Words

Laïque

October 5, 2013

The English translation of the French word "laïque"

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Posted by céline on October 5, 2013 | Comments (9)
Culture, Words

Revenant

June 11, 2013

Zombies return, but they aren't revenants or ghosts

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Posted by céline on June 11, 2013 | Comments (6)
Words

Calving

December 13, 2012

Calving: the sudden release and breaking away of a mass of ice from a glacier

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Posted by céline on December 13, 2012
Words

French golf terminology

November 15, 2012

French golf terminology: many borrowings, some nice finds

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Posted by céline on November 15, 2012
Words

Repêchage

August 5, 2012

Resources on loanwords

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Posted by céline on August 5, 2012
Words

Astroturfing

September 1, 2011

Explanation of this phenomenon, which has been exacerbated by the rise of social media, and origin of its name

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Posted by céline on September 1, 2011
Words

Umpire

February 25, 2011

The origin of the word umpire

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Posted by céline on February 25, 2011
Words

Bagsy

July 1, 2010

Bagsy, baggsy, squits, foggy, furry, firsy, barley, bollars, jigs, chaps, chucks and dibs: several words, one concept

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Posted by céline on July 1, 2010
Words

Bigot

April 29, 2010

Origin and explanation of the word "bigot": from religious hypocrisy to partisan beliefs

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Posted by céline on April 29, 2010
Words

Manifesto

April 13, 2010

The origin of the word manifesto

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Posted by céline on April 13, 2010
Words

Maundy

April 2, 2010

The origin of the word "maundy", as in "Maundy Thursday"

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Posted by céline on April 2, 2010
Culture, Words

Upper and lower case

February 18, 2010

Have you ever wondered where “upper case” and “lower case” come from? I hadn’t until I came across an explanation as I was trying to work out whether it should be Beaux-Arts or beaux-arts. The “case” (from Latin cassa, “box”)...

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Posted by céline on February 18, 2010
Words

Nut roast

February 1, 2010

I spent last Monday interpreting in East Sussex. After a busy day, we all ended up in a lovely pub with an interesting history in Lewes to have dinner and talk about forthcoming projects. Little did I know that a...

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Posted by céline on February 1, 2010
Words

Fanlation

January 20, 2010

Fanlation is a term that I've come across very recently, and I came across it again when I received Jost Zetzsche's Tool Kit newsletter: I had just suggested that we use a new term for the kind of crowdsourced translation...

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Departed

January 3, 2010

I spent a lovely Christmas and New Year at my parents’ new house near Bordeaux, in the Entre-Deux-Mers region, surrounded by vineyards and châteaux. We flew back on Saturday. My mother is always anxious when we're travelling, particularly when the...

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Posted by céline on January 3, 2010
Words

Avatar

November 20, 2009

While reading PoPCo, by Scarlett Thomas, I learnt that the word “avatar”, which refers to an Internet user’s alter ego in online forums and other communities, comes from a Sanskrit word meaning “descent of a deity to the Earth in...

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Posted by céline on November 20, 2009
Words

Gourmand

October 6, 2009

I’m not sure when or by whom the café gourmand was invented, but it might be the best thing to come out of France since Thierry Henry. I had the pleasure of ordering my first one during a visit...

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Posted by céline on October 6, 2009
Words

Tattoo

August 3, 2009

Another weekend, another great British city: Edinburgh, one of my favourite places. It is getting ready for the upcoming Festival and, amongst many cultural highlights, its famous military tattoo. I was intrigued by this word, so of course I looked...

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Posted by céline on August 3, 2009
Words

Geordie

June 23, 2009

My discovery of the North of England took me to Newcastle this weekend. The people in this part of the North-East are called “Geordies” and I was surprised that no-one around me could tell me why. It turns out that...

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Posted by céline on June 23, 2009
Words

Austral

May 13, 2009

I’m currently working on a document about security in Africa, and particularly in Southern Africa, which is translated as Afrique australe in French. Austral dates back to 1372 and comes from Auster, which, in Roman mythology, is the name...

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Posted by céline on May 13, 2009
Words

Pandemic, epidemic and endemic

April 30, 2009

Endemic Relating to a disease or pathogen that is found in or confined to a particular location, region, or people. Malaria, for example, is endemic to tropical regions. 1662, from Gk. endemos "native," from en- "in" + demos "people,...

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Posted by céline on April 30, 2009
Words

Ciao

April 20, 2009

My first attempt at communicating in Italian was a resounding failure: when asked “Caldo?” by the man who was preparing my prosciutto and pecorino sandwich, I confidently replied “Si!” after my weary brain had done a quick analysis and concluded...

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Posted by céline on April 20, 2009
Words

Magenta

April 10, 2009

The economic downturn has coincided with my busiest time yet. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been translating all hours of the day and even broke my rule of never working at the weekend, but in these uncertain...

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Posted by céline on April 10, 2009
Words

Constipada

January 30, 2009

This morning in my Spanish class, I learnt that "estoy constipada" means "I have a cold". Talk about false friends. So how did this word come to take a different meaning in English and in French? Its etymology reveals all:...

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Posted by céline on January 30, 2009
Words

Misunderestimated

January 13, 2009

I'm completely snowed under at the moment but I wanted to mention this latest Bushism, which Twitter was buzzing about recently. During his final press conference, George Bush said: "At times you misunderestimated me". It is a term he first...

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Posted by céline on January 13, 2009
Words

Bedlam

January 5, 2009

Maggie swallowed hard, but before she could say anything, they heard a wail from one of the high barred windows. It began low in pitch and volume, then ascended the scale, growing louder and higher until it became a scream...

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Posted by céline on January 5, 2009
Words

Cookery terms

December 23, 2008

I love watching cookery programs, which are very popular in the UK. I particularly enjoy listening to the colourful language used by TV chefs and the way it is peppered with French words and expressions. I’ve picked three that I...

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Posted by céline on December 23, 2008
Words

Labyrinth

September 29, 2008

I’m back from an impromptu holiday in Greece. I love living in Britain but there is only so much rain I can take and I just had to escape to sunnier climes. I went to Crete, home of the Minoans...

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Posted by céline on September 29, 2008
Words

Wuthering

August 26, 2008

As we learn on page 2 of Emily Brontë's famous novel, Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr Heathcliff's dwellings, "wuthering" being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather....

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Posted by céline on August 26, 2008
Words

Yngling

August 20, 2008

What a charmingly odd word. The Guardian tells us that Yngling is, quite simply, a type of boat (…) invented in 1967 by Norwegian Jan Lingel, who wanted to build a boat for his son, Oyvin, who was 14 days...

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Posted by céline on August 20, 2008
Words

Funambule

August 7, 2008

Funambule, from Lat. funambulus: funis, rope, and ambulare, walk. Tight rope dancer. I went to see Man on wire, the story of Philippe Petit, who performed a high-wire routine between the two towers of the World Trade Center in...

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Posted by céline on August 7, 2008
Words

Blizzard

April 7, 2008

Snowmen on Brighton beach, 6 April 2008 A modern word, probably more or less onomatopœic; suggestive words are blow, blast, blister, bluster. The French blesser, to wound, has also been conjectured, but there is nothing to indicate a French...

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Posted by céline on April 7, 2008
Words

Boycott

March 19, 2008

The word boycott is being used quite a lot at the moment following the events in Tibet and China. Its origin is very interesting: Charles C. Boycott seems to have become a household word because of his strong sense...

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Posted by céline on March 19, 2008
Words

Sommelier and refulgent

March 12, 2008

Eva looked about her at the other clients: the businessmen, the lawyers, the politicians, she supposed – eating, smoking, drinking, talking – and at the elderly waiters bustling importantly to and fro with the orders and she realised she...

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Posted by céline on March 12, 2008
Words

Canadian

February 7, 2008

An email sent in 2003 by an assistant district attorney in Texas to congratulate a junior prosecutor because he "overcame a subversively good defence… that had some Canadians on the jury feeling sorry for the defendant" reveals that "'Canadian'...

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Posted by céline on February 7, 2008
Words

Hello

January 8, 2008

In the form of "hallow", its possible earliest ancestor, "hello" dates back to at least 1340 and was used by Chaucer. In its modern form, it was first recorded in 1883 and its popularity rose with the advent of the...

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Posted by céline on January 8, 2008
Words

Solstice

December 22, 2007

Either of two times of the year when the sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator. The summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere occurs about June 21, when the sun is in the zenith at the tropic...

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Posted by céline on December 22, 2007
Words

Wynd

December 13, 2007

Remember my entry on the word "twitten"? Today, in a text about Edinburgh, I came across the Scottish equivalent: wynd. – noun, Chiefly Scot. A narrow street or alley. [Origin: 1375–1425; late ME (Scots) wynde, OE gewind, winding path]...

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Posted by céline on December 13, 2007
Words

No more zizi in Zizzi

December 10, 2007

A man cut off his penis in a London restaurant called "Zizzi" this weekend. I wonder whether he knows that "zizi" means "willy" in French?...

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Posted by céline on December 10, 2007
Words

Voyoucratie

December 3, 2007

A reader wrote to me asking about the English translation of voyoucratie, a word uttered on 29 December by French president Nicolas Sarkozy after the recent riots: Ce qui s'est passé à Villiers-le-Bel n'a rien à voir avec une...

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Posted by céline on December 3, 2007
Words

Soccer

November 29, 2007

Last night I played beach football. See the photo above? It wasn’t like that at all. This is England in November, not Brazil. Imagine playing football barefoot at night, in freezing wet sand and horizontal rain. Still, it was...

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Posted by céline on November 29, 2007
Words

Chauve-souris

November 15, 2007

I was watching a program about bats last night when I wondered why they are called chauve-souris (bald mouse) in French. Millions and millions of years ago, when French-speaking people came to name this strange animal, did they really...

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Posted by céline on November 15, 2007
Words

über-rich

October 30, 2007

Jörg sent me this email last Saturday: As a native German speaker it's always interesting to see which German words enter the English - and French - language. I stumbled over a very interesting word creation in the Independent yesterday:...

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Posted by céline on October 30, 2007
Words

Vowel renewal

October 29, 2007

The ultimate romantic gesture for the committed linguist....

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Posted by céline on October 29, 2007
Words

Freerice

October 26, 2007

It’s Friday. It’s been a long week and you’ll need a few breaks. Why don’t you donate rice while testing your vocabulary?...

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Posted by céline on October 26, 2007
Words

Tattered

September 12, 2007

"Hello madam, I’m calling from Wonderful Kitchens because we’re having a promotion in your area." "I don’t need a kitchen, thanks." "That’s fine, may I ask how old your kitchen is?" "About six years old." "And may I ask whether...

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Posted by céline on September 12, 2007
Words

E

September 6, 2007

It’s now official: E-numbers (E100 to 500) cause disruptive behaviour in children. Anyone knows what the "E" stands for? Because I do! It stands for… wait for it… Europe! The reason is that since 1989, food additives have been...

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Posted by céline on September 6, 2007
Words

Malaria

September 4, 2007

What I learnt last night during University Challenge: the word "malaria" comes from Italian mala (bad) + aria (air). It was thought that this disease was caused by foul air in marshes. P.S: I don’t watch University Challenge as...

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Posted by céline on September 4, 2007
Words

Gossip and potins

August 17, 2007

Gossip O.E. godsibb "godparent," from God + sibb "relative" (see sibling). Extended in M.E. to "any familiar acquaintance" (1362), especially to woman friends invited to attend a birth, later to "anyone engaging in familiar or idle talk" (1566). Sense extended...

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Posted by céline on August 17, 2007
Words

Consideration

July 27, 2007

It’s Friday and it’s been a busy week, so I thought I’d tell you a nice language-related (of course!) story. My niece Jasmine, who is 4 and a half, is learning the alphabet. Her mum, who’s a teacher, never misses...

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Posted by céline on July 27, 2007
Words

Artichoke

July 23, 2007

Origin: 1525–35; articiocco, var. (by dissimilation) of arciciocco, arcicioffo arcarcioffo alcarchofa al-ḫaršuf the artichoke Those who have been warned to watch out for the sharp-tipped bracts toward the innermost part of an artichoke may have wondered whether the name...

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Posted by céline on July 23, 2007
Words

Hamstring

July 11, 2007

I pulled a hamstring last night. That’ll teach me to play football with boys that are much bigger and stronger than me. I do translations for a fitness magazine and I had often wondered where the "ham" in "hamstring"...

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Posted by céline on July 11, 2007
Words

Agog and Salary

July 2, 2007

It's Monday! Hurrah! Let's start the week with a challenge! See if you can solve the two following clues from the Telegraph's Saturday crossword: 1) Highly curious and impatient from Old French meaning "in fun" (4) 2) A regular fixed...

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Posted by céline on July 2, 2007
Words

Nimby and banana

June 26, 2007

I do quite a lot of work with local authorities desperately trying to solve the waste crisis in the area, so I knew the term "nimby" (Not In My Back Yard), which describes people who refuse to have anything new...

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Posted by céline on June 26, 2007
Words

Gelid

June 18, 2007

The morning grey had given way, in the sudden English fashion, to a brilliant, gelid afternoon. Zoë Heller, Notes on a scandal Gelid, adjective Very cold; icy. From Latin gelidus, icy cold, from gel(um), frost, cold. I love being surprised...

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Posted by céline on June 18, 2007
Words

Candide

May 4, 2007

I couldn’t resist buying this superb new English translation of Voltaire’s Candide, one of my all-time favourite books. I’ve been reading about the presidential candidates all week, following their progress in anticipation of the final round on Sunday, and...

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Posted by céline on May 4, 2007
Words

Spring

April 18, 2007

Origin: bef. 900; OE spring and spryng The sense of the season of the year after winter (when plants spring up) is first recorded in springtime (before 1398, in Trevisa's translation of Bartholomew's De Proprietatibus Rerum), but is found in...

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Posted by céline on April 18, 2007
Words

Teraflop

April 13, 2007

Last year, the firm unveiled a chip with 80 processing cores and capable of more than a trillion calculations per second (teraflops) (…) Teraflop comes from tera (1012) and FLOP. Tera comes from the Greek word for "monster", which was...

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Posted by céline on April 13, 2007
Words

Tartare

April 12, 2007

This is the steak tartare we had for lunch, one Sunday in February, with a couple of brave friends: This led me to wonder about the origin of the word "tartare", which is used in "steak tartare" and "tartare sauce"....

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Posted by céline on April 12, 2007
Words

Meh

March 6, 2007

Meh, the word that's sweeping the internet Could this finally be an equivalent for the world-famous and very French bof?...

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Posted by céline on March 6, 2007
Words

Bitch

January 26, 2007

While I believe that words can be reclaimed, and even though some of my female friends feel that it is the case of the word "bitch", which they feel able to use in a positive way, I still find it...

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Posted by céline on January 26, 2007
Words

Glossolalia

January 25, 2007

The excellent Word of Mouth on BBC Radio 4 has signed off until April. The last edition was particularly interesting and dealt with glossolalia, or speaking in tongues (go to the Word of Mouth page on the Radio4 website and...

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Posted by céline on January 25, 2007
Words

Sbire

November 6, 2006

I was listening to a podcast of On refait le monde, a French radio programme on RTL involving several journalists who discuss current affairs, when I heard Géraldine Mullmann say the following: "Nicolas Sarkozy et ses sbires voudraient nous faire...

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Posted by céline on November 6, 2006
Words

Downs

October 9, 2006

Design by the Brighton and Hove City Council Creative Services Team and Jo offer Downs Old English dún, hill. Old Dutch dúna (Middle Dutch dúne, Dutch Duin, whence Modern Low German düne, French dune, sandhill). An open expanse of...

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Posted by céline on October 9, 2006
Words

Inglenook

October 5, 2006

A corner or nook near a fireplace ; chimney corner (1765-75) From: ingle 1 a fire burning in a hearth 2 a fireplace, hearth [Origin: 1500–10; Scottish aingeal fire] nook 1 a corner, as in a room [Origin: 1250–1300; Middle...

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Posted by céline on October 5, 2006
Words

Charismatic

August 18, 2006

My friend Becky belongs to a charismatic church. I knew it meant a lively type of church, with a strong emphasis on participation by the congregation, but why this choice of word? I assumed it was because they tend...

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Posted by céline on August 18, 2006
Words

Chouette

July 31, 2006

Chouette chouette Chouette, adjective Great. From Old French choeter, to be appearance-conscious, smart, or from Italian civetta (a smart, appearance-conscious woman). Chouette, feminine noun Owl. Diminutive form of Old French choue, from popular Latin cawa. ---------------------------- UPDATE Oh dear....

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Posted by céline on July 31, 2006
Words

Professional

July 12, 2006

I was having lunch with 15 friends and talking about the imminent departure of our very loud upstairs neighbour, who has made us feel like we were living under a busy R&B club for the last year and a half....

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Posted by céline on July 12, 2006
Words

Folly

June 20, 2006

Can you see something odd in the photo below? Let’s get closer. You might think, from this distance, that this building could actually be useful in some way. Then you walk there (thanks Alison for the arty shot!) : And...

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Posted by céline on June 20, 2006
Words

Standing stone

May 30, 2006

Standing stone: a large block of stone set upright; a menhir, monolith. Menhir is actually the French word for "standing stone". It comes from Breton men (stone) and hir (long). This is an example of a standing stone circle, taken...

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Posted by céline on May 30, 2006
Words

Corbeau

May 16, 2006

Thanks to Technologies du langage, I now know why writers of poison-pen letters are called corbeaux (crows) in French. Between 1917 and 1922, a woman wrote anonymous letters to several people in Tulle, a small town in Corrèze. Everyone started...

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Posted by céline on May 16, 2006
Words

Madame and mademoiselle

May 8, 2006

There is currently a linguistic debate in France around the use of the word mademoiselle; a petition has been started demanding that administrative documents should no longer have the choice between mademoiselle and madame; they should only offer madame. I...

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Posted by céline on May 8, 2006
Words

Heckler

April 28, 2006

I’m taking advantage of a short respite in a very busy schedule to demonstrate how very difficult translation is. Take "heckling", to "heckle" and "heckler", for example. My trusted Robert & Collins gives chahut (uproar), chahuter (to create an uproar)...

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Posted by céline on April 28, 2006
Words

Fossil

April 4, 2006

From Latin fossilis, dug up. In its early use, fossil was used to designate any rock, mineral or mineral substance dug out of the earth, but nowadays, it is used only in its restricted sense: it is the remains or...

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Posted by céline on April 4, 2006
Words

Murmuration

March 29, 2006

A term for a flock (of starlings). To see a short video of a murmuration of starlings over (what's left of) Brighton's West Pier, click on the image below (Windows Media file, 3.5MB, the size of a song in mp3...

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Posted by céline on March 29, 2006
Words

Milesker

March 23, 2006

This is one of a handful of Basque words I know, it means thank you. I was born in Bayonne and although I’m not strictly speaking Basque (most of my family are from the Landes region, just north of Bayonne),...

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Posted by céline on March 23, 2006
Words

Cobweb

March 22, 2006

Today, a meeting with my bank led me to discover the origin of the word cobweb. Before leaving the office, I asked around if anyone wanted anything from the outside world. One of my office buddies was in desperate need...

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Posted by céline on March 22, 2006
Words

Re

March 17, 2006

I always assumed that the word re, as in "re your email dated 6 March, I thank you very much for the offer of $1,000,000 in cash, but I shan’t be taking it up" was short for "regarding". Well, not...

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Posted by céline on March 17, 2006
Words

Sybaritic

March 15, 2006

Sybaritic 1 (with capital initial): of or pertaining to Sybarite or its inhabitants. 2: characterised by or devoted to excessive luxury; effeminately luxurious. I came across this word in an Independent article about boutique hotels which mentions "sybaritic features such...

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Posted by céline on March 15, 2006
Words

Syriana

March 13, 2006

Syriana - the title of George Clooney's latest film - is a term used by Washington think-tanks to describe hypothetical realignment of the Middle East. This is what Stephen Gaghan, the director, has to say about it: "Syriana" was a...

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Posted by céline on March 13, 2006
Words

Corsage

February 27, 2006

On Friday, I was chatting to a friend who was preparing her impending civil partnership when she told me: "All there is to do now is pick up dad’s corsage." Suddenly, I had this image of my friend’s father in...

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Posted by céline on February 27, 2006
Words

Chokuegambo

February 16, 2006

Amusing find of the day: the Japanese word chokuegambo, which expresses "the wish that there were more designer-brand shops on a given street". Discovered in the BBC magazine while avoiding work. Oooh is that a ray of sunshine outside? Must...

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Posted by céline on February 16, 2006
Words

Gris-gris

February 13, 2006

The player does a trick with the ball. Trick is a word that can be translated in several different ways according to the context in which it is used, but none of the options I found in my dictionary fitted...

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Posted by céline on February 13, 2006
Words

Grand pont

January 26, 2006

I managed a "grand pont" (big bridge) on an opponent last night at football. I know "petit pont" (little bridge) is "nutmeg" (when you kick the ball between your opponent’s legs), but what about "grand pont"? The only resource on...

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Posted by céline on January 26, 2006
Words

Pop-up window

January 24, 2006

Check out this interesting debate on the translation of "pop-up window" on Jean Véronis’ excellent site. The délégation générale à la langue française et aux langues de France has decided it should be "fenêtre intruse" (*intruder window), which seems a...

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Posted by céline on January 24, 2006
Words

Dénouement

January 3, 2006

I’d like to paradoxically start the new year with a dénouement (also spelled denouement): the explanation of something that has previously been unclear or that has been kept secret, especially at the end of a book or a play. It...

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Posted by céline on January 3, 2006
Words

Property, words and big money

December 2, 2005

Living in a lane puts £50,000 on your house Where I learnt that the word lane is worth £50,000 more than the word drive in propertyworld. Madness....

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Posted by céline on December 2, 2005
Words

Banlieue

November 9, 2005

This word dates back to the Middle Ages and is formed of "ban" (the authority of a lord) and "lieue" (a distance of around 2.5 miles): it used to be the area around a town which was submitted to the...

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Posted by céline on November 9, 2005
Words

Racaille and kärcher

November 7, 2005

The importance of language in politics has rarely been as clear as it is now. Listen to a French radio station, tune in to a French TV programme and you will hear the words "racaille" (rabble, scum) and "kärcher" (powerhose)....

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Posted by céline on November 7, 2005
Words

Hurricane, cyclone, typhoon

November 4, 2005

Did you know that the only difference between a hurricane (from Hunraken, the Mayan god of storms), a cyclone (from Greek kuklos, circle) and a typhoon (from Chinese tai fung, "big wind") is their geographical origin? Hurricanes happen in the...

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Posted by céline on November 4, 2005
Words

Rabbit

October 7, 2005

An innocent word, is it not? Not for the people of the Isle of Portland, in Dorset, for whom it is taboo, as they think that uttering it will give them bad luck. The Weymouth and Portland website tells us...

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Posted by céline on October 7, 2005
Words

Chowder

September 19, 2005

French fishermen, who cooked thick soup made of fish and vegetables in chaudières or cauldrons (from Latin caldaria, cooking pot, from caldus, warm), brought their recipe to North American, where it took the name of the cooking implement and became...

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Posted by céline on September 19, 2005
Words

Silhouette

September 12, 2005

1. A silhouette is the outline of a dark shape with a bright light or pale background behind it. 2. The silhouette of something is the outline that it has, which often helps you to recognize it. (Collins Cobuild) From...

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Posted by céline on September 12, 2005
Words

Cricket terminology

September 7, 2005

Now I know that cricket has suddenly become fashionable because of this year’s Ashes, but I feel compelled to justify myself by pointing out that I’ve loved the game for at least two years! It bewildered me for years until...

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Posted by céline on September 7, 2005
Words

Refugee

September 5, 2005

The Guardian reports that within the context of the disaster caused by hurricane Katrina, the term "refugee" was condemned by civil rights groups: "I think it's an offensive term," said Bruce Gordon, the president of the National Association for the...

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Posted by céline on September 5, 2005
Words

Testing

August 25, 2005

The French have a fondness for borrowing English words that actually don't exist. After le parking, (where you park your cars), le camping (where you park your tents), here comes le testing. Now I know testing exists in English, but...

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Posted by céline on August 25, 2005
Words

Quinoa and plonk

August 10, 2005

It's not every day that you learn a new word AND a new foodstuff! One of my healthier office buddies was having quinoa (keen-wah), a seed related to spinach, last week for lunch, so I tried it last night and...

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Posted by céline on August 10, 2005
Words

Oubliette

July 4, 2005

Oubliette: from French oublier, to forget. A secret dungeon, access to which was gained only through a trap-door above, often having a secret pit, below, into which the prisoner might be precipitated. Can you think of a most horrid place...

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Posted by céline on July 4, 2005
Words

Chav

June 10, 2005

The BBC website tells us that the latest edition of the OED includes 1,500 new words, including chav, which is defined as "a young working class person who dresses in casual sports clothing". This is wikipedia’s view on things: "Chav...

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Posted by céline on June 10, 2005
Words

Freakonomics

May 25, 2005

freakonomics n. funky study of supply, demand and incentives Freakonomics is the study of economics from a contrarian perspective, ie with the willingness to turn conventional wisdom on its head. Freakonomists amass a large amount of data to answer simple...

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Posted by céline on May 25, 2005
Words

Formica

May 12, 2005

We're catching up on the 4th series of Six Feet Under and in the second episode, one of the characters gives the origin of the word formica: in the beginning of the 20th century, tougher, lighter and less costly insulators...

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Posted by céline on May 12, 2005
Words

Dalek

May 3, 2005

I've finally seen a Dalek! These supposedly most frightening of aliens and supreme adversaries of Dr Who are an excellent example of how, despite ten years in a country, you can still miss out on major cultural references. I had...

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Posted by céline on May 3, 2005
Words

Benoît

April 25, 2005

The new Pope's choice of name, Benedict, has been dissected and analysed by the British press in a bid to discover what kind of reign his will be, here and here for example. In French, he is known as Benoît,...

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Posted by céline on April 25, 2005
Words

Irony

April 18, 2005

1. a. The use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning. b. An expression or utterance marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning. c. A literary style employing such contrasts...

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Posted by céline on April 18, 2005
Words

Aggregator

April 14, 2005

Transblawg gives a link to a very handy language blog aggregator (delightfully named langwich sandwich) created by Kalebeul's Trevor. I'd quite like to know why he chose to list the French version of this blog and not the English version…...

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Posted by céline on April 14, 2005
Words

Bug

March 11, 2005

The word bug has many meanings, but it's the one linked to machines and faults that interests me today. As you'd expect from something as troublesome, the origins are not straightforward, and its translation into French has not been easy...

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Posted by céline on March 11, 2005
Words

Ha-ha

March 2, 2005

It's a word, believe it or not, and it comes from the French exclamation of surprise : Ha ha! (according to all the dictionaries I consulted). It designates a ditch that serves as a boundary without obstructing the view. Presumably,...

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Posted by céline on March 2, 2005
Words

Eggcorn

February 18, 2005

The word eggcorn was coined by the Language Log linguists and indicates odd spellings of words (like eggcorn for acorn), which mean that they can be interpreted differently. For a comprehensive history of the term, please click here. According to...

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Posted by céline on February 18, 2005
Words

Verlan

February 9, 2005

Frequent commenter Neij asked me a while back to write an entry about verlan, a form of French slang where the letters or syllables of a word are loosely interchanged, effectively making a new word. The main thing is that...

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Posted by céline on February 9, 2005
Words

Veritas

February 4, 2005

British readers will be aware that Robert Kilroy-Silk has left the UK Independence Party in a flurry of publicity, to found a new political party called Veritas (from the Latin word for truth). I'm sure the irony of the fact...

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Posted by céline on February 4, 2005
Words

Liberty and freedom

January 24, 2005

"President Bush promised to bring liberty and freedom to the world." What is the difference between liberty and freedom? There is only one word in French, liberté, to express the right to "express any political or religious opinion and live...

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Posted by céline on January 24, 2005
Words

Dooced

January 12, 2005

This article in today's Guardian about a man who lost his job for criticising his employer in his blog reminded me that I had read about a new word for this phenomenon. So I checked Urban Dictionary, and there it...

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Posted by céline on January 12, 2005
Words

Chugger

January 11, 2005

chugger n. A professional fundraiser who approaches people on the street to ask for money on behalf of a charity. Composite word created from charity + mugger. The earliest citation of this word (according to Word Spy), is: Is it...

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Posted by céline on January 11, 2005
Words

Hubris

January 7, 2005

I learnt a brand new word over the holiday, linked to the David Blunkett story. He was repeatedly accused of behaving with hubris. This word of Greek origin is often used in conjonction with Greek tragedy, to describe the attitude...

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Posted by céline on January 7, 2005
Words

Dude

December 13, 2004

Thanks to Caroline for sending me a CNN article on dude. Extract below: An admitted dude-user during his college years, Scott Kiesling said the four-letter word has many uses: in greetings ("What's up, dude?"); as an exclamation ("Whoa, Dude!"); commiseration...

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Posted by céline on December 13, 2004
Words

Flip-flop

November 29, 2004

Well, that's a weight off my shoulders. I didn't let it transpire on this blog, but I was quite stressed during the whole American election campaign. The reason? I just couldn't for the life of me figure out how to...

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Posted by céline on November 29, 2004
Words

Marmite

November 23, 2004

We were looking at the menu of a very nice London restaurant on Saturday when one of my co-lunchers exclaimed: "Monkfish tail "en marmite"??! Whaaaat? Fish in Marmite?" Tut tut. Those Engleesh. I reassured my friend: "Of course not. Marmite...

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Posted by céline on November 23, 2004
Words

Toff

November 19, 2004

Fox-hunting is set to become illegal in England and Wales. The debate around this issue has been raging for some time and the word toff, used by some to describe those who practice the blood sport, caught my attention. This...

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Posted by céline on November 19, 2004
Words

Hacker

November 8, 2004

Today I've come across the word hacker. These "new" terms linked to the Internet, generally English, are difficult to deal with because no one agrees on how to translate them at first; it takes a few years for the more...

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Posted by céline on November 8, 2004
Words

Terrorism

October 25, 2004

The word terrorism stems from "la Terreur", a period in French history. In 1793, the revolution was in danger of being overturned and the country was about to be invaded. As a consequence, the French government implemented the Reign of...

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Posted by céline on October 25, 2004
Words

Shibboleth

October 20, 2004

During my morning reading of the Guardian, I found this sentence in an article by Jonathan Freedland: America's centre of gravity has moved rightward, creating a set of shibboleths that cannot be challenged. Shibboleths? According to the OED, it is...

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Posted by céline on October 20, 2004
Words

Inconsistent

October 8, 2004

I'm absolutely snowed under but wanted to take time to share one of those little victories that make me happy to be a translator : I am currently translating human resources documents for a very big Internet company, which I...

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Posted by céline on October 8, 2004
Words

Screw

September 22, 2004

This weekend I filled an important British culture gap: I watched Porridge, the cult series set in a prison, for the first time. I also finally learnt why prison wardens are called screws. The explanation Gabrielle gave me (some kind...

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Posted by céline on September 22, 2004
Words

Collective nouns

September 15, 2004

I'm jealous of my friend Becky Crow. Not just because she's a talented jewellery designer, but also because I love her name. She was telling us that one day, she was in church with her extended family when a member...

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Posted by céline on September 15, 2004
Words

Echo

August 25, 2004

In honour of the Olympic games in Athens, here is the origin of my favourite Greek word: echo (from Edith Hamilton's Mythology, my translation as I only have the French version of her book). Echo was a favourite of Artemis,...

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Posted by céline on August 25, 2004
Words

Cellulite

August 20, 2004

Last Wednesday, I got bitten by some unidentified insect while playing football. By Friday, half of my right thigh was swollen, red and hard, so I went to see my GP. She had one look at my leg and went:...

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Posted by céline on August 20, 2004
Words

Saddam

July 21, 2004

Thanks to LanguageHat, I now have the answer to something that had been puzzling me for a while. Why, do you think, do newsreaders and politicians refer to "Saddam Hussein" as "Saddam"? I always thought this use of his first...

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Posted by céline on July 21, 2004
Words

Rozzer

July 12, 2004

Talking about police officers, amongst the numerous and colourful words used to call the police in Britain, rozzer was always one that I thought was non-offensive and almost affectionate. Wrong. It comes in fact from the Hebrew word "chazer" (approximately...

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Posted by céline on July 12, 2004
Words

Mews

June 30, 2004

Around Brighton, there are lots of mews, or yards or streets surrounded by houses. This name has always intrigued me; I know most mews were originally built as stables, but wasn't sure where the word was coming from. I found...

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Posted by céline on June 30, 2004
Words

Suvivalist and shallow

June 17, 2004

You may remember a blog entry I wrote a few weeks ago in which I mentioned the fact that French translations are always longer than their English source texts. Well, yesterday I had to translate the word survivalist. It must...

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Posted by céline on June 17, 2004
Words

Copse

June 7, 2004

During an extremely pleasant walk in the South Downs this weekend, we came across a copse. After hearing a description of what a copse is (a small thicket), I realised that I knew another word for it: coppice. It turns...

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Posted by céline on June 7, 2004
Words

Torture

May 24, 2004

I don't think I will ever tire of the creative ways in which politicians exploit words and language. The war ("situation", "conflict", "military intervention", "freedom operation") in Iraq has provided many opportunities to witness them struggle with the simplest of...

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Posted by céline on May 24, 2004
Words

Giclée

May 21, 2004

One of the many delights of the Brighton Festival is the open houses. Every weekend in May, Brighton & Hove artists open their houses for the public to see their work. This year, I've noticed a number of giclée prints,...

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Posted by céline on May 21, 2004
Words

Rambla

May 19, 2004

According to my Barcelona guidebook, the name Rambla comes from the Arabic ramla, meaning the dried-up bed of a seasonal river. As time passed, the riverbed was filled in, but its presence is still remembered in the name of Barcelona's...

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Posted by céline on May 19, 2004
Words

Caesarean

May 5, 2004

Last week, I read an article about the rising number of Caesarean sections being performed in the UK. Curious as to whether it had anything to do with Caesar, the roman Emperor, I turned to the OED and found this:...

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Posted by céline on May 5, 2004
Words

Snooker

May 4, 2004

The Snooker World Championship is now finished. It was on for two weeks, with games shown all day and into the evening. Bliss, pure bliss. Nothing can glue to me to my sofa more than this most British of games,...

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Posted by céline on May 4, 2004
Words

The War of the Words

April 30, 2004

Thanks to Marie for bringing my attention to an excellent article by Terry Jones (ex-Monty Python) in The Guardian on the use of words in the war in Iraq. One of the chief problems with the current exciting adventure in...

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Posted by céline on April 30, 2004
Words

Referendum

April 26, 2004

So the people of the UK are going to have a referendum on the EU. And possibly more than one, which poses the issue of the plural of the word referendum. In the various articles I've been reading about it,...

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Posted by céline on April 26, 2004
Words

Petrichor

April 3, 2004

This word describes one of the most gorgeous smells to be enjoyed on this earth. Which one? Go and see Green Fairy and she'll tell you more. As it has no French equivalent and is formed of two Greek words,...

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Posted by céline on April 3, 2004
Words

Spelling bee

March 29, 2004

In his comment on Être et avoir, Anthony mentioned Spellbound, a wonderful documentary on children competing in spelling bees (contests in which competitors are eliminated as they fail to spell a given word correctly) in the USA. This led me...

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Posted by céline on March 29, 2004
Words

Blog

March 15, 2004

Here are the translations I've found for blog: Blog Blogue Weblog Joueb Webjournal Carnet Web Carnet virtuel Cybercarnet Blog-notes From this list, I like carnet Web, because it is quite short and accurately describes what a blog is: a logbook...

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Posted by céline on March 15, 2004
Words

Twitten

March 12, 2004

I'm absolutely snowed under and have no time to write extensively, but I thought I'd share this adorable little gem of a word I discovered while translating a brochure on events happening in Sussex this summer. It's a Sussex dialect...

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Posted by céline on March 12, 2004
Words

Evil

March 8, 2004

The way politicians have been using the word evil in the last few years has been really bothering me. The latest example was Tony Blair saying on Tuesday, after the attacks in Baghdad and Karbala: "If there was any clearer...

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Posted by céline on March 8, 2004
Words

Martinet

February 27, 2004

I just finished subtitling one of the bonus features to be found on the Police Academy DVD collection that will be coming out soon. Start saving folks! One of the actors describes Lieutenant Harris (the nasty teacher in the academy)...

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Posted by céline on February 27, 2004
Words

Callipygian

February 23, 2004

I came across this word whilst playing Cranium with friends. My unfortunate partner and I had to correctly identify the meaning of this word from a list of four possible options. Now I'm quite proud of my knowledge of words...

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Posted by céline on February 23, 2004
Words

Homophobia

February 16, 2004

Simon Hoggart, in his diary published in the Guardian , tells us that, from an etymological point of view, this term is absolutely nonsensical. If we break it up, we see that it is made of: Homo – it could...

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Posted by céline on February 16, 2004
Words

Oche

January 27, 2004

We visited friends in Walthamstow (East London) this weekend and in the afternoon, we went out to the pub to play pool. We found a little gem: not only did it have a pool table but also a darts board!...

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Posted by céline on January 27, 2004
Words

Baby-foot

January 23, 2004

Aren’t false anglicisms a real oddity? Last night, I was explaining to a friend that my greatest ambition in life is to have a games room in my home with a pool table and a baby-foot. “A what?” he said....

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Posted by céline on January 23, 2004
Words

Grandiose

January 14, 2004

Grandiose is another word of Latin origin. I heard it mentioned during the lunchtime news in the context of George Bush’s plans for the colonisation of Mars. An American scientist called them a “grandiose waste of money”. Immediately my little...

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Posted by céline on January 14, 2004
Words

Totality

January 12, 2004

Tony Blair: "I stand by the totality of what I said at that time." This choice of words by the British Prime Minister has been ridiculed by his political opponents, who have taken great delight in accusing him of playing...

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Posted by céline on January 12, 2004
Words

Spa

January 5, 2004

I managed to spend the entire holiday without feeling too guilty about not doing anything and was rewarded with a 45,000 word project when I finally allowed myself to get back to my computer. The deadline is tight but the...

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Posted by céline on January 5, 2004
Words

Spin Doctor

December 8, 2003

“Spin Doctor”, what a great expression in English and how difficult it is to translate. A literal translation would mean absolutely nothing in French and I’ve often wondered how to render it. I find it impossible to encapsulate the wonderful...

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Posted by céline on December 8, 2003
Words

Spam

November 17, 2003

Spam. Now if you use e-mail, you know exactly what I am talking about: unwanted annoying e-mails promising you, amongst other things, a larger organ, a slimmer waist, free money or the end of wrinkles. But why call it spam?...

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Posted by céline on November 17, 2003
Words