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 3 Comments

Un sabot de Denver

Wheel clamp / Sabot de Denver

I discovered yesterday that in French a wheel clamp is known as a sabot de Denver (“Denver hoof/clog/shoe/boot”), and wondered what Denver has to do with wheel clamps.

On Wikipedia is explains that such devices were first used in Denver, Colorado, and are known as a wheel boot, parking boot or Denver boot in the USA. The wheel boot was invented by Frank Marugg in 1944 and first used in 1955 in Denver. One type of wheel clamp used in the UK was originally called the Preston, after Trevor Whitehouse, the inventor’s home town. They were first used in 1991 [source].

Are they used in other countries?

If so, what are they called?

English, French, Language, Words and phrases 2 Comments

Just popping out

A interesting English expression I’ve noticed in novels I’ve been reading recently is the verb to pop, which is often accompanied by prepositions such as out, in, round and down, and preceded by just.

For example:
– I’m just popping out to the shop, do you want anything?
– I might pop in at some point for a peek at your pictures.
– I popped down to the pub last night.

It usually means to go somewhere for a short time and then return to wherever you were. In some contexts drop (by/round) can be used instead of pop: “Do pop in / drop by if you’re free this afternoon”, for example.

Words can also just pop out without you thinking about them first, e.g. “I didn’t mean to say that – it just popped out.” [source]

Are there expressions in other languages that have a similar meaning?

English, Language, Words and phrases 5 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 12 Comments


I learnt an interesting word from a Dutch friend today – klunen – which refers to the action of walking on the ground in ice skates, something you might do while you’re skating along a frozen canal and come to a bridge you can’t go under, either because it’s too low, or the ice under it is too thin, so you have to walk around it. This is a wonderfully specific word and I can’t think of an equivalent in English, or any other language. Can you?

Here’s an example of useage:

Onder de brug lag geen ijs, dus we moesten erlangs klunen.
There was no ice under the bridge, so we had to walk round it.

It apparently comes from Frisian, and can also mean ‘to carry one’s canoe/kayak around impassable obstacles in the water’. There’s is a word for that action in English: portage, which comes from the French porter (to carry).

Sources: and Wiktionary

Dutch, English, Language, Words and phrases 9 Comments


At the moment I’m focusing on improving my Russian and Czech, and am trying to keep my other languages ticking over. I’ve starting using Anki to store and learn words and phrases, and am finding it very useful. For words that can be visually represented, I use pictures rather than translations on the flash cards – an idea from Gabriel Wyner’s book Fluent Forever. For other words and phrases I use English translations. I’ve briefly dabbled with SRS programs like Anki before, but never really gave them much time. Now I’m starting to see how useful and effective they can be, especially if you make your own lists, rather than relying on those made by others.

Another way I’m using to help me remember words is to learn the equivalent signs from the appropriate sign language, which I find in the Spread The Sign multilingual sign language dictionary. So I’m learning Czech words and Czech Sign Language signs, and so on. This gives me gestures I can link to the spoken and written words, and I hope it will help me to remember them.

Do you use Anki or other SRS / flash card programs? Do you find them useful?

Czech, English, Language, Language learning, Russian 2 Comments


I came across the Czech word zženštilý yesterday among translations of soft and the pile up of consonants got me wondering whether it was a real word or a typo. I discovered that it is a real word and means: soft, epicene, girly-girly, namby-pamby, nance, effeminate, effeminize, emasculate, pansy, soft, softish, unmanly, womanish, womanlike, sissified [source].

Related words include:

– zženštilec = effeminize
– zženštilost = effeminacy, unmanliness, womanishness
– zženštit = to womanize

These words often have negative connotations in English. Do they have similar connotations in Czech and other languages? Are there any languages in which such words have positive connotations?

Other Czech words for soft include:

– poddajný = soft, flexible, pliant, docile
– pozvolný = soft, gentle, gradual, insidious
– jemný = soft, bland, delicate, elegant, pigeon-hearted, sheer, silken, tender, fine, gentle, mild, milky
– měkký = soft, compliant, crumbly, downy, pulpy, smooth, tender, flabby, flaccid, meek, mild
– slabý = soft, weak, bloodless, complaisant, effete, washy, weak, weakly, shallow, small
– mírný = soft, tranquil, balmy, clement, pacific, peaceable, peaceful, reasonable, restful, gentle, lenient, meek, mild
– vlácný = soft, plastic, pliant, supple
– něžný = soft, subtle, pigeon-hearted, silky, sweet, tender, affectionate, caressing, delicate, fond, gentle, milky
– nezpevněný = soft, unconsolidated, unpaved, washy
– hebký = soft, smooth, downy, velvety, fleecy

What I was looking for was soft as in not hard (of material), so I think the first one, poddajný, is probably the one I want, or maybe měkký.

Czech, English, Language, Words and phrases 6 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 4 Comments


When searching for a translation of a Czech song we’re learning in the Bangor Community Choir I came across the word vituperated. It’s not one I’d heard or seen before, see I had to look it up. It means “to abuse or censure severely or abusively, to berate; to use harsh condemnatory language”. It comes from the Latin vituperatus, the past participle of vituperare, from vitium (fault) and parare (to make, prepare) [source].

The song in questions is called Okolo Hradišťa – here are the lyrics and a translation:

Okolo Hradišťa voděnka teče
Ide k nám šohajek, cosi ně nese
Nese ně lásku svázanú v šátku
Milovala sem ťa, zlatý obrázku.

Milovala sem ťa bylo to špásem
Nevěděl šohajek, že falešná sem
Falešná byla švarná dívčina
Nevěděl šohajek, jaká příčina

Ta moja príčina taková byla,
že mě mamulka velice lála.
Nelaj ně, mamko, ide k nám Janko,
mosím mu nachystat za širák pérko.


There is a stream of water flowing past Hradisca (a name of a village);
A boy is coming to us and he is bringing something for me;
He brings me his love, tied up in a scarf;
I loved you, my golden picture.

I loved you but it was just for fun,
the boy did not know that I am was not true to him.
The girl was false
and the boy did not know what was the reason for it.

My reason was
that my mum kept telling me off (vituperated me a lot).
Don’t tell me off (vituperate me), mother, Janko (boy’s name) is coming
I have to prepare a feather for him to put on his hat.

Sources: and

Here’s an arrangement of the song like the one we’re doing in choir (others are available):

I can’t find any information about Hradišťa/Hradisca. Does anybody know where it is?

Czech, English, Etymology, Language, Latin, Songs, Words and phrases 4 Comments

New Omniglot design

Recently I have been working on a new design for Omniglot which should be better on all devices, including phones. I’ve built a drop-down menu using CSS Menu Maker and have tweaked the colours and a few other things. You can see the pages I’m working on in the telling the time section. I also plan to redesign/refresh the homepage, and welcome your suggestions for that.

Here are some screen shots (what I see in my browsers might not be exactly what you see):

Screen shot of the new design of the time index page

Screen shot of the new design of the time index page

What do you think of the new design?

Does it work on smaller screens?

General Leave a comment