Category: Other languages

foreign words

7 foreign words you need to know

While Caroline James has already challenged the belief that there’s anything like an untranslatable word, we nonetheless felt inspired to explore the lexicon of foreign languages in search of interesting words that don’t have an exact equivalent in English. Such an endeavour can often yield amusing results, but also give insight into the peculiarities of […]

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Weather idioms: winds and storms

We recently took a look at idioms from around the world that use rain as a metaphor; today we turn our attention to those from German, Chinese, Russian, and more, that use winds and storms to get their point across. 1. In den Wind schreiben Language: German Translation: To write in the wind What does it […]

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Carefully constructed: the language of Franz Kafka

A few months ago I took part in a discussion of Kafka on Melvyn Bragg’s radio programme In Our Time. One of the other participants asserted that Kafka’s style describes horrific events in the emotionally deadpan tone of a bureaucrat report. This struck me immediately as wrong in lots of ways. I didn’t disagree, because […]

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Should I learn how to speak Esperanto?

What is Esperanto? Esperanto is a constructed language, invented by Jewish-Polish eye doctor Zamenhof in the late 19th century. The story behind the creation of this language is linked to Dr Zamenhof’s hometown. At a crossroads of wars in Europe, the town was split among German, Russian, Polish, and Jewish communities, that could not get […]

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Swear words, etymology, and the history of English

Swear words, etymology, and the history of English

Have you ever noticed that many of our swear words sound very much like German ones and not at all like French ones? From vulgar words for body parts (a German Arsch is easy to identify, but not so the French cul), to scatological and sexual verbs (doubtless you can spot what scheissen and ficken […]

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Weather idioms: rain

There are plenty of idioms in English that mention the weather – it is, after all, a British stereotype that we can’t hold a conversation without addressing the weather (and, no, it’s not always raining). That national obsession has influenced expressions like it never rains but it pours (misfortunes tend to arrive all at the […]

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Japanese gendered speech

We’ve all heard that supposedly women are from Venus and men are from Mars but how different are their styles of communication and speech? Linguists propose that women and men speak differently, regardless of which language they speak. These differences are often called gendered speech. Unlike the grammatical genders which can be assigned to nouns, […]

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Isra, Umar, and Yasmin: the meanings behind Arabic names

When asked which category of words to focus on for the May update of the online Arabic dictionary, we quickly decided: names! Let’s add scores of given names to the Arabic-English dictionary. Why, one might ask? After all, the English dictionary doesn’t list every Thomas, Richard, and Harriet as headwords; why do we list all […]

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