Teeth and words……

  Why doesn’t English have an expression for the space between the teeth when Malay does – gigi rongak? And that’s not the only gap in our dental vocabulary: mrongos (Indonesian) to have ugly protruding upper teeth angil (Kapampangan, Philippines) to bare the fangs like a dog laglerolarpok (Inuit) the …

Hello…….

  The first and most essential word in all languages is surely ‘hello’, the word that enables one human being to converse with another, such as: aa (Diola, Senegal) beeta (Soninke, Mali, Senegal and Ivory Coast) bok (Croatian) boozhoo (Ojibwe, USA and Canada) daw-daw (Jutlandish, Denmark) ella (Awabakal, Australia) i …

oops-a-daisy……

  The other day somebody asked me where the phrase oops-a-daisy comes from. Of course, I didn’t know, but I never feel that Ignorance should stand in the way of Opinion, so I muttered something about lackadaisical and tried to look wise. By extraordinary coincidence, it turns out that I …

Stationary/stationery…….

  Those who have never liked the fine distinctions of English spelling will rejoice to learn that the first recorded use of the word stationery, in Nathan Bailey’s Universal Etymological English Dictionary of 1727, goes thus: Stationary – Stationers Wares The -ary -ery distinction was only introduced in the nineteenth …

The big cheese……

It’s a delightful little oddity of the English language that the phrase the big cheese has nothing whatsoever to do with milk products. The Urdu word for thing is chīz. This meant that back in the days of the British Empire Anglo Indians wouldn’t talk about something being the real …