Monthly Archives: July 2010

The yellowing of the year

We were discussing Irish idioms involving colours today and one of the ones I really liked was buíú na bliana*, which literally means “the yellowing of the year” and refers to the time when spring is becoming summer and the light becomes yellower and warmer. Red or dearg is used in expressions such as: deargbhréag, […]

Idioms, Irish, Language, Words and phrases 9 Comments

Greasy kneepits and small pigs

One of the things we discussed in class today was Irish idioms involving parts of the body. Some interesting ones include: Bionn cluasa móra ar na muca beaga – “small pigs have large ears”, or children often hear things that adults would prefer they didn’t hear. Does anybody know an equivalent idiom in English? Cuir […]

English, Etymology, Irish, Language, Words and phrases 17 Comments

Cream and presidents

Today’s word, uachtar [‘uəxtˠəɾˠ], means “top, upper part, cream or surface (of water)” in Irish. It is used in such expressions as: an lámh in uachtar a fháil (ar dhuine) – to get the upper hand (over sb) uachtar reoite – icecream, lit. “frozen cream” uachtar coipthe (whipped cream) – coipthe is normally used to […]

English, Etymology, Irish, Language, Words and phrases 5 Comments

Gleann Cholm Cille

I’m off to Gleann Cholm Cille in Dongal in the northwest of Ireland later today. I’m going there for the Scoill Shamhraidh i dTeanga agus Cultúr (Language & Culture Summer School) at Oideas Gael, a week of speaking and singing in Irish, seeing old friends and making new ones, listening to and playing music, and […]

Irish, Language, Language learning, Music, Travel 5 Comments

Wind eyes and eye doors

Earlier this year I decided that after many years of renting rooms, flats or houses it was time to buy my own place. After viewing quite a few houses and flats, I chose one at the beginning of May and last week I finally picked up the keys, after months of going back and forth […]

English, Etymology, Language, Latin, Old Norse, Words and phrases 13 Comments

Illiteracy and standard language

Many primary school children are not becoming fully literate in English because their teachers are apparently letting them use “street talk” in the classroom, according to a report commissioned by the mayor of London and reported in The Guardian today. One third of children in London have reading difficulties at the age of 11, and […]

English, Language, Literacy 15 Comments

Language quiz

Here’s a recording in the 11 official languages of South Africa. Can you identify which language is which and what order they come in?

Language, Quiz questions 15 Comments


This morning I heard them discussing wellgylchu on Radio Cymru in reference to making jewellery from buttons and other things that would be normally thrown away. The usual Welsh word of recycling is ailgylchu, which is made up of the words ail (second, re-) and cylchu (to circle), while wellgylchu begins with gwell (enhanced, better, […]

Language, Welsh, Words and phrases 8 Comments


An interesting article I found today tells the tale of a milkman in Blackburn (northwest England) who has many customers of Indian and Bangladeshi origin on his round and who has learnt to speak Gujarati fluently, as well as some Bengali and Punjabi, in order to better serve those customers. He started picking up the […]

Gujarati, Language, Language learning 9 Comments

Snap, Crackle and Pop

Snap, Crackle, and Pop are the cartoon mascots of the breakfast cereal, Kellogg’s Rice Krispies. Those are also supposedly the sounds made by the cereal when you add milk to it and eat it. I discovered today that the mascots have other names on other languages: Pif! Paf! Pof! in Belgium, Italy & Netherlands Cric! […]

English, Language 5 Comments
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