welsh, Words and phrases 3 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

Cold Wintry Wind

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I learnt an interesting Japanese word and kanji today – 凩 (こがらし / kogarashi), which means ‘cold wintry wind’ or ‘the cold wind that reminds us winter is coming’. It is also written 木枯し or 木枯, and is considered ‘untranslatable‘ by some. The character 凩 is a 国字 (こくじ / kokuji), that is one that […]

English, Japanese, Language, Welsh, Words and phrases 2 Comments

Wheels with teeth

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I discovered last night that in French a cog is a une dent, which also means a tooth, or une dent d’engrenage (“tooth gear”), and a cog wheel is une roue dentée (a toothed wheel), which is kind of a cog looks like. The English word cog, meaning a tooth on a gear, or a […]

English, Etymology, French, German, Language, Old Norse, Proto-Indo-European, Words and phrases 3 Comments

Polyglot Pub

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Last week I went to the Polyglot Pub in London. I’ve been to similar events in Manchester and Liverpool, but this is the first one I’ve been to in London. It takes place once a month, usually at Penderel’s Oak, a pub in Holborn, and this month there were about 16 people there. The conversation […]

Chinese, Czech, Dutch, English, French, Language, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Scottish Gaelic, Slovak, Swedish 1 Comment
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