Archive for the Category: Latin

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 […]

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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 […]

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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’) […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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Parades

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 […]

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Pozo

Last night I learnt a song, En el pozo María Luisa (In the Maria Lusia mine), from a Spanish friend. This song, which is also known as Nel Pozu Maria Luisa or Santa Bárbara Bendita, comes from Asturias in north west Spain and is usually sung in Asturian, Spanish or a mixture of the two. […]

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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 […]

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Sporange

Sproange /spɒˈrændʒ/ is another name for the sporangium /spɒˈrændʒɪəm/ of a plant, which the OED defines as “a receptacle containing spores; a spore-case or capsule.” Sporange comes via Latin from the Greek σπορά spore + ἀγγεῖον (vessel). Sporange is also the only English word that rhymes with orange, a factoid I discovered on Lexiophiles, which […]

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