Archive for the Category: Proto-Indo-European

True sisters

The word for sister in Irish is deirfiúr /dʲɾʲəˈfˠuːɾˠ/, and it has always puzzled me why this word is so different from the words for sister in the other Gaelic languages: piuthar /pju.ər/ in Scottish Gaelic and shuyr /ʃuːr/ in Manx. Yesterday I discovered that deirfiúr is in fact a combination of deirbh /dʲɾʲəv/ (true) […]

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Also posted in English, Etymology, Irish, Language, Scottish Gaelic, Words and phrases 10 Comments

Gendarmes et policiers

Yesterday there was some discussion of the police at the French Conversation Group – one of the members is a former policeman. We use the word policier, but later I remembered that another French word for policeman is gendarme, and it suddenly dawned on me that gendarme probably comes from gens d’armes (armed man). I […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Greek, Language, Latin, Words and phrases 5 Comments

Panache, pegs and pinafores

One thing we discussed last night at the French Conversation Group was whether panache means the same thing in French as it does in English. According to the OED, panache [/pəˈnaʃ/ (UK) /pəˈnæʃ/ (USA)] comes from the Middle French pennache, which originally meant a tuft or plume of feathers, and by the late 19th century […]

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Pozo

Last night I learnt a song, En el pozo María Luisa (In the Maria Lusia mine), from a Spanish friend. This song, which is also known as Nel Pozu Maria Luisa or Santa Bárbara Bendita, comes from Asturias in north west Spain and is usually sung in Asturian, Spanish or a mixture of the two. […]

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Word skipping to Venus

I was asked today about the origins of the word worship. The person who asked was told by a highly-educated minister that “worship” is derived from an old English word, “word-skip”. Supposedly, “word-skip” means “word shaper” or “shaper of words”. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary: worship comes from the Old English worðscip, wurðscip (Anglian), […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Italian, Language, Latin, Portuguese, Spanish, Words and phrases 17 Comments

Telling tales

Earlier this week I went to a Christmas show entitled Beasts and Beauties in Kendal. It wasn’t a traditional Christmas pantomime, though did include some pantomimesque elements, but rather a series of eight fairy/folk tales from around Europe, including: – The Emperor’s New Clothes or Kejserens nye Klæder by Hans Christian Andersen (Danish) – Bluebeard […]

Also posted in Danish, English, Etymology, French, German, Language, Norwegian, Old Norse, Words and phrases 9 Comments

Tables, chairs, stools and cathedrals

The Russian word for table (the piece of furniture) is стол (/stol/) which sounds a bit like stool in English. In most other Slavic languages the words for table are simliar: стол (Belarusian), stol (Croatian), stůl (Czech), stolŭ (Old Church Slavonic = throne, seat), stół (Polish), сто (Serbian), stôl (Slovak) and стіл (Ukrainian). Although in […]

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Sauve-qui-peut!

One of the things that came up in conversation last night was how to say ‘to save’ in French. As is often the case, there are a number of different translations of this word, depending on the context: sauver = to save (person, animal, jewels, building etc), rescue, salvage – sauver la vie â/de qcn […]

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Nursery rhymes and computers

Comptine /kɔ̃tin/ is the French for nursery rhyme or for a counting rhyme or song. I learnt it last night and thought I’d look into where it comes from. According Wiktionnaire, comptine is made up of compte (count, number, account) and the suffix -ine. Compte /kɔ̃t/ comes from computus (count, number, account, calculation), from computo […]

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Fence sitting

Last night I learnt the French equivalent of the English idiom, to sit on the fence (to be undecided in opinion, or neutral in action) – ménager la chèvre et le choux [source], or “to keep the goat and the cabbage”. This phrase is also translated as “to face both ways”, “to keep everyone happy”, […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Idioms, Language, Latin 3 Comments