A web site for the developing language teacher

Teaching Tips 136

Word origins
Eye to Eye
Buy Nothing Day 08


Word origins

One of the ways of promoting an interest in a language is to discover where words originated. Have a read of the following article:

A-Z of English words with surprising origins

Award-winning etymologist Henry Hitchings thought he did, until he studied the origins of English

When I set out to write a study of the history of words, I thought I had a decent grasp of where even the most curious English ones originate. Those with the prefix al- - as in alchemy and alcohol - often have Arabic roots, and many seafaring terms - skipper, schooner, land-lubber - are Dutch.
Many words in common usage, like dachshund, flamenco and tattoo, have foreign origins

But there were plenty of surprises. Who knew that marmalade, for instance, while eternally associated in my mind with Paddington Bear, is in fact Portuguese? So here is an A-to-Z of some of my favourite English words that have been absorbed from and inspired by other languages.

A is for…

Avocado, which comes from Nahuatl, a language spoken by the Aztecs. Their name for it, ahuacatl, also meant ''testicle".

B is for…

Bonsai. Although we think the tree-cultivating art is Japanese, it originated in China.

C is for…

Coleslaw. Supposedly eaten in ancient Rome, it comes from the Dutch kool-salade (''cabbage salad").

D is for…

Dachshund, a compound of the German Dachs (''badger") and Hund (''dog"). Originally the breed was known in Germany as Dachs Krieger, or ''badger warrior".

E is for…

Enthusiasm. From the Greek entheos, which means ''to be within energy", suggesting being spiritually ''possessed".

F is for…

Flamenco, from the Spanish name for a Fleming (i.e. someone from Flanders).

G is for…

Goulash, an invention by Hungarian herdsmen whose name derives from gulyas.

H is for…

Hotchpotch, used in Norman legal jargon to denote property collected and then divided.

I is for…

Intelligentsia, a collective term for the intellectual class which derives from Latin but came to us from Russian.

J is for…

Juggernaut, Sanskrit for a giant carriage used to transport an image of the god Krishna.

K is for…

Kangaroo, from gangurru, the large black male roo in the Guugu Yimidhirr language.

L is for…

Lilac, which comes from the Persian nilak, meaning ''of a bluish shade".

M is for…

Mandarin. The name of the fruit feels as though it ought to be Chinese, but may well have come from Swedish.

N is for…

Namby-pamby. Nickname of the 18th-century poet Ambrose Phillips, coined by the satirist Henry Careybecause of his sentimental verses

O is for…

Onslaught, from the Dutch aanslag - related to a word in Old High German for a shower.

P is for…

Penguin, a compound of two Welsh words, pen and gwyn, which mean ''head" and ''white" - even though penguins have black heads. It is likely that 'penguin' was at one time the name of similar, now extinct bird which had a white patch near its bill.

Q is for…

Quack can be traced to the Dutch kwaksalver, literally someone who hawked ointments.

R is for…

Regatta, from Venetian dialect, it originally signified any kind of contest.

S is for…

Sabotage. Supposed to derive from the tendency of striking workers to damage machinery by throwing shoes into it - sabot being an old French word for a wooden shoe.

T is for…

Tattoo, Captain Cook saw Polynesian islanders marking their skin with dark pigment. Long before that the word signified a signal or drumbeat, a Dutch expression for 'Close off the tap', used to recall tippling soldiers.

U is for…

Umbrella, appeared in English as early as 1609 (in a letter by John Donne). In the middle of the 18th century the device was adopted by the philanthropist Jonas Hanway as a protection against the London rain.

V is for…

Vanilla, ''little sheath" in Spanish.

W is for…

Walnut, a modern rendering of the Old English walhnutu ('foreign nut'), so known because it grew mainly in Italy.

X is for…

Xebec, a little vessel with three masts, from the Arabic shabbak, a small warship.

Y is for…

Yogurt, a mispronunciation of a Turkish word.

Z is for…

Zero, whose immediate source is French or Italian, but its origins are in Arabic - and before that in the Sanskrit word sunya, which meant both ''nothing" and ''desert".

The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English' by Henry Hitchings (John Murray Publishing, £16.99)

The article is accompanied by twenty six photos to illustrate each letter of the alphabet. For an advanced class this is excellent material.
For some of the words, you could omit the word & the students try to guess the word, or give a group of words to choose from.
After the reading, the student match up the words & the pictures, some of which are a little obtuse so choose to suit. You might like to choose your own list of words & accompanying photos if you think there could be a more useful list of words. .

Below you can find the photos in a reduced size which might make it more manageable for printing & using.

There is an excellent idea on this in 'Dictation' by Davis & Rinvolucri (CUP). It's called 'Import/export' (6.2). The students are given a map of the world & as the teacher dictates words, they put the word on the map where they thing that word originated. They then compare their ideas before the teacher giving the answers. Then they discuss words that have found their way into their own languages.

And while you're on it, you could deal with 'foreign' words where the suffix takes the stress. Words such as entertain, ascertain, refugee, evacuee, mountaineer, volunteer, Japanese, Portugese, journalese, cigarette, laundrette, picturesque, unique have the stress on the last syllable, the suffix.

To get hold of 'Dictation':
Dictation - Davis & Rinvolucri (CUP)

avocado bonsai
coleslaw dachshund
enthusiasm flamenco
goulash hotchpotch
intelligensia juggernaut
kangaroo lilac
mandarin namby-pamby
onslaught penguins
quach regatta
sabotage tattoo
umbrella vanilla
walnuts xebec
yoghurt zero


Human Rights Day, celebrated by the UN, falls on 10th December. They say of this year:

This theme for 2008, “Dignity and justice for all of us,” reinforces the vision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as a commitment to universal dignity and justice. It is not a luxury or a wish-list. The UDHR and its core values, inherent human dignity, non-discrimination, equality, fairness and universality, apply to everyone, everywhere and always. The Declaration is universal, enduring and vibrant, and it concerns us all.

Since its adoption in 1948, the Declaration has been and continues to be a source of inspiration for national and international efforts to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Unfortunately there is no end of material for this! A couple of sites:

Back to the contents

Eye to eye
Eye to Eye

Some time ago we looked at sensory systems that we see the world through in the Tip Influential English:

Another aspect of this is eye movement. We can usually tell which system someone is using when they visualise. Ask a friend to think about a pleasant past experience & watch their eyes. Here is what their eye movements might tell you:

  • If they are remembering a scene, they are probably looking up to their left & if they are imagining a scene then they are probably looking up to the right.
  • If they are looking up, they might be remembering a smell.
  • If they are looking ahead into the middle distance, they are probably using more than one of the systems.
  • If they are looking to the right, they may be imagining sounds, & to the left they might be remembering sounds.
  • If they are looking down to the right they are feeling something through the body about the scene, & down to the left, they might be remembering an associated emotion.
  • And lastly. if they are looking down, they may be remembering a taste.

Here are the movements in pictorial form, as seen from looking at the person:

Visual imagining
Smell remembering
Visual remembering
Visual imagining
Smell remembering
Visual remembering
Auditory imagining
Auditory remembering
Auditory imagining
Kinesthetic - body sensation
Internal remembering - emotion
Kinesthetic - body
Taste remembering
remembering -

This is a model & it does not necessarily correlate like this every time, but they are strong tendencies. If there is a lot of eye movement, it is the last movement that gives the clue.

Being able to identify tendencies like this help us identify the systems that the person veers towards, making it easier to reach them. This is all part of effective communication & very useful to pass on to our students.

In pairs students tell each other about past experiences & the listener observes the eye movements, making notes. After the pairs discuss the findings. You could set different tasks that ask the students to access the different systems - think back to a favourite song, a favourite food, one of the rooms in your house etc...

Try it out & see what your students think.  

Here's a really nice video, for interest & also to use with your students - if you can't see it, here is the youTube link - Firefox is fine, IE is a problem:

Back to the contents
Buy Nothing Day 08

Buy Nothing Day 08

It's Buy Nothing Day again - 28th November in the US, the day after Thanksgiving called Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. Internationally it is on Saturday November 29th. We start with some links to Buy nothing sites & lesson plans & materials about BND on Developing Then there is an article that disagrees with Buy Nothing Day together with a short lesson procedure. Lots to choose from for your lessons.

Buy Nothing Day - Adbusters:
Wikipedia page about Buy Nothing Day:
International Buy Nothing Day:

BND lesson plan:
BND videos:
To change these into '.flv' format - click on the YouTube image on the video & that'll take you to the YouTube site - then copy the page url & paste it into the following Vidi Monket page page: - click 'download' & then at the bottom when it come up, 'save'. You now have the video on your computer & if you want it in either 'mpeg' or 'avi' formats download
'Pazera_Free_FLV_to_AVI_Converter' from:

It doesn't require installation, running as a stand alone programme.

The following video is a nice way of introducing BNDay - if you can't see it, here's the YouTube link - Firefox is fine, IE is a problem:

BND 2005:
BND 2004:
BND 2003:
BND 2002:

Buy Nothing Christmas - 'Happy holidays' Tip:

Have a read of this article:

Why I Shop on Buy Nothing Day

This kind of activism is the problem, not the solution.
By Jenn Farrell
Published: November 24, 2006

As a society, we sure spend a lot of money on crap. Yep, we get into debt buying stuff that becomes quickly obsolete but first drains the planet's resources and pollutes it. My own collection of lip glosses is a fine example.

So this Friday, on Buy Nothing Day, many people across North America (and worldwide on Nov. 25) will refrain from making any purchases in an effort to increase awareness of overspending and remind people that they are more than simply consumers.

If anyone needs me, I'll be out shopping.

While I agree in principle with the noble aims behind Buy Nothing Day, I use the day to throw some cash around. Other than plain pigheadedness and hating being told what to do, I have a number of reasons.

Buy Nothing Day's biggest proponents must be the well educated and well fed, who can certainly afford to take a day off from their conspicuous consumption. While it's laudable to want to do something about the problem, I question the potential influence of a bunch of people standing in front of a suburban Wal-Mart and harassing some mother of three who just wants to get in there and buy some darned detergent. Don't lecture her about over-consumption and globalization -- she just wants to get a load of the baby's sleepers through the wash while supper's cooking.

Hoi polloi politics

As a mom myself, and at one point, a single welfare mom, I can't help but remember my own "buy nothing" days all too well. Lots of them were strung together in the week before cheque-issue day, when I just kept eating from a bag of rice and saved the few remaining bananas and carrots for my kid. Good times. Now that I actually earn some money and creep ever closer to the happy side of the poverty line, I'm beyond grateful that I'm able to buy something every day if I need to. I don't ever want to go back to diluting the milk for my cereal with water, thanks very much.

So who is Buy Nothing Day really for? It's certainly not for most wealthy, high consumers, who largely couldn't give a toot what the hoi polloi are protesting about now. And it's not for those who are already not buying anything and long to escape those circumstances. So that leaves Whitey McPrivileged, who can check to make sure he's got enough toilet paper and tea bags in the house before the big day. And while the campaign ostensibly acts as a springboard to creating more lasting change, I bet a lot of participants breathe a sigh of relief the next morning, when they can get back to business as usual. Remind me again how this changes anything?

That's why I use Buy Nothing Day for what I think are better ends. I buy "consciously" all day long -- from getting a fair trade coffee at a locally owned shop in the morning, to picking up a few Christmas gifts made by independent artists and crafters in the afternoon. Rather than take my money out of the marketplace for the day, I'll put it in the hands of people who operate in line with what I believe are ethical business practices. And whatever's left over gets split between panhandlers and charity donation boxes. It's not much, but I hope it'll do more good than "nothing."

And don't even get me started on Buy Nothing Christmas.

Here's a short procedure:

1. After introducing BNDay through some of the above materials, put the headline on the board ' Why I Shop on Buy Nothing Day' & put students into pairs to discuss reasons the writer might put forward for actually buying on the day.

2. students discuss - go round & help out with language & point them to some directions.

3. Feedback - collate some ideas on the board. .

4. Reading - students read quickly to see if any of their ideas - on the board - are in the article. Give a time limit to speed up their reading.

5. Students read.

6. Students compare in pairs >> feedback.

7. Vocab pre-teaching before the intensive reading - you might want to teach the following: Hoi polloi, welfare..& anything else you consider 'crucial' for the task.

8 Set the more intensive task - give out the following questions & set the task:

a. Does the writer agree with BNDay? Why/why not?

b. Who does she think might be offended by BNDay?

c. How has her life changed?

d. What type of person does she think is proposing BNDay?

e. What type of person does she think it is really directed at?

f. What is her approach to the issue?

9. Students read individually to answer the questions.

10. Students compare in pair >> feedback.

11. Elicit the 'response' to the text - what do they think of the ideas expressed in the article?

You could then return to the language in the article & do some 'noticing' tasks - vocabulary, structures & discourse aspects - choose to suit.

12. Integrate the skills - look through the above materials & develop the theme of BNDay through the speaking, listening, reading & writing skills.

Back to the contents

To the Past Teaching Tips

Back to the top

Tips & Newsletter Sign up —  Current Tip —  Past Tips 
Train with us Online Development Courses    Lesson Plan Index
 Phonology — Articles Books  LinksContact
Advertising — Web Hosting — Front page

Copyright 2000-2016© Developing