I came across a number of interesting words today on BuzzFeed, including vellichor, the strange wistfulness of used bookshops, and limerence, the state of being infatuated with another person.

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows defines vellichor as:

n. the strange wistfulness of used bookstores, which are somehow infused with the passage of time—filled with thousands of old books you’ll never have time to read, each of which is itself locked in its own era, bound and dated and papered over like an old room the author abandoned years ago, a hidden annex littered with thoughts left just as they were on the day they were captured.

I suspect it might be a made-up word, but it’s a good one.

According to Wikipedia, Limerence is:

… an involuntary state of mind which results from a romantic attraction to another person combined with an overwhelming, obsessive need to have one’s feelings reciprocated. Psychologist Dorothy Tennov coined the term “limerence” for her 1979 book Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love to describe the concept that had grown out of her work in the mid-1960s, when she interviewed over 500 people on the topic of love.

So it’s a genuine word, though not one I’ve come across before.

English, Language, Words and phrases 3 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 8 Comments


I was invited to go to the Language Creation Society‘s conference recently and was thinking about it for while. Although I’m more interested in constructed scripts than constructed languages, I can find something of interest in all languages, whether natural or constructed, so I’ve decided to go. It takes place in Horsham in West Sussex, not far from London, on the 25th and 26th April. Are any of you going or thinking of going?

The week after that I’m going to Berlin for the Polyglot Gathering, so it’s going to be a busy few weeks. I’ve decided to go to Berlin by train this year – I considered it last year but thought it would be too complicated and expensive. This time I’ve grasped the nettle by the horns and have booked train tickets all the way from Bangor to Berlin and back using Loco2. It was a lot easier to arrange than I thought. I’ll be going via London, Brussels and Cologne, and staying overnight in Brussels at an AirBnB near the station on the way there. It works out slightly more expensive than flying, and takes longer, but I will see a lot more and won’t have to wait around for ages in airports. I’m looking forward to it.

Conlangs, Language, Travel Leave a comment

Online language communities

On an episode of the BBC Radio 4 programme, Word of Mouth, that I listened to recently, they talk about how English might change in the future. One interesting thing that came up was that new linguistics communities are emerging online on forums and other places where people spend a lot of time chatting to one another. One way this happens is that misspellings and typos, which might be accidental or deliberate, are adopted by other members of the virtual community and become a way of identifying insiders from outsiders. While such words might be viewed as errors by outsiders, for insiders they become the norm, and might eventually replace the ‘correct’ words.

So if you hear or see words being used in a way that seems odd, ignorant or incorrect way to you, don’t forget that that usage might be acceptable and normal among a particular group of people. This is one way how language changes and new varieties emerge.

English, Language, Linguistics Leave a comment

Building up gradually

I often see that when starting a new project, such as learning a language, we often commit ourselves to studying of a certain amount of time every day or every week – it might be an hour a day or at least 10 hours a week, for example. There’s nothing wrong with this, and if you’re very self-disciplined and consistent you can sustain it. However, it can be difficult to stick to such plans if you’re somewhat lacking in self-discipline, especially if your plans are ambitious.

I don’t usually announce my language learning plans publicly. I might mention that I’m concentrating on a particular language, but I don’t give exact details of how long and how often I study, as this tends to vary a lot. I might start out with the intention of studying for an hour a day, but rarely stick to it for any length of time Usually after a week or two my regular study times become short and/or more sporadic and I might start another project – learning another language or a new instrument, or something completely different.

To acquire a new habit, such as studying a language every day, it might be best to build up to it gradually. So instead studying for an hour a day from the start, maybe it would be better to do 5 or 10 minutes, and if you can keep that up for a week or two, then increase it to 15 or 20 minutes. By building it up gradually like this you ease gently into the new habit, which might make it more sustainable.

Do you jump straight into new projects? Can you maintain your enthusiasm for them, or do you tend to burn out or loose steam after a certain time? Have you tried building up to them gradually?

English, Language, Language learning 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 8 Comments

Beech Tree Lane

This morning in Abergele I saw a road called Lôn Ffawydd. I know that lôn is the Welsh for lane, but wondered what ffawydd might mean as I hadn’t seen it before.

Ffawydd can mean beech tree, fir tree, chestnut tree, pine tree or fir tree. It appears in such expressions as:

– ffawydd Albanaidd = Scotch fir
– ffwaydd arian(naidd) = silver fir
– ffawydd coch = pitch-pine
– ffawydd coprog = copper-beach
– ffawydd gwyn = white pine/spruce
– ffawydd melyn = yellow pine
– ffawydd Norwy = Norway pine
– cnau ffawydd = beech-mast
– pen ffawydd = stupid person, simpleton, idiot, fool

English, Language, Welsh, Words and phrases 5 Comments

Twistles and forks

There is a place in Lancashire in the north west of England called Oswaldtwistle [ˈɒzəl.twɪzəl], which a friend went to after visiting me yesterday. Naturally, as we’re linguists, we wondered where the name Oswaldtwistle came from and what it might mean. My friend thought it might have something to do with Saint Oswald, who was King of Northumbria from about 604-642 AD.

According to Wikipedia there is a legend that St Oswald passed though the area and gave his name to it. The twistle part comes from an old English word meaning “brooks meet”. Alternatively the village might been named after a local Oswald.

The word twistle, which I really like the sound of, apparently means a boundary stream and literally means “double, forked”. It comes from the Middle English twisel/twisil, from the Old English twisla (confluence, junction, fork of a river or road), from the Proto-Germanic *twisilą (fork, bifurcation), from the Proto-Indo-European *dwis- (twice, in two). It is cognate with the German Zwiesel (fork). [source. It also appears in the names Entwistle and Tintwistle.

English, Etymology, German, Language, Words and phrases 1 Comment

Happy languages

I heard some people talking today in what I think was Nigerian English, which always sounds happy to me. These particularly people seemed to be very cheerful, but there seems to be something about Nigerian English that makes it sound very jolly, to my ears at least. I think it’s something about the sounds they use and the intonation patterns.

This got me wondering whether I alone in thinking this, and whether other languages have an inherently happy sound to them.

Jamaican also sounds happy to me.

Do any particular languages, dialects or accents sound happy/jolly/cheerful to you?

English, Language 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 4 Comments
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