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 5 Comments

Pass the funny dingdong

Remote control

If someone asked you to “pass the funny dingdong”, would you know what they wanted?

With the context that you are watching TV, you might have a better idea what they wanted.

According to Fry’s English Delight, a programme about language on BBC Radio Four, funny dingdong is one of the many ways of referring to the TV remote control.

Others include blatter, zapper, blitter, kuhdumpfer, dimmer, mando, squirter, twanger, widget, pote-eator, splonker, tinky toot, wizz wizz, and plinky.

Do you have other names for the remote control?

Other interesting made-up words mentioned on the programme include gruglums – the bits left in the sink after you’ve done the washing up, and floordrobe – where teenagers file their clothes.

English, Language, Words and phrases 3 Comments

No holds barred

I came across the phrase no holds barred today and wondered where it came from. I probably have seen it written down before, but didn’t pay any particular attention to it and thought it was written no holes barred.

According The Phrase Finder, this phrase comes from wrestling and refers to wrestling matches in which the normal rules are suspended – that is any hold is allowed, and no holds are barred. It first appeared in print in around 1892. Before then wrestling matches were not subject to any rules and there was no need for such a phrase.

Related phrases include anything goes and carte blanche. Can you think of any others?

The phrase carte blanche comes from French, originally meant a military surrender, and was first written in 1707 [source].

Are there phrases with a similar meaning in other languages?

English, French, Language, Words and phrases Leave a comment

Language quiz

Language quiz image

Here’s a recording in a mystery language.

Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken?

Language 8 Comments

Hooley fuddle

Ukulele Hooley logo

This weekend I am in Dún Laoghaire for the Ukulele Hooley, Ireland’s international ukulele festival. On the way here yesterday I met some ukulele players from Yorkshire and we had a bit of a jam on the boat, and another one last night with other people who are here for the Hooley.

While talking with the Yorkshire lot, the word fuddle came up, and I thought it was a made-up word, but apparently it is a genuine Yorkshire word for a meal at which each person contributes food – also known as a potluck dinner, spread, Jacob’s join, Jacob’s supper, faith supper, covered dish supper, dish party, bring and share, dutch, pitch-in, bring-a-plate, or dish-to-pass [source].

A hooley [ˈhuːli] is defined by the Oxford Dictionaries as “A wild or noisy party.” (informal, chiefly Irish). It is also a strong wind or gale, as in “it’s blowing a hooley” [source] and it’s origin is unknown.

Here’s a video from the Hooley featuring the Mersey Belles and others, with me in the background

English, Language, Music, Travel, Words and phrases Leave a comment

Poor mean houses

Cottages in Abergwyngregyn

On the bus to Conwy today I noticed that the Welsh name of one of the stops included the word teios, which I hadn’t come across before. In English the stop had the word cottages in it.

I wrote down what I thought I heard and saw: teilios, but couldn’t find that in any Welsh dictionary. When I looked for cottages however I found the word teios, which is a combination of tai (plural of , house) and the diminutive ending -os, which was most commonly-used in North Wales (in the 18th and 19th centuries), but spread to the rest of Wales, according to the Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru.

Translations of teios include small or poor houses; poor mean houses; and mean pitiful houses.

Some of the buses round here have a screen at the front that shows the name of the next stop in Welsh and English, and there are recorded announcements in both languages as well. The English announcements were recorded by someone with an English accent who mispronounces the Welsh names – he gets the consonants more or less right, but the vowels are often slightly off, and the stress is sometimes in the wrong place. I don’t know why they didn’t ask the guy who does the Welsh announcements to do the English ones as well.

When I hear a language or words pronounced in unusual ways it tends to grate a bit on my ears, just as out-of-tune singing or musical instruments do. There’s nothing wrong with foreign accents, but sometimes they can make comprehension more difficult. I try to speak languages (and sing and play instruments) as in tune as possibly. Do you?

English, Language, Welsh, Words and phrases 9 Comments

Language quiz

Language quiz image

Here’s a recording in a mystery language.

Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken?

Language, Quiz questions 7 Comments

Put the kettle on!

No kettles!

I discovered last night that although there is a French word for kettle – bouilloire – kettles are not common in French kitchens. More or less every kitchen in the UK, and Ireland, has a kettle, and a toaster (grille-pain) – they are considered essential equipment. However, according to a friend who used to live in France, French kitchens generally don’t have kettles, or toasters. Teapots are probably rare as well.

Is this true? What other things are normally found in kitchens where you live?

So even though there may be a word for something in another language, it might not be commonly-used (either the word or the thing it describes).

English, French, Language, Words and phrases 8 Comments

Here’s a nice whatabout

In the comments on an article I read today in the Guardian – Why North Koreans are developing an appetite for foreign languages – I noticed an interesting turn of phrase:

Here’s a nice Whatabout. I suggest Brits suddenly get keen on learning foreign languages. Start with Arabic and Russian. Oh yes, and brush up on French too….

I hadn’t seen the expression Whatabout before so it caught my attention. Have you come across it before, or do you use it yourself?

The article mentions foreign language learning is compulsory for North Koreans from the age of 4 (they must start school early), and that the most popular languages to learn are Chinese (probably Mandarin) and English. Learning languages give students a better chance of getting into university, which leads to better job prospects, particular in foreign trade, which is increasing, and Chinese is also popular because they want to understand Chinese TV programmes. However relatively few North Koreans are able to go to university and few other people are likely to learn languages are the chances of using them are minimal.

Chinese, English, Language, Language learning Leave a comment

Language quiz

Language quiz image

Here’s a recording in a mystery language.

Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken?

By the way, I couldn’t find a recording of this language without the background music, unfortunately.

Language, Quiz questions 3 Comments
%d bloggers like this: