Archive for the Category: Latin

La gueule enfarinée

I discovered an interesting French expression yesterday while ferreting around in the dictionary – la gueule enfarinée, which literally means ‘the floured mouth’, but actually refers to someone who is ‘wet behind the ears’, i.e. new, untrained, inexperienced, immature, innocent, callow or naive (synonyms from The Chambers Thesaurus). The word gueule usually refers to the […]

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


I came across an unfamiliar word today in a book I’m reading – docent. From the context I guessed it referred to someone who leads guided tours, but according to my English dictionary it means ‘(in the U.S.) a lecturer in some colleges and universities’, and it comes from the German word Dozent (associate professor, […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, German, Language, Words and phrases 11 Comments

Orientating oneself

When visiting an unfamiliar place in order to find you way around it helps if you work out where you are in relation to particular landmarks and in which direction you’re facing. In order to use a map you need to know where north is so that you can hold the map the right way […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, Language, Words and phrases 9 Comments


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”) – […]

Also posted in Breton, Chinese, Cornish, Danish, English, Estonian, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Language, Manx, Scottish Gaelic, Spanish, Welsh, Words and phrases 12 Comments


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, French, Language 10 Comments

Selective attention

The other day an English guy who has lived in Wales for many years and who doesn’t speak Welsh told me that when he listens to people speaking Welsh, he hears lots of English words, words derived from English, and words from French or Latin, so he believes that Welsh is made up mainly of […]

Also posted in French, Irish, Language, Welsh 8 Comments

Spench, spence and sbens

Recently a friend told me that in North Wales the area under stairs is know as the spench – I hadn’t heard it before and didn’t know how to write it so this spelling is a guess. I found spench in the Urban Dictionary, which defines it as “the area under the stairs (often a […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Language, Welsh, Words and phrases 3 Comments

Handles, sleeves, tails and legs

Yesterday I discovered that there are quite a few different words for handle in French, depending on what kind of handle you’re referring to: – poignée /pwa.ɲe/ is a door handle or the handle on the lid of something. It also means handful, as in une poignée de sel (a handful of salt) or Ils […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Language, Words and phrases 1 Comment

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, Italian, Language, Manx, Proto-Indo-European, Spanish, Words and phrases 2 Comments

Gendarmes et policiers

Yesterday there was some discussion of the police at the French Conversation Group – one of the members is a former policeman. We use the word policier, but later I remembered that another French word for policeman is gendarme, and it suddenly dawned on me that gendarme probably comes from gens d’armes (armed man). I […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Greek, Language, Proto-Indo-European, Words and phrases 5 Comments