Archive for the Category: English

Who are the Celts?

This week I am in the Isle of Man for the CeltFest, a festival of Manx and Celtic music and culture. There are lunchtime concerts every day at the Noa bakehouse in Douglas, and concerts and other events every night in Peel. Last night I went to a fascinating talk by Alice Roberts, an anatomist, […]

Also posted in Language, Manx, Proto-Indo-European 1 Comment

How many Chinese characters/words do you need to know?

One thing Chinese learners often ask about is how many characters they need to know in order to read Chinese. In a new article I was sent today, there’s some discussion about how many Chinese characters and words you need to know. I decided to check to details provided by the writer, and re-wrote this […]

Also posted in Chinese, Language, Language learning 1 Comment

Colombian Slang

This is a guest post by Nate Alger Have you ever been to Colombia? If not, you are missing out on one of the best kept secrets in Latin America. It is a country filled with life, lots of culture, and great food to eat! It’s the place that I have called home for the […]

Also posted in Language, Language learning, Spanish, Words and phrases Leave a comment


I came across a new word on Instagram today – shelfie, a portmanteau of shelf and selfie meaning, according to Wiktionary, “a photograph of a bookshelf/bookcase taken by its owner and shared on social media.” The context I saw the word was even more specific – language shelfies, i.e. a photo of a bookshelf containing […]

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Gaelic hills

I’m currently reading an interesting book – Uncommon Ground – A word-lover’s guide to the British landscape by Dominick Tyler. One thing I’ve learnt from it, is that there are quite a few words in Scottish Gaelic related to hills and mountains: Beinn [beiɲ / beɲə] = mountain, mount; high hill, pinnacle; head, top, high […]

Also posted in Etymology, Irish, Language, Scottish Gaelic, Words and phrases 3 Comments

In a jiffy

A jiffy is very short, unspecified length of time. For example, “I’ll be back in a jiffy”. It can refer to more precise units of time, and was first defined by Gilbert Newton Lewis (1875–1946) as the time it takes light to travel one centimeter in a vacuum (about 33.3564 picoseconds). Other definitions are available. […]

Also posted in Language, Welsh, Words and phrases 4 Comments

Standing still on the longest day

Today is the longest day of the year and the summer solstice. After several hot, sunny days in Bangor, today it’s cloudy, warm and muggy. The word solstice comes from the Old French solstice, from Latin sōlstitium (solstice; summer), from sol (sun) and sto (stand), from sistō (I stand still). Sol comes from the Proto-Italic […]

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

Wandering prattlers

It has been brought to my attention that in Swedish the most common way to say ‘speak’, at least in Stockholm, is pratar, and that few people use talar anymore. Är detta sant? Is this true? The Duolingo course I’m studying Swedish with uses talar, – pratar has not come up yet. According to Witionary, […]

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

Closing out

On some podcasts I listen to, I’ve noticed that the presenters use the phrase close out when talking about the end of the show. For example, they say things like “Finally we will close out with an item about …”, or “It’s now time to close out the show.” To my British ears this expression […]

Also posted in Language, Words and phrases 3 Comments

Mysterious abbreviations (MABs)

Recently I’ve noticed the abbreviation MSM appearing in some of the articles I read online. When I first saw it I guessed it had something to do with Microsoft – maybe Microsoft Media, or something like that. Eventually I worked out that it stood for mainstream media. According to Wiktionary, MSM can also stand for […]

Also posted in Language 1 Comment
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