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Drumroll please…the Oxford Dictionary have announced the Word of the Year for 2013 and the winner is…SELFIE!


Pronunciation: /?s?lfi/
(also selfy)

noun (plural selfies)


  • a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website: occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself every day isn’t necessary


early 21st century: from self + -ie

Although the word has already been incorporated into the online version of the dictionary, its popularity has increased rapidly over the past year, leading to its status of Word of the Year. The increase in the use of this word is illustrated in the diagram below:


It is thought that this neologism first appeared on an Australian online forum, its -ie ending is a popular feature in informal Australian English, which uses shortened spellings of certain words such as ‘tinnie’, ‘barbie’ and of course, ‘Aussie’. The latest developments of the word ‘selfie’ have led to users changing the first letter(s) of the word to give more detail about the content of their photographic self-portraits, for example, the ‘welfie’ (workout selfie), the ‘drelfie’ (drunk selfie) or reality ‘star’ Kim Kardashian’s now infamous ‘belfie’ (a photo of one’s backside).

Click the link to read the Oxford Dictionaries’ blog


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Lost Languages You Rock!

In many respects language is our culture – so it’s wonderful to see how one Native American tribe is keeping alive its dying language Yurok:


The dying language of the Yurok Native American tribe.


It’s not just the British who are going crazy over the birth of Prince William’s son. In Europe, the media reaction has been almost equally fanatical to that of UK broadcasters. Online newspapers and social media are taking centre stage in the obsessive reporting of the birth across the English Channel. French newspaper Le Figaro are particularly fixated on the “Petit Prince” with a whole tab on their website dedicated to the Royal infant! The Italians have been equally intense: they are ranked among the top 5 countries in the world for the sheer volume of their Twitter and Facebook reactions to the event.

The most intriguing aspect of this whole international obsession is the anglicisation involved in reporting on the British Royal family. The desire to convey the same sort of spirit of the hype we are experiencing in the UK surrounding the birth has led to various bizarre anglicisms, which just end up sounding hilarious to English-speakers. One common example is the refusal to translate ‘Royal baby’ (‘Das Royal Baby’ in Germany and ‘le Royal Baby’ in France). The Italians – given their tendency to embrace any form of anglicism – take it even further, opting for ‘il little boy’ and ‘il baby boy’ over their mother tongue alternatives. Although this could appear concerning in a world which communicates in an increasingly “Globish” language with every passing day, in reality this is not a threat to the conservation of foreign tongues. Without even really paying attention to it, we are constantly borrowing words from other languages. The translation of French President François Hollande’s congratulations on the Royal birth certainly reveals how much we owe to the French language in our own culture, since his reference to the Entente Cordiale was left untranslated in the British media. Of course, since it was the name assigned to the peace agreements between the UK and France in the early 20th century, a significant historical event, it is obvious that there is no real need to translate it, since it is a technical term in its own right. In the same way, Royal family terminology is becoming more and more a series of borrowed English words when it comes to translating it for overseas newspapers. Keeping particular terms in their original English certainly does not stem from a desire to wipe out a foreign language’s equivalent term. Such anglicisms are a symbol of the international media embracing the “Britishness” of historical events involving the Royal family –an attitude which it would be admirable to replicate in our own media when reporting on similar international events.

Click here for more international coverage of the royal birth



In the fast-paced world of technology new vocabulary is required on a daily basis in order to discuss the plethora of apps, social media sites and other online communication tools used throughout the world. Once an app or website gains popularity, general discussion leads to the necessity for more specific, tailored language. Twitter, for example, has leant new meaning to the noun and verb ‘tweet’. Of course this need for new language does not only exist for English speakers but for any user of new technology, whether their native language is French, Chinese, Russian or any other language. As this evolution of language continues in English changes also occur in other languages. The newest official additions to the Spanish language are the verb and noun used in relation to the communication app, WhatsApp - a popular mobile instant messaging application. If you want to send somebody a message via WhatsApp you will need to ‘wasapear’ them, and if you want to talk about one such message you will be discussing a ‘wasap’ (plural ‘wasaps).  The Fundación del Español Urgente (Fundéu BBVA) announced that these words were acceptable Spanish adaptations of the English brand name at the beginning of the month. The foundation is a non-profit organisation that works in conjunction with the RAE (the the official institution responsible for regulating the Spanish language) and was created in 2005 with the aim of encouraging proper use of Spanish in the media.

As the most widely spoken language in the world, English plays an influential role when it comes to the evolution and development of modern foreign languages. However, it is interesting to learn that many words that play an important role in this language are actually derived from other languages. The English Effect is a new exhibition run by the British Council which explores the origins of the English language whilst also highlighting its international economic importance. John Worne, director of strategy at the British Council discusses the importance of the etymology of English words as follows, “Many of our most popular and evocative English words- words we couldn’t live without- came from other countries and cultures. When we look at their roots, we get a fascinating insight into how the language has been influenced throughout its history.”

Whilst the influence that English has on other modern foreign languages is often immediately evident thanks to direct borrowing (le parking (FR), el aftersun (ES)), the impact of other languages on English is not so well documented. Those words which have been “borrowed” from other languages are usually quite obvious foreign imports (Zeitgeist, déjà vu etc.), however, the English Effect has unearthed some terms which have less obvious roots.

Here are just a few examples of English words which we have other languages to thank for:


TREK- South Africa

Afrikaan’s trek comes originally from Dutch trekken “to draw, pull, march, travel“. The specific use of trek in English results from the Afrikaans expression Groot Trek, the “Great Trek” of the 1830s and 1840s, when thousands of Boers, dissatisfied with British colonial rule, trekked north-east from the original Cape Colony to found new settlements.     images2







ROBOT- Czech Republicimages3

The word robot comes from the Czech word robota, meaning “forced labour, drudgery”. The word first appeared in 1920 in Karel ?apek’s play Rossum’s Universal Robots. In this play it is the name of a type of mass-produced worker made from artificially synthesized material.


DODO- Portugal  

The name of the extinct dodo comes from Portuguese doudo, literally meaning “simpleton”, reflecting the fact that the bird showed no fear of man when it was encountered by European sailors. Hence it was easily killed and eaten, and was probably extinct by 1700.



English has gained lingua franca status in many global domains and now plays an important role in international communication, Worne describes this international role: “English is not just our language- it truly belongs to the whole world and brings real benefits to anyone who can speak it. Even a few words can bring work, a job or new opportunities.” The English Effect is being held at the British Council’s headquarters in Charing Cross, London, until June 29 and entry is free. To find out more about the exhibition visit:

Thy mama’s so fat…

As most people know, Shakespeare was a prolific writer who invented many words and phrases which are now fixed as part of the English language.

In fact he invented well over 1,700 words or phrases, a colossal number when one thinks about it.

You may not even be aware of the words we use everyday that were coined by the great bard.

The following English words were all invented by Shakespeare, or at least his works contain the first known recorded usage of these words:

Obscene: Love’s Labours Lost, Act I, Scene i, Ferdinand to Costard.

“Then for the place where; where, I mean, I did encounter
that obscene and preposterous event, that draweth
from my snow-white pen the ebon-coloured ink, which
here thou viewest, beholdest, surveyest, or seest;”

Skim Milk: Henry IV, Part I, Act II, Scene iii, Hotspur Soliloquy.

“O, I could divide myself
and go to buffets, for moving such a dish of
skim milk with so honourable an action!”

Eyeball: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act III, Scene ii, Oberon to Puck.

“Then crush this herb into Lysander’s eye;

Whose liquor hath this virtuous property,
To take from thence all error with his might,
And make his eyeballs roll with wonted sight.”

Puking: As You Like It, Act II, Scene vii, Jaques to Duke Senior.

“They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.”

Hot-blooded: King Lear, Act II, Scene iv, King Lear to Regan.

“Necessity’s sharp pinch! Return with her?
Why, the hot-blooded France, that dowerless took
Our youngest born, I could as well be brought
To knee his throne, and, squire-like;”

The Game is afoot: Henry IV, Part I, Act I, Scene iii, Northumberland to Hotspur.

“Before the game is afoot, thou still let’st slip.”

Epileptic: King Lear, Act II, Scene ii, Kent to Cornwall.

“A plague upon your epileptic visage!
Smile you my speeches, as I were a fool?
Goose, if I had you upon Sarum plain,
I’ld drive ye cackling home to Camelot.”

Wormhole: The Rape of Lucrece.

“To fill with worm-holes stately monuments,
To feed oblivion with decay of things,
To blot old books and alter their contents,
To pluck the quills from ancient ravens’ wings.”

 Alligator: Romeo and Juliet (First Folio), Act V, Scene I, Romeo Soliloquy.

“And in his needie shop a Tortoyrs hung,
An Allegater stuft, and other skins
Of ill shap’d fishes, and about his shelues,
A beggerly account of emptie boxes.”

An aspect of Shakespeare’s genius I enjoy is his penchant for sharp insults.

The list below was not created by us and is of unknown origin – rather than the usual stayed and boring four letter words, the next time you feel the need to comment on the cut of someone’s jib, try a Shakespearian insult.

Start with a Thy or Thou and then select one word from each column:

Thou pribbling toad-spotted strumpet

Thou pribbling toad-spotted strumpet


An on-line Shakespearian insulter based on the insult kit above is available here:

alphabetWhen Jaber George Jabbour, a Syrian banker, arrived in the UK he encountered difficulties getting to grips with the local language. He became frustrated by the complexities of English spelling, particularly when it came to place names such as “Leicester”, the spelling of which gives no clue as to how it should be pronounced. His innovative idea for overcoming this obstacle was to create a simplified universal alphabet that could be used by speakers of all languages as a guide to pronunciation.  This idea has led to the creation of SaypU (Spell As You Pronounce Universally), a phonetic alphabet intended to aid pronunciation and break down language barriers.

Jabbour believes that the meaning of words is no longer the biggest barrier to effective communication, but that pronunciation is far more likely to lead to misunderstandings. An example of this could be the sentence “Don’t desert me here in the desert”, where the spelling of these two heteronyms gives no clue to the difference in pronunciation of the verb and the noun. In theory the use of this new alphabet will allow the reader to pronounce any given word at first sight, Jabbour believes that this will not only reduce misunderstandings but will also make language learning a much quicker process.

The SaypU website currently has 10,000 words that can be translated into the new alphabet, with the possibility for users to suggest tweaks and add new words. Click on the link below to try out the new alphabet for yourself:


graphic showing the structure of the spread of protolanguages

Findings published recently in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, offer compelling support for a hypothesis about the relationship between the function of a sound and its probability of changing, that was first proposed in 1955.

One of the oldest problems in linguistics is reconstructing the words that appeared in the protolanguages from which modern languages evolved.

Thousands of years ago, the romance languages–Spanish, French, Italian and others–all descended from one common root language. Now researchers are able to reconstruct ancient, long-dead languages using a computer program. Scientists have created software to rebuild protolanguages.

As Science World Reports reported, “these findings have huge implications for the study of languages. Before, linguists had to use time consuming methods in order to puzzle out ancient words-comparing several different languages and examining each sound. Now, this computer program can help linguists work a little faster.”

According to Dan Klein, one of the researchers involved in creating the software, and an associate professor at the University of California: “Our system still has shortcomings. For example, it can’t handle morphological changes or re-duplications-how a word like ‘cat’ becomes ‘kitty-cat.’”

The question remains as to whether scientists can ever reconstruct the first language – the one from which all others derived, but this is certainly another useful tool in their arsenal.


Try as it might, the Académie française appears to be losing its battle to keep the use of anglicisms in the French language at bay. With the purpose of enriching the French language and stopping it from becoming contaminated by the ever-increasing number of English neologisms, the long-standing institution is no stranger to defeat. Previous attempts to quell the use of popular English words such as “e-mail” and “marketing” have been largely unsuccessful. The Académie has now been mocked by many French twitter devotees due to its belated efforts to stop the English word “hashtag” from being incorporated into the French language. The new word proposed by the institution in place of “hashtag” is “mot-dièse”, which must now be used in any official documents, the use of “hashtag” in the media also being discouraged. Protecting the French language is certainly an important issue, particularly given the current prevalence of English as the online lingua franca, but many think this particular term has arrived rather too late. Another problem with this new term that has left the Académie open to ridicule is the fact that the term “dièse” actually refers to the symbol that denotes a sharp in musical notation. Many have been left wondering why the term “croisillon”, denoting a hashtag -and therefore a direct equivalent of the English term- hasn’t been used.

To find out more about this story (in French), see the article below:

chatter in a vanishing dialect

According to researcher Lars Hinrichs, a linguistics professor at the University of Texas, Austin, mass media and pop culture are to blame for the decline of the Texan drawl. “Everybody that grows up in America nowadays has a TV, and so they learn how to sound generally American,”

Traditionally, Texans speak ‘Ainglish’ with either too many vowels or removing them entirely, which is the key to the famous Texan accent.

So, a typical question in a local shop might be “can I do in’thang for you?”.

The American accent has many regional variants, but a good starting point is to slightly protrude the jaw and flatten the tongue.

At UPS Translations we’re specialists in coaching actors in accents and foreign dialogue. We’re often called upon to attend shoots and even casting sessions, in addition to working with talent ahead of the shoot.When it comes to American accents, we understand how to meet the brief – whether a ‘standardised’ mid-Atlantic, West Coast or New York accent is required. We even teach models and actors how to get the correct mouth shapes for different dialects, so when they’re later dubbed in post production we can achieve perfect lip-synch.

Dropped Gs are a common feature in the Lone Star state’s accent – so stop all that procrastinatin’, because there’s plenty a huntin’ and fishin’ awaitin’.

Of course, if you simply copy the stock phases you’ll be branded a City Slicker in no time and will clearly show yourself to be “all hat and no horse”.

So, the advice is to invent your own Texan phrases, as The Times recently reported: “Wing it, if you dare,” says Peter Lopez from Sweetwater, Texas. “Let the metaphors fly. Texan is nuttin’ if not colourful, so go to town, make stuff up, invent words if you must. Alliterate, elaborate, and incorporate.”

Here’s one, complete with made-up swear words:  ”dog-gun it and dag nog it – he was scared as a sinner in a cyclone.”

Because the Texas accent is often associated with cowboy chivalry and toughness, it’s ironic that English speaking men tend to use this to their advantage by putting on the Texan drawl when they want to appear especially romantic (“yes ma’am”) or tough, by lowering the register and adding the twang.

A few choice Texan phrases and their translations:

Texan All hat and no horse Translation All bark and no bite

Texan Now that’s a toad choker Translation It’s raining cats and dogs!

Texan He’s walkin’ in tall cotton Translation He’s rich

Texan He’s ridin’ a gravy train with biscuit wheels Translation He’s very lucky

Texan I’m all swole up Translation I’m feeling rather annoyed

Texan I’m fixin’ to go to the store Translation I’m thinking about going shopping

Texan Yeehaa! Translation Hurrah!

Texan Boy, you gonna take a piss or get off the pot! Translation Do hurry up.


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