Rowing your boat

The French equivalent of to go for a row (in a boat), is faire un tour en barque or faire de la barque, and to row (a boat) is ramer, which also means to stake, although if you’re rowing as a sport then it’s faire de l’aviron.

A barque is a small boat or rowing boat, a barque de pêche is a fishing boat, a patron de barque is a skipper. Aviron is rowing or an oar, which is also main d’aviron or pagaie, and avironner means to paddle, which is also pagayer.

To ram in French is percuter, and a battering ram is a bélier, which is also a ram (male sheep).

A row (noise) in French is un vacarme, and a row (noisy argument) une dispute and to row is se disputer.

So to have a row [raʊ] while going for a row [rəʊ] would be “se disputer en faire un tour en barque”, I think.

Source: Reverso

English, French, Language, Words and phrases 1 Comment


I got an email yesterday from someone who is “developing a micro-learning program dedicated to language learning”. This was the first time I’d heard the term micro-learning so I wasn’t entirely sure what it meant.

According to Wikipedia, microlearning “deals with relatively small learning units and short-term learning activities”. This sounds like the technique some people recommend of using whatever spare moments you have to learn a bit more of a language, or whatever you’re studying.

Do you engage in microlearning?

Do you find it a good way to learn?

I’ve tried this, and find it can be quite effective, but prefer to learn in a focused way with as few distractions as possible for a longer time – about 30 minutes seems work best for me.

English, Language, Language learning 3 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 4 Comments

Peripatetic false friends

The English word peripatetic means “tending to walk about; constantly travelling; itinerant; nomadic”. It is also related to Aristotle, his philosophy, and the school of thought he founded. A peripatetic teacher is one who teaches in a number of different schools, and it’s common, at least in the UK, for music teachers and sometimes language teachers, to be peripatetic.

It comes from the French péripatétique, from the Latin peripatēticus, from Ancient Greek περιπατητικός ‎(peripatētikós – given to walking around), from περιπατέω ‎(peripatéō – I walk around), from περί ‎(perí – around) and πατέω ‎(patéō – I walk). The French and Latin words mean “of or relating to Aristotle and his philosophy” [source].

The French for a peripatetic teacher is enseignant itinérant, and a travelling salesman is vendeur ambulant and a busker is musicien ambulant. The word péripatéticien(ne) does exist in French, but refers to a streetwalker / prostitute [source]. So should be handled with caution.

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

In the Land of the Eagles

Snowdon / Yr Wyddfa

Yesterday I climbed Snowdon with other members of the Bangor Ukulele Society. We set off from Pen-y-Pass (The head/top of the pass) and took the Miner’s Track to the top, then went down the Llanberis Path. On the way up and the way down we stopped a number of times to sing a few songs, and got a bit of an audience in places.

The name Snowdon comes from the Old English for “snow hill”, and the Welsh name – Yr Wyddfa [əɾ ˈwɨ̞ðva] – means “the tumulus” or “burial mound”. According to legend a giant known as Rhitta Gawr was buried there after being defeated by King Arthur [source].

Snowdonia, the region in which Snowdon sits, is known as yr Eryri [əɾ ɛrˈərɪ] in Welsh. I was told yesterday that this comes from the word eryr (eagle) so is poetically translated as “The Land of the Eagles”. However this is apparently a folk etymology and it actually comes from the Latin word orīrī, from orīor (to rise, get up, appear, exist) and means highland or upland [source].

The Latin word orīor comes from the Proto-Indo-European *(H)r ̊-nw- ‎(to flow, move, run), which is also the root of the Middle Irish rian ‎(river, way), the Old Church Slavonic reka ‎(river), the Latin rivus ‎(stream), the Sanskrit ऋति ‎(ṛti – course, way), and the Gaulish *Renos ‎(that which flows), which is where the name of the river Rhine comes from [source].

English, Etymology, Language, Latin, Proto-Indo-European, Welsh, Words and phrases 2 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 6 Comments

Do we have a moving forward position?

I often receive emails from advertisers and people who run advertising networks wanting to place their ads on Omniglot. Or as they put it, they want to “buy redundant inventory” or “buy website traffic”. They talk about fill rates, CPMs, passback options, DSPs, geos, volume impressions and monetization strategies. Recently one asked me to let them know “if we have a moving forward position”, after an exchange of emails.

I know what some of this jargon means, and have looked up the rest, but I still don’t fully understand some of it, and don’t think it’s worth the effort. Usually I just say I’m not interested.

I don’t really have a monetization strategy for Omniglot – I just place ads and affiliate links that I think are relevant, and make sure they don’t get in the way of the content. This seems to work as I’m making a good living from the site.

Jargon like this develops in many fields. It’s a quick way of referring to things that you often talk about. However it is only really meaningful to others in your field. Outsiders can find it impenetrable and might need some help, not only to understand the terms, but also the concepts behind them.

Some jargon, especially business jargon, doesn’t really mean anything – blue sky thinking outside the box, and all that.

Do you use jargon?

Do you have any interesting examples of jargon you use, or have heard others using?

English, Language 4 Comments

Hybrid languages

There is some interesting discussion about hybrid languages on episodes of the the World in Words podcast that I listened recently. One episode discuss Chiac, a combination of Acadian French and English spoken in New Brunswick in Canada.

Examples include:

– J’ai backé mon car dans la driveway
– Je prends un large double Americano pour sortir

This form of language has been around since at least the 18th century and is looked down on by many as being corrupted French. However people who speak Chiac also speak French and English and tend to do so with no Chiac-speakers.

Another episode discusses Spanglish, a mixture of Spanish and English spoken in California that dates back at least to the early 19th century, when California, and other southern US states, were part of Mexico, and it was common for people to speak Spanish and English.

You could view these forms of speech could be seen as code switching between different languages. However the switching seems to be quite systematic and not necessarily spontaneous.

Do you know of other examples of hybrid languages like this?

Language 6 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

Soggy days

This morning the weather app on my phone told me that it would be a soggy day today. It wasn’t wrong – it rained all morning and much of the afternoon. When I saw the word soggy I started wondering whether days could be described as soggy in other languages.

It seems you can talk about un printemps détrempé (a soggy spring) in French, according to Reverso, though I don’t know how commonly this expression is used.

How about in other languages?

English, French, Language, Words and phrases 1 Comment
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