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Mardi Gras or Fat Thursday? Pancakes or „pączki”?

lut 20

There is one day each year when you can eat as many sweets as your heart and stomach desire. Well, actually you are free to do it every single day of your life, but in this particular twenty-four hour period it will be treated as something completely common and you can just blame it on celebrating a holiday. Well, coincidentally, it’s a day that lands on the same time as the carnival. We should feast, eat richly and celebrate. After that time we will be subjected to fasting. Although it’s just a tradition, many tend to preserve it.

The real question everyone is asking, though, is when does the day when it’s proper to consume great amounts of goodies fall? Well, that depends on the place where you actually find yourself. In France they call it Mardi Gras (they always have their own names for everything, they love being unique) and it is the last Tuesday before Lent, as it is in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, where you will probably more commonly hear ”Pancake Tuesday”. Yes, you are getting the hang of it. The name comes from the love of pancakes. On this Tuesday it is permitted to eat dozens of them with rivers of maple syrup on top, without snarky comments from disgusted onlookers.

In Poland you will consume sweet things a few days before, as we celebrate our very own “Fat Thursday” before Ash Wednesday. We have our traditional dessert delicacy, called „pączki”, which has no correspondent in the English language. Sometimes people use the word „doughnut” in reference to our sweet product, but they are far from being the same. Pączki are deep-fried pieces of dough shaped into flattened spheres and filled with confitures or other sweet fillings, while doughnuts are ring-shaped with a hole.

Some may think they are almost the same but I disagree. I prefer to believe that we have something in Poland that is unique. How about you? Are you a pancakes or pączki type of person? How many of them would you eat on the last day of carnival? Share your opinion in the comments section below!

(KT)

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Be romantic – not only on Valentine’s Day

lut 09

Valentine’s Day is the most popular time to say something special to someone whom you really like. But you can do this every day – there are different ways in many languages.

French is often considered as ‘the language of love’. So you can use it when you want to say, for example, You have beautiful eyes (Tu as de beaux yeux). Too simple? No problem. Que mes baisers soient les mots d’amour que je ne te dis pas means Let my kisses be the words of love I don’t tell you.


Where can you hear most phrases connected with love? Probably in soap operas and, if so, probably in Spanish. Tu amor vale más que un millón de estrellas.– beautiful, right? And it means Your love is worth more than a million stars.
Last night I dreamed of you and this morning I did not want to wake up
– it is also very romantic and in Spanish it will be Anoche soñé contigo y esta mañana no me quería despertar.

Are Italians the best lovers in the world? This is a subjective opinion but if they say phrases such as Dove sei stato per tutta la mia vita? (Where have you been all my life?) or Dammi la tua mano e corriamo uniti per tutta la vita (Give me your hand and we will run together our whole lives), it can work.

Not many people will probably mention German when it comes to romanticism. However, even the Germans can say something that sounds really nice. Meine Liebe zu dir wächst von Tag zu Tag means I love you more and more every day and Du bist mein Wunder der Natur – You are my wonder of nature.

What do you think about these phrases – do you like them? Probably you know others that could be useful for confessing love (not only) on Valentine’s Day? Share them with us!

(BB)

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One with milk, please!

sty 23

If you are one of those people who simply cannot imagine your mornings without a good cup of Joe, you’ll probably be very happy to hear this: scientists claim that coffee grains are very beneficial to your health. Warning: if you are a tea lover you should probably skip this article!

Green coffee, Italian press, espresso, café lungo, latte … the list of coffee types and the ways to brew are almost limitless. The timeless taste is not the only good thing about our favourite black water. According to the recent studies, coffee helps you fight against a number of diseases: it may protect you from Alzheimer’s, type II diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Coffee drinkers are also said to have a lower risk of diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, that have no cure available. And why is that? Coffee contains, for example, Vitamin B2, B5, Magnesium and Niacin. What is even more fascinating, caffeine lowers your risk of getting cancer, especially two extremely dangerous types: liver and colorectal (bowel) cancer (CRC).

Apart from the most obvious benefits such as being more awake and focused, coffee is a huge antidote to depression by making you feel happier. Furthermore, studies show that coffee drinkers live longer. The risk of premature death is lower, even up to 20%! (source: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270202.php).

Despite its advantages, it seems that coffee may not be beneficial to everyone. If you have a severe heart condition you should probably stick to decaf coffee or light tea. Coffee is also said to be harmful to the pregnant women and those who do not tolerate caffeine.

A sensitive digestion system will, however, definitely thank you for drinking coffee with milk. Recent studies show that to get as many benefits from coffee as possible, one should drink it with … some butter?! Butter contains types of fat that help your body to digest caffeine and spreads it around your body. It also reduces the post-coffee groggy feeling. Before you decide to slip a little yellow square into your cup, remember to blend it first!

Are you more a coffee or a tea lover? Would you try a coffee with butter? Share your opinion in the comments section below!

(MW)

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Snow Time!

sty 11

It is commonly believed that there are no better experts on snow than Eskimos, as many of us have probably heard that they have more than 500 words for snow. It is not unreasonable to think this, given that their lives depend on the intensity of the snowfall, thickness and even density of the snow cover.  But is it really true that they have so many terms to describe a snow flurry that surrounds them?  Yes … Kind of … Well, not really.

The whole idea came from German anthropologist Franz Boas, who claimed in the introduction to his 1911 Handbook of American Indian Languages that Eskimos have hundreds of words for snow. The first problem with this statement is, however, that there is more than one ‘Eskimo’ language, since the term ‘Eskimos’ refers to the Yupik and Inuit peoples that live in Alaska, Canada, Siberia and Greenland and who speak many different languages that include multiple dialects of each. And what is even more problematic, the Inuit and Yupik languages are polysynthetic i.e. their words are generated by combining a limited set of roots and suffixes. This allows them to describe complicated situations by using only one word generated by combing many root words and suffixes. For instance ‘dinliltla’ (one Inuit word) means ‘little balls of snow that cling to Husky fur’ (9 English words) – if we count that sentence as one word, it truly means that Eskimos have a heck of a lot of words for snow … and for everything else too.

We still can count how many root words Eskimos have for snow even though it can be problematic which are a ‘snow word’ and which are not, but most linguists agree that there are as many ‘snow words’ as in every other language. This means that if we are looking for snow experts we don’t have to look that far. All we need to do is to look outside the window!

(MW)

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Ancient Words

gru 29

We already know which phrase is the most difficult to pronounce and what is the longest word in the English language … well at least kind of. But the question still remains:  What is the oldest word in the world? As usual, it depends on your point of view.

Since words change while languages evolve, the definition of what is commonly understood according to the term “word” can be bit elusive. Scientists from the University of Reading claim that computer analysis of the family of Indo-European languages lets them determine which words have changed the least through the ages. According to that research “I”, “we”, “two” and “three” could be called the “oldest”, in the context that they probably would be recognised in some shape or form by our ancestors living 2,500 years ago or even earlier.

Still, we should remember that words consist not only of form but also meaning. The meaning can differ from language to language, even with terms that are commonly perceived as cross-language synonyms. For example English “friend” can be translated into Polish as “przyjaciel” and into Russian as “drug”, but these words vary on semantic level as they define different kinds of friendship. Because of that, Anna Wierzbicka, a linguist from Warsaw University and later at the Australian National University, developed the theory that led to the creation of neural semantic metalanguage. NSM consists of words that are semantic primitives – simple, indefinable, and universally lexicalised concepts, hypothesised to be language universals, such as: I, YOU, SOMEONE, PEOPLE or GOOD, BAD and THINK, KNOW, WANT, FEEL. As those are the most primitive (at least on a semantic level), they could be also among the first words spoken by humans.

There is also the possibility that we do not need supercomputer to find the oldest words. It is theorised that the most ancient are actually the words that are among first word-like sounds made by babbling babies, such as “mama” and “papa”. It is so not because of their meaning but simply because they are the easiest to pronounce using the human speech system.

So, what do you think about all of this? What is your #FavoriteWord? If you have one, share it with us on our Facebook page!

(RM)

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