Archive for the Category: Words and phrases

Stuckies, pleeps and doos

I came across some interesting Scots words in a TED talk today which I hadn’t heard before – stuckies, pleeps and doos. What do you think they mean? Clue: they’re types of bird. In the talk the presenter, a native speaker of Scots, explains how he was told from his first day at school that […]

Also posted in English, Language, Scots 1 Comment

French and potatoes

I came across an interesting phrase in Scottish Gaelic today: Ith do bhuntàta beag mus dig na Frangaich!, which means “eat your small potatoes before the French come!” and it is apparently said to children picking at their food to encourage them to eat up [source]. Are there similar phrases in other languages, perhaps used […]

Also posted in English, Idioms, Language, Scottish Gaelic 8 Comments

Word of the Year

According to the Oxford Dictionaries the word of the year for 2015 is not a word at all but an emoji, specifically the ‘Face with Tears of Joy’: Do you use emoji(s)? Is the plural emoji or emojis? Do you think of them as words? What’s your word of the year?

Also posted in English, Language 3 Comments

Squibs and squabs

When an event is not very successful, you could say that it went off like a damp squib, or even a damp squid, as a friend mistakenly said last night. A squib is obviously something that does not work properly when it’s wet, and I had an idea that it was some kind of explosive. […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, Language 3 Comments


The other day I listened to a programme on BBC Radio 4 with an unusual title – Wysinnwyg. When I first saw the title of immediately thought it was a Welsh word, although not one I’d come across before, and I tried to work out what it might mean. I couldn’t find it in any […]

Also posted in English, Language, Welsh 4 Comments


Recently I was sent a link to an infographic containing some apparently untranslatable words for love, and this got me wondering if there really is such a thing as an ‘untranslatable’ word or concept. The words featured in lists of ‘untranslatable’ words are often given poetic-sounding meanings, and other more ordinary and common meanings they […]

Also posted in Dutch, English, German, Language, Translation 5 Comments

Pip pip!

In English, at least the English I speak, the seeds you find in fruit have different names depending on the kind of fruit. Those found in citrus fruit, grapes, apples and pears I would call pips, while those found in peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries and apricots and similar kinds of fruit I would call stones. […]

Also posted in English, Language 6 Comments

Custard sandwiches and pancakes

The Welsh word for sandwich is brechdan [ˈbrɛxdan], which comes from the Irish word brechtán (butter, fat), according to the Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru. However according to MacBain’s Dictionary, is related to the Scottish Gaelic word for pancake, breacag, which is related to breachdan (custard), which comes from the Middle Irish breachtán (a roll), which is […]

Also posted in English, Irish, Language, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh Comments Off on Custard sandwiches and pancakes


I learnt an interesting word today – retronym – a new name for something that already existings that distinguishes the original from a more recent version. For example, ebooks are becoming increasingly popular, so there’s a need for a new word for non-ebooks. On the program I heard the word retronym, Word of Mouth, they […]

Also posted in English, Language 1 Comment


One Hawaiian word that is used in English is a’a, which is defined as “a kind of rough-surface volcanic rock” [source]. However in Hawaiian it is written ʻaʻā, pronounced [ʔəˈʔaː] and means: 1. to burn, blaze, glow; fire; staring (eyes) 2. lava; stony, abounding with ʻaʻā lava 3. Sirius (the star) 4. young stage of […]

Also posted in English, Hawaiian, Language 4 Comments
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