Archive for the Category: English

Coasts and competitors

Sometimes when I see new words in English or other languages I can immediately break them down into their component parts and work out their roots, but other times I just accept words as whole entities without trying to work out their derivation. One such word in Welsh is arfordir, which I hadn’t tried to […]

Also posted in Etymology, French, Language, Latin, Proto-Indo-European, Spanish, Welsh, Words and phrases Leave a comment

Marmosets, cheese and gargoyles

When French-speaking photographers want people to smile, they might say Le petit oiseau va sortir (The little bird is going to come out) or Souriez! (smile), or might ask them to say pepsi! or ouistiti! (marmoset), just as English-speaking photographer get people to smile by asking them to say “Cheese!” The word ouistiti [ˈwistiti] means […]

Also posted in Etymology, French, Greek, Language 2 Comments

Post-vernacular languages

In an article I read today – Sustaining languages: An interview with Peter Austin, I came across an interesting idea – post-vernacular languages. A vernacular language is one you use in your everyday life, while a post-vernacular language is one you may not want to use in your daily life and as means of communication, […]

Also posted in Endangered languages, Language, Language learning Leave a comment

Hmyz and Hums

I came across an interesting Czech word today – hmyz, which means “insect, ant, bug, creepy-crawly”. It appears in my Czech phrasebook in the sentence, “V našem pokoji je hmyz” (There are insects in our room). It sounds like the sounds insects make, but there are other words for hum in Czech – bzučet, vrčet, […]

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

Fosses and Sextons

At the French Conversation Group last night one of the people had an old French language textbook from the 1950s which contains lots of stories in French. One of them contains the word “Le Fossoyeur” in the title, which is translated as “The Sexton”. As this wasn’t a word I’d come across before, I thought […]

Also posted in Etymology, French, Language, Latin, Proto-Indo-European, Words and phrases 2 Comments

How to you?

An interesting structure that came up in the Russian lesson I worked on today is Как тебе …? (Kak tebe …) or literally “How to you …”), which means “What do you think of …?”. The example in the lesson is Ну, как тебе пельмени? (Nu, kak tebe pel’meni?), which means “So, what do you […]

Also posted in Language, Russian, Words and phrases 5 Comments

Suo Gân

We are learning the traditional Welsh lullaby Suo Gân [sɨɔ ɡɑːn] in one of the choirs I sing in at the moment. It’s a lovely song that was first written down in 1800, but was probably composed around before then. When I first saw the words Suo Gân I thought they might be Mandarin Chinese […]

Also posted in Chinese, Language, Music, Songs, Welsh, Words and phrases 2 Comments

In the cold light of day

An interesting expression I noticed recently is in the cold light of day. It is used to indicate that you are thinking about something calmly and clearly, and you might feel foolish, sorry or ashamed for thinking or doing that something. For example “The next morning, in the cold light of day, Sam realized that […]

Also posted in Language, Words and phrases 1 Comment

Dobbing in

If you heard or read that someone had been dobbed in, would you know what that meant? It’s an expression used mainly in the UK, Australian and New Zealand that means to inform on someone to the authorities – i.e. the police, parents, teachers, etc. For example, if a member of a criminal gang told […]

Also posted in Language, Words and phrases 3 Comments

As pretty as a truck

An interesting French expression I learnt last week is beau comme un camion, which literally means “pretty as a truck/lorry”, and actually means pretty, cute or beautiful. Apparently this idiom appeared around the middle of the 20th century and was at first ironic, as few people find trucks pretty. However it came to mean graceful […]

Also posted in Dutch, French, Language, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish, Words and phrases 2 Comments
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