Specialist: Russian language

From the quiz on 4/7/17.

  1. Little water” is the literal meaning of which Russian word, which has also been used in English since the early 19th century? Vodka

  2. What is the English meaning of the common Russian phrase «Как дела?» (Kak dela)? “How are you?”

  3. What is the name of the heavily Russian-influenced argot spoken by Alex and other teenagers in Anthony Burgess’s novel A Clockwork Orange? Nadsat

  4. The Cyrillic letter en, which in Russian is pronounced like /n/ or /nʲ/, is virtually identical to which upper-case Latin letter? H

  5. The Russian language is notable for having two basic words — голубой (goluboy) and синий (siniy) — for what in English would be described as two different shades of which single colour? Blue


Specialist: etymology

From the quiz on 7/3/17.

  1. According to its etymology, the word ‘decimate’ literally means to kill what percentage of a group of people? 10%

  2. The words cynosure, chenille, quinsy, and cynic all ultimately have their origins in the Greek word for which common animal? Dog

  3. In linguistics, what name, also that of an historical men’s padded jacket, is given to two words in a single language which derive from the same root but have different meanings, e.g. cloak/clock or word/verb? Doublet

  4. Which English word is derived from the Greek for “potsherd” in reference to the ancient Athenian practice of banishing dangerous citizens using votes written on fragments of pottery? Ostracize

  5. What connects the origins of the English words silhouette, mesmerize, maverick, lynch, shrapnel, leotard, boycott, jacuzzi and guillotine? They are all eponyms (derived from names of people)

Language & words 6

From the quiz on 31/1/17. Download the audio for Q5 here.

  1. From which language were the words hula, kahuna, ukulele and wiki all imported into English? Hawaiian

  2. What is the usual term in American English for what is known in British English as a baby’s dummy? Pacifier

  3. How to Talk Like a Local, The Language Report and What Made The Crocodile Cry?: 101 Questions about the English Language are books by which English lexicographer? Susie Dent

  4. Oracle bone script, dating from the late second millennium BC, is the earliest known form of which writing system? Chinese (characters)

  5. **Which Indo-European language is this? Greek

  6. Cup-shotten, whip-cat and tap-shackled are obsolete synonyms for being in what state? Drunk

  7. The Macquarie Dictionary is the authoritative reference work on English as used in which Commonwealth country? Australia

  8. English Prime is a version of the English language that purports to improve clarity by omitting all forms of which verb? To be

  9. Which English letter originated in Latin, probably in the third century BC, as a variant of the letter C intended to unambiguously represent a voiced velar stop? G

  10. In linguistics, what name, from the Greek for “to speak”, is given to the smallest unit of sound that distinguishes words in a certain language (for example, /d/ and /t/ in English, as in ‘bad’ and ‘bat’)? Phoneme

Language & words 5

From the quiz on 13/9/16.

  1. A Lusophone is a speaker of which major European language? Portuguese

  2. Which common English adjective, whose sole surviving meaning is “full-figured”, originally meant “obedient” or “compliant” and is cognate with the verb “bow”? Buxom

  3. What name, from the French for “copy” or “tracing”, is given to an expression borrowed into one language from another by literal translation of individual components (e.g. ‘brainwash’ from Chinese)? Calque

  4. What is the literal meaning of ‘esperanto’ in the language Esperanto? One who hopes (hoper)

  5. In linguistics, which law, named after a German philologist, describes how plosive consonants developed from Proto-Indo-European in Germanic languages as opposed to languages such as Latin and Greek? Grimm’s law (after Jacob Grimm)

  6. Árvíztűrő tükörfúrógép, whose approximate English translation is “flood-resistant mirror-drilling machine”, is a well-known phrase that contains every accented letter in which language precisely once? Hungarian

  7. What is the native Korean name of the Korean alphabet, which was created in 1443 by King Sejong the Great? Hangeul (in South Korea) or Chosŏn’gŭl (in North Korea)

  8. The word ‘omnibus’, of which the common English word ‘bus’ is a shortening, is a Latin noun in which grammatical case? Dative (plural)

  9. Brythonic and Goidelic are the two main branches of which Indo-European language family, whose name attests to their origin in the British Isles as opposed to the continent? Insular Celtic

  10. What name, meaning “cutting” in Greek, is given to the interpolation of one word between the constituents of another, which is particularly common in colloquial English with such expressions as “any-bloody-where” or the nonstandard “a whole nother”? Tmesis

Language & words 4

From the quiz on 31/5/16. Download the audio for Q5 here.

  1. In Welsh, in addition to A, E, I, O and U, which two letters always represent vowel sounds? W and Y

  2. In the 19th century, John Robert Gregg, Henry Sweet and Isaac Pitman all invented examples of what kind of writing system for English? Shorthand

  3. Which language of the Americas is the source of the English words avocado, chilli, chocolate, tomato, coyote and ocelot, many of which were imported via Spanish or French? Nahuatl [not the same as Aztec]

  4. What name, meaning “of the people” or “popular”, is given to the vernacular form of modern Greek that replaced an artificially archaic form called Katharevousa (“pure”) in official written use in 1976? Demotic

  5. **Which Indo-European language is this? Danish

  6. What alliterative two-word term is applied to a word that is similar in form to one in a person’s native language but has a different meaning, such as magasin in French (“shop”) or preservativo in Castilian Spanish (“condom”)? False friend

  7. Gheg and Tosk are the two main dialects of which Indo-European language, which is considered an isolate and is spoken principally around the Balkans? Albanian

  8. Which Greek letter lends its name to a rhetorical device in which ideas, words or other sentence elements are repeated in reverse order? Chi [chiasmus]

  9. What sort of dash, which resembles a lengthened tilde, is used in English chiefly in compact dictionaries to stand in for the word being defined, e.g. when listing phrases or providing examples of usage? Swung dash

  10. The word ‘ghoti’, a purported respelling of the English word ‘fish’ intended to highlight orthographic irregularities, is (spelt ghotI’) the bona fide word for ‘fish’ in which constructed language? Klingon

Specialist: Antipodean English

From the quiz on 19/4/16.

  1. In Australia, a jocular phrase meaning “to be mad or eccentric” is to have which animals “(loose) in the top paddock”? Kangaroos

  2. In Australia and New Zealand, the word ‘slab’ usually refers to a cardboard case of how many cans or bottles of beer? 24

  3. In Australia, what happens to a person if they “cark it”? They die

  4. In Australia and New Zealand, the word ‘dag’, which is commonly used for an eccentric, unfashionable or generally “uncool” person, originally referred to a piece of matted faeces hanging from the hindquarters of which farm animal? Sheep

  5. In Australia, which colour can also refer to an argument or fight, an embarrassing mistake or a person with red hair? Blue

Language & words 3

From the quiz on 15/3/16. Download the audio for Q5 here.

  1. Which part of speech is also known as a substantive, particularly in the context of Latin grammar? Noun

  2. From which Austronesian language were the words sarong, durian, caddy, gecko, paddy, cassowary and gong all imported into English? Malay

  3. Which Irish dramatist was a staunch advocate of English spelling reform and specified in his will that much of his legacy be used to create a replacement English alphabet with a one-to-one correspondence between letters and phonemes? George Bernard Shaw

  4. The Hungarian language is noted for having two basic, generally non-interchangeable words for which primary colour? Red

  5. **Which Afro-Asiatic language is this? Hebrew

  6. The French être en cloque (“be blistered”), Italian essere in dolce attesa (“be in sweet waiting”) and archaic English ‘in a delicate condition’ are euphemisms describing which condition in humans? Pregnancy

  7. Used in such languages as Lithuanian and Hawaiian, which diacritic consists of a horizontal bar placed above a vowel, usually to indicate that it is long? Macron

  8. In the context of English accents, for what does the abbreviation RP stand? Received Pronunciation

  9. What name, from the Greek for “turning as an ox in ploughing”, is given to the ancient method of writing text right to left and left to right in alternate lines? Boustrophedon

  10. In Scrabble, which two anagrams of the rack AEINORT, one referring to a French public official and the other meaning “pertaining to eared seals”, are the most common seven-letter words (in the standard international word list, CSW)? NOTAIRE and OTARINE