Archive for the Category: Proto-Indo-European

Telling tales

Earlier this week I went to a Christmas show entitled Beasts and Beauties in Kendal. It wasn’t a traditional Christmas pantomime, though did include some pantomimesque elements, but rather a series of eight fairy/folk tales from around Europe, including: – The Emperor’s New Clothes or Kejserens nye Klæder by Hans Christian Andersen (Danish) – Bluebeard […]

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Tables, chairs, stools and cathedrals

The Russian word for table (the piece of furniture) is стол (/stol/) which sounds a bit like stool in English. In most other Slavic languages the words for table are simliar: стол (Belarusian), stol (Croatian), stůl (Czech), stolŭ (Old Church Slavonic = throne, seat), stół (Polish), сто (Serbian), stôl (Slovak) and стіл (Ukrainian). Although in […]

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Sauve-qui-peut!

One of the things that came up in conversation last night was how to say ‘to save’ in French. As is often the case, there are a number of different translations of this word, depending on the context: sauver = to save (person, animal, jewels, building etc), rescue, salvage – sauver la vie â/de qcn […]

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Nursery rhymes and computers

Comptine /kɔ̃tin/ is the French for nursery rhyme or for a counting rhyme or song. I learnt it last night and thought I’d look into where it comes from. According Wiktionnaire, comptine is made up of compte (count, number, account) and the suffix -ine. Compte /kɔ̃t/ comes from computus (count, number, account, calculation), from computo […]

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Fence sitting

Last night I learnt the French equivalent of the English idiom, to sit on the fence (to be undecided in opinion, or neutral in action) – ménager la chèvre et le choux [source], or “to keep the goat and the cabbage”. This phrase is also translated as “to face both ways”, “to keep everyone happy”, […]

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Eyelid batting

The other day a friend asked me about the origins of the phrase “to bat an eyelid”, which is normally used in the negative – he didn’t bat an eyelid at the pink elephant in the fridge – and means that you don’t react or show emotion when surprised or shocked. Or in other words, […]

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Rundfunk

I came across the German word Rundfunk the other day and it just appealed to me, so I thought I’d find out more about it. Rundfunk /ˈʀʊntfʊŋk/ means broadcasting, radio, wireless or broadcasting company/corporation, though would probably also be a good name for a band. It also appears in such expressions as: – Rundfunkansager – […]

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Cnaipí & cripio

A story I heard when I was in Ireland featured two characters playing na cnaipí (tiddlywinks) /nə kripiː/ in a graveyard at night. A man who overheard them sharing out the tiddlywinks, saying over and over “one for me and one for you”, and thought they were the devil and god sharing out souls. When […]

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Rheithgor

I heard the word rheithgor (/ˈr̩əiθgɔr/) on Radio Cymru this morning in the context of a report on a trial, and guessed that it meant ‘jury’. The second element, gor, comes from côr (/koːr/) (choir, circle), and the first element, rheith, appears in such words as rheithfawr (greatly just), rheithiad (regulation), rheithio (to fix a […]

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The worm that turned

While working in my garden this afternoon I dug up lots of worms, so I thought it might be interesting to find out more about the word worm. Meanings of worm (/wɜːm/ /wɝm/) include: – a member of the genus Lumbricus; a slender, creeping, naked, limbless animal, usually brown or reddish, with a soft body […]

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