Archive for the Category: Italian

Tag questions, innit!

Tag questions or question tags are interrogative fragments (tags) added to statements making them into sort of questions. They tend to be used more in colloquial speech and informal writing than in formal writing, and can indicate politeness, emphasis, irony, confidence or lack of it, and uncertainty. Some are rhetorical and an answer is not […]

Also posted in English, French, German, Grammar, Irish, Language, Manx, Polish, Russian, Scottish Gaelic, Spanish, Welsh 15 Comments

Newspapers and magpies

What’s the connection between newspapers and magpies? Well, apparently the first newspapers published in Venice and were known as gazeta de la novità and cost one gazeta (Venetian) or gazzetta (Italian), a small coin which had a picture of a magpie on it. A magpie is gazza in Italian and the name of the coin […]

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

Free online language course to give away

I’ve been given free access to the online courses offered by Online Trainers to give them a try, and have one course to give away. The languages available are English, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Dutch. If you’re interested, just drop me an email at feedback[at]omniglot[dot]com and I’ll send you an access code that gives […]

Also posted in Dutch, English, French, German, Language, Language learning, Spanish 2 Comments

Cars, carts and chariots

Last week I was told that the English word car originally comes from the Irish word carr (donkey cart). Apparently when cars came to Ireland Irish speakers thought it was better to come up with a new word for them than to name them after the humble donkey cart, so the term gluaisteán (‘moving thing’) […]

Also posted in Breton, Cornish, English, Etymology, French, Irish, Language, Latin, Manx, Proto-Indo-European, Spanish, Words and phrases 2 Comments

Baguette de tambour

Yesterday I discovered that in French a drumstick is a baguette de tambour, which conjured up images of French drummers playing their drums with long loaves of bread. The word baguette comes from the Italian word bacchetta (little rod), a diminutive of bacchio (rod), from the Latin baculum (stick, staff). As well as meaning a […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Language, Latin, Words and phrases 7 Comments


Last weekend I saw a couple of parades – a small and rather damp one in Bangor on Saturday that was part of the Bangor Carnival – and a rather bigger and more elaborate one on Sunday in Manchester that was part of the Manchester Day celebrations. This got me wondering about the origins of […]

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Panache, pegs and pinafores

One thing we discussed last night at the French Conversation Group was whether panache means the same thing in French as it does in English. According to the OED, panache [/pəˈnaʃ/ (UK) /pəˈnæʃ/ (USA)] comes from the Middle French pennache, which originally meant a tuft or plume of feathers, and by the late 19th century […]

Also posted in English, French, Language, Latin, Proto-Indo-European, Words and phrases 4 Comments

Stookies, stucco and stalks

I heard the word stookie on the radio the other day as was mystyfied as the it’s meaning – the context didn’t help. Forunately the person who mentioned it explained that it’s a Scottish word for plaster cast – the kind of thing you might have on a limb if you facture a bone. It’s […]

Also posted in English, Language, Scots, Words and phrases 4 Comments

Today and tomorrow

Yesterday a friend asked me about the origins of the words today and tomorrow, and whether the to- part of them was orginally the. You sometimes come across expressions like ‘on the morrow’, and words appear with hypens in older texts: to-day and to-morrow. According to the OED, today comes from the Old English tó […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, German, Language, Latin, Romanian, Spanish, Words and phrases 15 Comments

Word skipping to Venus

I was asked today about the origins of the word worship. The person who asked was told by a highly-educated minister that “worship” is derived from an old English word, “word-skip”. Supposedly, “word-skip” means “word shaper” or “shaper of words”. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary: worship comes from the Old English worðscip, wurðscip (Anglian), […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Language, Latin, Portuguese, Proto-Indo-European, Spanish, Words and phrases 17 Comments
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