Word of the Day

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Misspelled foreign words

The same Czech weekly that wrote separatisty this time had on its cover Vítajte in Slovak instead of Vitajte (Welcome) and Schönnes Vorwort in one of its articles instead of Schönes Vorwort (pretty/beautiful foreword/preface). If they must use foreign words, can't they check them first before publishing?

Thursday, September 18, 2014


I've recently seen a Czech business called Bebidos, with the following slogan: Ta správná volba pro Váš bar (the right choice for your bar). I wonder if their choice of name, which means drunk(en)/drunkard in Spanish (less often in Portuguese as well), is deliberate. Or were they aiming for Bebidas, drinks/beverages? No explanation on their website.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


My wife and I were curious as to whether Anders Celsius name was original was if it had been latinized at a time when such practice was common. This is the information I found on Wikipedia (and other sources as well): Anders Celsius was born in Uppsala, Sweden on 27 November 1701. His family originated from Ovanåker in the province of Hälsingland. Their family estate was at Doma, also known as Höjen or Högen (locally as Högen 2). The name Celsius is a latinization of the estate's name (Latin celsus "mound").

The same explanation appears on Swedish Wikipedia:

Celsius, släkt härstammande från kyrkoherden i Ovanåker, Hälsingland, Nicolaus Magni Travillagæus, senare Alphtaneus (1577-1658), vars son matematikern och astronomen Magnus Nicolai Celsius, som först kallade sig Metagrius, tog namnet Celsius efter en latinisering av namnet på prästgården Högen som var hans barndomshem.

And on English Wikipedia (which is a translation of the Swedish):

The Celsius family descended from the vicar of Ovanåker parish in Gävleborg, Sweden, Nicolaus Magni Travillagæus, later Alptaneus (1577–1658), whose son, the mathematician and astronomer, Magnus Celsius, took the name Celsius which was the Latinized form of his fathers vicarage and his childhood home . 

But the thing is Latin celsus doesn't mean mound, but high, elevated, lofty, noble, as can be seen here and here. It's an adjective, not a noun. Is it maybe due to the fact that the same Swedish word hög can be an adjective meaning high and a noun meaning pile, heap? I can obviously see an analogy between highness and mounds/heaps/piles, but still.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Japanese syllabaries

They goofed up in this episode of my favorite Slovak quiz show, Duel. They asked:

Uveďte názov aspoň jednej z dvoch japonských slabičných abecied používaných na prepis cudzích slov.

Name at least one of the two Japanese syllabaries used to transcribe foreign words.

As the contestant didn't know the answer, the host said the two syllabaries were hiragana and katakana. Sure, both are syllabaries, but hiragana is not used for that purpose, katakana is.

Saturday, September 6, 2014


Czechs and Slovaks have a curious way of referring to something being the talk of the town. They say a certain person, object, place etc. is being declined/inflected a lot, which is funny, considering that many languages have nothing like declension. Here is a Czech example:

Nejvíce se skloňují jména Peter Turkson z Ghany, Odilo Scherer z Brazílie, Angelo Scola z Itálie, Marc Ouellet z Kanady a v posledních dnech také Péter Erdö z Maďarska.

Literally: The names of Peter Turkson from Ghana, Odilo Scherer from Brazil, Angelo Scola from Italy, Marc Ouellet from Canada and lately also Péter Erdö from Hungary are the most declined names.

And here is a Slovak one:

Taiwan zachytil varovanie: Skloňujú sa pripravované teroristické útoky v Číne
Literally: Taiwan caught a warning: Prepared terrorist attacks are being declined in China

Thursday, September 4, 2014


In this episode of Romanian Who wants to be a millionaire?, one of the questions is about the scope of study of cariologie. There were, as always, four choices as answers: cell nuclei; dermis and epidermis; hair and nails; and enamel and dentine. The contestant decided to walk away as she didn't know the answer, but at the host's request, said she would have chosen enamel and dentine. The correct answer was given as cell nuclei. As the word reminded me a lot of caries/tooth decay, I went on a quest for its meaning. This Romanian dictionary confirms it means a science that studies the structure and functions of the cell nucleus and gives French caryologie as its source. French caryologie indeed means that, but on the Internet you also find Romanian professionals in the area of cariologie who describe it as the part of medicine that treats caries.

The interesting thing is that I've found both karyology and cariology in English, the first deals with cell nuclei, the second with caries, but both would merge to the same letters, c and i, in languages that don't use k and y, which is the case of Romanian (among others). Can the same Romanian word refer to two distinct scientific specialties, or is there a real difference between studying only caries and studying enamel and dentine, which would then exclude letter D as an answer? At least the contestant walked away and wasn't harmed by choosing any alternative.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


On the cover of a Czech weekly magazine: Мы ничего, мы сепаратисти. (We are nothing, we are separatists).

I wonder if the mistake in сепаратисти (it should be сепаратисты) is deliberate to somehow express that they don't care about Russian or the Russians.