Archive for the Category: Words and phrases

As pretty as a truck

An interesting French expression I learnt last week is beau comme un camion, which literally means “pretty as a truck/lorry”, and actually means pretty, cute or beautiful. Apparently this idiom appeared around the middle of the 20th century and was at first ironic, as few people find trucks pretty. However it came to mean graceful […]

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Take the frog and run!

Yesterday I came across the interesting French word grenouiller, which literally means “to frog” and actually means “to indulge in shady dealings”, and seems to refer specifically to political intrigues, according to Le Dictionnaire. A related expression is manger / bouffer la grenouille (literally, “to eat the frog”) = to scoop the till; to clean […]

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Little donkey bridges

I learnt an interesting word in Dutch today – ezelsbruggetje (“little donkey bridge”), which means a mnemonic, which associates words and other things you want to remember with images. A number of possible origins for this word are given on, my favourite of which is that when donkeys were commonly used in the countryside […]

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I came across an interesting German word today – quatschen – which means to gab; to piffle; to talk rubbish; to chew the fat; to shoot the breeze; to blab; to yak; to squelch; to squidge [source]. It appears in a blog post in the sentence: Aber da fragt auf dem Gathering auch niemand mehr, […]

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Jacob’s join

Yesterday I discovered a term for a potluck meal (one at which each guest contributes some food or drink) which I hadn’t heard before – Jacob’s join. My mum used it, and told me that it’s commonly used in Lancashire, where she lives. I don’t remember hearing this when I was growing up there, but […]

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Blue eyes and black butter

I discovered today that the French equivalent of a black eye is un œil au beurre noir (a black butter eye). It is also known as un œil poché au beurre noir (an eye poached in black butter) or un cocard (a rosette or lesion). According to L’, the expressions containing beurre noir date from […]

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Closing out

In the Czech lessons I’ve been working my way through I’ve noticed that the Czech host says (in English) at the end of each lesson “To close out this lesson, we would like to practise what you have just learnt.”. I would say finish rather than close out, and thought close out was a non-native […]

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Carrying coals to Newcastle

An idiomatic way to say a task is pointless is to say it’s like carrying coals to Newcastle – Newcastle, in the north east of England, used to be a major coal mining area. In French the equivalent is porter de l’eau à la rivière (to carry water to the river). In German they say […]

Also posted in English, French, German, Language, Welsh 4 Comments

Llap y dwndwr – the drink of prattle

I discovered last night that an old Welsh expression for tea is llap y dwndwr [ɬap ə ˈdʊndʊr], which could be translated as meaning “the drink that makes one talkative” or “the drink of chatter”. It is also the name of a tune. The word llap means soft and wet, and appears in the expression […]

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The word mardy came up in conversation last night, and the friends who mentioned it, who are from Yorkshire and Lancashire, said that it could mean annoying or weak. As I hadn’t heard it before, I thought I’d find out more about it. According to Wiktionary means sulky or whinning, e.g. ‘She’s being a mardy […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, Language 7 Comments
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