Tag: French

tree

Branching out: tree idioms and phrases

Many countries around the world have days on which citizens, companies, and groups are encouraged to plant and care for trees. These are usually observed in spring – which, of course, is at different times of year depending upon hemisphere – and the last Friday of April is National Arbor Day in the US. The […]

Read more »
false friends

Shakespeare’s false friends

False friends (‘faux amis’) are words in one language which look the same as words in another. We therefore think that their meanings are the same, and get a shock when we find they are not. Generations of French students have believed that demander means ‘demand’ (whereas it means ‘ask’) or librairie means ‘library’ (instead […]

Read more »
culprit_large

The curious case of culprit

Amnesia, disguises, and mistaken identities? No, these are not the plot twists of a blockbuster thriller or bestselling page-turner. They are the story of the word culprit.   At first glance, the origin of culprit looks simple enough. Mea culpa, culpable, exculpate, and the more obscure inculpate: these words come from the Latin culpa, “fault” or “blame.” One would suspect that culprit is the same, yet we should never be […]

Read more »
petri dish_large

10 inventions named after people

Inventors’ Day is celebrated on different days in many countries to recognize the contributions of inventors. In the US, the event falls on 11 February – the anniversary of Thomas Edison’s birth. We would like to take this occasion to explore the linguistic contributions of inventors to the English language. Browse our list below to […]

Read more »
light_large

Light, bright, and sparkling: the language of light

The UN has declared 2015 to be the ‘International Year of Light’, so we thought that was a good opportunity to look at the language of light. Unsurprisingly, light is a very old word. It appears at the beginning of one of the oldest texts in English – Aelfric’s translation of Genesis – in the […]

Read more »
sax

How the saxophone got its name: an A-Z of instruments

6 November is World Saxophone Day, apparently. It’s the anniversary of the day the inventor was born – we’ll share his name a little later. We thought it was a good opportunity to produce an alphabet of interesting instrument names, from accordion to zither. As far as possible, we’ve tried to stick to common instruments […]

Read more »
snooker

The language of snooker

Snooker is a nineteenth-century development of the much older game of billiards, which dates back as far as the sixteenth century. Billiards gets its name from the French word billard ‘cue’, a diminutive form of bille ‘stick’. Once adopted into English the word was pluralized, on the model of other games such as draughts and […]

Read more »
chess

The language of chess

Although the game itself may be viewed as the domain of grandmasters, child geniuses, and computer boffins, the language of chess has infiltrated everyday parlance in a number of ways. Any game or debate that ends in a draw may be said to have resulted in a stalemate, while check can refer to any form of […]

Read more »

Tweets