Monthly Archives: March 2011

上海闲话 (Shanghainese)

According to an article I came across today, the local government in Shanghai is trying to preserve Shanghainese, the variety of Wu spoken in Shanghai. This involves recording people who speak ‘pure’ Shanghainese talking about local legends and traditions, etc. This is the third time such a project has been attempted, and they hope to […]

Chinese, Endangered languages, Language, Language learning 8 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 […]

English, Etymology, French, Language, Proto-Indo-European, Words and phrases 11 Comments

Language quiz

Here’s a recording in a mystery language. Can you identify the language and where it’s spoken?

Language, Quiz questions 12 Comments

Shotgun, dibs and bagsy

An expression I noticed recently was “Shotgun!“, as used as an exclamation to claim the front passenger seat of a car. According to the Urban Dictionary, back in the days of the wild west in America when people travelled by stagecoach, the seat next to the driver was usually occupied by a man with a […]

English, Language, Words and phrases 7 Comments

Humboldt’s parrot

There’s a story that in 1799 the German naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) was exploring the Orinoco and Amazon rivers and documenting the languages and cultures of the tribes he encountered there. While spending time with one tribe of Carib people, he asked them about their neighbours and rivals, the Maypure, who he […]

Endangered languages, Language, Language revival 3 Comments

Language teaching in schools

According to an article I found today, the majority of business managers in the Czech Republic who were surveyed by Czech Position think that at least two foreign languages (English plus one or more others) should be compulsory in Czech schools. This came in reaction to a proposal from the National Economic Council (NERV) that […]

Education, English, Language, Language learning 4 Comments

Language quiz

Here’s a recording in a mystery language. Can you identify the language and where it’s spoken?

Language, Quiz questions 14 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, […]

English, Etymology, French, Irish, Language, Latin, Manx, Norwegian, Old Norse, Proto-Indo-European, 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 […]

English, Etymology, French, Greek, Language, Latin, Proto-Indo-European, Words and phrases 17 Comments


This image were sent in by a visitor to Omniglot. Can any of you identify the symbols on it? They look like a writing system of some kind, but I don’t recognise it. As we are not sure which way up it should be, the rock is shown both ways up.

Language, Puzzles 4 Comments
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