The other day I came across the wonderful Dutch word uitsmijter, which means bouncer or doorman, and also a type of food consisting of toast, egg(s), ham, bacon or other meat, cheese and pickles is various combinations.

Apparently this is the kind of thing that some Dutch people like to eat after the bars close and the uitsmijters throw them out, which one possible way the dish got its name. Another explanation for the name is that it’s something that easily made and ‘thrown out’ of the kitchen [source]. It’s also popular as a breakfast and lunch dish.

Here’s a recipe.

The word uitsmijter comes from uit (out) and smijten (to fling, throw, hurl, smite, heave), so an uitsmijter is a thrower/flinger out. Smijten comes from the Middle Dutch smiten, from the Old Dutch *smītan, from the Proto-Germanic *smītaną (to cast, hurl, hit, strike, smear, dirty), from the Proto-Indo-European *smeyd- (to smear, whick, strike, rub), which is also the root of the Low German smieten (to throw, cast, chuck), the West Frisian smite (to throw), the German schmeißen (to throw, fling, slam), the English smite, and the Danish smide (to toss) [source].

Are there dishes with similarly interesting names in your country?

Danish, Dutch, English, Etymology, German, Language, Proto-Indo-European, Words and phrases 2 Comments

Language quiz

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Ilka dae

While flicking through my Scots language course, Luath Scots Language Learner, this week I discovered that the Scots for every day is ilka dae, which is quite similar to the Dutch elke dag, which I also learnt recently – I like finding connections like this. Neither resembles the English version, or the German jeden Tag. The words for every in other Germanic languages are also different: hver/alle in Danish, hver/enhver/all Norwegian, and var/all in Swedish.

The Scots word ilka [ˈɪlkə], which is also written ilkae and ilkie, means every and each. It appears in such expressions as:

- ilka bodie = everyone
- ilka thing = everything
- ilka ane (yin/een) = each one, every one
- ilkaday = everyday
- ilka where = everywhere

According to the OED ilka is a combination of ilk (every) and a (the indefinite article): ilk is a northern and north-midland form of ilch, iche = southern ælch, æche (each), which come from the Old English ǽlc, which is related to the Old Frisian ellîk/elk/êk, and the Dutch elk, from the Old High German eogilîh.

Sources: bab.la Dictionary, Reverso, DSL, EUdict, OED

Danish, Dutch, English, Etymology, German, Language, Norwegian, Swedish, Words and phrases 3 Comments

An owlfully badgered cup of tea

badger and cup

Yesterday I discovered that the Italian word for cup, tazza, is rather similar and possibly confusable with the word for badger, tasso, which can also mean a rate (of exchange) or a yew (tree).

It’s unlikely that if you mistakenly ask for un tasso di tè rather than una tazza di tè, you will be given a badger of tea, but it would be an easy mistake to make, especially if you know the French word for cup, tasse, or the Spanish taza, or the German Tasse, which comes from the French, which comes from the Arabic طاس (ṭās – die; bowl), from the Persian تاس (tās – die/dice).

I also discovered the wonderful word owlful, which means full of badgers, or possibly full of owls. How awful it must be to be owlful! It’s a word that should have appeared in the Harry Potter books, which are brimful of owls at points, and slightly, though not entirely, badgerless.

Arabic, English, Etymology, French, German, Italian, Language, Persian (FarsI), Words and phrases 10 Comments

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I discovered the wonderful German word Sumpf /zʊmpf/ today while putting together les mots de la semaine for this week from the French conversation group. One of the things that came in conversation was the word marsh, which is le marais or le marécage in French, and Sumpf in German, which I noticed because there’s something about the combination of mpf in a word that just appeals to me. Are there particular letter combinations that appeal to you?

Sumpf means marsh, morass, mud, bog, quagmire, mire, sump, and can also be used figuratively to refer to corruption, e.g. der Sumpf der Politik = the murky waters of politics.

Related expressions include:

- Sumpfland = marshland; swampland
- sumpfig = marshy; swampland
- Sumpfboden = marshy ground
- sumpfen = to live it up
- Sumpfdotterblume = marsh marigold
- Sumpfpflanze = marsh plant
- Sumpfgas = marsh gas
- Salzsumpf = salt marsh

The word marsh comes from the Germanic base of mere (sea, lake), which is cognate with the Latin mare, and related words in many European languages; plus the suffix -ish (of or belonging to a person or thing, of the nature or character of).

Sources: Wiktionary, Reverso, OED, bab.la dictionary

English, Etymology, French, German, Language, Words and phrases 8 Comments

Playing and sounding

The other day I discovered that to play in Italian is giocare or divertirsi, but if you’re playing a musical instruments the word you need is suonare, which also means to ring, sound, strike or toot. So I can say, Suono la chitarra, il piano(forte), il mandolino, il flauto dolce e il fischietto. (I play the guitar, piano, mandolin, recorder and tin whistle.)

You can also use this verb to talk about striking clocks: l’orologio ha suonato le cinque (the clock struck five) and ringing phones: sta suonando il telefono (the phone is ringing). Also to talk about metaphorical sounds: Potrà suonare avventato, da un lato troppo aggressivo e dall’altro troppo ottimistico. (That may sound presumptuous, too aggressive for some, too optimistic for others.)

Related expressions include:

- fare suonare = to misuse, to over-use, to abuse
- suonare a morto = to knell
- suonare come ritornello = to reprise
- suonare per strada = to busk

In English you use play for both playing instruments and playing games, you can also play around while playing an instrument – how would you say that in Italian, or in other languages?

Welsh has chwarae as the general word for play and canu (to sing) for playing instruments, especially harps, though chwarae is also used for instruments.

In Mandarin there is 玩 (wán) for general play, while the words for playing instruments depend on the type of instrument: 拉 (lā), to pull, is used for bowed instruments such as violins and cellos; 吹 (chuī), to blow, is used for wind instruments; 弹 [彈] (tán), to pluck, is used for string instruments like guitars; 打 (dǎ), to beat/strike, is used for percussion instruments, and 演奏 (yǎnzòu) is a general word for playing an instrument or performing.

Do other languages has separate words for playing instruments and playing games?

Sources: Collins Italian Dictionary, bab.la dictionary

English, Etymology, Italian, Language, Welsh, Words and phrases 13 Comments

Language quiz

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Russian melancholy?

The other day I was trying to learn some adjectives in Russian, and noticed that there seemed to be more Russian words for sad (9) than for happy (4), at least in one dictionary I checked (bab.la). This might be a coincidence as in other dictionaries are more words for happy than for sad. In fact, combining the words together gives us nine words for happy and ten for sad.

Words for happy include:

- счастливый = happy (also: fortunate, lucky, providential, blessed)
- весёлый = happy (also: gay, cheery, fun, hilarious)
- довольный = happy (also: glad, pleased, amused, content)
- удачный = happy (also: successful, felicitous, chancy, fortunate)
- благополучный = happy (also: safe, trouble-free)
- ликующий = happy (also: jubilant, exultant, gleeful, elate, cookahoop, triumphant)
- радостный = happy (also: jolly, joyful, joyous glad, merry, cheery, high, gleeful, frabjous)
- удачливый = happy (also: lucky, successful, prosperous, fluky)
- улыбчивый = happy (also: smiling)

Words for sad include:

- прискорбный = sad (also: sorry, lamentable, regrettable, grievous)
- грустный = sad (also: melancholy, wailful, lamentable, minor)
- печальный = sad (also: down, sorrowful, deplorable, dolorous)
- тёмный = sad (also: dark, dirty, cimmerian, darksome)
- унылый = sad (also: moody, dreary, chap-fallen, cheerless)
- ужасный = sad (also: awful, horrible, terrible, dire)
- отчаянный = sad (also: desperate, foolhardy, hotshot, reckless)
- тусклый = sad (also: dim, gloomy, blear, bleary)
- тяжелый = sad (also: heavy, difficult, hard, grinding)
- досадный = sad (also: annoying, provoking, pesky, plaguesome, vexatious)

I wondered if this might reflect the reputed Russian melancholy nature of the Russian character. Do you think there’s anything in this?

Are all of these words in common use, or are some used more than others?

Even if this has no particular significance, it does illustrate the difficulty of choosing the right word when translating from one language to another.

Sources: http://en.bab.la/dictionary/english-russian/, Reverso, EUdict

English, Language, Russian, Words and phrases 11 Comments


Klok / Bel (bell)

Last week I learnt an interesting Dutch word – klinken – which means to rivet, sound, ring, chime, toll, peal, knell, pledge, clink (glasses), (drink a) toast; to appear to be, seem, sound; and clinking. I particularly like the past tense forms of this word – klonk and geklonken.

Here are some examples of usage:

- die naam klinkt me bekend (in die oren) = that name sounds familiar to me
- dat klinkt mooi = that sounds nice
- het klonk me als muziek in de oren = it was music to my ears
- Waar hebben die woorden eerder geklonken? = Where have I heard those words before?

Here are some similar words and expressions:

- klink = (door)handle; latch
- klinker = brick; vowel
- medeklinker = consonant (also consonant)
- klinken op = to drink a toast to; to drink to; to toast
- laten klinken = to sound
- vals klinken (“to sound false”) = to jangle; to be off/out of key; to be/sound out of tune
- geklingel = jingle
- klingelen = to jingle; tinkle (also tingelen, rinkelen & kletteren)

The word vals in vals klinken can be translated as ‘false’, but also means mischievous, vicious, nasty, malicious and spurious. It can also be combined with spelen (to play) to make vals spelen – to cheat.

The English word clink possibly comes from klinken, and the clink, as a slang word for prison, comes from the prison in Southwark in London called The Clink, the name of which is possibly onomatopoeic and derives from the sound of metal doors being closed, or the rattling of the prisoners’ chains. The English words clonk and clunk are thought to be onomatopoeic in origin, while the word clank might come from the Dutch word klank, which means sound or tone.

What sounds do bells make in other languages?

Sources: bab.la Dictionary, vanDale, dictionary.sensagent.com, SYSTRANet, interglot.com, OED.

Dutch, English, Etymology, Language, Words and phrases 3 Comments