Archive for the ‘Languages’ Category


Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria, now renamed Ficaria verna) in the woodland part of my garden this week

What a strange word “yellow” seems to be. While most of our words for basic colours are very similar to the German words, such as blue, green and red for blau, grün and rot, at first glance yellow and gelb don’t seem to be related. But they are – about which I’ll say more later. (more…)

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The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 - a painting completed by Philipp Jakob Loutherbourg the Younger in 1796...

Well, I’ve “done” English words from Anglo-Saxon, Latin, Celtic, Scandinavian and Indian roots, so now it’s the turn of Spanish…

According to that old favourite book of mine, The English Language – Grammar, History, Literature by Professor Meiklejohn, printed in 1905, “The words we have received from the Spanish language are not numerous, but they are important”.

How wrong could he be! In 2011 modern English abounds with Spanish-based words, many of them, admittedly, coming to us through American English – largely through Hollywood movies, especially westerns.

But (more…)

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Surely everybody has heard of the James Cameron movie Avatar - but how many know the original meaning of the word?

Avatar? Juggernaut? Who’d have thought that words from ancient Indian religion would have such currency in the English language today?

I’ve already blogged about Latin words, Celtic words and Scandinavian words in the English language, but now (more…)

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A Viking family - the sea was never far away - image from the York Jorvik Centre

I’ve already blogged about Latin words and Celtic words in the English language, but now it’s the turn of the Scandinavian languages.

These contributed to our language during the 9th and 10th centuries, according to (more…)

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This blog post gives me the opportunity to use this lovely illustration of King Nuada from the Celtic Book of Conquests, by Jim Fitzpatrick (Paper Tiger, 1978)

I’ve already blogged about Latin words in the English language, but now it’s the turn of the Celtic languages such as Gaulish, Scots Gaelic, Irish and Welsh (but let’s also put in a good word for Cornish).

These have contributed to our language on several occasions, according to (more…)

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The Romans are coming... the Ermine Street Guard are a society dedicated to the accurate reconstruction of Roman armour and drill

Discipuli Picturam Spectate – pupils look at the picture…

Every chapter in that old schoolbook Latin For Today started with those words. I almost feel a thrill when I remember (more…)

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A wonderful old book on the English language by Professor Meiklejohn

I have a wonderful old book called The English Language – Grammar, History, Literature by Professor Meiklejohn. It was printed in 1905.

It is full of interesting stuff about the making of the English language and I dare say I will return to it several times to share some of its gems.

There is a fascinating section on the effect of Norman French on the language used in Britain after William the Conqueror (1066 and all that). We often see lists of the new words given to the language by the invaders, but we don’t so often hear about the losses from the previous Anglo-Saxon vocabulary.

To paraphrase the book, before the coming of the Normans, the English language was in the habit of forming new compounds with ease and effect, but afterwards this power disappeared and (more…)

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