Archive for the Category: French

It’s very sticky

I discovered (via Inky Fool) an alternative word for tennis today – sphairistike [sfɛəˈrɪstɪkɪ], which sounds a bit like the phrase ‘it’s very sticky’. This was the name coined by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield (pictured right), who invented (lawn) tennis in 1873, and it comes from the Greek σϕαιριστική (sfairistiké), or ‘(skill) in playing at […]

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

Dialing a telephone

An email arrived today from Phil S, who has been wondering about the quirkiness of the phrase “to dial a telephone”, which is ubiquitous and exclusive in its meaning and yet has, of course, become totally divorced from the original physicality of the phrase. He would like to know: – What idioms do other languages […]

Also posted in English, German, Italian, Language, Words and phrases 15 Comments

Archerien

An interesting word that came up in my Breton lesson today is archerien, which means police. It caught my attention because it has no obvious connection to the word police, and because it is completely different to the equivalent words in other Celtic languages: – Welsh: heddlu (“peace force”) – Cornish: kreslu (“peace host”) – […]

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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 […]

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La gueule de bois

This week I discovered that in French a hangover is une gueule de bois (“a wooden mouth”), which seems quite a good description of the condition. In my thesaurus word for hangover in English include after-effects, katzenjammer, morning after, and the morning after the night before. Do you have any others? I’ve heard of katzenjammer […]

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Everything but the kitchen sink

The phrase ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ indicates many things or almost everything, as in ‘I took everything but the kitchen sink with me on holiday. The OED gives the earliest use of the phrase in writing as 1965. The kitchen sink part of the phrase apparently comes from army slang and appears in Partridge’s […]

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Korriganed

Korriganed are apparently small creatures that live under standing stones (dolmen/menhirs) in Brittany. They feature in one of the lessons in my Breton course and are explained thus: “Les korrigans doivent être des êtres particulièrement petits, puisque ce mot est formé de korr, “nain”, puis du diminutif -ig puis du’un autre diminutif – obsolète aujourd’hui […]

Also posted in Breton, English, Language, Words and phrases 2 Comments

Pseudolanguages

One way English speakers play with English is by making into Pig Latin. This involves move the first sound of each word to the end and adding “ay”; for example Pig Latin becomes Ig-pay atin-lay. If a word starts with a vowel you might add hey, way or yay to the end. This creates a […]

Also posted in English, Language, Latin 10 Comments

Bouder

I learnt a new word in French today: bouder, which means to sulk; to pout; to avoid; to turn one’s nose up at (sth); to refuse to have anything to do with (sb). Related expressions include: – boudant = sulking; pouting – bouder son plaisir = to deny oneself a good thing; to sulk one’s […]

Also posted in Breton, English, Language, Words and phrases 10 Comments

Pantoufler

Yesterday I discovered the interesting French word pantoufler /pɑ̃.tu.fle/, which, according to Reverso means to “switch from civil service to the private sector (French elite jargon, usually to make more money)”. According to Wikpedia the related word pantouflage refers to high-level French civil servants, usually former students of the École Polytechnique or the École nationale […]

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