Archive for the Category: Words and phrases

A load of old claptrap

Claptrap is a great word that means ’empty verbiage or nonsense’. A claptrap was a also device that produced a clapping sound and was used in theaters to encourge applause from audiences. It can also mean ‘a trick or device to gain applause; humbug’. Synonyms include waffle, hot air and palaver. The word apparently comes […]

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Horse horse tiger tiger

In Mandarin Chinese there’s an idiomatic expression that translates literally as “horse horse tiger tiger”. What do you think it means? There is some interesting discussion about this idiom on the podcast Global Pillage, where they discuss idioms and customs from around the world. Suggestions for the meaning of this idiom included “social classes don’t […]

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Sweet dreams are made of snov

The most common way to say good night in Russian is спокойной ночи (spakóynay nóchi). Which is a contraction of the phrase Желаю тебе спокойной ночи (I wish you a quiet night). Спокойной is a form of спокойный, which means ‘calm, gentle, pacific, secure, sober, collected, cool, level, quiet, settled, tranquil, cosh, comfortable, immovable, peaceful, […]

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Plains, pianos and floors

The Welsh word llawr [ɬau̯r] means floor, deck, gallery, stage, platform, cellar, basement, ground, face, and a few other things. I discovered today that it has cognates in all the other Celtic languages: – leur (Cornish) = floor, ground – leur (Breton) = area, ground, floor, soil – lár (Irish) = ground, floor, middle, centre […]

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Cold Wintry Wind

I learnt an interesting Japanese word and kanji today – 凩 (こがらし / kogarashi), which means ‘cold wintry wind’ or ‘the cold wind that reminds us winter is coming’. It is also written 木枯し or 木枯, and is considered ‘untranslatable‘ by some. The character 凩 is a 国字 (こくじ / kokuji), that is one that […]

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Wheels with teeth

I discovered last night that in French a cog is a une dent, which also means a tooth, or une dent d’engrenage (“tooth gear”), and a cog wheel is une roue dentée (a toothed wheel), which is kind of a cog looks like. The English word cog, meaning a tooth on a gear, or a […]

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A Wayzgoose Chase

What do you call a printer that doesn’t work? A wayzgoose [ˈweɪzɡuːs]. A wayzgoose‽ What’s that? According to the Oxford Living Dictionaries, a wayzgoose is “An annual summer dinner or outing held by a printing house for its employees.” The Oxford Dictionaries blog says that: the wayzgoose was originally an entertainment given by a master-printer […]

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Going spooning

There’s a tradition in Wales of men carving spoons out of wood and presenting them to the ladies they love. If a lady accepts a spoon, then she and the man are considered a couple – engagements and weddings were apparently not common in rural Wales until the 18th century [source]. The websites that discuss […]

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Giggling wrigglers

I learnt a nice new German word today – kichern [ˈkɪçɐn], which means to giggle or snicker. Related expressions include: – ein Kicheranfall = a fit of the giggles – Wir haben uns darüber gekringelt = We had a good giggle about it – anfangen herumzukichern = to get the giggles This also got me […]

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Weathered pagodas and stretching times

The word for weather in Russian is погода (pogoda) [pɐˈɡodə], which sounds more or less like pagoda in English. The English word pagoda, which refers to an Asian religious building, especially a multistory Buddhist tower, comes from Portuguese pagode, which comes via Tamil from the Sanskrit भगवती ‎(Bhagavatī, name of a goddess) or भागवत ‎(Bhāgavata, […]

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