Archive for the 'Languages' Category

I say tomato

Friday, February 18th, 2005

It occurred to me earlier to wonder again why fringes are called fringes in the UK but bangs in the US.

The Word Detective has this to say:

… “Bang” continued to evolve, and by the 19th century was used to convey suddenness or finality, which brings us at last from Old Norse hammers to modern haircuts. “Bangs” are so-called because they are created by cutting the hair “bang- off,” abruptly and straight across the forehead. And finally, at the risk of offending our bang-coiffed readers, I must tell you that “bangs” as a young lady’s hairstyle almost certainly originated with the practice of cutting horses’ tails straight across, a style known to this day as a “bang-tail.”


Especially egregious

Thursday, February 10th, 2005

Isn’t that a good turn of phrase? It comes from the Snopes’ debunking of the alleged (but untrue) Coca-Cola transliteration of their name into Chinese producing a rendering whose meaning was “bite the wax tadpole” [via Le petit Musée des Marques]. Just as famous (and just as untrue) is the GM Chevrolet Nova (no va = no go) being launched on the Spanish-speaking market. I used to have a long list of them, dating from the days when documents were photostatted not photocopied but I think it disappeared in a long-ago purge so a quick google reveals hundreds of them in their sometimes zenophobic splendour. Mind you, I still think sniggering at Ikea product names is allowed, no?*


Happy Candlemas/Groundhog Day

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2005

Kwitcherbelliakin and Zaftig? Why not submit your favourite word [via Celia]. I’m hoping that Karan will submit her wonderful awfuquit.

Not exactly language related but what a pretty search engine.

I might’ve mentioned this one before – a collection of word oddities and trivia but I came across names that became words again last night. You probably already know that the leotard was named after French acrobat Jules Léotard but did you know that the jacuzzi was named after its inventors, Roy and Candido Jacuzzi? Or that knickerbockers were named after Dietrich Knickerbocker, the pseudonym of author Washington Irving? Fascinating stuff.

And I guess you could use this list of longest monosyllabic words if there ever was a competition to write a haiku with the most characters… go on then – it’s a challenge: submissions please for a haiku in English using as many letters as possible.

There’s lovely

Friday, January 28th, 2005

From a recent online survey by the BBC:

Welsh accents are among the least popular in the UK, doctor according to a BBC poll.

Many who took part in the survey believed that having a Welsh accent could hinder a career.

Have I experienced prejudice? Oh yes. Do I give a monkeys? Nah.

Just shout a bit louder

Sunday, January 9th, 2005

Nine out of 10 British workers speak only English, despite a desire to work abroad, a survey has shown.


Languages will no longer be compulsory from ages 14 to 16 in England* from this autumn.

Follow up discussion: Why Britons are ‘language barbarians’.

*that’s England, not the rest of the United Kingdom. Although you never know, given the BBC’s propensity for bandying around England and Britain as if they were synonyms.

Blogging for Aid #8 [Competition!]

Tuesday, December 28th, 2004

Someone has taken the time to ask Google to translate this page [merci!] and as I chuckled at the very literal translations of blog names I had a “ding” moment – how about a quick quiz – the first one to leave a comment with all answers correct gets a Daisy Winter Burn – similar to the Summer Burn cd but with a few surprises. So, here’s Quiz #1 : French:

  1. Nymphe D’Enchaînement
  2. Pas asse’ont dessiné dans le monde
  3. Aléatoire Pense
  4. Chien ou plus haut
  5. Lait Et Biscuits
  6. Le Cancer rit nerveusement
  7. Une belle révolution
  8. Fossette De Chariot
  9. Épousseter Mon Cerveau
  10. Je pourrais avoir été un compétiteur

A bum by any other name

Wednesday, December 15th, 2004

A great link from Dave Goodman to the Online Etymology Dictionary. Let’s look up the origin of bum:

bum (1)
“buttocks,” 1387, “probably onomatopoeic, to be compared with other words of similar sound and with the general sense of ‘protuberance, swelling.’ ” [OED]

bum (2)
“dissolute loafer, tramp,” 1864, Amer.Eng., from bummer “loafer, idle person” (1855), possibly an extension of the British word for “backside” (similar development took place in Scotland, 1540), but more prob. from Ger. slang bummler “loafer,” from bummeln “go slowly, waste time.” Bum first appears in a Ger.-Amer. context, and bummer was popular in the slang of the North’s army in Amer. Civil War (as many as 216,000 Ger. immigrants in the ranks). Bum’s rush “forcible ejection” first recorded 1910. Bummer “bad experience” is 1960s slang.

server of writs, maker of arrests, etc., 1601, from bum “arse,” because he was always felt to be close behind.

Bookmarked ready for Christmas holiday and a chance to look up lots of rude words do some research.

A Depravity Metric

Sunday, December 12th, 2004

Tensor [via Andrea] has an interesting post on holiday locations:

I recently had reason to use the phrase “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” (my sister’s fiancé is having a bachelor party), and then a few days later I read an Onion article titled “What Happens At Yucca Mountain Stays At Yucca Mountain”. This got me to thinking that maybe it would be possible to roughly measure the reputation for depravity of a particular location by counting the number of Google hits for the phrase “what happens in PLACENAME stays in PLACENAME”. The results below are an interesting catalog of spring break hotspots, gambling meccas, and other places where you’re likely to embarrass yourself. Use it to plan your next vacation!

Alas, Abergavenny can’t offer much in the way of depravity. Where else should we be looking then?

Update: Um, that should have been Abergavenny. With the quotes. I am an idiot.

Update 2: To make up for that idiocy I’ve googled (properly) for all the places I’ve ever lived in – Paris, Boston, London, Brussels and Holland. Holland wins, hans down. Oh I do like me puns.

#35 Good news for Welsh speaking OpenOffice users

Sunday, July 25th, 2004

Via Neil – OpenOffice is now available in Welsh as a free download.

Essential new words for 2004

Thursday, July 15th, 2004

Waving your arms around and talking Bollocks.

Sitting around in a group, discussing why a deadline was missed or a project failed, and who was responsible.

A manager who flies in, makes a lot of noise, cr*ps on everything, and then leaves.


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