Archive for the Category: Words and phrases

Hedgehogs and Urchins

I discovered today that sea urchins (echinoidea) are known as zee-egels (sea hedgehogs) in Dutch, and that they used to be known as sea hedgehogs in English as well. They have similar names in other languages, for example, in German they are Seeigel (sea hedgehogs), in French they are oursins or hérissons de mer (sea […]

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Also posted in Dutch, English, French, German, Language, Latin, Proto-Indo-European, Spanish 1 Comment

Haps and Mishaps

A mishap is “an unlucky accident”, according to the Oxford Dictionaries, and is often accompanied by the word minor – e.g. we had a few minor mishaps in the kitchen, but at least we didn’t burn the chicken. I happened upon the word mishap today and it got me wondering whether the word hap also […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, Language, Old Norse, Proto-Indo-European, Russian 2 Comments

Pufflings

The other day I discovered that a young puffin is known as a puffling, which I really like the sound of. There are a few other words that include the -ling suffix that are commonly used: sibling, duckling, underling, earthling, seedling, yearling (an animal that is between one and two years old) – can you […]

Also posted in English, Language 5 Comments

You lucky sausage!

According to a friend who lives in Manchester, a common expression there is “You lucky sausage!”, which is used when someone has some (unexpected) good luck. For example, if you won a prize in a competition, your friends might say, “You lucky sausage you!”. I hadn’t heard this expression before and neither has anybody else […]

Also posted in English, Language 5 Comments

Noogies

A interesting word that comes up sometimes in American books I read is noogie [ˈnʊɡi], which is used in the context of one person giving someone else a noogie. The people involved are usually kids, and it sounds like a somewhat unpleasant experience, though until I looked it up, I didn’t know exactly what the […]

Also posted in English, Language 5 Comments

Muddling through

to muddle through – “to succeed in some undertaking in spite of lack of organization” [source] – “to succeed in doing something despite having no clear plan, method, or suitable equipment” [source] – “to cope more or less satisfactorily despite lack of expertise, planning, or equipment.” synonyms: to cope, manage, get by/along, scrape by/along, make […]

Also posted in English, Language, Language learning 6 Comments

Skeuomorphs

I came across an interesting word and concept today – the skeuomorph [ˈskjuːəmɔrf], from the Greek σκεῦος (skéuos – container or tool), and μορφή (morphḗ – shape), and defined as “a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues from structures that were necessary in the original” [source]. This term was apparently coined by H. Colley […]

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

Borborygmus

I came across a wonderful word today – borborygmus [bɔrbəˈrɪɡməs] (plural borborygmi) – which refers to a rumble or gurgle in the stomach. It comes from the 16th-century French word borborygme, via Latin from the Ancient Greek βορβορυγμός (borborygmós), which was probably onomatopoetical [source, via The Week]. Are there interesting words for this phenomenon in […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, Greek, Language, Latin 1 Comment

Hollallu

I came across a wonderful word in Welsh today – hollallu [hɔɬˈaɬɨ] – which means omnipotence or almightiness. It is a portmanteau of (h)oll (all, the whole, everything, everyone) and gallu (to be able (to), have power (to), can, be able to accomplish (a thing)), and there are a couple of variant forms: ollallu and […]

Also posted in English, Language, Welsh 4 Comments

We need more ning!

Last night at choir one of the songs we were singing ended with the line “in the mor-ning”, with the mor and ning of morning clearly separated and on different notes. One of the tenors made a joke that we needed more ning in the morning, which appealed to me, and I wondered what ning […]

Also posted in Chinese, English, Language 5 Comments