Archive for the Category: Words and phrases

Dirks, Saxons and Messers

I discovered today that dolch is the German equivalent of dirk, the dagger that is worn in the sock in Scottish Highland dress (see photo). The dirk is known as a sgian dubh (black knife or secret knife) in Scottish Gaelic, and the word dirk, which first appeared in English as dork in the 17th […]

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Also posted in Danish, Dutch, English, Etymology, French, German, Language, Proto-Indo-European, Scottish Gaelic, Swedish 9 Comments

Lucky and inspiring veins

I discovered yesterday that one way to say that someone is lucky in French is to say that they avoir de la veine (‘have of the vein’). I’m not sure why veins are associated with luck. Does anybody know. Veine also means seam and inspiration. Other expressions featuring veine and related words include: – veiné […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Language 3 Comments

Fantoosh puppets

I came across the interesting Scots word fantoosh [fan'tuʃ], which is defined by the Online Scots Dictionary as “flashy, ultra-fashionable”, whicle the Dictionary of the Scots Language gives a more detailed definition: “1. Over-dressed, over-ornamented; flashy, showy; ultra-fashionable; and 2. An over-dressed person”. Related words include fantoosherie (fuss, pretentiousness, swank) and fantooshed (flashily dressed). This […]

Also posted in English, Language, Scots 4 Comments

The apple of one’s eye(ball)

The other day I came across the Dutch word oog [oːx], which means ‘spot; hole; period (of time); eye’ – I was looking for the equivalent of eye when I found it. Words like this with double o just appeal to me for some reason and I have to keep reminding myself that they the […]

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

Suns, moons and sputniks

Earlier today I was thinking about how I might learn more Russian, and realised that I need to get to grips with the grammar – the verb conjugations, noun declensions and so on. Trying to memorise verb tables and noun declensions and other grammatical gubbins doesn’t appeal to me, so I thought about other ways […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, Language, Language learning, Russian 5 Comments

La Saint-Sylvestre

As today is New Year’s Eve I thought I’d look at what this day is called in various languages: French:la (fête de) Saint-Sylvestre, which is celebrated with le Réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre, a feast which well involve champagne and foie gras, and a party, with kisses under the mistletoe at midnight. Saint Sylvestre was Pope between […]

Also posted in English, French, German, Language, Spanish, Welsh 2 Comments

Babbling and motherese

Over the past few days I’ve been observing, and to some extent participating, in my niece’s language acquisition. She is 8 months old and babbles a lot to herself and to others. Some of her babbling can sound like possible words, like dada, but they don’t seem to be associated with anything yet. She is […]

Also posted in English, Language, Language acquisition, Russian 1 Comment

Bosky bosses

I discovered today that bos is a Dutch word for forest or wood, and this immediately made me think of the wonderful English word bosky, which is defined by the OED as “Consisting of or covered with bushes or underwood; full of thickets, bushy”. The OED says that bosky comes from bosk, a Middle English […]

Also posted in Dutch, English, Etymology, Language 5 Comments

Fudge and flapdoodle!

Another interesting word I came across this week is flapdoodle /flæpˈduːd(ə)l/, which the OED defines as ‘the stuff they feed fools on’, which comes from the following quote: ‘The gentleman has eaten no small quantity of flapdoodle in his lifetime.’ ‘What’s that, O’Brien?’ replied I… ‘Why, Peter,’ rejoined he, ‘it’s the stuff they feed fools […]

Also posted in English, Language 1 Comment

Sun dogs, billygoat’s eyes and halos

The other day I discovered the wonderful word sun dog, which refers to coloured patches of light that appear beside the sun at certain times, particularly when the sun is low in the sky. The scientific name for this phenomenon is a parhelion, from the παρήλιον (parēlion – beside the sun); from παρά (para – […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Greek, Language 5 Comments