Archive for the Category: Words and phrases

It’s a gas!

In Hiberno-English people might describe something fun and enjoyable as a gas. For example, “That’s gas”, “A gas laugh”, “Come on, it’ll be gas”, “He’s a gas character”, “Your man is gas” [source]. Last week an Irish friend told me that this expression comes from laughing gas (nitrous oxide), which was used at parties to […]

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Magrangs

Does anyone know if there is a word for words that have the same length and constituent letters, but are not anagrams, such as bee and ebb, and aloof and offal. I received an email from Peter Hewkin today who suggests the word magrang (a magrang of anagram) for such words. Do you have other […]

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Savouring sapient and savvy saphiophiles

An interesting new word I came across recently is sapiophile [seɪpɪofaɪl/sapiofaɪl]. When I first saw it I wasn’t sure what it meant, but as soon as I looked it up it made sense. It means “someone who is (sexually) attracted to intelligence / intelligent people” [source]. It comes from the Latin sapiō and the Ancient […]

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Suburban bans

In French the word banlieue [bɑ̃.ljø] can refer to: 1. Circonscription territoriale qui s’étendait à une lieue hors de la ville et dans laquelle un juge pouvait exercer sa juridiction. (Territorial division that stretched a mile out of town and in which a judge could exercise jurisdiction). 2. Territoire et ensemble des localités qui environnent […]

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The elusive illusive

Sometimes you think you know a word, but when you check it, you discover that you’ve mixed it up with a similar-sounding word. That’s what happened to me this week with the words elusive and illusive. Without looking them up, do you know what they mean? When you’re searching for something but have trouble finding […]

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Rowing your boat

The French equivalent of to go for a row (in a boat), is faire un tour en barque or faire de la barque, and to row (a boat) is ramer, which also means to stake, although if you’re rowing as a sport then it’s faire de l’aviron. A barque is a small boat or rowing […]

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Peripatetic false friends

The English word peripatetic means “tending to walk about; constantly travelling; itinerant; nomadic”. It is also related to Aristotle, his philosophy, and the school of thought he founded. A peripatetic teacher is one who teaches in a number of different schools, and it’s common, at least in the UK, for music teachers and sometimes language […]

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In the Land of the Eagles

Yesterday I climbed Snowdon with other members of the Bangor Ukulele Society. We set off from Pen-y-Pass (The head/top of the pass) and took the Miner’s Track to the top, then went down the Llanberis Path. On the way up and the way down we stopped a number of times to sing a few songs, […]

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Soggy days

This morning the weather app on my phone told me that it would be a soggy day today. It wasn’t wrong – it rained all morning and much of the afternoon. When I saw the word soggy I started wondering whether days could be described as soggy in other languages. It seems you can talk […]

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A Monkey’s Wedding

On an episode of The World in Words podcast that I listened to today I learnt the expression “a monkey’s wedding“, which is apparently what you call a day when rain falls while the sun is shining, at least if you live in South Africa or Zimbabwe. As this is quite a common phenomenon in […]

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