Archive for the Category: English

Beds that lie

The other day I noticed the word gwlau on a sign outside a furniture shop. It’s a Welsh word I hadn’t seen or heard before, but from the context I worked out that it meant ‘beds’. The sign also included the words gwlau soffa (sofa beds). As I hadn’t come across this plural form of […]

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Ingenious genius

The word ingenious sounds like the antonym (opposite) of genius as in- is often used as a negative suffix (invisible, indivisible, etc). However they are not. Ingenious means: – displaying genius or brilliance – tending to invent – characterized by genius – cleverly done or contrived; witty; original; shrewd; adroit; keen; sagacious. It comes from: […]

Also posted in Breton, Cornish, Etymology, Irish, Language, Latin, Manx, Proto-Indo-European, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Words and phrases Leave a comment

The Salmon’s Daughter

On Tuesday I saw a play in Bangor called Merch yr Eog / Merc’h an Eog (Daughter of the Salmon) in four different languages: Welsh, Breton, French and Guadeloupean Creole. It was a co-production between Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru (Welsh National Theatre) and Teatr Piba from Brittany, and featured actors from Wales and Brittany. The lead […]

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Have you got your snap?

On an episode of Uncle Mort’s North Country, a comedy drama on Radio 4 Extra that I listened to today, I heard the word snap used for a packed lunch. I’e heard it before, but wasn’t sure where it came from. The drama features two characters from Yorkshire: Uncle Mort and his nephew, Carter Brandon, […]

Also posted in Dutch, German, Language, Proto-Indo-European, Words and phrases 6 Comments

Barking up the wrong end of the stick

The phrase barking up the wrong tree means “making a mistake or a false assumption in something you are trying to achieve”. It comes from hunting dogs barking up trees where they thought their quarry was hiding, but wasn’t [source]. Apparently one French equivalent of this phrase is Frapper à la mauvaise porte (to knock […]

Also posted in French, Language, Words and phrases 1 Comment

Cashlines, ATMs and Holes in the Wall

I discovered the other day that in Scotland the bank machines that dispense cash are known as cashlines. This was apparently the name used first for Royal Bank of Scotland cash machines, and came to be used as the general term for ATMs in Scotland [source]. In other parts of the UK such machines are […]

Also posted in Language, Welsh, Words and phrases 9 Comments

もしもし (moshi moshi)

When answering the phone in Japanese the phrase you usually used is もしもし (moshi moshi). I received an email from a Japanese guy today saying that this doesn’t mean hello, so I thought I’d find out what it actually means. According to Tofugu, this phrase comes from the verb 申す (mōsu), which a humble equivalent […]

Also posted in Japanese, Language, Words and phrases 3 Comments

Mony a mickle maks a muckle

There’s a Scots saying Mony a mickle maks a muckle, or Many a mickle makes a muckle, which means “A lot of small amounts, put together, become a large amount”. The word muckle certainly means large, and also big, great; much, a great deal of, a lot of; grown-up, mature, adult; of great social consequence, […]

Also posted in Japanese, Language, Scots, Words and phrases 4 Comments

Please alight

I received an email yesterday asking about the Swiss German equivalent of Bitte verlassen Sie den Zug (Please alight from the train). Does anybody know? Are announcements on Swiss trains in Swiss German or Standard German (Hochdeutsch)? What other languages are they in? Or does it depend on where you are in Switzerland? This got […]

Also posted in German, Language, Words and phrases 10 Comments


This week is Welcome Week at Bangor University when new students arrive for the first time, register, join clubs and societies, some of which they’ll actually go to, and so on. It’s also known as Freshers’ Week and the new students are known as freshers, though after this week, they’re generally known as first years. […]

Also posted in Etymology, Language, Proto-Indo-European, Words and phrases 4 Comments
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