Archive for the Category: French

Hi. Keefak? Ça va?

What language(s) do they speak in Beirut? According to an interesting programme and article I came across today, many people in Beirut speak Arabic, French and English, and frequently switch between them, often using two of them, or all three in the same sentence. While some might see this kind codeswitching as a sign that […]

Also posted in Arabic, English, Language, Welsh 2 Comments


When you’re in a restaurant or café, how do you get the attention of a waiter/waitress? This cartoon shows how it can be difficult in France. The customer in the cartoon first says “Please”, then “Sir/Mr”, then “Waiter”, then ‘Can I order?’, then a hour later the waiter finally speaks to him and says, “Sir, […]

Also posted in English, Language 3 Comments

Awaken the Appetite

A ragout is a highly seasoned meat and vegetable stew, and comes from the French ragoût, which appears to be a general word for stew. Ragoût comes from the Middle French ragoûter (to awaken the appetite), which comes from the Old French re- (back), à (to) and goût (taste), from the Latin gustum (taste), from […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, Language, Latin, Proto-Indo-European, Words and phrases 1 Comment

Language learning lethargy

Are there times when you don’t feel like learning languages and can’t summon up much enthusiasm about them? When language learning lethargy strikes, in fact. For me most of August this year was like that – I did use my languages when I had the chance, and spoke quite a bit of French and Welsh, […]

Also posted in Czech, English, Italian, Language, Language learning 4 Comments


I’m happy to announce that Omniglot has partnered with Frantastique to help you enhance your language skills and effectively learn French. Frantastique is a 15 minute daily online training, which is tailored for each user’s level of French. So how does Frantastique work? Your daily lesson is sent by e-mail every morning Every morning, your […]

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No holds barred

I came across the phrase no holds barred today and wondered where it came from. I probably have seen it written down before, but didn’t pay any particular attention to it and thought it was written no holes barred. According The Phrase Finder, this phrase comes from wrestling and refers to wrestling matches in which […]

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Put the kettle on!

I discovered last night that although there is a French word for kettle – bouilloire – kettles are not common in French kitchens. More or less every kitchen in the UK, and Ireland, has a kettle, and a toaster (grille-pain) – they are considered essential equipment. However, according to a friend who used to live […]

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

Gleann Cholm Cille

This week and next week I am in Gleann Cholm Cille (Glencolmcille) in Donegal in the north west of Ireland. I’m doing courses at Oideas Gael, an Irish language and cultural centre: a harp playing course this week, and an Irish language and culture course next week. This is my 11th visit to Gleann Cholm […]

Also posted in Czech, Dutch, English, German, Irish, Language, Russian, Scottish Gaelic, Travel 1 Comment

Coasts and competitors

Sometimes when I see new words in English or other languages I can immediately break them down into their component parts and work out their roots, but other times I just accept words as whole entities without trying to work out their derivation. One such word in Welsh is arfordir, which I hadn’t tried to […]

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Marmosets, cheese and gargoyles

When French-speaking photographers want people to smile, they might say Le petit oiseau va sortir (The little bird is going to come out) or Souriez! (smile), or might ask them to say pepsi! or ouistiti! (marmoset), just as English-speaking photographer get people to smile by asking them to say “Cheese!” The word ouistiti [ˈwistiti] means […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, Greek, Language 2 Comments
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