Archive for the Category: Words and phrases

Gaelic hills

I’m currently reading an interesting book – Uncommon Ground – A word-lover’s guide to the British landscape by Dominick Tyler. One thing I’ve learnt from it, is that there are quite a few words in Scottish Gaelic related to hills and mountains: Beinn [beiɲ / beɲə] = mountain, mount; high hill, pinnacle; head, top, high […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, Irish, Language, Scottish Gaelic 3 Comments

In a jiffy

A jiffy is very short, unspecified length of time. For example, “I’ll be back in a jiffy”. It can refer to more precise units of time, and was first defined by Gilbert Newton Lewis (1875–1946) as the time it takes light to travel one centimeter in a vacuum (about 33.3564 picoseconds). Other definitions are available. […]

Also posted in English, Language, Welsh 3 Comments

Standing still on the longest day

Today is the longest day of the year and the summer solstice. After several hot, sunny days in Bangor, today it’s cloudy, warm and muggy. The word solstice comes from the Old French solstice, from Latin sōlstitium (solstice; summer), from sol (sun) and sto (stand), from sistō (I stand still). Sol comes from the Proto-Italic […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, Irish, Language, Latin, Manx, Proto-Indo-European, Scottish Gaelic Leave a comment

Wandering prattlers

It has been brought to my attention that in Swedish the most common way to say ‘speak’, at least in Stockholm, is pratar, and that few people use talar anymore. Är detta sant? Is this true? The Duolingo course I’m studying Swedish with uses talar, – pratar has not come up yet. According to Witionary, […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, Language, Old Norse, Proto-Indo-European, Swedish 3 Comments

Closing out

On some podcasts I listen to, I’ve noticed that the presenters use the phrase close out when talking about the end of the show. For example, they say things like “Finally we will close out with an item about …”, or “It’s now time to close out the show.” To my British ears this expression […]

Also posted in English, Language 3 Comments

Nature service

Yesterday I went to see the ankle specialist at the local hospital,. He said that my ankle has healed well and just needs a bit of physiotherapy. I can start to wean myself off the orthopedic boot, using it less and less each day, and crutches as well. I didn’t wear the boot yesterday afternoon, […]

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Calabooses, digging and beds

I came across the word calaboose in a book I read recently and as I couldn’t work out its meaning from the context I had to look it up. I also like the sound of it, so thought I’d write about it. A calaboose is an informal American term for a prison or jail. It […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, Language, Latin, Proto-Indo-European, Spanish 1 Comment

Working like a horse

The other day I learnt an interesting Russian idiom (via Duolingo) – Работать как лошадь [rɐˈbotətʲ kak ˈloʂətʲ], which means literally “to work like a horse”, and is used to indicate that you are working hard. For example, Сегодня я работаю как лошадь (Today I am working like a horse). You can also work like […]

Also posted in English, Hebrew, Idioms, Italian, Language, Russian 1 Comment

When your gran is your granddad

In a book I’m reading at the moment – Border Country by Raymond Williams – one of the characters calls his grandfather ‘Gran‘, which strikes me as unusally. To me gran could only refer to a grandmother. Does it seem strange to you? I only remember one of my grandparents – my dad’s mum – […]

Also posted in English, Language, Welsh 5 Comments

Playing games

In English you play a game, but you don’t play a play. In Russian the words for to play and game come from the same root: играть (to play) and игра (game). To play a game is играть в игру. I already knew the verb играть, but didn’t know that the word for a game […]

Also posted in Czech, English, Etymology, Language, Russian, Slovak Leave a comment
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