Archive for the Category: Words and phrases

Big fun!

A friend of mine who is learning Welsh likes to translate Welsh expressions literally and then use them in English. One Welsh equivalent of goodbye is hwyl fawr [hʊɨl vaur], which he translates as “big fun”, which sounds quite funny in English. Do any other languages have a phrase used when parting that has a […]

Also posted in English, Language, Translation, Welsh 6 Comments

Why Weihnachten?

Have you every wondered where the German word for Christmas, Weihnachten, comes from? I have, as it is so different from words for Christmas in other European languages. So I decided to investigate. Weihnachten comes from the Middle High German wīhenahten ‎(Christmas), from a dative plural ze den wīhen nahten ‎(in the holy nights). The […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, German, Language 1 Comment

That’s enough!

The Russian word всё (vsjo) [fsʲo] is a useful one that can mean various things depending on the context: everything, still, always, all the time, nevertheless. Here are some examples: – Вот и всё; Это всё = that’s all – Мне всё равно = it’s all the same to me – Я всё равно пойду […]

Also posted in English, Language, Russian 1 Comment

Ditties, dictation and digits

A ditty is a short, simple song, like the ones I write. It comes from the Old French dite (composition), from the Latin dictatum (something dictated), from dictare (to dictate), a frequentative of dicere (to say, speak), which is related to dicare (to proclaim, dedicate), from the Proto-Indo-European root *deik- (to point out). Some English […]

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

Large vocabulary? Do you know how to use it?

A lot of language learning approaches I’ve read and heard about focus on learning as much vocabulary as possible, and not worrying too much about grammar, at least at first. For example you might focus on learning the most commonly-used phrases and words, and on using them at every opportunity. Later on you might learn […]

Also posted in English, Language, Language learning, Russian 3 Comments

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

Wysinnwyg

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
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