Archive for the Category: Words and phrases

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 […]

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Aha!

A useful Russian word I learnt recently is ага (aga) [ɐˈɡa/ɐˈɣa], it is an interjection similar to yep, yeah, aha and uh-huh in English. It shows that you’re listening, but don’t necessarily agree with the speaker. Here are some examples of usage: – Окей, ага, круто = Okay. All right. That’s cool. – Ага, я […]

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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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