[Repost] If you could learn any EU language, which would you learn, and why?

If you could learn any EU language, which would you learn, and why?


As someone who decided to study Japanese, French and Irish (not the most typical of language combinations), I have always been fascinated by the reasons why people choose to learn certain languages. Because they enjoy the food and culture of the country where the language is spoken? Because their family or friends speak the language? Because speaking the language will get them a better job?

I got the opportunity to formally examine the reasons why people learn languages, language learner motivation, while writing my MA thesis last year. I studied an MA in Conference Interpreting at NUI Galway and throughout the year-long course we were regularly visited by staff interpreters of the EU institutions who came as pedagogical assistants to give us advice and feedback. I was always fascinated by the different language combinations these experienced interpreters had and frankly, envious that the EU institutions encouraged them to learn more languages by providing language classes and leave for study abroad for priority languages. I started to wonder, did staff interpreters learn languages that they were really interested in, or did they learn languages that were in demand and therefore beneficial to their interpreting career?

In order to investigate this question, I drew on research in the field of second language acquisition and, in particular, learner motivation. According to Noels’ self-determination theory, learner motivation ranges from extrinsic orientations of motivation to intrinsic orientations of motivation. According to self-determination theory, there are two general types of motivation, one based on intrinsic interest in the activity per se and the other based on rewards extrinsic to the activity itself (Noels et al 2000, p. 38).

On the extrinsic end of the scale, learners are under external pressure to learn the language; because it is a compulsory subject, they need it for their job, they need to learn it to avoid some negative outcome, etc. On the intrinsic end of the scale, learners want to learn the language out a sense of personal interest and enjoyment. Various orientations of motivation are at work in the case of each individual language learner. However, according to research by Noels, successful learners are more likely to be those who display more intrinsic orientations of motivation.

A person who is intrinsically motivated to perform an activity does so because it is inherently enjoyable and satisfying. In the context of second language acquisition, the learner may be interested in the language and culture, enjoy the sounds and rhythm of the language or simply enjoy acquiring new knowledge and mastering a difficult task. This form of motivation is associated with greater success in second language acquisition (Noels 2001, p. 45).

I set out to test this theory, taking staff conference interpreters who have added another working language as models of successful language learners – after all, knowing a language well enough to interpret it is an example of highly successful language acquisition! I used a self-report questionnaire, which I distributed via email and social media, to gather information about staff interpreters at the European Commission’s DG SCIC who had added another language to their combination since started to work there, and asked them to rank and rate the factors that had influenced their decision to learn the language in question.

61 interpreters responded to the survey. The results of the online questionnaire show that a wide range of languages were added by the participants; 18 out of 24 official EU languages were added by the survey sample; Dutch, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, German, English, Swedish, Polish, Russian, Danish, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Croatian, Estonian, Lithuanian, Maltese and Romanian. Languages added range from very widely spoken languages such as Spanish and English, to minority languages such as Maltese and Irish.

In 87% of responses, interest in the language and associated culture were identified as being either a very important or important factor in the participant’s choice to learn a particular language.


When asked to rank various factors in order of importance, personal interest was ranked most important in 59% of cases:


In 68% of cases, respondents agreed or strongly agreed that enjoying visiting the country/countries where a language is spoken was an important factor in their choice to learn the language in question, and in 68% of cases, respondents agreed or strongly agreed that enjoying the culture of the country/countries where a language is spoken was an important factor.

The survey data showed evidence that the main factor affecting the participants’ decisions to add a working language was intrinsic motivation. However, this was not the only factor at play. Respondents displayed a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, with more motivation from the intrinsic end of the scale playing an important role in the decision to add a working language. Some respondents had an interest in the language they learned but also cited the benefit to their career of another language as a motivating factor. Some respondents chose to learn certain languages not only because they had an interest in the associated culture, but also because of similarities between that language and a language they already knew. High levels of externally regulated orientations of motivation were also identified among some respondents, and some reported feeling pressure to learn another language, but these respondents were a minority. The high level of intrinsically oriented motivation displayed by these successful language learners supports Noels’ theory that intrinsic orientations of motivation are more likely to result in successful language acquisition.

So what can we conclude from this? Well, if you are thinking of learning a language, learn one you are genuinely interested in! You’ll learn Chinese far quicker if you have passion for Chinese culture and an interest in the country, than if you are purely learning it for the career benefits. If you have lots of Croatian friends and you want to be able to speak their language, go for it! If you love travel and want to backpack around South America meeting new people and experiencing new cultures, why not learn Spanish? If you are genuinely interested and intrinsically motivated, learning a language is that little bit easier.

Interpreting Studies and Second Language Acquisition Terms

active language: language into which an interpreter is capable of interpreting (Jones 1998, p. 131).

A language: ‘The interpreter’s mother tongue (or its strict equivalent) into which they work from all their other working languages in both consecutive and simultaneous interpretation’ (AIIC, 2012).

B language: ‘language in which the interpreter is perfectly fluent, but is not a mother tongue. An interpreter can work into this language from one or several of their other working languages, but may prefer to do so in only one mode of interpretation, either consecutive or simultaneous’ (AIIC, 2012c).

C language: language ‘which the interpreter understands perfectly but into which they do not work. They will interpret from this (these) language(s) into their active languages’ (AIIC, 2012).

conference interpreting: interpreting in multilateral communication, for example in international conferences, using either consecutive and/or simultaneous modes of interpreting (Pöckhacker 2004, p. 16).

consecutive interpreting: the interpreter listens to the totality of the speaker’s comments, or at least a significant passage, and then reconstitutes the speech in another language with the help of notes taken during the original (Jones 1998, p. 5).

DG SCIC: Directorate General for Interpretation, also known as DG SCIC. the European Commission’s interpreting service and conference organiser (European Commission, 2013).

interpreting: immediate oral translation of an utterance from one language into another (Pöckhacker 2004, p. 11). 1.

L1 (Also referred to as ‘mother tongue’ or ‘first language’): language or languages that a child learns from parents, siblings and caretakers during the critical years of development, from the womb up to about four years of age (Ortega 2009, p. 5).

L2 (Also referred to as ‘additional language’ or ‘second language’): any language learned after the mother tongue (Ortega 2009, p. 5).

language combination (also referred to as ‘linguistic combination‘): ‘sum of an interpreter’s active and passive languages’ (Jones 1998, p. 133).

passive language: language out of which an interpreter is capable of interpreting (Jones 1998, p. 132).

simultaneous interpreting: the interpreter begins interpreting while the speaker is still speaking. The interpreter is speaking simultaneously to the original, hence the name (Jones 1998, p. 5).

working language: language which an interpreter can interpret into, or out of, or both (Jones 1998, p. 133).


AIIC (2012) Working languages (Online). Available at: http://aiic.net/node/6/working-languages/lang/1 (Accessed 07 July 2013).

Deci, L. et al (1991) ‘Motivation and Education: The Self-Determination Perspective’, in Educational Psychologist, 26(3 & 4), pp. 325-346 (Online). Available from: http://selfdeterminationtheory.org/SDT/documents/1991_DeciVallerandPelletierRyan_EP.pdf (Accessed 24 July 2013).

Dörnyei, Z. (2001) ‘New themes and approaches in second language motivation research’, Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 21, pp. 43-59 (Online). Available from: http://journals.cambridge.org.libgate.library.nuigalway.ie/action/displayAbstract?fromfrom=online&aid=100729 (Accessed 4 July 2013).

European Commission (2013) About DG Interpretation. Available from: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/scic/about-dg-interpretation/index_en.htm (Accessed: 03 June 2013).

Jones, R. (1998) Conference interpreting explained. Manchester: St Jerome publishing.

Ortega, L. (2009) Understanding second language acquisition. London : Hodder Education.

Pöchhacker, F. (2004) Introducing interpreting studies. London: Routledge.

Noels, K. (2001) ‘New orientations in language learning motivation: Towards a model of intrinsic, extrinsic and integrative orientations and motivation’, in Dörnyei, Z. & Schmidt, R. (eds) Motivation and Second Language Acquisition. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, pp. 43-68.

Noels, K. et al. (2003) ‘Why are you learning a second language? Motivational orientations and self-determination theory’, Language Learning, 53 (1), pp. 33-63 (Online). Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.libgate.library

Article written by Sarah O’Farrell, translator and terminologist at the Terminology Coordination Unit.


Cf. http://termcoord.eu/2014/03/learn-eu-language-learn/

[Repost] 11 Confusing Words and Common Errors

11 Confusing Words and Common Errors

in Confusing WordsVocabulary

Confusing Vocabulary Words in English

Image source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

#6 – Meet / Know

Don’t say: “I knew him last year.”

Say: “I met him last year.”

Meet has two meanings:

  • When you have first contact with a person
    “I met him last year”
  • When you will encounter someone you already know. In this case, we often use “meet with” or “meet up with”
    “I’m meeting up with some friends at the bar after work.”

Know has two different meanings/uses:

  • With knowledge and skills in general
    “He knows everything about computers.”
  • With knowing people in general
    “Do you know Janet? She’s in the advanced English class.”
    “No, I don’t think I know her.”

#28 – Wait / Hope / Expect

Don’t say: “I’m waiting my friend to call.”

Say: “I’m waiting for my friend to call.”

Wait = Pass the time until something happens

  • It’s 6:45. I’m waiting for the 7:00 bus.
  • We waited in line for three hours to get tickets to the concert.
  • You need to wait for the computer to finish updating.

Don’t confuse “wait” with hope and expect:

Hope = Want something to happen

  • hope I’ll get a promotion this year!
  • I’m sorry to hear you’re sick. I hope you get better soon!
  • The traffic is very bad today. I hope I won’t be late.

Expect = Believe that something probably will happen.

  • We’re expecting a visit from some clients – they said they would come at 4:30.
  • My boss expects me to arrive on time every day.

#40 – Before / Ago / Back

Don’t say: “I sent the letter two months before.”

Say: “I sent the letter two months ago.”

Or: “I sent the letter two months back.” (informal)

Ago and back are used for past times from the present moment. Before is used for past times from another time in the past. Here are some examples of before:

  • Yesterday I missed my train. I got to the train station at 7:10, but the train had left ten minutes before.
  • I was very happy when I got this job last year, because I had lost my previous job six months before.

#92 – Raise / rise / arise

Don’t say: “The government is going to rise taxes.”

Say: “The government is going to raise taxes.”

Rise means “to go up” or “to increase” – by itself. There is only a subject; there is no object.

  • The sun rises at 6:00 AM.
  • Energy consumption rose 20% this year.

Raise means “to move something to a higher position” or “to increase something,” so there are two entities, the subject (which performs the action) and the object (the thing that is moved or increased):

  • raised my hand to answer the teacher’s question.
    (subject = I; object = my hand)
  • The state is raising the minimum age to get a driver’s license – from 16 to 18.
    (subject = the state; object = the minimum age to get a driver’s license)

Raise can also be used in a more metaphorical sense:

  • He raised some objections to the project proposal.
    (= he expressed the objections)
  • Our baseball team raised money for a local orphanage.
    (= collected money from donations)
  • My parents raised their voices during the argument.
    (= spoke louder)
  • The college is raising the bar for new applicants.
    (= increasing the standards)

Arise is similar to rise, but is more formal and abstract. It can also be used to mean “appear” or “result from”:

  • Several important questions arose during the meeting.
  • I’d like to work in Japan, if the opportunity arises.
  • A new spirit of hope has arisen among the country’s people.
  • Sorry, I’ll need to cancel our appointment. A few problems have arisen.


– See more at: http://espressoeng.staging.wpengine.com/english-vocabulary-11-confusing-words-and-common-errors/#sthash.gNZXyAfa.IFJ9UiSr.dpuf

Bedtime Story.




I do like the way this word is spelt.
B+E+D: headBoard, mattrEss and footboarD.


Essere Italiana – “To Be an Italian” [A project developed by Sasha Netchaev]

To Be An Italian – Culinary ArtsGraphic Design by Sasha Netchaev

To Be Italian

Some people say I was born Italian in another life, and I sincerely believe that.
I was fortunate enough to study abroad for four months in Firenze, Italia, and it has forever changed my outlook on life.  This informational poster was created to shed some light on the beautiful Italian people.  I based my information off of the countless observations I made every day living in Florence.  I hope it resonates with Italians and those interested in Italian culture alike.
My goal was to capture the contrasting balance between tradition and modernity, two ideologies interacting beneficially with one another, that dictate the daily life of Italian people.  There is a fine line between adhering to tradition and steering towards innovation, and Italians seem to walk this line with purposeful intent, leaning over both sides, constantly trying to strike a balance between the two.  For example, Italians like to follow tradition by sustaining family businesses, generation after generation, through trattorias, book or antique shops, and yet they often use newer technology to help their production without sacrificing quality.  It is these balances of continuing handmade production with the embracement of modern tools that make me respect the Italian prideful view of work and life.
My graphics are clean and minimalistic contrasting the handwritten playfulness and quirkiness of the main font (Windsor Hand).  The numbers listing the content are typed in Bodoni, an Italian font exploring the transition of font composition from a humanistic to a more geometric type.  Combined, these design efforts are meant to mimic the outlook of Italians through the use of handmade type and contemporary graphics.

[Repost] 20 “Forgotten” Words That Should Be Brought Back (by Lana Winter-Hébert)

Previously shared on twitter by Wise OWL Translations

Cf. original piece: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/20-forgotten-words-that-should-brought-back.html

20 “Forgotten” Words That Should Be Brought Back


Languages are living things that shift and evolve over time. If you look atthe history of the English language, from Anglo Saxon through the Great Vowel Shift to what we consider Standard English today, you’ll notice that it has undergone some spectacular changes over the centuries. Some basic words have stuck around through the ages, like “father”, “house”, “egg”, “boat” and so on, but just as new words developed over time, other words were discarded along the way.

Many others from Shakespeare’s time through to the early 20th century have fallen out of common usage, and we are undoubtedly the poorer for it. Here are 20 words that could only serve to add a bit more colour to our daily lives if they happened to come back into regular use.

1. Bunbury


An imaginary person whose name is used as an excuse to some purpose, especially to visit a place.

“Auntie Jane the cottage dweller” was my go-to bunbury whenever I wanted to take a day off to go play in the forest.

2. Scurrilous


The description of something said or done unfairly to make people have a bad opinion of someone.

Mrs. Mumford had spread rather scurrilous gossip about Miss Violet in the hope of tarnishing her reputation. Honestly, who would do that sort of thing with a llama?

3. Gallimaufry


A hodge-podge, or jumbled medley (can also refer to an edible dish).

Lydia’s casserole was a veritable gallimaufry of beans, raisins, cauliflower, sausage, cheap wine, and cabbage. Guests never asked for second helpings.

4. Thrice


Three times.

I’ve told you twice not to eat raw pork with mustard or you’ll get sick—don’t make me say it thrice!

5. Blithering


Talking utterly and completely foolishly, OR used to describe a foolish person.

The blithering idiot was blithering on about something or other, but I tuned him out.

6. Pluviophile


A person who takes great joy and comfort in rainy days.

Your average pluviophile will be in utter glory when thunder roils, as she can curl up with blankets and books while rain pours down outside.

7. Librocubularist


One who reads in bed.

When you’re married to a librocubularist, you can rest assured that you’ll have to compete with a stack of books for nighttime attention.

8. Febricula


A slight and transient fever.

Attending the opening of Twilight’s 17th sequel gave Arabella a mild febricula, but the air-conditioned cinema interior cleared it up quickly. 

9. Starrify


To decorate with stars.

The student council would starrify the high school gym every year in preparation for the homecoming dance. 

10. Sophronize


To imbue with sound moral principles or self-control.

It’s vital that parents sophronize children, not just expect them to behave properly of their own volition—you know what havoc they’d wreak.

11. Mullock


Rubbish, nonsense, or waste matter.

I don’t know what kind of mullock you’re gibbering on about today, but you really need to stop reading those conspiracy magazines.

12. Uglyography


Poor handwriting, and bad spelling.

His uglyography was so heinous that his essay was used as kindling, but the flames extinguished themselves rather than be tainted by association.

13. Namelings

plural noun

Those bearing the same name.

There were six boys named Jason in that particular class, prompting the teacher to address them all by their last names. When faced with namelings who both answered to “Jason Birch”, she called them “Birch” and “tree”, respectively.

14. Ultracrepidarianism


The habit of giving opinions and advice on matters outside of one’s knowledge.

Child-free people who try to give parenting advice are often guilty of the worst kind of ultracrepidarianism.

15. Pannychis


An all-night feast or ceremony.

Edmund took another energy drink, hoping that its caffeine content would help him survive this raucous pannychis.

16. Guttle


To gobble greedily; to cram food into one’s gut.

The dinner guests watched in horror as Lord Penderquist guttled an entire roasted boar into his maw.

17. Snollyguster


A person, especially a politician, who is guided by personal advantage rather than by consistent, respectable principles.

The snollyguster who won the mayoral election just lines his pockets with cash to support his drug habit.

18. Welkin


The upper sky; “vault” of heaven.

Icarus would have passed through the welkin on his legendary flight, but we all know how that turned out for him. 

19. Barbigerous


Characterized by having a beard.

I had wanted to compliment him on his fiancee’s beauty,  but her barbigerous aspect was so dominant that I had to remain silent.

20. Eventide


The end of the day, just as evening approaches.

Moonflowers only bloom at eventide, opening their petals as the sun slips below the horizon.

As a special little addition, we’ll also reach into the annals of history for a fun little Anglo-Saxon term that we can all relate to:



To lie awake in the period just before dawn because you’re worrying too much to be able to sleep.

Caedda uhtcearan: Him þūhte þá éowa ēanian. Hwā wolde hē his wīf asecgan?

How many of these do you often use? If You’ve Never Used These English Idioms, You’re Probably Not a Native English Speaker


Lana Winter-Hébert

Wordsmith. Lana likes to play with words and punctuation marks, arranging them into aesthetically-pleasing shapes that tell stories. When she isn’t writing or editing, she’s either immersed in illustration and design for Winter-Hébert—the design studio she runs with her husband—or curled up under a tree with a book.

[Repost] 13 Words You Probably Didn’t Know Were Coined By Authors (by Paul Anthony Jones)

Previously shared on fb by Las 1001 Traducciones
Cf. original piece http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-anthony-jones/13-words-you-probably-did_b_4795071.html?utm_hp_ref=tw
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13 Words You Probably Didn’t Know Were Coined By Authors
Posted: 02/20/2014 8:03 am EST Updated: 02/20/2014 8:59 am EST


Last month, HuffPost Books put together a list of 13 Words You Probably Didn’t Know Were Invented By Shakespeare. Amongst them were such everyday terms ascourtshipcriticalgloomylaughablegenerous and hurry. Although debate rages about whether Shakespeare actually coined these terms himself or was merely the first person to write them down, it is at least likely that a fair proportion of the 1,700 words and phrases his works provide the first evidence of were indeed his. (And given that his Complete Works includes only around 30,000 different words in all, that’s still around 1 in every 30.)

But Shakespeare isn’t the be-all and end-all of course (that’s another of his by the way). English has had its fair share of literary giants over the years who, from Chaucer and Milton to Dickens and even Dr. Seuss, have each contributed words to our language. Here are 13 words that authors coined:

If you’re not a fan of his books then it’s probably no surprise that Charles Dickens is credited with inventing the word boredom in his classic 1853 novel Bleak House. Dickens’s works also provide the earliest records of the words cheesinessfluffiness,flummoxrampagewagonful and snobbish — although snobbishness was invented by William Thackeray.

A combination of “chuckle” and “snort,” chortle was coined by Lewis Carroll in his 1871 novel Through The Looking-Glass. Carroll, like Shakespeare, is celebrated for his linguistic inventiveness and coined a vast number of similar expressions (which he termed “portmanteaux”) that blend together two pre-existing words, includingfrumious (“fuming” and “furious”), mimsy (“miserable” and “flimsy”), frabjous(“fabulous” and “joyous”), and slithy (“slimy” and “lithe”).

A name for the imagined location in which a dream takes place, the worddreamscape was coined by Sylvia Plath in her 1958 poem, “The Ghost’s Leavetaking.” One of the 20th century’s most important female writers, Plath also invented the words sleep-talkwindrippedsweat-wet and grrring, which she used in her short story The It-Doesn’t-Matter Suit to describe the sound of alley-cats.

The earliest record of the word freelance in English comes from Sir Walter Scott’s 1819 novel Ivanhoe. Whereas today it describes a journalist or similar worker employed on a project-by-project basis, it originally described a mercenary knight or soldier with no allegiance to a specific country, who instead offered his services in exchange for money.

The name of both a type of loose-fitting breeches (knickerbockers) and an ice cream (a knickerbocker glory), on its first appearance in English the word knickerbockerwas a nickname for someone descended from the original Dutch settlers of New York. In this context, it is derived from a pseudonym of Washington Irving, author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, who published his first major work, a satirical History of New York, under the alias Diedrich Knickerbocker in 1809.

Although there is some debate as to where the word nerd comes from — one theory claims it comes from Mortimer Snerd, a dummy used by ventriloquist Edgar Bergen in the 1940s and 50s, while another claims it is a reversal of the word “drunk” — more often than not it is credited to Dr. Seuss, whose 1950 poem If I Ran The Zoo provides the word’s first written record.

Nowadays we use pandemonium to mean simply “chaos” or “noisy confusion,” but given that its literal translation is “place of all demons” this is a pretty watered-down version — in fact it was coined in 1667 by the English poet John Milton, who used it as the name of the capital of Hell in his epic Paradise Lost.

The earliest written record of the word pie-hole, a slang name for the mouth, comes from Stephen King’s 1983 novel Christine. Admittedly however, this is something of a grey area as it’s questionable whether King actually coined the word himself.

The word robot was first used in the play R.U.R. (“Rossum’s Universal Robots”) written by the Czech playwright Karel Čapek in 1920, and first translated into English in 1923. Čapek in turn credited the word to his brother, Josef, who presumably based it on the Czech word robotnik, meaning “slave” or “worker.” Unlike today, in the play Čapek’s robots were not automated machines but rather artificial “people” made of skin and bone but mass-produced in factories, who eventually revolt against mankind to take over the world.

Tintinnabulation, another name for “a ringing of bells,” is credited to Edgar Allan Poe, who, appropriately enough, used it in a 1831 poem called “The Bells.” Other words Poe’s works provide the first record of include sentience (in The Fall of the House of Usher, 1839), multicolor (in the short tale The Landscape Garden, 1842) andnormality (in Eureka, 1848).

The works of Geoffrey Chaucer provide the Oxford English Dictionary with more first attestations of English words than any other writer. Like Shakespeare, it is difficult (if not impossible) to ascertain which of these 2,000+ words Chaucer actuallyinvented and which were already in use before he wrote them down, but twitter, supposedly onomatopoeic of the sound of birds, is almost certainly his.

If one 20th century writer above all others rivaled Shakespeare’s linguistic creativity, it was Thomas Hardy. Unslumbering, meaning “in a state of restlessness,” is probably one of the most straightforward and most useful of his inventions, with more outlandish Hardyisms including outskeletonblast-beruffleddiscompose and evenunbe (the opposite of “be”). In fact, Hardy himself once commented, “I have looked up a word in the dictionary for fear of being again accused of coining, and have found it there right enough — only to read on and find that the sole authority is myself.”

It might be one of the world’s biggest corporations today, but the word yahoo has its more humble origins in Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift’s 1726 adventure story in which the “Yahoos” are a race of dangerously brutish men. Within just a few years of its publication, the name yahoo had been adopted into English as another word for any equally loutish, violent or unsophisticated person.

Based on material taken from Haggard Hawks & Paltry Poltroons and@HaggardHawks.

Follow Paul Anthony Jones on Twitter: www.twitter.com/HaggardHawks

[Repost] From ‘A’ to ‘ampersand’, English is a wonderfully curious language (by Paul Anthony Jones)

Seen on facebook: RockstarTranslations

Original piece: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/feb/15/from-a-to-ampersand

From ‘A’ to ‘ampersand’, English is a wonderfully curious language

Forget selfies, belfies and twerking – practically every word in the English language has its own remarkable story
  • Paul Anthony Jones – theguardian.comSaturday 15 February 2014 08.59 GMT
Still from Ivanhoe

Sir Walter Scott coined the word “freelance” in Ivanhoe, using it to refer to a mercenary knight with no allegiance to one particular country and who instead offers his services for money. Photograph: The Ronald Grant Archive

This A to Z of word origins, adapted from Haggard Hawks and Paltry Poltroons by Paul Anthony Jones, collects together 26 unusual etymologies – beginning with the last letter of the alphabet.




Until as recently as the early 1900s, “&” was considered a letter of the alphabet and listed after Z in 27th position. To avoid confusion with the word “and”, anyone reciting the alphabet would add “per se” (“by itself”) to its name, so that the alphabet ended “X, Y, Z and per se &”. This final “and per se and” eventually ran together, and the “ampersand” was born.



Proving that political long-windedness is nothing new, “bunkum” derives from Carolina’s Buncombe County. The local congressman, Felix Walker, gave such a lengthy and unnecessary speech to Congress in 1820 that its name became a byword for any tediously nonsensical rubbish.



A croupier was originally merely a gambler’s associate, whose job it was to back his companion’s wagers and give extra cash and advice during play. In the sense of “one who sits behind another” it is derived from croupe, an old French word for the hindquarters of a horse.


Adapted into English from French in the 1500s, “dismantle” literally means “to remove a mantle” – in other words, to take off a cloak.



The word “explode” is derived from the same Latin root as applause, and when it first appeared in the 17th century it actually meant “to jeer a performer off the stage”. It was from this sense of expelling something violently that the modern meaning developed in the mid-1700s.



Sir Walter Scott coined the word “freelance” in Ivanhoe, using it to refer to a mercenary knight with no allegiance to one particular country and who instead offers his services for money.



The earliest grenades mentioned in English date back five centuries. They took their name from an even older name for the pomegranate, which they were supposed to resemble.



The jumbled hotchpotch, or hodgepodge, is thought to derive from the French hochepot, a meaty stew containing a similarly random medley of ingredients.



The word “illustration” originally meant “enlightenment” or “illumination”. Like lustre and illustriousness, it is descended from the Latin verb lucere, meaning “shine”.



The Jurassic in Jurassic Park derives from the Jura Mountains straddling the French-Swiss border, which are made of a form of limestone typical of the Jurassic period.



Keelhauling was originally precisely that – a brutal naval punishment in which the unfortunate victim would be tied to a rope looped around the keel of a ship, thrown overboard and hauled along its underside.



In Ancient Rome, “lemures” were the ghosts of murder victims, executed criminals, drowned sailors and other unfortunate souls who had died leaving some kind of unfinished business on Earth. These eerie, skeletal apparitions would walk the world of the living at night – and when the naturalist Carl Linnaeus first observed a number of surprisingly human-like creatures doing precisely that, he thought it was the perfect name.



Derived from the Dutch words for “whirl” and “stream”, the original maelstrom was a huge whirlpool off the Arctic coast of Norway that was apparently capable of drawing in ships from far away and pulling them beneath the waves.



The word noon is a corruption of the Latin for “ninth”, “novem” (as in November). It originally referred to the ninth hour of the Roman day – reckoned by modern clocks to be around 3pm, not midday.



Of course the “octo” of octopuses (or rather octopodes to be absolutely correct) means”eight”, but “pus” doesn’t mean “leg” or “arm”, but rather “foot”. A platypus, similarly, is a “flat-footed” creature.



As the name of a type of mixed alcoholic drink, “punch” was adopted into English from the Hindi word for “five” in the mid 1600s, as a traditional Indian punch always contained only five ingredients: some type of liquor, water, lemon juice, sugar and spices.



As the name of a hunted animal, quarry comes from a French word for “skin” or “leather”, “cuir”. As the name of a stone-works, it comes from the Latin “quadraria”, a place where rocks would literally be made cut into “quadria”, or “squares”.



When baseball games in mid 19th century America were postponed due to bad weather, spectators would be given a ticket – a literal rain check – that allowed them to return to a future game for free.



It might not be the most well known of the elements, but samarium (used in the manufacture of certain magnets, including those in headphones) has secured its place in history as the first element named after a living person. Russian mining engineer Vasili Samarsky-Bykhovets granted scientists access to mines in Russia’s Ural Mountains where samarskite, the mineral from which samarium is obtained, was first discovered in the early 19th century.



If you’re not a fan of the gym then it will come as no surprise that the original treadmill – a vast man-powered mill used to crush rocks – was invented as a hard-labour punishment for use in Victorian prisons. Oscar Wilde was famously made to work on one during his incarceration in Reading Gaol.



The adjective “ultracrepidarian” describes anyone who comments on subjects outside of their own knowledge or expertise. It derives from a tale from Ancient Greece in which an Athenian shoemaker pointed out a mistake that Apelles, a renowned artist, had made in a drawing of a sandal in one of his artworks. Apelles gratefully corrected the error but when the shoemaker went on to point out another, Apelles sourly replied that a shoemaker should never give advice ultra crepidam – or “above the sandal”.



As well as being a blood-sucking monster, a vampire is also the name of a kind of theatrical trapdoor fitted above a spring-loaded platform that allows an actor to make a sudden appearance on stage. This vampire trap was invented for a production of a play called The Vampyre in the 1880s.



“Adding insult to injury – as the parrot said when they not only took him from his native land, but made him talk the English langvidge arterwards” – or so says Sam Weller, Mr Pickwick’s Cockney manservant in Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers (1837). Renowned for twisting existing turns of phrase into ludicrous alternate versions of themselves, Dickens’ character inspired the word “wellerism” in the mid-1800s, referring to any similarly comically reworded expression.



Chocolate doesn’t begin with X of course, but in its native Aztec “xocolatl” was the name of a bitter chocolatey drink made from the seeds of the cacao tree. It was brought back to England in the Middle Ages and became what we now know as chocolate today.



No one is quite sure where the word yonks comes from, but if not an amalgamation of “years, months and weeks”, it is probably a corruption of “donkey’s years”.

zed (or zee)


At one time both “zed” and “zee” – as well as “izzard”, “ezod” and “shard” – were used as names for the 26th letter of the alphabet in British English. It just so happens that “zed” stuck in Britain, while “zee” (a variation based on the “bee”, “cee”, “dee” pattern of the alphabet) found favour in America during the push for independence, when sounding as un-British as possible became the in thing.


Paul Anthony Jones is the author of Haggard Hawks and Paltry Poltroons.

Repost: The Joy of Swearing in a Non-Native Language (by Corey Heller)

The Joy of Swearing in a Non-Native Language

Cf. original piece at “http://www.multilingualliving.com/2010/08/31/the-joy-of-swearing-in-a-non-native-language/


By Corey Heller
Photo Credit: Ben and Kaz Askins

Today was not a day that I am proud of.  I yelled at my German husband in front of my multilingual kids.  And, as always, I regretted it later.

My patient husband kept calm – which made me even more annoyed.

Is that a German trait, that staying-calm-in-an-argument trait?  That trait that can drive me up the wall?  My fiery response to it (inherited from my Irish grandparents) was a clear indication that I still haven’t mastered that trait – not yet, at least.

Let’s hope my children inherit my husband’s calm genes.  Please!

The thing that I find fascinating is that when I lose my temper and start to yell, it is usually in German, my non-native language.  Rarely do I launch into a host of deeply familiar American exclamations.

Instead, I automatically turn to my limited, yet carefully selected, set of German vocabulary – words that I have chosen over the years due to the way they so comfortably roll off my tongue.

Non-native speaker tip: Don’t use swear words in a heated argument that you (1) haven’t learned well enough to use comfortably and (2) you can’t pronounce correctly.  I can say this from experience.  The impact is less than stellar when a swear word you utter makes your opponent burst out laughing (at you) because he can’t figure out what you just said.  “Did you just say I’m a pair of binoculars?  Bwahhhahhahh!”

Memorable.  But definitely not satisfying.  Not in the least.

I enjoy swearing in German.  It feels sophisticated compared to the English equivalents.  It gives me a certain sense of satisfaction, primarily because the words feel so very empowering and forceful yet not crude and obscene.  Those German words just roll of the tongue with such slithering pleasure:

“Verdammt, noch mal!”  Doesn’t that sound so much more appealing and mature than “damn it all”?  Course, I have to admit that I do enjoy a good “bloody hell” from time to time while watching those fantastic British mysteries on our local PBS TV station!  What sophistication.  Such refinement.

“Scheiße!”  Those two syllables make our English “shit” seem so very vulgar.  The smoothness of the “sch,” the openness of the “eye” and the soft ending of the “eh” is so very soothing to the ear, is it not?

Even “Idiot” in German has a kind of low, casualness with that lovely long-o sound.  Contrast that with its sharp, edgy American-English cousin.  Anything that ends in “ut” like the American pronunciation must be relegated to the compost heap.

Obviously, I didn’t pick up the worst of the worst when it comes to German swear words (thanks to my clean-talking husband and his friends).  My repertoire of German swear words is limited to a few targeted general ones that I most likely learned from German television.

The fact that I lack a personal association with these words makes them feel so much less offensive – almost pleasant in my mind.  In fact, being that I learned them during a very exciting, joyful time in my life (those first euphoric years with my husband-to-be), it is no surprise that they hold with them many pleasant memories (even though some were used in that same joyful context against that same wonderful person – let’s just blame it on that same Irish blood).

Even though I try never to use swear words in front of my bilingual children, there are times when they slip out.  Purely by accident.  I swear!

I have even been known to use an occasional English swearword in front of my children now and then. However, I aim to stick with German exclamations: they are so much easier to get away with when my kids repeat them in front of English-speaking community members.  I can just pretend like my kids said something extremely cute and praiseworthy: “What did he just say?” they ask.   My response: “Oh nothing, really.  Just ‘darn it,’ that’s all.”  (Inward chuckle.)

I have been asked once or twice by my kids to please define a given swear word in English.  As I usually only use German swear words, I always respond with an honestly shocked response: “What!?  Where did you learn that word!?”

To which my children answer matter of factly, “From you Mama.”

“Really?  Are you sure?  From me?”

Scheiße, verdammt noch mal!

On the rare occasions that you lose your temper, which language do you prefer?  Do your children ever use swear words?  If so, do find that swear words in one language have less of an impact than in your other languages?  Are your children allowed to use words in one language but not their translation in the other language(s)?

Corey Heller is the founder of Multilingual Living and the Editor-In-Chief/Publisher ofMultilingual Living MagazineMultilingual Living is the place where she shares her knowledge about raising multilingual and multicultural children. Corey, an American, and her German husband live in Seattle where they raise and homeschool their three children, ages 12, 10 and 8, in German and English.
CLICK HERE to send her an email!

Repost: 13 verbos que utilizamos incorrectamente en español


13 verbos que utilizamos incorrectamente en español

13 verbos que utilizamos incorrectamente en español

Nos sorprendería conocer la cantidad de verbos que utilizamos incorrectamente. (Corbis)

Hace unas semanas listábamos los siete errores gramaticales que cometemos con más frecuencia en nuestro día a día y que, en muchos casos, estaban originados por la desidia, las prisas y el desinterés. Sin embargo, no es únicamente a la hora de disponer las palabras dentro de una oración cuando cometemos errores imperdonables, sino que también nos equivocamos a la hora de utilizar determinados verbos que con frecuencia empleamos con un sentido diferente al que realmente tienen.

En muchos casos y como ocurría en los errores gramaticales o esas palabras que los españoles pensamos que provienen del inglés (y que realmente nos hemos inventado), estos fallos responden a una influencia desmesurada de idiomas extranjeros como el inglés. En otros casos, empleamos verbos intransitivos (es decir, que exigen un complemento directo) como si fuesen transitivos, o con construcciones gramaticales equivocadas. Por último, lo que ocurre en muchos casos es que nos puede la desgana, y empleamos verbos comodín como “hacer”, “tener” o “haber” en lugar de esforzarnos por encontrar el término que mejor encajaría en dicha oración.

El periodismo en particular y los medios de comunicación en general tienen una gran culpa en ello, como grandes difusores de la lengua que son. A muchas personas sorprenderán algunos de los verbos que presentamos a continuación, puesto que su uso es habitual en televisión o en los periódicos pero, al menos hasta que la Real Academia de la Lengua y otras organizaciones como la Fundeu (Fundación del español urgente) tomen cartas en el asunto, quizá deberíamos revisar el uso que hacemos de ellos.

  • Aplicar. Uno de los anglicismos más extendidos, que proviene del inglés “to apply”, y que en dicho idioma sí significa “solicitar” o “pedir”. Por el contrario, en castellano, no se debe decir nunca que se “aplica a una entrevista de trabajo” o a “una plaza en la universidad”, sino que uno se “presenta” o “solicita” algo. Lo mismo ocurre con el sustantivo “aplicación”, que no puede utilizarse para referirse a un “formulario de ingreso”.
  • Señalizar. Con mucha frecuencia, escuchamos en la retransmisión de un evento deportivo que el árbitro ha “señalizado” una falta, un fuera de juego o el final del partido. En todos esos casos, el periodista debería haber empleado el verbo “señalar”, puesto que señalizar significa “colocar en las carreteras y en las vías de comunicación las señales que indican bifurcaciones, cruces, pasos a nivel y otras para que sirvan de guía a los usuarios”. Y a eso no es a lo que se dedican los colegiados.
  • Resaltar. Aunque pueda sorprender a algunos, “resaltar” tiene su origen como verbo intransitivo, es decir, que no puede ir acompañado de un complemento directo. Tan sólo en su cuarta acepción se aclara que en algunas ocasiones puede ser empleado como transitivo. Fundeu recomienda emplear el verbo “destacar” en lugar de “resaltar” en frases como “el profesor resaltó las capacidades comunicativas del alumno”.
  • Rentar. Del inglés proviene el verbo “to rent”, que significa “alquilar”, y a partir de ahí, multitud de hispanohablantes han comenzado a “rentar un apartamento” para sus vacaciones. Es incorrecto, puesto que rentar tan sólo significa “producir o rendir beneficio o utilidad anualmente”.
  • Abatir. Si bien es cierto que dicho verbo significa “derribar” o “derrocar”, Fundeu advierte que no debemos emplear dicho término como sinónimo de “matar”, “asesinar”, “disparar” o “tirotear”. La organización aclara que hoy en día se abusa de dicha acepción del término y que, si bien no es totalmente incorrecta, debemos intentar emplear alguno de los sinónimos previamente señalados.
  • Finalizar. En demasiadas ocasiones, el verbo “finalizar” (o “terminar” y “acabar”) se emplea como sinónimo de “clausurar”, cuando este debe ser el término empleado para hablar de congresos, charlas o ponencias. Es decir, debemos evitar usar una frase como “el congreso terminó con la participación del decano”. Estos tres verbos son comodines que por su amplitud de significado se emplean con excesiva frecuencia, ya que que existen otros términos que se ajustan mejor a lo que se quiere decir.
  • Adolecer. Uno de los verbos en los que los españoles nos solemos equivocar con más frecuencia, por dos razones diferentes. La primera es que suele emplearse como sinónimo de “carecer de” en sentido positivo, cuando realmente significa “padecer algún mal” o “tener algún defecto”, con un matiz negativo; en ese sentido, “adolecer de una gran riqueza” sería incorrecto, puesto que “una gran riqueza” no es un mal o un defecto. En segundo lugar, debemos recordar que “adolecer” va seguido de la preposición “de”, por lo que decir que alguien “adolece cáncer” es incorrecto.
  • Colapsar. ¿Cuántas veces escuchamos hablar del “colapso de las Torres Gemelas” y cuántas del “derrumbe”? El término es correcto, pero quizá se abusó demasiado de él. Por eso mismo, muchos lingüistas han denunciado la sobreutilización de dicho término. La Fundeu aconseja huir de esta palabra, a la que definen como “excesivamente técnica”, y buscar sinónimos como “destruir”, “paralizar”, “bloquear”, “derrumbar”, etc.
  • Customizar. Un término que cada vez se emplea con más frecuencia como sinónimo de “modificar algo de acuerdo a las preferencias personales”, y que proviene del verbo inglés “to custom”. ¿Para qué emplear este anglicismo si podemos emplear términos castellanos totalmente aceptados como “personalizar”?
  • Acceder. La Fundeu lanza una advertencia sobre el abuso de este verbo, que está comenzando a utilizarse con demasiada frecuencia como sinónimo de “entrar”. Aunque no sea completamente incorrecto, es preferible decir que alguien “entra” a un edificio que señalar que “accede” a él.
  • Masticar. La mayor parte de los hispanohablantes piensan que “mascar” y “masticar” son sinónimos absolutos, pero hay un pequeño matiz que los separa: “masticar” se emplea únicamente para la comida, como paso previo a su ingesta, mientras que “mascar” se refiere a “partir y triturar algo con la boca”. Por lo tanto, podemos hablar del “mascado” de hojas de coca.
  • Falsificar. Otras dos palabras casi sinónimas que suelen dar problemas en su utilización diaria son “falsear”  y “falsificar”. Fundeu recomienda emplear el término “falsificar” para referirse a documentos, escritos, facturas, etc., y “falsear”, en un sentido más figurado, como en el caso de “falsear la realidad”.
  • Cesar. Un término también utilizado con frecuencia en el ámbito del periodismo deportivo. Si bien está aceptado que un entrenador o trabajador sea “destituido” (o “relevado” o “despedido”), no lo es que “sea cesado”, puesto que “cesar” un verbo intransitivo que no puede construir de manera pasiva. Así pues, lo correcto es “José Mourinho cesa como entrenador del Real Madrid”, no “José Mourinho fue cesado como entrenador del Real Madrid”.Cf. http://www.elconfidencial.com/alma-corazon-vida/2013/06/25/13-verbos-que-utilizamos-incorrectamente-en-espanol-123633

Frozen: Sing-along (multilingual session)

Watch “Let It Go” From Disney’s ‘Frozen’

Performed In 25 Different Languages

JAN. 22, 2014

How they managed to get the tones so similar and so lovely is pretty impressive (it almost sounds like they’re all performed by the same girl) — which one is your favorite singer? TC mark

Cf. http://thoughtcatalog.com/sophie-martin/2014/01/watch-let-it-go-from-disneys-frozen-performed-in-25-different-languages/