Sgimilearachd definition

Sgimilearachd [sgʲimɪlɛrəxg], noun = habit of visiting other people at mealtime; intrusion (from: Am Faclair Beag)

Alternative definition: Obtrusiveness, impudence, intrusion; Mean habit of popping in upon people at meals, living and doing nothing about, gentlemen’s kitchens. (from: Am Faclair Dwelly)

This is one of the interesting Scottish Gaelic words I learnt from this blog post. Others include:

Allabhuadhach = someone who is victorious, but in disgrace.
Claidean = an absurd hammering at anything.
Nigead = those little sobs or sighs you make before or after weeping.
Atamaich = to fondle an unreasonable person.

Do similar words exist in any other languages?

English, Language, Scottish Gaelic, Words and phrases Leave a comment


I came across a new word yesterday – adumbrations – which I had to look up in a dictionary as I couldn’t work out its meaning from the context:

Framed in the archway formed by the far end of the vaulted roof were the fantastical forms of five great gasometers, the supporting superstructures of which seemed in their adumbrations to be tangled impossibly with each other, like the hoops of an illusionist’s conjuring trick.

From The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, by Douglas Adams.

According to the Reverso dictionary, adumbration means

1. delineation, draft, indication, outline, rough, silhouette, sketch, suggestion

2. augury, forecast, foreshadowing, foretelling, omen, portent, prediction, prefiguration, prefigurement, presage, prognostication, prophecy, sign

3. bedimming, cloud, darkening, darkness, eclipse, eclipsing, obfuscation, obscuring, overshadowing, shadow

A related word is adumbrate, which means “to outline; give a faint indication of; to foreshadow; to overshadow; obscure.

It comes from the Latin word adumbratus (represented only in outline), from adumbrare (to cast a shadow on), from umbra (shadow) – obvious really!

English, Etymology, Language, Latin, Words and phrases Leave a comment

Language learning lethargy

Cat on dictionaries - an illustration of language learning lethargy

Are there times when you don’t feel like learning languages and can’t summon up much enthusiasm about them? When language learning lethargy strikes, in fact.

For me most of August this year was like that – I did use my languages when I had the chance, and spoke quite a bit of French and Welsh, and odd bits of Italian and Irish. I also listened to plenty of foreign language radio, as I often do. I didn’t go out of my way to find opportunities to practise my languages though, and didn’t study at all for almost the whole month. This is unusual for me.

Sometimes I think to myself, “You already speak five languages more or less fluently, and know quite a few others to varying degrees. Isn’t that enough?”, and my usual answer is “No, I want to learn more!”. Recently however, my motivation to learn more has been low and my answer was “Yes, that’s enough for now.”

This month I am re-starting my studies with Czech, and am planning to start dabbling with other languages as well. Yesterday my Teach Yourself Swedish course finally arrived – the one I got for free after attending the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin in May. So I will be learning more Swedish before long.

If you come down with language learning lethargy from time to time, how do you deal with it?

Czech, English, French, Italian, Language, Language learning 5 Comments


Learn French with Frantastique

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English, French, Language, Language learning Leave a 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 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 Comments Off on No holds barred

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

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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
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