“Uno de… Those, Please? Numero Forty-Three?”

Today I’d like to share with you a short article I read recently. It reminded me of something I wrote not too long ago, about how we English speakers aren’t always the best at using the local language when we’re on holiday abroad. You can read the article here, which is based on a survey of British holidaymakers. It was specifically about ordering in restaurants on holiday, but I think it says a lot about how English speakers approach other languages in general. Here are some of the main statistics:

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May Day!

Happy May Day! There’s a good chance that today is a holiday for you (if it’s not, my condolences). Initially a Spring Festival in the Northern Hemisphere, you can still find many celebrations based on old Pagan traditions. In the late-19th century, 1st May was chosen by the Second International as the date for International Workers’ Day, in commemoration of the Haymarket Affair, which took place in Chicago in 1886.

Like the names for the other months, May is Latin in origin. The month was named for Maia, the Roman goddess of the spring and growth.

You may also be aware, by the way, that in addition to being the name of the holiday, Mayday is also used as a distress call in the field of aviation. Though note that in this case, it’s one word with only the M capitalised. This is in contrast to the holiday, which is May Day, because it’s an actual day. You might have heard something of the origin of the term Mayday. When I first heard about it, it sounded like one of those stories that sounds too be cute to be true. But there is in fact some truth to it. Continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers! The commemoration of the first Thanksgiving feast between the Wampanoag tribe and the Mayflower pilgrims is obviously an integral part of American culture. And yet, as it’s not celebrated anywhere in Europe, I was always curious about the celebration whenever I was watching an episode of a TV episode set on the holiday. What are they celebrating? Why is it so close to Christmas? Won’t they get sick of having two big turkey dinners in such close proximity?

As I got older and more worldly, I gathered more information and began to understand the origins of the holiday. I began to understand why Americans refer to The Holidays, plural, and I no longer think Thanksgiving is too close to Christmas. It’s actually a nice way to break up the monotony of Autumn/Winter. Though the commemoration of a peaceful feast between pilgrims and Native Americans always seemed strangely melancholy to me, given how things turned out.

Interestingly enough, that wasn’t actually the first Thanksgiving. Continue reading

Barcelona

I’ll be beginning a well-earned break from work today, and spending a few days in Barcelona. It’s my first time there, so I’m very excited to see it. Like many European cities, Barcelona is bilingual, with most of its citizens speaking Spanish and Catalan. So in honour of Barcelona, I thought I’d see if there were any common English words that were derived from Catalan. Words such as: Continue reading

Holiday

Just a quick update as it’s a Bank-Holiday weekend here in Ireland. Why are they called Bank Holidays? Quite simply, these were originally days when it was decided that banks would close and no trading could take place, though they very quickly became popular among the general population as a day of leisure. Nowadays though many shops and business remain open, banks continue to be closed.

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