Archive for the Category: Words and phrases

Abounding in fish

I spent the weekend in Devon with my brother and his family. It was my nephew’s first birthday yesterday and I was there mainly to celebrate that. My journey, a long and meadering one, took me through some places with interesting names, such as Exeter, Teignmouth, Dawlish and Paignton. As well as admiring the scenery, […]

Also posted in English, Etymology 4 Comments

Rollipokes, ronners and roudges

If I offered you a rollipoke, would you have any idea what it was or what to do with it? This is a word I came across while looking for something else in the Dictionary of The Scots Language / Dictionar o the Scots Leid today. It is defined as, “A sacking of loosely woven […]

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Ave a butchers at er barnet

The title of this post is an example of Cockney, a form of speech you might hear in London, specifically in the Cheapside district of the City of London. It includes to bits of rhyming slang – butchers and barnet. Do you know, or can you guess what they mean? To (h)ave a butchers (the […]

Also posted in Danish, English, Etymology, Language, Norwegian, Old Norse, Proto-Indo-European, Swedish 4 Comments

Protagonists and sidekicks

When listening to The Allusionist podcast today I learnt an interesting word – tritagonist, who was the actor who played the third role in ancient Greek drama. Tritagonist comes from the Ancient Greek word τρίτἀγωνιστής (triagōnistḗs), from τρίτ ‎(third) and ἀγωνιστής ‎(combatant, participant). The actors who played the first and second roles in ancient Greek […]

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Pull up a pew

One thing that came up in the French Conversation Group last night was church pews, and particularly how uncomfortable they are. We discovered that in French a pew is un banc (d’église). Banc also means seat or bench, and can mean other things in combination with other words: – banc de sable = sandbank – […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Language, Proto-Indo-European 2 Comments

The white light of the world

An interesting and useful Russian word I came across today is свет [svʲet], which means light, and also lights, lighting, day, radiance, power, electricity, world and (high) society. It comes from the Old East Slavic свѣтъ ‎(světŭ – light; world), from Proto-Slavic *světъ ‎(light; world), from the Proto-Balto-Slavic *śwaitas, from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱwoytos / *ḱweytos […]

Also posted in Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Etymology, German, Language, Norwegian, Polish, Proto-Indo-European, Russian, Slovak, Swedish 2 Comments

Разговорник

I came across a useful Russian word today when searching for Chechen phrasebooks – разговорник (razgavornik) [rəzɡɐˈvornʲɪk] – I guessed it meant phrasebook from the context, and also because разговаривать (razgavarivat’) means to talk (to). It is a combination of разговор (razgavór – conversation, talk) and the suffix ник (nik), which usually denotes a profession, […]

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Going through the motions

In English you can use the verb to go to indicate any kind of travel – it doesn’t matter if you’re going on foot, by bicycle, car, bus, train, boat or plane. There are other verbs you can use: walk, stroll, hike, cycle, drive, travel, sail, fly, etc, but you can also just use go. […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, German, Language, Proto-Indo-European, Russian 1 Comment

A Tragic Goat Song

How is the word tragedy connected to goats and songs? The answer is that tragedy comes ultimately from the Ancient Greek word τραγῳδία ‎(tragōidía – epic play, tragedy) which comes from τράγος ‎(trágos – male goat) and ᾠδή ‎(ōidḗ, – song). Apparently the goat reference comes from satyrc drama, which featured actors dressed in goatskins […]

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Needle Mouse and the Clockwork Octopus

There’s a Japanese word that means ‘needle mouse’ when literally translated. What kind of animal do you think it is? It is in fact a hedgehog. It is written 針鼠 and pronounced harinezumi: 針 (hari) means needle, pin, hook, stinger; thorn, hand (of clock), pointer or staple. 鼠 (nezumi, nezu, shi, sho) means rat, mouse […]

Also posted in Chinese, English, Japanese, Language 1 Comment
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