Archive for the Category: Etymology

Blackberries and Walls

The French words mur (wall) mûr (ripe; mature) and mûre (blackberry; mulberry) are written differently but pronounced the same – [myʁ], so are only distinguished by context in speech. The word mur (wall) comes from the Latin mūrus (wall), from the Old Latin *moerus/*moiros, from the Proto-Indo-European *mei (to fix, to build fortifications or fences) […]

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Waulking and Walking

My Gaelic Song course is going well and I’m really enjoying it. There are thirteen of us in the class – most are from Scotland or of Scottish origin, and there are also a few from other countries like the USA and Germany. Some speak Gaelic well, others know a bit, and those without any […]

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Les coups de glotte and other coups

Yesterday I discovered that the French for glottal stop is coup de glotte (“blow of the glottis”). The word coup (blow, shot, stroke, wave, kick, punch, move) appears in many other expressions, including: – (donner un) coup de balai = (to) sweep; shake up – coup de vent = blow of wind – coup de […]

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Gabions and the importance of names

The other day I discovered that the name for those wire cages filled with rocks used in construction and to stabilise river banks, hillsides and shorelines are called gabions. The word comes from the Italian gabbione (big cage), which comes from the Latin cavea (cage). There are plenty of gabions around here, but I didn’t […]

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Novi Sad

As I’m going to the Polyglot Conference in Novi Sad (Нови Сад) [nôʋiː sâːd] in October, I thought I should find out what Novi Sad actually means – it’s the kind of thing I like to know. I guessed that Novi probably means new, but had no idea what Sad might mean. According to this […]

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Stockungen

While listening to Deutschlandradio this morning one word that kept on coming up and that I didn’t understand was Stockung. It appears mainly in traffic reports, so I assume it meant something like delays or traffic jams. According to Reverso, Stockung means: – interruption, hold-up; congestion, traffic jam, hold-up – breakdown (in negotiations) – slackening […]

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Knock Cnoc

The element Knock is quite common in place names in Ireland, e.g. Ballyknock, Castleknock, Gortknock, Kilknock and Knockaderry [source]. There’s also quite a few places called simply Knock, the best known of which is the Knock in County Mayo in the west of Ireland , which is known as An Cnoc (the hill) or Cnoc […]

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Logoburroo and other place names

If an Australian visitor to the UK asked you for directions to somewhere they called Logoburroo [lɔgɜʉbəˈrʊː] would you know what place they were referring to? A friend of mine heard an Australian pronouncing Loughborough, a town in Leicestershire in central England, in this way and thought it was an interesting attempt at the name. […]

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Curing, cleaning and caring

Yesterday I discovered that there are quite a few different French translations of the verb to cure, depending on what kind of cure you’re talking about. If you’re curing food by salting, the French equivalent is saler (to salt); curing by smoking is fumer (to smoke), and curing by drying is sécher (to dry). Curing […]

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Schurrbart

I came across the wonderful German word Schnurrbart [ˈʃnʊrba:ɐ̯t] recently and just liked the sound of it. The Bart part means beard – you can see the connection – and the Schnurr part comes from schnurren (to purr). According to Wikipedia: “Ein Schnurrbart ist ein über der Oberlippe wachsender Bart.” or “A moustache is an […]

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