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.

Can’t do it for toffee

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There’s an interesting idiom in British English that means that you are bad at doing something – you can’t do it for toffee. Apparently a US equivalent is can’t do something for beans. The equivalent of this phrase in French is il n’est pas fichu de faire qch and in Welsh it’s nid yw’n medru […]

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English, French, Language, Welsh 1 Comment

Multilingual esprit de l’escalier

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Last night I went to Global Café, a gathering of international and local students, and had chances to use quite a few different languages, including Czech, Hindi, Taiwanese, Cantonese, Mandarin and Spanish, and also English. Apart from English and Mandarin, I don’t speak any of these languages well, and I only know bits and pieces […]

Chinese, Czech, English, Hindi, Language, Spanish, Taiwanese 7 Comments

Da mad math

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In Welsh and Cornish the usual word for good is da [daː], while in the other Celtic languages words for good are: Breton – mat [maːt˺], Irish – maith [mˠa(ɪ)(h)], Manx – mie [maɪ], and Scottish Gaelic – math [ma]. I’ve wondered for a while whether there were cognates in Welsh and Cornish for these […]

Breton, Cornish, English, Etymology, Irish, Language, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Words and phrases 11 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 4 Comments

Maeldy

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I came across an interesting word in my Welsh dictionary – maeldy [ˈmaːɨldɨ̬ / ˈmaildɪ] – which is an old word for shop. The normal Welsh word for shop is siop, which sounds like shop. I had wondered if there was a another word for shop other than the one borrowed from English, now I […]

English, Language, Welsh, Words and phrases 2 Comments

Neo-eisimeileachd / Unthirldom / Independence

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As there’s an independence referendum in Scotland today I thought I’d look at a few relevant words in Scottish Gaelic and Scots: Gàidhlig (Scottish Gaelic) Scots English reifreann [rʲɛfərʲɛn̪ˠ] referendum referendum rneo-eisimeileachd [n̪ˠʲɔ eʃɪmələxg] unthirldom independence neo-eisimeileach [n̪ˠʲɔ eʃɪmələx] unthirlit independent bhòt [voʰt̪] vote vote Etymologies – neo-eisimeileachd: from neo- (un-), from Irish neamh-/neimh-, from […]

English, Etymology, French, Language, Latin, Proto-Indo-European, Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Words and phrases Leave a comment

Grammatical correctness and standard languages

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I got thinking standard languages and grammars today after reading an old post on Michal Boleslav Měchura’s blog Young, Single, Multilingual in which differences between standard and non-standard Irish language and grammar are discussed. One example is the use of the tag question ní tá instead of the standard nach bhfuil – the equivalent of […]

English, Grammar, Irish, Language 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 3 Comments

All mouth and no trousers

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The idiom all mouth and no trousers came up last night at the French conversation group. We were actually looking for a French equivalent of all fur coat and no knickers and couldn’t find one, but did find an equivalent of all mouth and no trousers, which has a somewhat similar meaning. According to the […]

English, French, Language, Welsh 3 Comments

Patterns

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Recently I’ve been learning Serbian, Russian and Czech with free apps produced by Hallberg Ryman, who make them for quite a variety of languages for Andriod and iPhone/iPad. They are working well for me and I would definitely recommend them. They use a flashcard/SRS-based system to teach you vocabulary arranged into categories such as numbers, […]

Czech, English, Grammar, Language, Language learning, Russian, Serbian 1 Comment