Archive for the Category: Etymology

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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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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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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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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Weathered pagodas and stretching times

The word for weather in Russian is погода (pogoda) [pɐˈɡodə], which sounds more or less like pagoda in English. The English word pagoda, which refers to an Asian religious building, especially a multistory Buddhist tower, comes from Portuguese pagode, which comes via Tamil from the Sanskrit भगवती ‎(Bhagavatī, name of a goddess) or भागवत ‎(Bhāgavata, […]

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Boxing tips

Today is Boxing Day in the UK, and there are a number of ideas about the origins of the name. The Oxford English Dictionary, for example, defines Boxing Day as: “the first week-day after Christmas-day, observed as a holiday on which post-men, errand-boys, and servants of various kinds expect to receive a Christmas-box” The earliest […]

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Weaving applications

There was some discussion at the French conversation group last night about job applications – one member of the group has been offered a job in an international school in southern France and will be moving there soon. The word application exists in French, but it’s not the one you use when applying for a […]

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Seeking diegesis

I learnt an interesting new word the other day – diegesis [ˌdaɪəˈdʒiːsɪs], which, according to Wikipedia means: a style of fiction storytelling that presents an interior view of a world in which details about the world itself and the experiences of its characters are revealed explicitly through narrative, and the story is told or recounted, […]

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