Archive for the 'Did you know?' Category

Page 2 of 10

Where does the word Christmas come from?

“Christmas” is an Old English word, constructed from the combination of two words, namely “Christ” and “Mass”. The first recorded Old English version of the phrase, “Crīstesmæsse,” dates back to 1038, but by the Middle Ages the term had already morphed into “Cristemasse;” a slightly more modern version of the phrase.


The origins

The two separate parts of the word can be traced back to Greek, Hebrew and Latin origins. “Christ” comes from the Greek word “Khrīstos” (Χριστός) or “Crīst,” and there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that the Hebrew word “Māšîaḥ” (מָשִׁיחַ) or “Messiah,” which actually means “anointed,” has also played a considerable role in the construction of the first part of the word “Christmas.” The second part most probably comes from the Latin word, “Missa,” which refers directly to the celebration of the Eucharist.

It is also believed that “Christenmas” is an archaic version of the word “Christmas,” whose origins can be attributed to the Middle English phrase, “Cristenmasse,” which when literally translated becomes, “Christian Mass.”

Christmas… the international holiday

Even though “Christian Mass” or “Christ’s Mass” refers to the annual Christian commemoration of the birth Jesus Christ, “Christmas” is an international holiday which, throughout the ages, has been celebrated by non-Christian communities and been referred to via a variety of different names, including the following:

  • Nātiuiteð (nātīvitās in Latin) or “Nativity” means “birth” and has often been used as an alternative to the word “Christmas”
  • The Old English word, Gēola, or “Yule” corresponds to the period of time between December and January and eventually became associated with the Christian festival of “Christmas”
  • “Noel” is an English word which became popular during late 14th century and which is derived from the Old French term “Noël” or “Naël,”  literally translating to “the day of birth”

“Xmas”… modern or ancient?

It’s also worth noting that, even though most people tend to view the abbreviation “Xmas” as a modern bastardisation of the word “Christmas,” “Xmas” is an ancient term and not a grammatically-incorrect modern construction. “X” was regularly used to represent the Greek symbol “chi,” (the first letter of the word “Christ”) and was very popular during Roman Times.

Ñoqui in Argentina is more than just an Italian meal

Ñoquis might be a popular Italian dish in Argentina, particularly in Buenos Aires, but its meaning goes a lot deeper than Italian gastronomy. In Argentine lunfardo, ñoquis is the word used to refer to someone who doesn’t work, but who still manages to claim a salary at the end of the month.




The lunfardo expression became a well-used phrase in Argentine during the 1970s and relates directly to a group of corrupt, Argentine, civil servants who, it was eventually revealed, had been continuing to claim their paychecks at the end of the month without actually having done any work.

When Mauricio Macri was first appointed Mayor of Buenos Aires in 2011, one of the first administrative decisions that his government saw through was to sack 2400 public employees in the city of Buenos Aires. Macri and his government claimed that the 2400 public employees forced out of employment were all “ñoquis” – that they had been continuing to receive their salaries at the end of the month without ever having showed up to do the jobs they were being paid for. Macri’s decision generated a huge conflict between his government and the city unions. Many strikes by public service employees were also organized as a result.

As well as being a popular lunfardo expression, eating ñoquis on the 29th of every month is a long-standing tradition in Argentina. The tradition dates back to the early 20th century when Italian immigrants in Argentina didn’t get paid until the end of the month. Food was normally very scarce by the 29th and ñoquis, made from just potato and flour, is full of starch and was one of the best ways for these Italian families to feed everyone on a budget.

The ñoquis eating tradition on the 29th of every month also relates to the notion of good luck, fortune and wealth. It’s customary to put money underneath each plate before eating to encourage wealth and prosperity in the future.

Origin of “It Takes Two to Tango”

The tango is a popular dance in which two partners move in relation to each other. Tango is always danced in couples, and both parts are essential.  “It takes two to tango” is a common idiomatic expression inspired in this intrinsic partnership and is used to describe a situation in which more than one person is paired in an active and complex related manner, with positive and negative connotations.

The phrase “It takes two to tango” first appeared in the song Takes Two To Tango that Al Hoffman and Dick Manning composed in 1952. However, the expression reached top popularity thirty years later, when US President Ronald Reagan used it during a news conference. Since then, “it takes two to tango” expression has made it to the headlines several times.


This common expression can be used to suggest that the active cooperation of two parties is required in some enterprise in order to succeed or accomplish the objectives.

In the same way, it can also be used to refer to the fact that agreements or consensual bargains require both parties to assent in order to be successful.

Quarreling Also Takes Two

Disputes and discussions also need the participation of two parties. Thus, in situations in which both partners don’t agree upon something, we can also say “it takes two to tango”.


September 30: Happy International Translation Day!

Did you know that the Bible has been translated into 310 languages and that some of its text passages have been translated into 1597 languages and dialects? Did you know that the works of Lenin have been translated more often than Shakespeare’s dramas (321 compared to 93) or that Jules Verne was published in more languages that  Karl Mark (238 against 103)? And did you know that Asterix and Tintin have been both translated into 41 languages and dialects?

Who said that translators didn’t have a day to celebrate their profession? The International Translation Day is celebrated on 30th September on the feast of St Jerome, the bible translator. St Jerome has always been considered the patron saint of translators.

St. Jerome

The International Federation of Translators promoted celebrating St Jerome’s Day worldwide in 1953. All across the globe different celebrations and activities were organized to raise social awareness about the huge impact that translators and their work have on society: from users’ manuals to literature pieces to scientific discoveries, all of them can be globally known because a translator has made that possible.

Thirty-eight years later, in 1991, the FIT launched the idea of an officially International Translation Day to show the solidarity of the worldwide translation community in an effort to promote the translation profession in all countries, and not necessarily only in Christian ones.

The International Translation Day also offers us all with a great opportunity to draw attention to the importance of translators and interpreters in the world as they often remain invisible and unacknowledged, despite their huge contribution to communication and interaction in all sorts professional and social spheres.

Origin of the Word “Futon”

Futons have become an ordinary furniture piece and it is very likely that you are reading this article comfortably seated on one. But, have you ever wondered about the etymological origin of the word?

Western futon

Japanese Origin

English (as well as Spanish) borrowed the word from the Japanese and the Chinese, and it means “round cushions filled with cattail flower spikes”.

A Traditional Japanese Bedding

Futons can be easily found in Japanese homes. They are padded mattresses and quilts that can be plied and stored away during the day so that the room can be used not only as a bedroom. In fact, what we call futons in Japan are combinations of a bottom mattress and a thick quilted bedcover.

Futon Japan

Japanese Futon

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

(c) Exequiela Goldini

September is a very special month for Hispanics in the United States as the Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated all across the country. Since 1989, from September 15 to October 15, US celebrates the rich tradition and culture that the Spanish and Latin American population has brought to the nation.

According to the last census, the Hispanic population in the US is the nation’s largest ethnic minority representing a 17% percent of the total inhabitants with 53 million people.   As we have already mentioned in other articles, the number of Spanish-speaking people living in the United States has increased steadily within the last ten years and everything seems to indicate that this tendency will continue in the years to come. In fact, only from July 2011 to July 2012 it has increased 2.2%.

Why on 15th September?

The celebration of the Hispanic Heritage Month starts on 15th September because many Latin American countries celebrate their independence anniversary near that date: Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed the Hispanic Heritage Week in September 1968, and it was the Congress under the administration of President Ronald Reagan that made the celebration a month long.


Suscribe to our blog!

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner