Irish Tongue-Twisters

Last week I learnt some new tongue-twisters (rabhlóga) in Irish. To those not familiar with Irish, almost an sentence in Irish might appear to be a bit of a tongue-twister, but these ones are particularly tricky.

Seacht sicín ina seasamh sa sneachta lá seaca.
Seven chickens standing in the snow on a frosty day.

Fear feargach ag faire na farraige fuaire.
An angry man watching the cold sea.

Cheannaigh cailín cliste ceanúil císte.
A clever, affectionate girl bought a cake.

Cearc ag piocadh piobair de phláta Pheadair.
A chicken is picking peppers from Peter’s plate.

Bhí bean bheag bhocht breoite bruite leis an bhfuacht.
The poor little sick women was scaled with the cold.

Rinne Máire gáire gan náire ag an fhaire i nDoire anuraidh.
Mary laughed shamelessly at the look-out in Derry last year.

I have made recordings of my attempts to say them. If you can do better, please contact me.

You can see more of these on:

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A Hooley of Ukeists

Ukulele Hooley

I’m having a great time at the Ukulele Hooley this weekend, so I thought I’d look into some ukulele-related words.

There are various possible words for people who play the ukulele:

– Ukulele player
– Uker
– Ukist
– Ukeist
– Ukulist
– Ukulelist
– Ukuleleist
– Ukulelian
– Uke-phreak
– Ukester
– Ukestrator
– Ukeleler

There are also words for things ukulele-related: ucal (based on duke/ducal), or ukel (based on yokel).

Sources: and MetaFilter

Then there are some words, which I just made up, for what ukulele players do, i.e. play the ukulele: uke, ukelize, ukify. Can you come up with any others?

Me playing one of my songs in the open mic at the 2016 Ukulele Hooley

I sang one my songs, Spollagyn son tey / Chips for tea, in the open mic session last might (see photo above). I usually sing it unaccompanied, and messed it up a bit at the start, but it went okay after that. I was also singing it from memory, which is fine when I’m just singing, but when I’m play the ukulele at the same time, it’s a lot more challenging, and definitely needs more practice.

So what would you call a group of ukulele players?

A strum, a hooley, or something else?

Suggestions welcome.

Other collective words for musician can be found at:

If you’re in the Dublin area today, why not come along to a free concert in the People’s Park in Dún Laoghaire this afternoon from 12pm.

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Eating sideways

An interesting Japanese word I came across today in an article on ‘untranslatable’ words is 横飯 (yokomeshi) which is used to describe the stress of speaking a foreign language.

It comes from 横 (yoko – horizontal) and 飯 (meshi – boiled rice, a meal, food), and could be translated as ‘a meal eaten sideways’. This refers to the fact that Japanese is often written vertically, while most other languages are written horizontally.

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

English, Japanese, Language, Words and phrases 1 Comment

Gleann Cholm Cille

A view of Glencolumbcille

I’m currently in Glencolumbcille (Gleann Cholm Cille) in Donegal in the north west of Ireland brushing up my Irish. Next weekend I’ll be in Dún Laoghaire for the Ukulele Hooley, Ireland’s national ukulele festival.

So far I’ve spoken plenty of Irish, and also some Welsh, Japanese and French, and a bit of English.

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Y Llyfyrgell

Last night I saw the film Y Llyfrgell / The Library Suicides, a Welsh-language thriller based on the book Y Llyfrgell (The Library) by Fflur Dafydd, who also wrote the script and produced the film.

This was the first film I’ve seen in Welsh, and I enjoyed it. It’s set in Aberystwyth, and most of the action takes place in the National Library of Wales / Llyfyrgell Genedlaethol Cymru. The main characters are identical twins who work in the library, and the film starts with the apparent suicide of their mother, a famous author. There are many other twists and turns, and stories within stories which make the film well worth a look.

The twins are played by one actor, Catrin Stewart, who in real life is a twin, though has a twin brother rather than a twin sister. It’s very cleverly done and you never realise that one person is playing both of them.

I didn’t understand all the dialogue at first as it’s in a dialect of Welsh I’m not used to hearing – I’ve got so used to hearing northern dialects of Welsh, other dialects sound a bit strange to me now, but I soon tuned into to it. There were subtitles in English as well, but I tried not to read them.

After the film there was a question and answer with Fflur Dafydd, which was entirely in Welsh, with simultaneous interpretation in English, for those who needed it. It was an interesting discussion and provided many insights into the film making process.

English, Film, Language, Welsh Leave a comment


I learnt an interesting new French word today – célibataire. When I first saw it I guessed that it meant celibate, but when I checked in a dictionary I found that while it does mean celibate, it is more commonly used to mean single. So un célibataire is a single man or bachelor, and une célibataire is a single woman or spinster. A confirmed bachelor un célibataire endurci and une mère célibataire is a single / unmarried mother – the male equivalent is un père célibataire.

Célibataire comes from célibat (celibacy), from the Latin caelebs (unmarried, single), from the Proto-Indo-European *kaiwelo- ‎(alone) and *libʰs– ‎(living) [source].

Single comes from the Middle English sengle, from the Old French sengle, from Latin singulus, a diminutive of simplex (simple or literally “onefold”*, from sim- ‎(the same) and plicare ‎(to fold) [source].

*Duplex = twofold, double

English, Etymology, French, Language, Latin, Proto-Indo-European, Words and phrases 1 Comment

When is a blog not a blog?

When I meet people who are familiar with my website, some of them say how much they like my blog. When I ask them what they like about it, they mention things that are on my website, rather than on this blog, so I soon realise that they’re using the word blog to refer to my website, and possibly this blog, although not all of them are aware of the blog’s existence.

To me the distinction between my website and my blog(s) is clear. They may be on the same server, but they look different and have different functions. I’ve noticed that on some other websites though there isn’t such a clear distinction between blogs and other pages, especially on ones that have grown from blogs. Maybe that’s why people get confused.

Sometimes people tell me about mistakes on other sites which are linked to on Omniglot, thinking that I have something to do with them and can make changes on them. I understand why this happens as they might not realise that they’re on a different site.

None of these things are particularly important, but it’s interesting, to me at least, to notice them.

Is there a distinction between the words for website and blog in other languages?

English, General, Language, Words and phrases 4 Comments

Phrase finder

Screenshot of the phrase finder

There is a now a new way to view the phrases on Omniglot: a Phrase finder.

This page enables you to see phrases in any combination of two languages. This is something I’ve been planning to set up for years, and now it’s finally ready.

So if your native language isn’t English and you want to see phrases in your mother tongue and another language, you can.

If you want to see the similarities and differences between two closely related languages, you can.

If you want to see two completely different languages side by side, you can.

The phrases are stored in server-side includes and displayed on the page using PHP, which was written by David Stephens of LinguaShop.

The phrases are currently available in 233 languages. If you can provide phrases in other languages, or additional phrases for the existing languages, or recordings, please contact me.

General, Language, Words and phrases Leave a comment

Language quiz

Here’s a poem in a mystery language.

Poem in a mystery language

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

Language, Quiz questions 3 Comments

Suspending disbelief

One of the things we talked about in the French conversation group this week was suspending disbelief, which is accepter les invraisemblances in French. That is “accepting the improbabilities”. Another way to say this in French is suspension d’incrédulité.

The word invraisemblance also means unlikeliness or inverisimilitude. Related words include invraisemblable (unlikely, incredible, implausible, improbable) and invraisemblablement (implausible, unlikely).

Its antonym is vraisemblance (plausibility, verisimilitude, likelihood). It comes from vrai (true, real), plus sembler (to seem).

Expressions incorporating vraisemblance include:

– selon toute vraisemblance = in all likelihood, apparently
– essai de vraisemblance = plausibility test
– contrôle de vraisemblance = absurdity check

Sources: Reverso, Linguee and Wikipedia

Apparently the English phrase suspension of disbelief was coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1817 in his Biographia literaria or biographical sketches of my literary life and opinions


Are there interesting ways to express this idea in other languages?

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