Posts tagged ‘foreign word’

January 6, 2011

Kitty-corner

With Davis Square in Somerville, MA, it is quite difficult to find the kitty-corner, pic: http://www.cartogrammar.com

I explained this word to my son recently who thought it was very funny (he is six so cracking up over words like kitty-corner is okay).  It is a bit of a strange, funny word but also very useful so here is what a kitty-corner (or catty-corner) is:

It is the corner which is diagonally opposite to the point of reference.  So if you are standing at the south-east corner of a plaza or an intersection then the north-west corner would be the kitty-corner.

For example:

“Do you know where Jane’s bakery is?”

“Sure, it is on Main St and First, on the kitty-corner of the public library.”

Although the words brings to mind little cats and raises the question what they have to do with anything, the little fur-balls have nothing to do with the origin of the word.  It seems to derive from misspelling in English of the French word quatre (“four”) prefixed to “corner.”

Sometimes misspellings result in funny expressions.

December 23, 2010

Funny word – Smorgasbord

it looks Scandinavian and it is – only that in Swedish this word would be spelled like so: Smörgåsbord

A real smorgasbord -yum! pic: http://www.gerryriskin.com

In Sweden a Smörgåsbord is a meal served buffet-style with many dishes of various types of foods on a table.  Smörgåsbord came to the new world and was transformed into  Smorgasbord in 1939 when it was served in the Swedish pavilion during the New York World fair.

Since then the word has considerably broadened its meaning in English and now is used to describe a large heterogeneous mixture of almost anything.   Here are a couple of examples:

Tourist after a visit in an all-inclusive resort: “Every day we could choose from a smorgasbord of different activities.  It was great.”

HR person at a company meeting: “as you can see, we offer a smorgasbord of different benefits for you to choose from.”

Smorgasboard is one of the few Swedish words that have found their way – minus a few dots and circles – into the English language.