Sponge Mushrooms

In Swedish, I learned this week, there are two words for mushroom: svamp [svamp] (fungus, mushroom, toadstool, sponge) and champinjon [ɧampɪnˈjuːn] (mushroom) [source].

Svamp comes from the Old Swedish svamper (fungus, mushroom), from Old Norse svampr / svǫppr (sponge, mushroom, ball), from the Proto-Germanic *swammaz / swambaz (sponge, mushroom, fungus, swamp), which is also the root of the English word swamp [source].

The Old English word swamm (mushroom, fungus, sponge), and the Middle English swam (swamp, muddy pool, bog, marsh; fungus, mushroom), come from the same root as well [source].

Mushroom was borrowed from the Anglo-Norman musherum / moscheron (mushroom), from the Old French moisseron (mushroom), possibly from the Old French mosse / moise (moss), from the Frankish *mosa (moss) [source]

Champinjon was borrowed from the French champignon (mushroom, fungus, accelerator), from the Vulgar Latin *campāniolus (grows in the field), from the Late Latin campāneus (pertaining to fields), from Latin campānia (level country), which is also the root of the words campaign and champagne.

Apparently champinjon is used to refer to mushrooms used as food, and was borrowed into Swedish in 1690 [source], while svamp refers to mushrooms and fungi in general.

Svamp

Hamstering Squirrels

An interesting Dutch word I learnt the other day is hamsteren [ˈɦɑm.stə.rə(n)]. It means “to hoard (food, supplies), typically for emergencies”, and was borrowed from the German hamstern (to hoard). The same word is also found in Luxembourgish and Norwegian. It’s thought to be a reference to the way hamsters store food in their cheek pouches [source].

a167071 henke-2

The verb to hamster also exists in English and means “to secrete or store privately” [source] – not quite the same as the Dutch meaning.

Then there’s to squirrel, meaning “to store in a secretive manner, to hide something for future use” [source], and to squirrel away (to stash or hide; to hoard, collect, save, or accumulate; to create a reserve, stash, or hoard of some supply) [source], which are closer to the meaning of hamsteren.

Are there similar words in other languages?

Good Calves

Yesterday while looking into Celtic words bear, I found some interesting ones in the Goidelic languages: mathúin [ˈmˠahuːnʲ] in Irish, mathan [ˈmahan] in Scottish Gaelic and maghouin in Manx. These come from the Old Irish mathgamain [ˈmaθɣəṽənʲ], from math (good) and gamuin (calf).

So bears were called “good calves” – this is possibly an example of taboo naming, that is using an alternative name for a dangerous animal rather than naming it directly, in the belief that this might it less likely to attack you.

In the Brythonic languages words for bear are arth (Welsh & Cornish) and arzh (Breton), which come from the Proto-Celtic *artos (bear), from the Proto-Indo-European h₂ŕ̥tḱos (bear). This is also the root of English word Arctic, and words for bear in Romance and other European languages.

There are no bears in the Anglo-Celtic Isles these days, except in zoos, but there were bears in Britain and Ireland until about 3,000 years ago. The Celtic languages were spoken back then.

I’ve written about words for bears in other European languages before here. In Slavic languages, for example, bears are “honey eaters” – медведь in Russian.

European Brown Bears

Slimy Islands

For various reasons, I thought I would investigate a few disease-related words to find out where they come from.

Let’s start with virus, which comes from the Latin vīrus (poison, slime, venom), from the Proto-Italic *weisos, from Proto-Indo-European *wisós (fluidity, slime, poison). Virus used to mean venom as well, apparently [source].

Disease comes from the Anglo-Norman desese / disaise, from the Old French desaise (disease, deformity, melancholy), from des- (apart, reversal, removal) and aise (ease – lack of anxiety) [source].

In Middle English words for disease included adle, which comes from the Old English ādl (disease, sickness); and co(a)the, from the Old English coþu (disease). The latter continued to be used in some English dialects as coath (sickness, disease, pestilence) [source]

Pandemic comes from the Ancient Greek πάνδημος (pándēmos – of/belonging to all the people, public) and -ic (of/pertaining to) [source].

Epidemic comes from the French épidémique (epidemic), from the Latin epidemia (epidemic), from Ancient Greek ἐπιδήμιος (epidḗmios), from ἐπί (epí – upon) and δῆμος (dêmos – people) [source].

Isolation comes from the French isolation, from isolé (isolated, placed on an island) [source].

Hope you’re okay and coping with self-isolation, or whatever restrictions are in force / suggested where you are.

Forest Picnics

An interesting Danish word I learnt this week is skovtur, which means a picnic or outing, according to bab.la, or a “picnic (social gathering), not necessarily in a forest”, according to Wiktionary.

Grundlovs skovtur 2012

Wiktionary mentions a forest because this word is a portmanteau of skov (forest, woods), and tur (turn, trip, journey, walk, move, tour, stroll, outing). So it could be poetically translated at “forest trip/outing”. This gives me the idea that picnics in Denmark often take place in forests, or at least did in the past. Is this true? Er det sandt?

The word skov comes from the Old Norse skógr (wood, forest), from the Proto-Germanic *skōgaz (forest, wood), which is also the root of the word scaw / skaw (promontry) in some English dialects. The name of England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike (formerly Scawfell), includes it, for example.

The word tur comes from the French tour (to go, turn), from the Old French tor (tower), from the Latin turris, turrem (tower), from the Ancient Greek τύρρις (túrrhis – tower), possibly from the Proto-Indo-European *tauro (mountain, hill, tall structure).

The word picnic is also used in Danish. It comes, via English, from the French pique-nique, from piquer (to pick) and nique (small thing) [source].

Do other languages have interesting words for picnics?

Fizzing Ducts

One of the Danish words I learnt recently is bruser, which means shower. It’s very different to words for shower in other Germanic languages I know, such as dusch in Swedish, and Dusche in German, so I thought I’d investigate it.

p132_02

As well as meaning shower, bruser also means sprayer or rose (of a watering can). Another word for shower is brusebad (“shower-bath”). The verb bruse means to fizz, cascade, effervesce, rush, roar or murmur.

In Swedish there is a similar word: brusa, which means to make noise (like waves, wind, streaming water). While in Norwegian brusa means to fizz (emit bubbles, foam, make a fizzing or rushing sound), or to puff up ones feathers.

These words were borrowed from the Middle Low German brûsen (to roar, skim), which is thought to be of onomatopoeic origin.

The Swedish word dusch, the German Dusche, and the Norwegian dusj, come from the French douche (shower), from the Italian doccia (shower, drainpipe, plaster cast), from the Latin ductus (lead, guided), from dūcō (I lead, guide). This is also the root of the English words duct and duke.

Sources: ordbogen.com, Wiktionary, Svensk etymologisk ordbok

Overnighting

If I asked you, “Where are you overnighting?”, you might think it a bit strange, except in certain circumstances, but you’d probably guess that I meant “Where are you staying (overnight)?”.

In Swedish, I discovered this week, this wouldn’t sound strange – Var övernattar du? is one way to say “Where are you staying?”.

The verb övernatta (“to overnight”), means to stay overnight or to stay the night. Övernattning means a sleepover, overnight or accommodation, and övernattningsstuga means a refuge.

Apparently övernatta is usually used to refer to staying for one night, but sometimes for two of three nights as well.

Other ways to say to stay in Swedish include:

  • sova över = to stay the night (“to sleep over”)
  • stanna (över natten) = to stay (overnight)
  • sitta inne = to be / stay indoors

In Scotland if someone asks you “Where do you stay?”, or in Scots “Whaur dae ye stey?”, they usually mean “Where do you live (permanently)?” and not “Where are you staying (temporarily)?” When I first heard this, it confused me a bit, but I’m used to it now. Another way to say this in Scots is “Whaur dae ye bide?”.

In Scots to stey means to stay, stop, dwell, reside, make one’s home. So it seems that it can mean both to stay somewhere temporarily, and to live somewhere permanently.

AirBnB in Petržalka

Sources: bab.la, Ord.se, Dictionar o the Scots Leid