An interesting Russian expression I learnt recently is меньше знаешь – лучше спишь (men’she znayesh’ – luchshe spish’), which means “the less you know, the better you sleep”, and is equivalent to the English expression ignorance is bliss.
When someone is talking in a way that doesn’t make sense to you, is using specialist jargon, is speaking a foreign language you don’t know, or is using made-up words, you might say they’re talking gibberish.
Other words for gibberish include gobbledygook, claptrap, jibber, jabber, jibber-jabber, folderol, twaddle, hogwash, bunkum, blabla, humbug, mumbo-jumbo, jargon, babble, double Dutch and nonsense [source].
Gibberish is possibly onomatopoeic in origin, imitating to the sound of chatter, or from the the Irish word gob (mouth) [source].
In French equivalents of gibberish include charabia, galimatias, amphigouri, blabla and foutaise. To talk gibberish is dire du charabia, baragouiner or bredouiller [source].
You can hear a bit of gobbledygook in the latest episode of the Radio Omniglot Podcast, which I recorded yesterday, and edited today. My friends and I sometimes talk in gobbledygook just for a laugh. Maybe I should add a page about it to Omniglot.
Do you know any other words of gibberish in English or other languages?
Well, words for camel in Slavic languages like Czech and Russian possibly come from an Ancient Greek word meaning elephant.
In Czech the word for camel is velbloud [ˈvɛlblou̯t], which comes from the Proto-Slavic *velьb(l)ǫdъ / vъlьb(l)ǫdъ (camel), from the Gothic 𐌿𐌻𐌱𐌰𐌽𐌳𐌿𐍃 (ulbandus – camel), from the Latin elephantus (elephant), from the Ancient Greek ἐλέφας (eléphas – elephant) [source].
Words from camel in other Slavic languages come from the same root: верблюд (verbljúd) in Russian and Ukrainian, вярблюд (vjarbljúd) in Belarusian, wielbłąd in Polish, and so on [source].
These all come from the Gothic 𐌿𐌻𐌱𐌰𐌽𐌳𐌿𐍃 (ulbandus), but from there the etmological trial gets a bit hazy, as they quite often do. Traditionally this word is thought to derive from the Greek ἐλέφας, via the Latin elephantus.
Another theory is that the Gothic word comes from the Proto-Germanic *elpanduz (elephant, camel), which possibly comes from the Hittite word hu(wa)lpant (humpback), or from another ancient language of Anatolian such as Luwian [source].
The word for elephant in Czech (and also in Slovak, Serbian, Croatian and Slovenian) is slon [slon], which comes from the Proto-Slavic *slonъ (elephant) [source], which comes either from the Turkish aslan (lion), or from *sloniti (to lean against), relating to the medieval story of an elephant sleeping leaning on a tree [source].
An interesting word I heard the other day is tartle. It’s a Scots word that means “To hesitate, to be uncertain as in recognising a person or object; to boggle, “as a horse does”; to hesitate about clinching a bargain.” or “To recognise, esp. after some uncertainty, to discern”.
An example of how it is used is: “I tartled at him, I could not with certainty recognise him.”
The related adjective, tartlesome, means “disposed to start objections, captious*”.
*Captious [ˈkæpʃəs] = “apt to notice and make much of trivial faults or defects; faultfinding; difficult to please.” [source].
One of the Russian words I learnt this week is грабить [ˈɡrabʲɪtʲ], which sounds like ‘grab it’ and means to rob, burgle or pillage.
An example of how it’s used is: Нельзя же грабить банк в платье (You can’t rob a bank in a dress) – is this something that often comes up in Russian conversation? [source].
I wondered if this word is related to the English word grab, so decided to find out.
According to Wiktionary, грабить comes from the Proto-Slavic *gràbiti (to grab, seize). This comes either from the Proto-Balto-Slavic *grāˀb-, from Proto-Indo-European *gʰreb (to rake). Or from the Proto-Indo-European *gʰrebʰ- (to seize).
Grab comes from the Middle Dutch grabben (to grab), or from the Middle Low German grabben (to snap), from the Proto-Germanic *grab-, from Proto-Indo-European *gʰrebʰ-, which is one possible root of грабить, so they might be related [source].
Even if the two words are not related, their similar sound will help me remember the Russian one.
There are currently nine different ways to write these languages, using either the Roman alphabet (qaliujaaqpait) or the Inkutitut syllabary (ᖃᓂᐅᔮᖅᐸᐃᑦ / qaniujaaqpait).
On 10th September 2019 the ITK decided to adopt a standardised way of writing all the Inuit languages and dialects of Canada using the Roman alphabet known as the Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait writing system. It includes ways to write the sounds found in all these languages, even though some are only used in a few of the languages. More information.
I’m not entirely sure how all the consonants are pronunced – the illustrations of the orthography don’t include pronuciation.
The intention with the new orthography is to provide an alternative, auxiliary writing system that can be used as well as, or instead of, the existing systems. The new writing system will make it easier to produce learning resources and other written material. It is also hoped that more speakers of Inuit languages will write in them, rather than using English.
In a Russian lesson I did yesterday, I learnt that a word for gate is ворота (vorota). Then it gave me a phrase using a different word for gate – Где гейт? (Gde gejt?), which means “Where is the gate?”, and refers to the kind of gate you get at an airport. Slightly confusing. So I wondered what kind of gate is a ворота.
Apparently a ворота is a (double) gate, gateway, portal, goal or sluicegate.
Other Russian words for gate include:
выход (vychod) = egress, exit, gate, orifice, outcome