Archive for the Category: Words and phrases

High Stones

I spent yesterday in Harlech [ˈharlɛx] with a friend looking round the castle, exploring the village and wandering along the beach. We wondered where the name Harlech comes from, so I thought I’d find out. According to Wikipedia, there are two possible sources: from the Welsh ardd (high; hill) llech (stone) or from hardd (beautiful) […]

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Also posted in Breton, English, Etymology, Irish, Language, Manx, Proto-Indo-European, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh 3 Comments

Blackberries and Walls

The French words mur (wall) mûr (ripe; mature) and mûre (blackberry; mulberry) are written differently but pronounced the same – [myʁ], so are only distinguished by context in speech. The word mur (wall) comes from the Latin mūrus (wall), from the Old Latin *moerus/*moiros, from the Proto-Indo-European *mei (to fix, to build fortifications or fences) […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Greek, Language, Latin, Portuguese, Proto-Indo-European, Spanish, Welsh 3 Comments

Waulking and Walking

My Gaelic Song course is going well and I’m really enjoying it. There are thirteen of us in the class – most are from Scotland or of Scottish origin, and there are also a few from other countries like the USA and Germany. Some speak Gaelic well, others know a bit, and those without any […]

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Ultracrepidarianism

Are you an ultracrepidiarianist? Or maybe that should be ultracrepidiarian. Many of us are. An ultracrepidarianism is someone who makes a habit of giving opinions and advice on matters outside their knowledge or competence. It’s a word I came across in Think Like a Freak, and interesting book by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. […]

Also posted in English, Language 1 Comment

Les coups de glotte and other coups

Yesterday I discovered that the French for glottal stop is coup de glotte (“blow of the glottis”). The word coup (blow, shot, stroke, wave, kick, punch, move) appears in many other expressions, including: – (donner un) coup de balai = (to) sweep; shake up – coup de vent = blow of wind – coup de […]

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

Gabions and the importance of names

The other day I discovered that the name for those wire cages filled with rocks used in construction and to stabilise river banks, hillsides and shorelines are called gabions. The word comes from the Italian gabbione (big cage), which comes from the Latin cavea (cage). There are plenty of gabions around here, but I didn’t […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, Irish, Italian, Language, Latin 5 Comments

Novi Sad

As I’m going to the Polyglot Conference in Novi Sad (Нови Сад) [nôʋiː sâːd] in October, I thought I should find out what Novi Sad actually means – it’s the kind of thing I like to know. I guessed that Novi probably means new, but had no idea what Sad might mean. According to this […]

Also posted in Czech, English, Etymology, Language, Latin, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian 3 Comments

Going through the motions

In German there are two main verbs that mean ‘to go’: gehen, which is used in expressions about going in general, and particularly going on foot / walking; and fahren, which refers particularly to going/travelling in a form of transport (car, train, bus, boat, etc). So I could said, “Am Samstag gehe ich nach Berlin” […]

Also posted in Dutch, English, German, Language 6 Comments

Stockungen

While listening to Deutschlandradio this morning one word that kept on coming up and that I didn’t understand was Stockung. It appears mainly in traffic reports, so I assume it meant something like delays or traffic jams. According to Reverso, Stockung means: – interruption, hold-up; congestion, traffic jam, hold-up – breakdown (in negotiations) – slackening […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, German, Language, Proto-Indo-European 8 Comments

Cuckoo bells

I discovered this week that in Welsh bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) are known as Clychau’r Gog (“cuckoo bells”), which I really like the sound of. They are also known as Bwtias y Gog (“cuckoo’s boots”), Croeso Haf (“welcome summer”), Cennin y Brain (“crows’ leeks”), Clychau’r Eos (“nightingale’s bells”), Glas y Llwyn (“green blue of the grove”), […]

Also posted in Breton, English, French, Language, Welsh 7 Comments