Mama Lisa's World
International Music & Culture
A place for poems, songs, rhymes and traditions from around the world for both kids and grown-ups to enjoy!
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Articles about 'Words & Phrases'
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The Persian New Year is celebrated on the first day of Spring.  It’s called Nowruz.  There are many New Year traditions, including throwing grass into a river or lake.  Here’s what Fatima wrote from Iran about some New Year’s traditions: In the last month of the Iranian year people shake up the house (i.e. they clean...
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The expression "to tie the knot" means "to get married".   There are several places where tied knots have been connected to marriage and love. During Roman times, brides wore a belt or girdle at their wedding tied in a Hercules Knot. Only the groom was allowed to untie it (the unloosening was supposed to be a...
The Atlantic surveyed how people start a conversation all across the U.S.  Below you can hear what some people said… The Geography of Small Talk from The Atlantic on Vimeo. How do you start a conversation where you’re from? -Mama Lisa
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Here’s a video to hear animal sounds around the world… Bow Wow Meow – Animal Sounds in Different Languages from properniceinnit on Vimeo. The languages are: English, Mandarin, French, Italian, Spanish, Turkish, Hindi, Canadian-French, Romanian, Japanese, Russian, Dutch, Bengali, Brazilian-Portuguese, Colombian-Spanish, Swahili and Mongolian. Enjoy! Mama Lisa
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Some English terms go back further than you’d think… -OMG The first recorded appearance of this breathless acronym for “Oh, my God!” comes, surprisingly, in a letter to Winston Churchill. (1917) -LITERALLY Word curmudgeons wince when “literally” is used figuratively. Examples of this inversion go back to 1769. Even Mark Twain did it. (1876) ...
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Who remembers the expression "I love you with a cherry on top"?  I remember saying it to my mother either to express love or to butter her up if I wanted something! You can make the expression even stronger, by adding more and more toppings as if your love was an ice cream sundae.  You can...
In English, when you don’t understand something, you say "It’s all Greek to me".  In French you say either, "C’est de l’hébreu" (It’s in Hebrew) or "C’est du chinois" (It’s in Chinese).  In Spanish you say, "Me suena a chino" (Sounds like Chinese to me). It would be interesting to learn what other languages people...
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Reduplications are words or phrases that contain a duplicated element.  An example is the phrase "riffraff".  The two parts of the word are almost the same (i.e. "riff" and "raff"), but they have a small change (the vowels).  When you have a rhyming reduplication, the duplicated element rhymes with the original element in the phrase. ...
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"Easy peasy" is an expression people say when something is very easy to do.  My daughter just recited a longer version of it which I had never heard: "Easy, peasy, lemon, squeezy." (listen here) She couldn’t believe that I, Mama Lisa, had never heard the full expression before! It seems to come from a British commercial from the...
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There are many variations in different languages of "mother" and "father".  These are formal words that people use when referring to their parents.  But most words used to address our parents directly are less formal. In the US, most people don’t say "mother’ and "father" when talking to their parents.  Even when I was a kid...
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Each language has its own unique words that don’t exist in other languages.  Here are two links to blog posts about words that exist in other languages, but not in English.  The 1st one includes an infographic… 21 Emotions for Which There are No Words in English 25 Handy Words That Simply Don’t Exist In English Here are...
Here’s a video with a song explaining onomatopoeias… one of the coolest types of words out there!
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Every year, in December in Japan, a word is chosen that represents that year.  There’s a Kanji Character that represents that word.  Kanji are the characters used to represent the Japanese language.  They originally come from China. The kanji character of the year is unveiled for the 1st time at Kiyomizu Temple each year. Ayako wrote...
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A while ago, I talked about how my daughter’s class made drawings illustrating the literal meanings of idiomatic expressions.  This is a great way to help children, and people learning English as a second language, to understand these sayings.. One drawing my daughter did was an illustration of the expression "follow your nose".  "Follow your nose"...
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I’m currently reading a series of books that takes place in Botswana called  The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. When reading the first book, you quickly come upon the term "Mma" (pronounced "ma") used before a woman’s name and "Rra" (pronounced "ra" with a rolling "r") used before a man’s name.  I...
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  "January is named after the two-headed Roman god Janus, god of thresholds and beginnings… With his two heads he looks at the past and the future, behind and before… Which I guess is what we are all doing today." -Ernestine Shargool
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Ayako wrote to me about how each year a Chinese character (called a kanji) is chosen in Japan that best represents the year.  Here’s what she wrote: Hi Lisa, I wanted to tell you about this year’s Kanji.  We choose the best kanji at end of each year in December – it’s an annual event.  This year...
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I’ve been corresponding with Gian Carlo Macchi who’s from Italy about foods eaten for Christmas and Santa Lucia in Italy and how they differ from food eaten by Italian Americans the US (I’m an Italian American).  We’ve also been discussing gift giving in both countries and greetings for the season.  These comparisons are interesting!  ...
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A candle apple is called a "pomme d’amour" in French.  That’s literally "apple of love"!  How cool is that?! What’s it called in your language?  Please let us know in the comments below.
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My daughter’s fifth grade class was given a really interesting assignment.  The teacher asked them to make drawings that illustrated the literal meanings of common sayings. In American English "You’re on a roll" means you’re going from success to success.  Here’s a drawing my daughter did of the literal meaning of being on a roll! ...
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