Words Archive

Let’s Talk Malagasy

Each week on the Let’s Talk series, I’ll be featuring a language learner who will share their heroic process of mastering a foreign tongue. First up, Jessie talks Malagasy. Mahay. /məhaj/ v. Language: Malagasy. Meaning: roughly translates as “to know,” though it can be used ...Read More

Keys and Bridges: Can Language Shape Thought?

die Brücke. /di ˈbʀʏ:kə/ n. Language: German. Meaning: Bridge—a “soft,” “slender” and “peaceful” work of towering steel, according to those eccentric Deutsch. Does the language you speak affect the way you think? This question has been debated and beaten to a bloody pulp by every ...Read More

Bread Idioms

pan. /pʰan/. n. Language: Spanish. Definition: Bread, a delicacy made of water and wheat and used as a secondary utensil at most Spanish meals. Responsible for half of all weight gained abroad. (For other half, see ‘cerveza.’) I consider bread the epitome of good ...Read More

Polyglots in Morocco

When I visited Morocco in March, I was not just impressed by the World Heritage Ksar and the one-humped camels. I was equally blown away by the polyglots of the country—a loosely defined word meaning “speakers of many languages.” The souks of Marrakech provided ...Read More

Bigotry and Poor Pronunciation

After hearing my students struggle with the difficult pronunciation of English “-ed” words (listen to the three different ending sounds of “cleanED,” “askED” and “acceptED” and you’ll know what I mean), the linguist in me decided to do an abridged version of my quarter-long university phonetics ...Read More

Words English Could Use

I just came across an interesting article that discusses a number of words in other languages that are not lexicalized in English. (“Lexicalization” means that a language creates one concise word to express a specific concept.) So while we still have the ability to ...Read More