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Frivol and Frivolous

The Latin word frivolous means “silly,” “empty,” or “trifling,” and is the source of the English adjective frivolous. A back-formation from frivolous, the lesser-known English verb frivol, means “to do...

Episode 1537

Bug in Your Ear

Is there something inherent in English that makes it the linguistic equivalent of the Borg, dominating and consuming other languages in its path? No, not at all. The answer lies with politics and conquest rather than language itself. Plus: a new...

Episode 1431

Beat the Band

Can language change bad behavior in crowded places? The Irish Railway system has launched an ad campaign to encourage passengers to be more generous at boarding time. For example, have you ever rummaged through your belongings or pretended to have...

Spanish Idioms

In English, if someone’s terrified, we might say they are shaking like a leaf. In Spanish, the phrase is temblar como un flan, or to tremble like a flan, the dessert dish. The Spanish phrase darle la vuelta a la tortilla literally means to...

Like An Octopus In A Garage

In English, we sometimes liken feeling out of place to being a fish out of water. The corresponding phrase in Spanish is to say you feel como un pulpo en el garaje, or like an octopus in a garage. This is part of a complete episode.