Monthly Archives: August 2011

Mynd i’r afael

Mynd i’r afael is a Welsh expression I’ve noticed quite a bit recently on Radio Cymru, and from the context in which it is used, I think it means something like “to try hard to deal with something”. Here are some examples: Angen i Brifysgol Cymru fynd i’r afael â dilysu canolfannau newydd, medd y […]

English, Language, Language learning, Welsh, Words and phrases 8 Comments


The Mandarin Chinese expression, 我们AA吧! (wǒmen AA ba), is the equivalent of “lets split the bill” or “let’s go Dutch”. I heard it for the first time from a Chinese friend the other day. My friend assures me that it’s a very common expression and is used when going out for a meal with friends […]

Chinese, English, Language, Words and phrases 12 Comments

Language quiz

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

Language, Quiz questions 6 Comments

New Finnish Grammar

I’m currently reading New Finnish Grammar, an English translation of Diego Marani’s novel Nuova grammatica finlandese. It is the story of a man who is found unconscious with a serious head injury on a street in Trieste and who is cared for by a Finnish doctor, who believes he is Finnish as his jacket has […]

English, Finnish, Italian, Language, Translation 9 Comments


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 – […]

English, Etymology, French, German, Language, Latin, Proto-Indo-European, Words and phrases 8 Comments

Hedges and thistles

During a conversation with a Chinese friend yesterday neither of us could think of the Mandarin word for hedge or thistle, among others, so I thought I’d look it up. There appear to be a number of words for hedge in Mandarin: – 栵 (lì) – hedge – 藩籬 [藩篱] (fān​lí) – hedge / fence; […]

Chinese, English, Language, Words and phrases 1 Comment

Language quiz

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

Language, Quiz questions 10 Comments

Summer chicks and glowing coals

Last night we were talking about the Pili Palas on Anglesey, a butterfly centre, which also has birds, snakes and other exotic creatures. The name is a pun combining pili-pala (butterfly) and palas (palace) – it took me ages to realise this. We were trying to think of the words for butterfly in various other […]

English, Etymology, French, German, Irish, Italian, Language, Latin, Manx, Scottish Gaelic, Spanish, Welsh, Words and phrases 6 Comments

Spreek je Nederlands?

Today’s post comes from an email sent in by James Eglinton. I have met many non-native English speakers who speak English with no discernible non-native accent. I know Dutch people (with Irish spouses) who can pass themselves off as Irish in Ireland. I know French people who speak faultless British English, I have heard a […]

Dutch, Language, Language learning 25 Comments

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 […]

Etymology, Irish, Language, Old Norse, Proto-Indo-European, Welsh, Words and phrases 1 Comment
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