Archive for the Category: Proto-Indo-European

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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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 […]

Also posted in Etymology, Irish, Language, Old Norse, Welsh, Words and phrases 1 Comment


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 […]

Also posted in Danish, English, Etymology, Irish, Language, Latin, Norwegian, Scottish Gaelic, Swedish, Welsh, Words and phrases 9 Comments


In the recipe I used today to make some cacen siocled (chocolate cake), the word used to describe the result of mixing all the ingredients together is batter, at least in the English translation of the recipe. This is something I would call mixture – for me batter is a mixture of flour, water and […]

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Levees and ganseys

Last night the words levee and gansey came up in conversation and while I’d heard both of them before, I wasn’t entirely sure of the meaning of the former, or the origins of the latter. I did know that a levee had something to with flood prevention and was something you drive your chevy to, […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Irish, Language, Latin, Manx, Norwegian, Old Norse, Scottish Gaelic, Words and phrases 8 Comments

Honey apples and quince cheese

A recent discussion with a friend got me wondering about the differences between jam, jelly, conserve and marmalade and the origins of these words. I discovered that in some varieties of English and in other languages some or all of these words can be used interchangeably, for example in American English jelly can refer to […]

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Čmeláci a včely

Recently I discovered that there are two different words for bee in Czech: čmelák [ˈʧmɛlaːk] (pl. čmeláci) for bumblebee and včela [ˈfʧɛla] (pl. včely) for honey bee. While investigating these words I also discovered the wonderful Czech word hmyz [ɦmɪz] (insect), which sounds like it might be onomatopoeic. This got me wondering about the differences […]

Also posted in Czech, English, Etymology, Language, Latin, Words and phrases 14 Comments

Metagrobolised, gruntulous noses

Yesterday I learnt the wonderful word metagrobolised on a radio show about words and language called A Way with Words, in which they discuss and answer listeners’ questions about words, idioms and language. It’s broadcast of public radio in the USA and podcasts of the show are available online. I was aware of the show […]

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