Archive for the Category: Words and phrases

Gorillas, monkeys and ponys

With a title like that, you might be expecting a post about animals, but in fact it’s about slang terms for money – a gorilla is £1,000, a monkey is £500 and a pony is £25. These names apparently come from old Indian banknotes and coins: the 25 Rupee coin had a pony on it, […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Language, Latin, Proto-Indo-European 2 Comments

Within walking distance

This weekend I went to a friend’s wedding near Milton Keynes, and stayed in an AirBnB in Bletchley on Saturday night. In my review of the AirBnB I said that it was “within walking distance” of the centre of Bletchley. After writing this, I started thinking that the phrase walking distance probably means quite different […]

Also posted in English, Language 4 Comments

Spaghetti car bananas

On a recent episode of Word of Mouth on BBC Radio 4, they discussed the interesting words children come up with. They might attempt say particular words but can’t quite manage all the sounds, or get them mixed up, sometimes with unintentionally funny results. They also get words mixed and muddled, or perhaps muddlixed. Can […]

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Beds that lie

The other day I noticed the word gwlau on a sign outside a furniture shop. It’s a Welsh word I hadn’t seen or heard before, but from the context I worked out that it meant ‘beds’. The sign also included the words gwlau soffa (sofa beds). As I hadn’t come across this plural form of […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, Language, Proto-Indo-European, Welsh 2 Comments

Ingenious genius

The word ingenious sounds like the antonym (opposite) of genius as in- is often used as a negative suffix (invisible, indivisible, etc). However they are not. Ingenious means: – displaying genius or brilliance – tending to invent – characterized by genius – cleverly done or contrived; witty; original; shrewd; adroit; keen; sagacious. It comes from: […]

Also posted in Breton, Cornish, English, Etymology, Irish, Language, Latin, Manx, Proto-Indo-European, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh Comments Off on Ingenious genius

Have you got your snap?

On an episode of Uncle Mort’s North Country, a comedy drama on Radio 4 Extra that I listened to today, I heard the word snap used for a packed lunch. I’e heard it before, but wasn’t sure where it came from. The drama features two characters from Yorkshire: Uncle Mort and his nephew, Carter Brandon, […]

Also posted in Dutch, English, German, Language, Proto-Indo-European 6 Comments

Barking up the wrong end of the stick

The phrase barking up the wrong tree means “making a mistake or a false assumption in something you are trying to achieve”. It comes from hunting dogs barking up trees where they thought their quarry was hiding, but wasn’t [source]. Apparently one French equivalent of this phrase is Frapper à la mauvaise porte (to knock […]

Also posted in English, French, Language 1 Comment

Cashlines, ATMs and Holes in the Wall

I discovered the other day that in Scotland the bank machines that dispense cash are known as cashlines. This was apparently the name used first for Royal Bank of Scotland cash machines, and came to be used as the general term for ATMs in Scotland [source]. In other parts of the UK such machines are […]

Also posted in English, Language, Welsh 9 Comments

もしもし (moshi moshi)

When answering the phone in Japanese the phrase you usually used is もしもし (moshi moshi). I received an email from a Japanese guy today saying that this doesn’t mean hello, so I thought I’d find out what it actually means. According to Tofugu, this phrase comes from the verb 申す (mōsu), which a humble equivalent […]

Also posted in English, Japanese, Language 3 Comments

Mony a mickle maks a muckle

There’s a Scots saying Mony a mickle maks a muckle, or Many a mickle makes a muckle, which means “A lot of small amounts, put together, become a large amount”. The word muckle certainly means large, and also big, great; much, a great deal of, a lot of; grown-up, mature, adult; of great social consequence, […]

Also posted in English, Japanese, Language, Scots 4 Comments
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