Archive for the 'Language' Category

Six Nicknames for French Presidents & Presidential Candidates

May 7th, 2007

Yesterday’s presidential election in France featured two opponents who, despite their differences, actually have a few interesting things in common: both were born after World War II; neither previously held the office of prime minister or president (a first for a presidential candidate since the 1970s); and both have pithy and sound bite ready nicknames. […]

Seven Interjections That Include Personal Names

March 8th, 2007

By George! A modernized version of “by Jove!” (in other words, Jupiter). For Pete’s Sake! A softer form of “for God’s sake” or “for Christ’s sake,” supposedly a reference to St. Peter. For the Love of Mike! Slightly less popular, according to Google, than “for the love of Pete!” but Pete’s already made the list, […]

21 Quirky Pub Names

March 6th, 2007

I first became interested in the phenomenon of pubs with names that contain two nouns (e.g., Crown and Anchor) when I visited Oxford a few years ago. Some combinations seemed natural, like Fox and Hounds, while others left me scratching my head (Angel and Greyhound). There are various explanations for these puzzling names, including the […]

Six (or More) Names for the Day Before Lent Begins

February 20th, 2007

In Western Christian traditions, the period of Lent begins 40 days before Easter, starting with Ash Wednesday. The day before Ash Wednesday is known by a variety of names, and is frequently marked by celebrations, such as the famous Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, and the Carnevale of Venice. […]

11 US College Match-Ups I’d Like to See

February 13th, 2007

I’m not much of a sports fan, but I am intrigued by the nicknames colleges give to their sports teams. Although many are uninspired (e.g., Bears, Beavers, and Bobcats), others provide great fodder for creative visualization, like this list of team match-ups I’d like to see. Meredith College Angels vs. University of the Sciences in […]

Nine Overused Baseball Metaphors on The Apprentice

February 12th, 2007

I followed The Apprentice avidly during its first couple of seasons, but the show has gotten progressively more annoying. Among the things that irritate me most is the fact that the contestants all speak some weird dialect of Business English that seems to consist mainly of clichéd baseball metaphors. Some of the phrases I hear […]

18 Potential Acronyms for the Democrats

December 15th, 2006

A long time ago the Republican Party gained the nickname “GOP,” which is usually understood as an acronym for “Grand Old Party,” although there have been exceptions to this. I think it’s time that the Democrats had their own handy acronym, and I’ve listed some potential ones below. I offer this list in a spirit […]

Animal Sounds in Different Languages

December 6th, 2006

Some of the first sounds we learn to imitate as babies are the sounds animals supposedly make. I say supposedly, since each language has its own idea about what those sounds are. While most people hear the mewing of a cat in a similar way (some variant of mee-ow), there is a huge range of […]

21 Geographically Confused Names for the Turkey

November 17th, 2006

I’ve always thought it was strange that the English word for the bird commonly eaten on Thanksgiving is “turkey,” since it did not originate from the Mediterranean country of the same name, but is native to North America. Upon further research, I’ve found that the early European settlers came up with the name because of […]

U.S. Towns Named after Planets

November 10th, 2006

During the recent U.S. mid-term election, the town of Jupiter, Florida was mentioned in the news because it experienced some problems with its voting process. Hearing the town’s name made me wonder if there were other towns similarly named after planets. I found out that there are many, and I’ve listed the states that have […]

41 Bookstores in Hay-on-Wye, Wales

November 6th, 2006

The Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye (or Y Gelli in Welsh) was the starting point for the international “book towns” movement, now made up of about 20 towns around the world. Boasting 41 bookstores for only 1500 inhabitants (that’s about one bookstore for every 37 residents), Hay-on-Wye also plays host to the annual Hay Festival, a […]

Eight poets named William

September 25th, 2006

Although the name William is very common, there does seem to be a preponderance of poets with that name, including many from my list of favorites. Did the parents of Blake, Wordsworth, and Yeats hope that their sons would grow up to be great poets in the same mold as their famous predecessor, William Shakespeare? […]

IKEA products that could be Shakespearean epithets

September 22nd, 2006

This is the fourth entry in our series of IKEA lists. I have great affection for the wonderful epithets Shakespeare coined for his plays; his linguistic dexterity and wit seem to shine most brightly when he is putting these put-downs in the mouths of his characters. There are too many to list from his plays […]

28 San Francisco Hair Salons with Puns in Their Names

September 15th, 2006

For some reason, hair salons, more than most other kinds of businesses, tend to come up with names involving bad puns. There’s the ever-popular Curl Up and Dye, which appears in numerous cities, and many other names involving plays on words like cut, snip, shear, and head. Here for your amusement are some actual salons […]

Eight Switzerland Comparisons

September 14th, 2006

Recently I read an article about the history of the San Francisco neighborhood I live in, Glen Park. In its early days it was known as “Little Switzerland” because of its hilly terrain and the presence of several Swiss-owned dairies in the area. This inspired me to find other examples of Switzerland comparisons, and I […]

20 Most Popular U.S. Baby Names in 2005 and 1885

September 13th, 2006

There seems to be a trend lately of parents choosing names for their children that may be considered more traditional. I think this may be a backlash against decades of popular baby names that were newly coined or given new spellings. It’s interesting to see that there are some names that remain popular from one […]

11 Ways to Say “I’m sorry, I don’t speak ___”

September 7th, 2006

When traveling in foreign countries, it’s always helpful to know a few stock phrases and key words even (or especially) if you don’t speak the language fluently. One useful phrase is “I’m sorry, I don’t speak [insert language here].” Although it may be difficult to master even that much of the language, it may make […]

IKEA products that could be vanity license plates

September 1st, 2006

This is the third entry in our series of IKEA lists. Alhagen Name for: A basket Could be: A license plate for an ice cream fan Brallis Name for: A clothes-hanger Could be: A license plate for a “natural” woman Brygd Name for: A pitcher Could be: A license plate for a dentist Espnäs Name […]

IKEA products that could be superhero names

August 18th, 2006

This is the second entry in our series of IKEA lists. Another trend I noticed among the IKEA names was that a lot of the one-word names seemed tailor-made for would-be superheroes. There was an attitude of action and identity implicit in these names that seemed perfect for these fledgling caped crusaders. Bandora Old identity: […]

Eight terms for snow crusts

August 11th, 2006

The idea that there are dozens of Eskimo words for snow is (mostly) an urban myth, but in English, we have at least eight different terms for a snow crust. These are from the Glossary of Meteorology at the American Meteorological Society by way of Interesting Thing of the Day: snow crust: the general term […]