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.

An owlfully badgered cup of tea

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Yesterday I discovered that the Italian word for cup, tazza, is rather similar and possibly confusable with the word for badger, tasso, which can also mean a rate (of exchange) or a yew (tree). It’s unlikely that if you mistakenly ask for un tasso di tè rather than una tazza di tè, you will be […]

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Arabic, English, Etymology, French, German, Italian, Language, Persian (FarsI), Words and phrases 10 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

Sumpf

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I discovered the wonderful German word Sumpf /zʊmpf/ today while putting together les mots de la semaine for this week from the French conversation group. One of the things that came in conversation was the word marsh, which is le marais or le marécage in French, and Sumpf in German, which I noticed because there’s […]

English, Etymology, French, German, Language, Words and phrases 8 Comments

Playing and sounding

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The other day I discovered that to play in Italian is giocare or divertirsi, but if you’re playing a musical instruments the word you need is suonare, which also means to ring, sound, strike or toot. So I can say, Suono la chitarra, il piano(forte), il mandolino, il flauto dolce e il fischietto. (I play […]

English, Etymology, Italian, Language, Welsh, Words and phrases 13 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

Russian melancholy?

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The other day I was trying to learn some adjectives in Russian, and noticed that there seemed to be more Russian words for sad (9) than for happy (4), at least in one dictionary I checked (bab.la). This might be a coincidence as in other dictionaries are more words for happy than for sad. In […]

English, Language, Russian, Words and phrases 11 Comments

Klinken

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Last week I learnt an interesting Dutch word – klinken – which means to rivet, sound, ring, chime, toll, peal, knell, pledge, clink (glasses), (drink a) toast; to appear to be, seem, sound; and clinking. I particularly like the past tense forms of this word – klonk and geklonken. Here are some examples of usage: […]

Dutch, English, Etymology, Language, 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 11 Comments

Buiten

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Tthe Dutch word buiten /ˈbœy̯.tə(n)/ is one I’ve heard quite a bit while listening to Dutch radio, and though I know what it means – outside; out of – I wasn’t sure where it came from. Today I discover that it is related to uit (out, from). Buiten also means: villa, abroad, forth, apart from, […]

Dutch, English, Etymology, Language, Words and phrases 8 Comments

Wirlie

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In a book I read recently (one of Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street series) I came across a number of Scots words that were unfamiliar to me. One that I particularly like is wirlie, which, according the Dictionary of the Scots Language (DSL), means: “a place where a field-wall crosses a stream; an opening […]

English, Etymology, Language, Scots, Words and phrases 3 Comments