Archive for the Category: English

Gorillas, monkeys and ponys

With a title like that, you might be expecting a post about animals, but in fact it’s about slang terms for money – a gorilla is £1,000, a monkey is £500 and a pony is £25. These names apparently come from old Indian banknotes and coins: the 25 Rupee coin had a pony on it, […]

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

Within walking distance

This weekend I went to a friend’s wedding near Milton Keynes, and stayed in an AirBnB in Bletchley on Saturday night. In my review of the AirBnB I said that it was “within walking distance” of the centre of Bletchley. After writing this, I started thinking that the phrase walking distance probably means quite different […]

Also posted in Language, Words and phrases 4 Comments

It’s in your east hand

An episode of Word of Mouth I listened to recently discussed the language of directions, and how in some languages directions are absolute rather than relative. So you don’t have a right hand or left hand, for example, but a north or south hand, or an east or west hand, depending on which way you’re […]

Also posted in Language 6 Comments

Spaghetti car bananas

On a recent episode of Word of Mouth on BBC Radio 4, they discussed the interesting words children come up with. They might attempt say particular words but can’t quite manage all the sounds, or get them mixed up, sometimes with unintentionally funny results. They also get words mixed and muddled, or perhaps muddlixed. Can […]

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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 […]

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

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
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