Mice, muscles and mussels
Today I came across the German word Mäusefänger (mouse catcher) in an article, sent to me by a friend, about the cat that recently took up the position of chief mouse catcher at 10 Downing Street, the official residence of British Prime Minister David Cameron. Number 10 apparently has a bit of a problem with mice, and there’s a long tradition of keeping cats at the prime minister’s residence and the treasury.
Mäusefänger is made up of two words: mäuse, the plural of maus (mouse), and fänger (catcher, fielder, interceptor, trap). Maus, which is of course related to the English word mouse, comes from the Proto-Germanic. *mus (a small rodent), from PIE *muHs- (mouse) [source]. The word muscle comes from the same root, via the Latin musculus (muscle, lit. “little mouse”), as does mussel, via the Old English muscle/musscel, and the Late Latin muscula [source].
While looking up some of the words in the article, I came across a useful German dictionary, canoonet, which not only gives information about German words (in German), and links to dictionaries for other languages, but also has grammatical information, such as noun and verb conjugations. There is also a Morphologie-Browser, which shows the words derived from a particular word – here’s an example with the word sehen (to see).