Archive for the Category: English

Flutes and buckles

Six weeks ago today I had a slight mishap while ice skating in London, and managed to dislocate and fracture my ankle – both the tibia (shin bone) and fibula (calf bone). The word tibia comes from the Latin tībia (shin bone, leg). It originally referred to a stalk, or reed pipe, and came to […]

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Chinese learning tools

This is a guest post by Dimitrios Polychronopoulos When I first started studying Chinese, in Taiwan, back in 1993, I started with the Mandarin phonetic alphabet and traditional characters. Primarily I used bopomofo to learn how to read, in the same way a Taiwanese child learns growing up on the island. Then just more than […]

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When your gran is your granddad

In a book I’m reading at the moment – Border Country by Raymond Williams – one of the characters calls his grandfather ‘Gran‘, which strikes me as unusally. To me gran could only refer to a grandmother. Does it seem strange to you? I only remember one of my grandparents – my dad’s mum – […]

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

Playing games

In English you play a game, but you don’t play a play. In Russian the words for to play and game come from the same root: играть (to play) and игра (game). To play a game is играть в игру. I already knew the verb играть, but didn’t know that the word for a game […]

Also posted in Czech, Etymology, Language, Russian, Slovak, Words and phrases Leave a comment

Improvements to Omniglot

Recently I’ve been making a lot of small improvements to Omniglot. An American gentleman from Michigan has very kindly been proofreading parts of my site, and sending me long lists of corrections and improvements. So far we’ve worked through the languages written with the Latin alphabet from A-J. I’ve corrected errors, edited and improved language […]

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Harmony-loving chorus

Last night I went to an excellent concert at the Pontio Arts Centre featuring the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the brilliant harpsichordist, Mahan Esfahani. As well as enjoying the concert, I started thinking about the word philharmonic – what it means, where it comes from, and why it features in the names of many […]

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For the past several years

Does anything strike you as odd about the title of this post? I came across this wording today in a book by an American author, and immediately thought, “don’t you mean ‘for the past few years’?”. For me that would be a more natural way to express this. Several in this context just sounds wrong. […]

Also posted in Etymology, Language, Latin, Words and phrases 4 Comments

The Aesthetic of Umlessness

The title of this post comes from a book by Michael Erard that I’m currently reading: Um. . .: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean. It’s an interesting book that discusses how we all tend to um and er (or uh) in speech, and get words mixed up, correct ourselves, and make […]

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A Polyglot’s Guide to Place Names of Canada & the United States

Today we have a guest post by Amit Raj Wherever you find yourself in the States or Canada, you are likely to find most voices around you are speaking in English, French, Spanish, or another modern European language. But dotted among the vocabulary of the typical American will be a number of words that we […]

Also posted in French, Language, Spanish 1 Comment

Back to Bangor

I finally returned to Bangor today after nearly 3 weeks away – I was only planning to be away for 3 days, but due to the slight mishap in London (a broken ankle), my plans changed a bit. My mum has looked after me very well, and been doing the cooking, laundry, shopping, etc. I’ll […]

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