Archive for the Category: German

Schnick, Schnack, Schnuck

Last weekend a couple of couchsurfers from the USA stayed with me. When they’re not surfing from sofa to sofa they live in Leipzig in Germany and one of them speaks German fluently. When she discovered that I also speak German, we started chatting in German. Even after many years of neglect my German is […]

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Gleann Cholm Cille

This week I’m in Gleann Cholm Cille in Donegal in the north west of Ireland taking part in the summer school in Irish language and culture at Oideas Gael. There are about 100 people here for the summer school and we have Irish language classes in the mornings and can choose from a variety of […]

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Dialing a telephone

An email arrived today from Phil S, who has been wondering about the quirkiness of the phrase “to dial a telephone”, which is ubiquitous and exclusive in its meaning and yet has, of course, become totally divorced from the original physicality of the phrase. He would like to know: – What idioms do other languages […]

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Archerien

An interesting word that came up in my Breton lesson today is archerien, which means police. It caught my attention because it has no obvious connection to the word police, and because it is completely different to the equivalent words in other Celtic languages: – Welsh: heddlu (“peace force”) – Cornish: kreslu (“peace host”) – […]

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Tag questions, innit!

Tag questions or question tags are interrogative fragments (tags) added to statements making them into sort of questions. They tend to be used more in colloquial speech and informal writing than in formal writing, and can indicate politeness, emphasis, irony, confidence or lack of it, and uncertainty. Some are rhetorical and an answer is not […]

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Things and stuff

Yesterday I learnt the German word (das) zeug, which means stuff; gear; clothes; things; nonsense; rubbish; old material – a useful word when you don’t know or can’t recall a more specific term. Having a few such words up your sleeve in whatever language(s) you’re learning is a good idea. What are equivalent words in […]

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La gueule de bois

This week I discovered that in French a hangover is une gueule de bois (“a wooden mouth”), which seems quite a good description of the condition. In my thesaurus word for hangover in English include after-effects, katzenjammer, morning after, and the morning after the night before. Do you have any others? I’ve heard of katzenjammer […]

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Reviving neglected languages

I often meet people who say that they studied a language or two in school, but have since forgotten most of what they knew as they’ve had little need and few opportunities to speak the language(s). To some extent I’m in a similar position – since finishing school I have rarely spoken French or German, […]

Also posted in French, Language, Language learning 9 Comments

Bulhorn

The subject of snails came up this week at the polyglot conversation group and I discovered that the Cornish word for snail is bulhorn /ˈbʊl.hɔɾn/ (pl. bulhornes), which I particularly like, and which conjures up images of bullhorn (megaphone) wielding snails. We were also talking about slugs and didn’t know the Cornish or Welsh words […]

Also posted in Cornish, English, Language, Welsh, Words and phrases 17 Comments

Bangor Polyglots

Last night the Bangor Polyglot conversation group met for the first time. I’ve been wanting to set up a group like this for a while as a way to practice my languages and to meet other polyglots. Last month it finally started to come together: first I found a suitable place and time for it […]

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