Looking Glass Language

a word bird reflects on life & language

Archive for the category “Bi-lingual”

26AC: the exhibition

the secret archaeologist

Last Friday saw the launch party for the exhibition 26 Atlantic Crossings, the latest collaborative project from writers’ group 26. The three-day exhibition was in Prince Edward County, Canada, and the only one of the 26 UK-based writers involved able to attend was Faye Sharpe, who – with her artist sister – came up with the original idea and drove the project. Fortunately, Faye has penned a blog piece that lets us enjoy the ‘happening’ vicariously.

I’m now anxiously awaiting my copies of the printed book. There are no more copies left, so if you didn’t manage to buy one for yourself and you’d like to explore the art and poetry of 26 Atlantic Crossings, why not download a free e-copy of it here?


Wordy Wednesday: idiom

PauloHere is Paulo, one of my loveliest friends. A Brazilian who came to London as a teenager and lived here for 20 years, Paulo speaks perfect English, but I have to admit that I love it when the words falling from his lips retain a flavour of his home town, Rio. Here are a few of the Brazilian / Portuguese idioms that find their way into his conversations in English:

“Caught the tram already going,” meaning to misinterpret a conversation you’ve joined mid-way through.

“Sand got inside,” refers to things going wrong, someone putting a spanner in the works (to use an English idiom), or something being really grating.

“This is too much sand for my truck,” meaning, this is more than I can cope with.

“The cows have gone to the swamp,” meaning you’re getting bogged down; you’re stuck; nothing’s progressing.

“You’re letting water in,” you’re making no sense; you’re making an idiot of yourself.

The thing with idioms is that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts (that’s an idiom, too…): you can’t translate them word for word and get to the meaning, which makes them tough for non-native speakers to get their heads around (that’s another one). But I love them because they enrich the language, act as shorthand and reflect the attitudes and culture they originate from…

idiom |ˈidēəm|


1 a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g., rain cats and dogs, see the light).

• a form of expression natural to a language, person, or group of people : he had a feeling for phrase and idiom.

• the dialect of a people or part of a country.

2 a characteristic mode of expression in music or art : they were both working in a neo-Impressionist idiom.

ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from French idiome, or via late Latin from Greek idiōma ‘private property, peculiar phraseology,’ from idiousthai ‘make one’s own,’ from idios ‘own, private.’

fingered speech: txtng as bilingualism

Screen shot 2013-08-19 at 21.14.39When Mencap, a charity for learning disabilities, sponsored a poll of 500 UK parents and teachers, two-in-three teachers reported that they regularly find text-speak in pupils’ homework, and over three-quarters of parents said they needed help de-coding the text-speak in their children’s texts and emails. 89% of those surveyed found that the growing prevalence of text-speak was creating a language barrier between adults and children. Read more…

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