Archive for the Category: English

Attercop

In The Hobbit, Bilbo uses the words attercop, lazy lob, crazy cob, and old tomnodd as insults he’s attacked by giant spiders in Mirkwood. I guessed that they are alternative names for spiders, but I thought I’d check. Attercop is a word for spider from the Old English átorcoppe, from átor/attor (poison) and coppe, from […]

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Also posted in Danish, Etymology, Language, Norwegian, Words and phrases 5 Comments

Towns, gardens and fences

Last week I went to Denbigh, a small town in the north east of Wales, to sing in a concert. On the way there there was some discussion about the origins and meaning of the name Denbigh. So I thought I’d find out more. The English name of the town doesn’t mean anything, but the […]

Also posted in Dutch, Etymology, German, Irish, Language, Manx, Proto-Indo-European, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Words and phrases 7 Comments

Schrijfrichting / Scriptpath

Last week a visitor to Omniglot asked me whether there is a single word in English that means writing direction, i.e. the direction in which writing systems are written. The Latin alphabet, for example, is written from left to right in horizontal lines, as are many other writing systems, while writing systems like Arabic and […]

Also posted in Dutch, German, Language, Words and phrases, Writing 8 Comments

One language per day

Last week I decided to try a slightly different language learning strategy. Rather than trying to immerse myself and learning bits of various languages every day, I am focusing on one language each day. This mainly involves listening to online radio and doing online lessons, and also having conversations with people when I can. At […]

Also posted in Dutch, Italian, Japanese, Language, Language learning, Portuguese, Spanish 3 Comments

Smoking Funky Radio

The word radio is based on the verb to radiate, which comes from the Latin radius, which means stick rod; beam, ray (of light); shuttle (of loom); rod for drawing figures (in mathematics), radius of circle; long olive (plant); spoke (of wheel). Radio or radiotelegraphy, the wireless transmission of signals through space by electromagnetic radiation […]

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Gender-neutral German

According to an interesting article I found today in The Guardian, moves are afoot in Germany to try to introduce gender-neutral language. The German Justice Ministry has apparently issued an edict which requires state institutions to use gender-neutral language, which is quite challenging, especially when it comes to job titles and words referring to groups […]

Also posted in German, Language 7 Comments

Peelie-wersh & Fankle

Peelie-wersh & Fankle – they could be a crime fighting duo, the name of a shop of some kind, or even the name of a band, but are in fact a couple of Scots expressions I came across recently in one of Alexander McCall-Smith’s books. He sprinkles such words in his novels based in Scotland […]

Also posted in Language, Scots, Words and phrases 2 Comments

Mountains and molehills

I discovered yesterday that the French word for mole is taupe /top/, and I wondered if this might be related to the English word taupe, which, according to the OED, means ‘A brownish shade of grey resembling the colour of moleskin’ or in others words, mole-coloured. The English word taupe comes from the French, which […]

Also posted in Etymology, French, Language, Words and phrases 6 Comments

Breadcrumbs & Scotch Eggs

Yesterday I discovered an interesting French word: paner, which means to coat with breadcrumbs or to bread. So a Scotch Egg, which is a hard boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, breaded and deep fried, can be described as a œuf dur enrobé de chair à saucisse et pané in French – it sounds better […]

Also posted in French, Language, Words and phrases 3 Comments

Publishing Children’s Books in Endangered Writing Systems

Today we have a guest post by Tim Brookes —————————————————- I knew next to nothing about writing systems until five years ago, when more or less by accident I began carving endangered alphabets. I’d spent my life as a nonfiction writer, with no pretensions to be a visual artist, when one Christmas I decided to […]

Also posted in Endangered languages, Language Comments Off