This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Spot the frippet: something uvular.

My first-school headmaster used to make us all recite this piece of verse:

I must open my big fat mouth
And show my big fat tongue
And my big fat teeth
And the wiggly thing that hangs down at the back.

The wiggly thing that hangs down at the back is the uvula. (Our headmaster , by the way, was trying to improve our singing.)

A mirror will probably help with spotting a uvula. That, or finding an infant in full mouth-quivering howl, or making someone laugh a lot.

If you're a dentist then you'll have no trouble at all even though people are unlikely to be laughing.

If, however, you're not a dentist but an pediaphobic (child-fearing) vampire (no reflection) with an inability to time a joke, then you could always keep an ear out for something else uvular, namely the beautifully spittle-infused sound that the French write as an r, or the sound the Scots say at the end of loch. Or och, for that matter. That's a uvular consonant. Other languages that use uvular consonants include Japanese, Inuktitut, Kazakh, Castillian Spanish, Lakhita, Quechuan, Arabic, Norwegian and Mam.

The language Tlingit has ten different uvular consonants - though unless you're in Alaska you're not likely to hear them - and Tlingit is beaten by the Ubykh language of Turkey, which has twenty.

I have piano lessons today. I think a little Bach will be just the job.

File:Malelion with uvula.jpg

Spot the frippet: something uvular. This word is the Mediaeval Latin for little grape. Eeuurgh!*

*See what I did there?

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