reeYAA. Click below to hear this.*


This is the story of one word, in two parts:

Pick a word. Any word. If you say it enough times, it begins to sound odd, or silly. Then it begins to sound positively alien, and before you know it, it undergoes a sort of rebirth, becoming a different creature altogether, all pink and shiny and new. Where did it come from? Did we just make something out of nothing?

Such a word is rien. I was thinking idly about the word this morning, when it startled me by transforming. There it was, staring at me with its unblinking eye, daring me to make something of it.

Rien means nothing, “no thing”. But where did it come from? From the Latin word for something!

Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we? In Latin, words have cases to show how a word is being used in a sentence. Sometimes a word is the subject of the sentence (res means thing), sometimes the same word is an object or some other part of speech (rem also means thing). Because the words have different forms, you can scramble the sentence and still understand how the words relate to each other….

The story continues in my next post!

*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file:



2 responses to “Rien.

  1. Pingback: Rien (suite) | Spk Frnch

  2. There are six tenses in the Latin language: present , future, imperfect, perfect, future perfect, and pluperfect. Each tense has a set of endings corresponding to the person and number referred to. This means that subject pronouns (e.g. ego “I”) tend to be included only for emphasis or contrast. The following table lists the endings for the active voice and indicative mood of each of these tenses.

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