Category Archives: Names

Answers to yesterday’s quiz about country names

Here are the answers to yesterday’s quiz about country names. (There are 195 countries in the world, if you include the 193 members of the UN and two observer states. Of these 195 nations, there are 41 with more vowels* than consonants in their names. Here are four questions about those names.)

1. What is the longest country name of this type?

The longest country name with more vowels than consonants is Equatorial Guinea, with 16 letters. Coming a close second is Papua New Guinea, with 14.

2. What is the shortest country name of this type? (hint: there’s more than one)

There are five countries with five letters in their names, of which three are vowels. They are
Haiti, India, Nauru, Palau, and Samoa.

3. Which continent houses most of the countries with this name type?

Africa wins in this category, hands down, with 15 countries having vowel-dominated names. They are: Ageria, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and Tunisia.

Europe comes second, with seven — or eight if you include Georgia in Europe.

4. Which letter of the alphabet starts most of these country names?

“A” and “E” tie here, with five country names each.

A starts Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Australia and Austria.
E starts Equador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia and Ethiopia.

* y is not counted as a vowel for the purposes of this quiz

A country names quiz

There are 195 countries in the world, if you include the 193 members of the UN and two observer states. Of these 195 nations, there are 41 with more vowels* than consonants in their names. Here’s a short quiz about those 41 names:

  1. What is the longest country name of this type?
  2. What is the shortest country name of this type? (hint: there’s more than one)
  3. Which continent houses most of the countries with this name type?
  4. Which letter of the alphabet starts most of these country names?

Feel free to take some guesses in the comments section below. Answers will be posted tomorrow …

* y is not counted as a vowel for the purposes of this quiz

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Names of online scams

Here’s the ultimate 21st-century glossary — of online scams. Go phish … (And note: All definitions are courtesy of the Oxford English Dictionary, except where noted. These names are legit, even though the practices aren’t.) Continue reading

How to pronounce “Magdalene” in Britain, and why

Mary Magdalene, Caravaggio, 1594-1596 / Wikipedia Commons

*Update: please see comments below for further discussion on this subject …

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When I’m back in Blighty, I stay at my family home in Magdalene Road. Try asking a taxi driver to take you to “Maudlin” Road (as the name Magdalene is historically pronounced in the UK), and you’ll probably be met with a blank stare — even by those London cabbies who’ve aced The Knowledge. You are actually more likely to hear that increasingly dated pronunciation when you visit Cambridge, whose Magdalene College sounds more like Maud than Magda. However, the plot thickens, because its sister college in Oxford — which is spelled nearly the same way but without the final “e” — sounds like the surname of the Biblical Mary Magdalene after which it was named. Which pronunciation — if either — is correct: “maudlin”-sounding Cambridge “Magdalene” or the three-syllable Oxford “Magdalen”? Continue reading

Ich sage marmalade, you say jam … (But maybe not for long)

Frank Coopers Oxford Marmalade / Wikimedia Commons

“Brussels MEP plots sweet revenge for Brexit by changing definition of MARMALADE so it includes German jam.” So screamed one of the more bizarre headlines in Tuesday’s Daily Mail. What does marmalade actually mean?

According to the OED, it’s “a preserve made from citrus fruit, especially bitter oranges.”

As the Daily Mail went on to explain, “Under EU rules the spread — a staple of many British breakfast tables and beloved by Paddington Bear — can only be labeled such if it contains at least 20 per cent citrus fruit. … This enshrines in law the British definition that it refers exclusively to spreads made from oranges or lemons. But Germans have traditionally used the name to refer to all sorts of jams made from a variety of fruits including strawberries and plums. … Jakob von Weizsäcker, a German socialist member of the European Parliament, called for the definition to be changed.” You can’t make this stuff up…

Etymonline offers this history of the name of the sweet spread: “late 15c: from Middle French marmelade, from Portuguese marmelada “quince jelly, marmalade,” from marmelo “quince,” by dissimilation from Latin melimelum “sweet apple,” originally “fruit of an apple tree grafted onto quince,” from Greek melimelon, from meli “honey” + melon “apple”. Extended 17c. to “preserve made from citrus fruit.”

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Is the Cornish pasty really a Devonian pie?

A Cornish pasty / Wikimedia Commons

“Controversially, I understand the Cornish pasty may have been invented in Devon.” This explosive statement was made yesterday by Celia Richardson, the director of communications for Historic England. Er – what?  Continue reading

Chad, Brad and other tools

A hanging Chad (h/t Jacob B)

As my friend Clyde recently, idly, commented on Facebook: “4am thought. It’s pretty random that the paper fragment created when you three-hole punch paper is called a “Chad” and the brass fastener you put through that hole is called a “Brad”. Why do these stationery terms have the most bro-y names (ironically, possibly names of people most likely to generally punch holes in things)?” Jacob B had some more bro-y names to add to the toolbox:  Continue reading

In the news … (Friday, Oct 21)

Portrait of Cod; Wikimedia Commons

Portrait of Cod; Wikimedia Commons

In grammatical and usage news this past month: a political email scandal involving risotto and apostrophes; some fishy regional accents, literally; how we’ll all be talking in 50 years’ time; Trump gets it wrong yet again; a British supermarket with a name that’s already been taken (by Iceland, for itself); a dictionary goes online; and those familiar experiences and concepts that desperately need a word or name to describe them  … Continue reading