Look around place names in the United Kingdom and you will find many places with three or more words in their names, often with a preposition somewhere in the middle. Consider cities like Stoke-on-Trent, Southend-on-Sea, Newcastle upon Tyne, Barton-upon-Humber, Barton on Sea, and perhaps more famously, Stratford-upon-Avon. Each of these places has either an "on", … Continue reading Why do these place names have prepositions in them?
Guinea — 4 Countries, 1 Former Currency
Guinea. Guinea-Bissau. Equatorial Guinea. Papua New Guinea. Other than the words "and", "the", "of", and "Islands", Guinea is one of the names more commonly shared among multiple nations. It definitely piques the curiosity of people, who might wonder, why are there so many countries with Guinea in its name? Are they all in the same … Continue reading Guinea — 4 Countries, 1 Former Currency
How did we get the word and place name Slough?
Slough. It is probably one of the words that somehow invoke negative connotations, even without actually being to that place itself. Located 32km west of Central London (defined as Charing Cross), this town in Berkshire has a population of more than 160 000, and is actually home to a lot of headquarters (or UK HQs, … Continue reading How did we get the word and place name Slough?
Who are the ‘wizards’ in our installation wizards?
From the surface, the mention of the word 'wizard' would conjure up connotations surrounding fantasy, magic, and spells. So often has that been portrayed in pop culture, from series such as Harry Potter, to the various isekai anime around here. But there is another place where we would find the word 'wizard'. One not so … Continue reading Who are the ‘wizards’ in our installation wizards?
The words we say but do not actually need — Tautology
We do say a bunch of unnecessary stuff in our everyday conversations and monologues. You know, the machine in ATM machine, the comics in DC comics (yes, DC technically stands for Detective Comics), and the display in LCD display. Many of these words are already incorporated in the abbreviations that contain them. Furthermore, when we … Continue reading The words we say but do not actually need — Tautology
What is Cockfosters meant to mean?
Picture this. You just landed in London Heathrow Airport, made it through passport control, and collected your checked baggage, if you brought some along. You now needed to make your way towards the city center (or Zone 1) because that is where your hotel is. You decided to board the London Underground because that is … Continue reading What is Cockfosters meant to mean?
The “-sex” in some British place names
The United Kingdom has some interesting place names. From names that could sound rather vulgar, like Bitchfield in Lincolnshire, Penistone, and Scunthorpe in South Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire respectively, to some outright ridiculous names like Braintree and Splatt. Many of these names are scattered throughout England, and to a smaller extent, Scotland. But today, we … Continue reading The “-sex” in some British place names
From politics to proverb
A proverb is meant to be simple, it is meant to be insightful, and it expresses a perceived truth based on common experiences. Often figurative or metaphorical, proverbs collectively form a sort of folklore passed down by oral traditions. You may have heard of "Your mileage may vary" or "ignorance is bliss", but how about … Continue reading From politics to proverb
Where did Idaho come from?
While browsing meme pages and terrible or not-so-terrible maps, I came across this one: Ignoring the notion of Proto-World, it appears that 48 of the 50 states plus Washington DC in the US of A have some sort of an etymology. After doing a bit of fact checking, that is correct. But now we come … Continue reading Where did Idaho come from?
Where did “pineapple” come from?
Ananas. That is the name of the fruit that contains bromelain, an enzyme that breaks down proteins. Known for its tropical and exotic feel, this fruit has also found itself deep in controversy over its status as a pizza topping, dividing gastronomic communities all over. Yet, there is also another thing this fruit has stirred, … Continue reading Where did “pineapple” come from?
When capitalisation actually makes a difference
There is a curious poem in the book titled The Word Circus, written by Richard Lederer, and published in 1998. Called "Job's Job", it goes something like: In August, an august patriarchWas reading an ad in Reading, Mass.Long-suffering Job secured a jobTo polish piles of Polish brass.Richard Lederer, in The Word Circus, 1998 While seeming like … Continue reading When capitalisation actually makes a difference
The languages where you greet like pirates?
Greetings. Probably the second thing you learn in a new languages just after the swear words and profanities. Across Europe, you would hear something along the lines of "hello", "hi", "good day", and the like. But there is this area in Europe that has a more, well, maritime-sounding greeting. Meet the languages of Czech, Slovak, … Continue reading The languages where you greet like pirates?
Where did the word ‘scam’ come from?
A web of deception. Lies. All resulting in the financial loss in the victim, with almost nothing good in return. It comes in many different forms, from the street, to your phone as robocalls, or to your emails in your spam folder. With it, comes many different terminologies specifying the type of deception, like the … Continue reading Where did the word ‘scam’ come from?
The differences between “genau”, “eben”, and “gerade”
In colloquial German, and perhaps online discourse, you would see one of these words used in conversations. Just like other expressions like the infamous bitte, these words have different meanings, and are used in slightly different contexts. Here, we will be looking at the differences between the words genau, eben, and gerade. Genau In German … Continue reading The differences between “genau”, “eben”, and “gerade”
A look back at Wordle
In January 2022, a game took the Internet by storm. In a burst of popularity, millions have taken to solve daily challenges, with a simple objective -- to guess the five letter word of the day within six guesses. Although originally released in English, this game has since been released in other languages, but ultimately … Continue reading A look back at Wordle
How did this word mean three different pronouns?
When learning languages, one can never escape from having to learn about pronouns. For some, it is quite "straightforward", while for others, not so much. As such, I was not surprised to see some of my classmates in German class trying to understand which pronoun this one word meant in certain contexts, written or spoken. … Continue reading How did this word mean three different pronouns?
The silent “w” in some British place names
In the past couple of Word Bites posts, we have gone over some of the most difficult (more rather, misleading) British place names to pronounce, and how those names originated, and some ideas why the pronunciation changed to strongly deviate from what is written. But today, let's explore some of the typical patterns in some … Continue reading The silent “w” in some British place names
Word Bites — Des milliers, des millions, des milliards
I remember a song by a French singer Jean-Louis Aubert titled "Milliers, Millions, Milliards", translated as "Thousands, Millions, Billions" in English. While a rather catchy song in its melody and lyrics, the title alone sort of hides a little linguistic curiosity. Let's explore another example, using a different language branch. In German, "million" is, well, … Continue reading Word Bites — Des milliers, des millions, des milliards
Word Bites — Why does the word “irregardless” exist?
It sounds ungrammatical, yet seemingly so intuitive to say. Even so, this word has attracted much controversy about its use in the twentieth century, in definition, usage, and the like. While it has been recognised as a dictionary entry decades ago, it still shows up as a spelling error in some text editors, including the … Continue reading Word Bites — Why does the word “irregardless” exist?
Word Bites — What is the deal with the word “obligated”?
When asked for a word meaning "a morally or legally bound act for a person", or "a duty or commitment", one would probably mention the word "obligation". And they would be right. However, when asked about the verb form of the noun "obligation", this is where we start to hear multiple answers. While I tend … Continue reading Word Bites — What is the deal with the word “obligated”?
Word Bites — From servitude to greeting, the story of “Servus”
When starting off in learning languages, learners would tend to take two different starter paths -- learning the greetings, and learning the profanities. Today we are talking about the former, one which has a rather interesting history. While I have dabbled here and there in German before coming to Germany to study, I realised down … Continue reading Word Bites — From servitude to greeting, the story of “Servus”
Word Bites — Different cities, similar names (Helsinki / Helsingfors, Helsingborg, Helsingør)
There are many places in the world that share the same name, or rather similar names. Take the distribution of all the Londons, Parises, and Romes of the world. While the most popular versions are the "originals" found in the UK, France, and Italy respectively, it did not stop the US, Canada, and even Kiribati … Continue reading Word Bites — Different cities, similar names (Helsinki / Helsingfors, Helsingborg, Helsingør)
Word Bites — More notorious British place names to pronounce
Previously, we have covered three of the British place names which do not seem to follow any pronunciation rule at all. This week, we are back with another installation of three place names to dissect -- their etymology, possible evolution pattern, and what this place actually is. You might also want to keep a score … Continue reading Word Bites — More notorious British place names to pronounce
Word Bites — Why are people of the Netherlands called Dutch?
As we have covered before in the segment on the demonym "Soton" to refer to people in Southampton, there are many weird and interesting demonyms around the world. So today, we will take a look at an interesting etymology behind yet another demonym, this time, used to refer to residents residing in the Netherlands. Sometimes, … Continue reading Word Bites — Why are people of the Netherlands called Dutch?
Word Bites — Beaulieu, Woolfardisworthy, and other wacky British place names
Some British places are famous for their significance, like say, Brighton, or Manchester, or Greenwich. Other British places, however, are a bit more notorious for their wacky pronunciations, as with what is often regarded as the most difficult to pronounce British place name, Frome in Somerset, England. Among its ranks come Woolfardisworthy in Devon, and … Continue reading Word Bites — Beaulieu, Woolfardisworthy, and other wacky British place names
Word Bites — Similar words, different origins
Sometimes, people suggest that languages are related just because of a small number of lexical similarities between them. However, it could be extremely likely that these words appear similar by sheer coincidence. Perhaps, one of the most well-known examples quoted is the rather striking similarity between English and Mbabaram, for the word "dog". However, English … Continue reading Word Bites — Similar words, different origins
Word Bites — Is Japan “Nihon” or “Nippon”? Or both?
Described by the West as "The Land of the Rising Sun", the country of Japan is known to us English speakers as, well, Japan. In Japanese, this name is written as the kanji 日本, but carry two commonly used pronunciations, "Nihon" and "Nippon". We see and hear both forms across Japanese media and maybe some … Continue reading Word Bites — Is Japan “Nihon” or “Nippon”? Or both?
Word Bites — Why do some people say “this here” instead of “this”?
In some videos, movies, or films, you may have heard some characters or people use the phrase "this here (something)" or "that there (something)", probably to portray a more country or old-style atmosphere. However, occasionally, I have heard instances where phrases like this are spoken in perhaps some places in America. So this got me … Continue reading Word Bites — Why do some people say “this here” instead of “this”?
Word Bites — From Ross to Pferd
There are odd etymologies in various languages, and here, I want to present one of them. One that is rather commonly used, identified, and known by all. That is the word "horse". Understandably, given that English is a Germanic language, we would expect to see a rather similar sounding translation for this word. Right? Well, … Continue reading Word Bites — From Ross to Pferd
Word Bites — “Yard Sard” or “Yale Sale”
You may have encountered this meme, as vintage as it may be, now lurking in the depths of internet history and being dug up from time to time. A simple misspelt sign appearing in 2008, this has come to spread far and wide. But this is not a one-off event. Signs reading "Yard sard" or … Continue reading Word Bites — “Yard Sard” or “Yale Sale”
Word Bites — Dord?
In 1934, a curious word entry appeared in the D-section of the second edition of the New International Dictionary, published by G. and C. Merriam Company, what is now part of Merriam-Webster. The word was defined as a synonym for density, used in the contexts of physics and chemistry. However, this word was completely removed … Continue reading Word Bites — Dord?
Word Bites — The Mystery of Soton
Sometimes, place names can often make little to no sense. Take Southampton and Northampton, in the United Kingdom, for example. One might think that they are bordering each other, but no. While Southampton is a city in the county of Hampshire, curiously deriving its name from Southampton itself, Northampton is located in Northamptonshire, somewhere in … Continue reading Word Bites — The Mystery of Soton
Word Bites — Divergences in Korean words
The demarcation of the border between the Republic of Korea (ROK), or South Korea, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), or North Korea, marked the separation of not only a people separated by ideology, but also how new words entered the Korean language. Over time, different policies towards the Korean languages in the … Continue reading Word Bites — Divergences in Korean words
Word Bites — Awful vs Awesome
The English language is weird, yet interesting. Words that form from similar roots can take different, or opposite meanings. Sometimes, word pairs that sound like they have opposite meanings have rather similar, or identical meanings. Plus, there are also contronyms, where words can have opposite meanings based on the context in which they are used. … Continue reading Word Bites — Awful vs Awesome