Archive for the Category: Latin

Ventriloquism

There was quite a bit of talk about ventriloquism on an episode of QI I watched recently, mainly because one of the guests was a ventriloquist. The word ventriloquism comes for the Latin words venter (stomach, belly, womb) and loquī (to speak) so it means “to speak from the stomach”. It was known as εγγαστριμυθία […]

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Nursery rhymes and computers

Comptine /kɔ̃tin/ is the French for nursery rhyme or for a counting rhyme or song. I learnt it last night and thought I’d look into where it comes from. According Wiktionnaire, comptine is made up of compte (count, number, account) and the suffix -ine. Compte /kɔ̃t/ comes from computus (count, number, account, calculation), from computo […]

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Fence sitting

Last night I learnt the French equivalent of the English idiom, to sit on the fence (to be undecided in opinion, or neutral in action) – ménager la chèvre et le choux [source], or “to keep the goat and the cabbage”. This phrase is also translated as “to face both ways”, “to keep everyone happy”, […]

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Eyelid batting

The other day a friend asked me about the origins of the phrase “to bat an eyelid”, which is normally used in the negative – he didn’t bat an eyelid at the pink elephant in the fridge – and means that you don’t react or show emotion when surprised or shocked. Or in other words, […]

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Rundfunk

I came across the German word Rundfunk the other day and it just appealed to me, so I thought I’d find out more about it. Rundfunk /ˈʀʊntfʊŋk/ means broadcasting, radio, wireless or broadcasting company/corporation, though would probably also be a good name for a band. It also appears in such expressions as: – Rundfunkansager – […]

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Summer chicks and glowing coals

Last night we were talking about the Pili Palas on Anglesey, a butterfly centre, which also has birds, snakes and other exotic creatures. The name is a pun combining pili-pala (butterfly) and palas (palace) – it took me ages to realise this. We were trying to think of the words for butterfly in various other […]

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Peu profond

Last night I discovered that there doesn’t appear to be a separate French word for shallow, at least when you’re talking about shallow water, dishes or graves – the term peu profond (‘not very deep’) is used in these cases. If you’re talking about a shallow person, mind, writing, novel, film or conversation though, the […]

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Epizeuxis

I came across the word epizeuxis recently (in One of Our Thursdays is Missing, by Jasper Fforde) and wasn’t sure what it meant or even how to pronounce it, so I decided to find out. According to the OED, epizeuxis (/ɛpɪˈzjuːksɪs/) is “a figure by which a word is repeated with vehemence or emphasis.” It […]

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Occlupanid

Yesterday I discovered an interesting new word – occlupanid, which is defined by the Holotypic Occlupanid Research Group as follows: “Occlupanids are generally found as parasitoids on bagged pastries in supermarket biomes, although a few species are found on vegetables and bulk grains, and one notable species (Uniporus) is found exclusively on vent tubing bags. […]

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Pandora’s banjo

Last night a friend asked me about the origins of the word banjo. I wasn’t sure, so I did some investigating and discovered that banjo comes from the word bandore as pronounced by African slaves – ban’jōre, ban’jō. A bandore (/bænˈdɔə(r)/ /ˈbændɔə(r)/) is “a musical instrument resembling a guitar or lute, with three, four, or […]

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