Archive for the Category: English

La Saint-Sylvestre

As today is New Year’s Eve I thought I’d look at what this day is called in various languages: French:la (fête de) Saint-Sylvestre, which is celebrated with le Réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre, a feast which well involve champagne and foie gras, and a party, with kisses under the mistletoe at midnight. Saint Sylvestre was Pope between […]

Also posted in French, German, Language, Spanish, Welsh, Words and phrases 2 Comments

Babbling and motherese

Over the past few days I’ve been observing, and to some extent participating, in my niece’s language acquisition. She is 8 months old and babbles a lot to herself and to others. Some of her babbling can sound like possible words, like dada, but they don’t seem to be associated with anything yet. She is […]

Also posted in Language, Language acquisition, Russian, Words and phrases 1 Comment

Bosky bosses

I discovered today that bos is a Dutch word for forest or wood, and this immediately made me think of the wonderful English word bosky, which is defined by the OED as “Consisting of or covered with bushes or underwood; full of thickets, bushy”. The OED says that bosky comes from bosk, a Middle English […]

Also posted in Dutch, Etymology, Language, Words and phrases 5 Comments

Fudge and flapdoodle!

Another interesting word I came across this week is flapdoodle /flæpˈduːd(ə)l/, which the OED defines as ‘the stuff they feed fools on’, which comes from the following quote: ‘The gentleman has eaten no small quantity of flapdoodle in his lifetime.’ ‘What’s that, O’Brien?’ replied I… ‘Why, Peter,’ rejoined he, ‘it’s the stuff they feed fools […]

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Sun dogs, billygoat’s eyes and halos

The other day I discovered the wonderful word sun dog, which refers to coloured patches of light that appear beside the sun at certain times, particularly when the sun is low in the sky. The scientific name for this phenomenon is a parhelion, from the παρήλιον (parēlion – beside the sun); from παρά (para – […]

Also posted in Etymology, French, Greek, Language, Words and phrases 5 Comments

Snails and corner shops

I have been learning Dutch for just over a week now and am enjoying it and finding it interesting. I can guess the meanings of many of the words I encounter as they are similar to German and/or English, but some are completely different. For example, I just learnt that shop is (de) winkel /ˈʋɪŋkəl/, […]

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


The word quixotic (/kwɪkˈsɒtɪk/) has come up a number of times in books I’ve been reading recently, and though I sort know what it means, I wasn’t sure, so I thought I’d find out. According to the QED, quixotic means: – Of an action, attribute, idea, etc.: characteristic of or appropriate to Don Quixote; demonstrating […]

Also posted in Language, Spanish, Words and phrases 12 Comments


I’ve decided to learn Dutch this month and want to see how much I can learn in a month. I haven’t learnt any Dutch before, but can understand it a bit as I speak English and German. I’m using online resources, including courses on Babbel and any others I can find. I will also be […]

Also posted in Dutch, German, Language, Language learning 6 Comments

As flat as …

This week in the French conversation group one of the things that came up was the expression “as flat as a pancake” or the slightly ruder version, “as flat as a witch’s tit”. This was being used to describe the flatness of beer. The only equivalent we could find in French was “completement plat” (completely […]

Also posted in French, Language, Words and phrases 8 Comments

Aw, Snap!

I noticed recently that when a webpage crashes in the Google Chrome browser, you get an error message beginning with “Aw, Snap!”, which always amuses me. It’s not an expression I’ve ever used, and seeing it got me wondering whether it is in common use in other English-speaking countries. If you don’t use this expression, […]

Also posted in Language, Words and phrases 8 Comments