Episode 50 – Solstice

As I recorded this episode 21st December, I decided to look at the meanings and origins of some seasonal words.

Solstice [ˈsɒl.stɪs/ˈsɑl.stɪs] – from Old French solstice (solstice), from the Latin sōlstitium ((summer) solstice), from sōl (sun) and sistō (to stand still) [source].

Winter solstice

Sāturnālia [ˈsɒl.stɪs/ˈsɑl.stɪs] – an ancient Roman holiday honouring Saturn, the Roman of fertility and agriculture. It began on 17th December and was originally a one-day celebration. That was extended to three days during the 2nd century BC, and later extended to seven days [source].

During this time work stopped, and businesses, schools and courts were closed. Slaves were given time off and were served by their masters. People wore colourful clothes, decorated their houses with green branches and other things, gave each other gifts, and spent time with their families and friends eating, drinking, singing, making music, gambling and generally having a good time [source].

In Germanic-speaking cultures Yule originally lasted for whole of December and January. After the arrival of Christianity, the 12 days of Christmas became the main focus of the celebrations. The word yule comes from the Middle English yol (Yuletide, Christmas), from the Old English ġēol/ġeōl (Yuletide, Christmas midwinter) [source].

December is the 12th month of the year, but in the Roman calendar it was the tenth month, and the word December comes from the Latin decem (10) [source].

In Irish December is Mí na Nollag, or literally “the month of Christmas” [source]. In Scottish Gaelic it is an Dùbhlachd, which means “the darkening” [source]. In Welsh December is Rhagfyr, which means the “foreshortening”, referring to the short days [source].

Theme tune

Friday Afternoon / Prynhawn Dydd Gwener

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Blubrry podcast hosting

Omniglot News (12/12/21)

The new language pages on Omniglot this week are:

  • Poqomam (Qaq’oral), a Mayan language spoken mainly in the Jalapa Department in southern Guatemala.
  • Tektitek (B’a’aj), a Mayan language spoken mainly in the department of Huehuetenango in western Guatemala.
  • Uspantek (Uspanteko), a Mayan language spoken mainly in the department of Quiché in western Guatemala.

There are new numbers pages in the following languages (all of which are Mayan): Q’eqchi’, Q’anjob’al, Sakapultek, Yucatec Maya, Tektitek and Awakatek.

There’s a new page with a collection of Penny Pinching idioms and sayings in various languages that mean someone is stingy, tight or careful with their money.

On the Omniglot blog we find out when a chair is not a chair in a post entitled Soapy Chairs, and there’s the usual Language Quiz.

The mystery language in last week’s language quiz was Paha, a Kra language spoken in Wenshan Prefecture in Yunnan Province in southern China.

The Celtiadur post this week is about words for Grace and Favour in Celtic languages.

In the Adventure in Etymology this week we’re telling tales about the origins of the word tale.

I also made improvements to the Yucatec Maya and Awakatek language pages.

In other news, I made a little video of a tune I wrote a few years ago called The Whistling Windows / Y Ffenstri Sïo, which you can find on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube:

For more Omniglot News see:
https://www.omniglot.com/news/
https://twitter.com/Omniglossia
https://www.facebook.com/groups/omniglot/
https://www.facebook.com/Omniglot-100430558332117

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM or podtail.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Blubrry podcast hosting

Episode 49 – Linguistic Correctness

In this episode I talk about linguistic correctness. That is, the idea that there are correct ways to speak and write languages that conform to grammatical standards and conventions (“rules”), and that anything else is wrong.

There are three kinds of grammatical rules or conventions:

  1. Rules that everybody follows. For example in English, articles and adjectives precede nouns – you say the word and not word the, and a long word, not a word long.
  2. Rules that distinguish the standard varieties of a language from other varieties. For example, in standard English you might say ‘I don’t have any money’, while in some varieties you might say ‘I ain’t got no money’.
  3. Rules that are written in grammar books and which many people believe you should follow. For example, in English infinitives should never be split, sentences should never end with a prepostion, and you should never use a double negative. Many of these were just pet peeves and preferences of 18th century writers.

Then there are spelling and punctuation conventions, such as the use of commas, semi-colons and apostrophes.

I discussed what grammar is and where it comes from in Episode 16 and talk about the origins of some linguistic pet peeves in Episode 16

Further reading
What Is ‘Correct’ Language?
The Notion of Correctness
Definition and Examples of Correctness in Language

Theme tune

Friday Afternoon / Prynhawn Dydd Gwener

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Blubrry podcast hosting

Omniglot News (14/11/21)

There’s a new constructed script on Omniglot this week called Abbekosima, which can be used to write English and Russian, and was inspired by the Japanese, Chinese and Korean scripts.

Sample text in Abbekosima in Russian

There are new language pages in:

  • East Frisian (Ōstfräisk), or East Frisian Low Saxon, a mixture of Eastlauwers Frisian, Low German, Dutch and French that is spoken in northern Germany.
  • Moloko (Ma Mǝloko), a Chadic language spoken in the Far North Province of Cameroon.
  • Wanetsi (وڼېڅي), an Eastern Iranian language spoken in southwest Pakistan.
  • Sukuma (Kɪsukuma), a northeast Bantu language spoken in northern Tanzania.
  • Migaama (mìgáàmá), an East Chadic language spoken in central Chad.

There’s also a new numbers page in: Migaama.

There’s a new phrases page in: Tamasheq (Tafaghist), a Berber language spoken in parts of Mali and Burkina Faso.

The Celtiadur post this week is about words for words, calls and cries in Celtic languages.

This week on the Omniglot blog there’s a post about IndyLan, a EU-funded project to promote and teach languages such as Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Cornish, Northern Saami, Basque and Galician. There’s a post called Misdirection about directional words such as upward, downward and awkward – read it to find out which direction awkward is, and the usual Language Quiz

The mystery language in last week’s language quiz was Blang (Pu Lang), a Palaungic language spoken in southern China, and northern Myanmar / Burma and northern Thailand.

This week’s Adventure in Etymology looks at the origins of the word nogging, which should not be confused with noggin, although they might be related.

I also made improvements to the Marwari language page.

Last week I wrote a blog post inspired by the Welsh idiom Mae e’n cadw draenog yn ei boced, which means that he is careful with his money, or literally “he keeps a hedgehog in his pocket”. This inspired me to write a new song this week called Pocket Hedgehogs. You can also hear this on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube:

For more Omniglot News see:
https://www.omniglot.com/news/
https://twitter.com/Omniglossia
https://www.facebook.com/groups/omniglot/
https://www.facebook.com/Omniglot-100430558332117

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM or podtail.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Blubrry podcast hosting

Episode 48 – Gamification

In this episode I talk about the gamification of language learning, and specifically how gamification is used in language learning apps like Duolingo.

What is Gamification?
According to Wikipedia, “Gamification is the strategic attempt to enhance systems, services, organizations, and activities in order to create similar experiences to those experienced when playing games in order to motivate and engage users.”

Theme tune

Friday Afternoon / Prynhawn Dydd Gwener

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Find out more about StoryLearning [affiliate link]

Blubrry podcast hosting

Omniglot News (03/08/21)

There are three new languages on Omniglot this week:

  • Kusunda (मिहाक / कुसान्डा), a language isolate spoken in the southern Rolpa District of Lumbini province in west-central Nepal.
  • Kodeoha, a Celebic language spoken in Southeast Sulawesi province of Indonesia.
  • Bungku, a Celebic language spoken in the provinces of Central Sulawesi and Southeast Sulawesi in Indonesia.

There’s new constructed script on Omniglot this week called Aketal, an abugida invented by Kazimír Bodnár as an alternative way to write English.

There are new pages of phrases and numbers in Norfuk, an English and Taihitian-based creole language spoken on Norfolk Island in the Pacific, near Australia.

On the Omniglot blog this week there’s a post called Water Wagons, which looks into the origins of the phrase ‘to be on the wagon’, and the Language Quiz.

Last week’s mystery language was (Mambwe-)Lungu (ichiRungu), a Bantu language spoken at the southern end of Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania and Zambia.

In this week’s Celtiadur post you can find connections between circle-related words in Celtic languages, and the English word irrigate.

As quite a bit of wet stuff has been falling out of the sky this week, the Adventure in Etymology looks into the origins of the word rain.

I finally got round to making a new episode of the Radio Omniglot podcast, which looks at the history and use of Emoji (🖼️✍️).

I wrote a new song this week called Music in the Air, which you can also find on SoundCloud, Tiktok and YouTube:

For more Omniglot News see:
https://www.omniglot.com/news/
https://twitter.com/Omniglossia
https://www.facebook.com/groups/omniglot/
https://www.facebook.com/Omniglot-100430558332117

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM or podtail.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Blubrry podcast hosting

Episode 47 – Emoji (🖼️✍️)

Today we are looking at the origins and use of emoji, those little symbols that appear
in text messages, emails and other electronic communications.

An emoji is a pictogram, logogram, ideogram or smiley used in electronic messages and web pages. Emoji are used to fill in emotional cues otherwise missing from typed conversations. They include facial expressions, common objects, places and types of weather and animals [source].

The word emoji comes from the Japanese word 絵文字 (emoji), which is also written えもじ or エモジ, and means emoji, pictorial symbol, pictograph or pictogram, or literally “picture writing” [source].

Emoji first appeared in 1997 on a Japanese mobile phone made by J-Phone called the SkyWalker DP-211SW, which included 90 black and white emoji. It didn’t sell well and the emoji were rarely used.

A set of 176 colour emoji were created in 1999 by Shigetaka Kurita (栗田穣崇), who was inspired by manga (漫画) comics, which use symbols known as manpu (漫符) to represent emotions, actions, etc. They appeared on the i-mode pager developed by NTT DoCoMo. The emoji became popular in Japan and other companies starting add similar symbols to their mobile systems.

Between 2007 and 2010, the Unicode Consortium and other standarization bodies in the USA, Europe and Japan discussed and eventually agreed on a set of 722 emoji. These were included in the version 6.0 of Unicode, which was released in 2010. More emoji have been added since then, and they have become popular worldwide.

In 2014 the founder of Emojipedia, Jeremy Bruge, declared 17th July as World Emoji Day [source].

In 2015 the face with tears of joy emoji 😂was named Word of the Year by the Oxford Dictionaries [source].

There have been several musicals based on emoji in Los Angeles and New York, and The Emoji Movie was released in 2017 [source]..

According to a 2017 study at the University of Michigan that analysed emoji use in over 1.2 billion messages, the most widely used emoji are the face with tears of joy (😂), the red heart (❤️) and the smiling face with heart eyes (😍). People in Australia, France and Czechia are more likely to use happy emoji, while these in Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Argentina prefer more negative emoji.

The emojitracker site shows realtime emoji use on Twitter. As I’m writing this, the face with tears of joy (😂) appears in the top spot, followed by the red heart (❤️), the loudly crying face (😭), the smiling face with heart eyes (😍), and the recycling symbol (♻️).

The appearance of emoji vary between different operating systems, and the way they’re interpreted can vary from person to person. Some have developed particular meanings in specific contexts or places. Some are culturally specific, such as the white flower emoji (💮), which is used by teachers in Japan when their students have done well. It is also used to indicate love, happiness and beauty on special occasions such as Valentine’s Day. If you include emoji in a message, the person or people receiving it might not get the same meaning from them as you intended.

The novel Moby Dick has been ‘translated’ into emoji to become Emoji Dick or 🐳 (spouting whale), and a few other stories have been written in emoji. Whether readers understand them or not is another matter. Judging by the comments on one of them, most don’t. [source].

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Blubrry podcast hosting

Omniglot News (19/09/21)

There is a new writing system on Omniglot this week: The Global Alphabet, which was devised in 1944 by Robert Latham Owen as an alternative way to write English and other languages.

There’s a new adapted script: Türk Uygur Alfabesi, which is a way to write Turkish using the Uyghur version of the Arabic alphabet devised by Muhammad Shakeel.

There are three new languages on Omniglot this week:

  • Maguindanao (Magindanawn), a Central Philippine language spoken mainly in Maguindanao province in the south of Mindanao island in the Philippines.
  • Tonsawang (Toundanow), a Minahasan language spoken in the Southeast Minahasa Tenggara regency in North Sulawesi province of Indonesia.
  • Rinconada Bikol, a Central Philippine language spoken in the Bicol region in the southeast of Luzon in the Philippines.

There are Omniglot blog posts about being Quobbled and Kvetching, as well as the usual language quiz.

The mystery language in last week’s language quiz was Wayuu (Wayuunaiki), an Arawakan language spoken in northwestern Venezuela and northeastern Colombia.

The Celtiadur post this week is about words for battle and related things in Celtic languages.

This week’s Adventure in Etymology looks into the origins of the word bucket. Versions can be found on Instagram and TikTok and YouTube, which includes some extras bits.

On Friday afternoon I wrote a new tune called Friday Afternoon or Prynhawn Dydd Gwener, which goes something like this:

Another version is available on Tiktok and Instagram

For more Omniglot News see:
https://www.omniglot.com/news/
https://twitter.com/Omniglossia
https://www.facebook.com/groups/omniglot/
https://www.facebook.com/Omniglot-100430558332117

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM or podtail.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Blubrry podcast hosting

Episode 46 – Surnames

The word surname, as in a family name, comes from the Late Latin supernōmen/suprānōmen (surname), from super- (over, above, beyond) and nōmen (name) [source].

The most common surnames in England are: Smith, Jones, Taylor, Brown, Williams, Wilson, Johnson, Davies, Robinson and Wright [source].

Types of surname:

  • Occupational; Smith, Taylor, Wright
  • Patronimics; Jones, Williams, Wilson, Johnson, Davies, Robinson
  • Based on appearance: Brown

Smith is the most common surname in the English-speaking world, as are equivalents in many other languages, including Schmidt in German, Ferraro / Ferrari in Italian, Herrero in Spanish, Kovač in Serbian, Croatian, Slovak and Slovenian, and Mac Gabhann (McGowan) in Irish. It comes from the Old English word smitan (to smite, strike).

A smith is someone who works with metal, and has been used as an occupational surname since Anglo-Saxon times. There are various kinds of smith, and their names are or were used as surnames, including Blacksmith (works mainly with iron); Brownsmith and Redsmith (work with copper); Goldsmith (works mainly with gold); Shoesmith (makes horseshoes); Sixsmith (makes scythes and sickles – a version of Scythesmith or Sicklesmith), and Whitesmith (works with tin) [source].

The surname Taylor came to Britian with the Normans, and was first used in 1182. It comes from the Old French word tailleur (cutter). It is also common in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA [source].

The surname Wright comes from the Old English word wryhta/wyrhta (worker, shaper of wood). It is also common in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. There are quite a few surname that include wright, such as: Arkwright (a maker of wooden chests), Boatwright (a maker of boats), Cartwright (a maker of carts), Plowright (a maker of ploughs), Wainwright (a maker of wagons) [source].

Other occupational surnames include: Faulkner / Falconer (falcon trainer), Fletcher (arrow maker), Hayward (hedge warden), Parker (keeper of the park) and Walker (a fuller of cloth) [source].

Jones is the most common surname is Wales, and is also common in England and the USA. It’s based on Welsh patronimics meaning “son of John”, such as Mab Ioan or ap Siôn. These were commonly used until the mid 16th century, when Welsh people started using surnames, and many Welsh names were Anglicised, as all official documents had to be in English. Davies and Williams have similar origins [source]. More on Welsh surnames.

The surname Brown was originally a nickname for someone with brown hair or clothing. It’s common in England, Scotland, Canada, Australia and the USA. It was first used in England in 1066 in the form of Brun [source].

Other colour-based surnames include Black (dark-haired, or short for blacksmith), White (possibly referred to pale complexioned Vikings), Green (one who lives by the village green or is from a place called Green), Blue (someone with blue eyes / blue clothes), Red (red haired, ruddy complexion), Orange (associated with the Dutch House of Orange) and Pink (nickname for a bright, chirpy person) [source].

Other sourses
https://www.behindthename.com/name/geoffrey
https://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Ager
https://www.familyeducation.com/baby-names/name-meaning/ager


If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Blubrry podcast hosting

Omniglot News (01/08/21)

This week’s new languages are: Juang, Ye’kuana and Sandawe.

  • Juang (ଜୁଆଙ୍) – a Munda language spoken in Odisha state in eastern India.
  • Ye’kuana – a Cariban language spoken mainly in southern Venzuela, and also in northwest Brazil
  • Sandawe (Sàndàwé kì’ìng) – a language isolate spoken in the Dodoma Region of central Tanzania.

There’s a new constructed script Thai-ResPriv, an alternative way to write Thai devised by Jay and Pailin Strong.

This week’s Omniglot blog posts were about The Pull of Pandas, and the usual language quiz.

The mystery language in last week’s language quiz was Chulym (ӧс тили), a Siberian Turkic language spoken in the Republic of Khakassia in the south of the Russian Federation.

This week’s Celtiadur post was about kitchens and related words.

This week’s Adventure in Etymology looks at the origins of the word distract.

I finally made a new episode of the Radio Omniglot podcast this week about Japanese, and while I was doing that I got a bit distracted and made improvements to the Japanese language page on Omniglot.

For more Omniglot News see:
https://www.omniglot.com/news/
https://twitter.com/Omniglossia
https://www.facebook.com/groups/omniglot/
https://www.facebook.com/Omniglot-100430558332117