Archive for the Category: Proto-Indo-European


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 […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Language, Words and phrases 11 Comments

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 […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Greek, Language, Latin, Words and phrases 17 Comments

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 […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, Language 1 Comment

Mice, muscles and mussels

Today I came across the German word Mäusefänger (mouse catcher) in an article, sent to me by a friend, about the cat that recently took up the position of chief mouse catcher at 10 Downing Street, the official residence of British Prime Minister David Cameron. Number 10 apparently has a bit of a problem with […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, German, Language, Latin, Words and phrases 9 Comments

Cave canem!

I received a email today asking when the Spanish word perro (dog) replaced can, a word for dog derived from the Latin canis, which appears in the name Canary Islands, (Islas Canarias in Spanish). The Spanish word perro first appeared in the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española in 1737 [source]; was originally pejorative [source] […]

Also posted in Catalan, English, Etymology, French, Galician, Language, Latin, Words and phrases 9 Comments