Dog Weather

When it’s raining heavily and the weather is particularly unpleasant, it is known as hondenweer [ˈɦɔn.də(n)ˌʋeːr] (“dog weather”) in Dutch, as you would only go out in it if you had to walk your dog.

Walking in the Rain

This is a phrase I learnt last week from a Dutch friend. According to Wiktionary it means “particularly bad or rough weather, the kind of weather when it is raining cats and dogs”.

The equivalent in French is temps de chien [tɑ̃ də ʃjɛ̃] (“dog weather”), which refers to filthy, dreadful or awful weather [source].

If the weather is even worse, you might say that it’s weer om geen hond door te sturen (“weather through which not to send any dog”) [source]. There is an equivalent in English: I wouldn’t send a dog out in this.

Are there any interesting dog-related expressions in other languages?

Gaelic Song / Òrain Gàidhlig

My course at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig finished today, and I’ll be leaving tomorrow. I’ll stay at my Mum’s for a few days on the way home, and should be back in Bangor next Monday.

The course has been a lot of fun, and Joy Dunlop is a really good teacher. She’s strict about getting the pronunciation right, which is important, and uses interesting ways to describe the particular sounds of Scottish Gaelic. If we all knew phonetics and the IPA, it would be much easier.

We learnt 16 songs altogether in 5 days, which is plenty – in previous years here we’ve learnt over 30 songs in a week, which was maybe slightly too many. I like all the songs we did this time, and plan to continue singing at least some of them.

There were 16 of us in the class, although not everyone was there every day. I already knew some of the people from other courses I’ve done here, and it was nice to see them again, and to meet new people. Most were from Scotland, and other parts of the UK, plus two from Ireland, one from France and one from the Netherlands. We got on well together, and I think singing together is a great way to bond.

The class was taught mainly in English, with some bits of Scottish Gaelic now and then, and only a few of us speak much Gaelic. Outside the class I got to speak quite a bit of Gaelic with people who were studying and working here. I also spoke some French, Irish and Dutch.

Here are a few photos and videos from this year and previous years at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig:

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig

Ties

Illustration of a tie

Today I discovered that the Russian word галстук [ˈɡalstʊk] (tie, necktie, neckerchief) was borrowed from the German Halstuch (tie, scarf, cravat, necktie, neckwear, kerchief, bandana, neckerchief neckcloth), or from the Dutch halsdoek (neckerchicef, scarf, shawl).

When words beginning with h are borrowed into Russian, the h becomes г (g), as there is no h sound in Russian. This is probably why I didn’t spot the connection between галстук and Halstuch before.

Halstuch comes from Hals (tail, stem, cervix neck, throat) and Tuch (cloth, sheet, square, blanket, drape, kerchief, towel, scarf, dishcloth).

There are quite a few other Russian words borrowed from German, including вахтёр (porter, janitor, watchman) – from Wächter, картофель (potatoes) – from Kartoffel, and клавир (keyboard instrument) – from Klavier.

Sources: Wiktionary, bab.la

Knufflige Knuffelbeests

Giant Giraffe

If someone called you a knuff, would you see it as a compliment or an insult?

Knuff is an obsolete English word that means a lout or clown, so it would be an insult. It comes from the Old English cnof (a churl). The k is silent, but I think in Old English the c was pronounced [source].

Possibly related Swedish words include knuff (nudge, push, boost, dig, shove) [source] and knuffa (to push, nudge, shove) [source].

Possibly related German words include knuffen (to nudge; to jab; to pinch (usually playfully or even tenderly)) [source] and knuffig (cuddly) [source]

Possibly related Dutch words include knuffelen (to cuddle, hug), from the Low German knuffen (to poke; bump; nudge) [source], knuffig (cuddly) [source], knuffel (hug, cuddle, stuffed toy) [source] and knuffelbeest (stuffed toy) [source].

The word knuff came up in one of my Swedish lessons this week, and as I like the sound of it, I thought I’d write about it. There’s something about that combination of k and n and the beginning of a word that makes it sound cute and cuddly to me.

Which sounds and combinations of sounds (in any language) most appeal to you?

Can Hens Sing?

Four hens

What is the connection between singing and hens?

Hens don’t sing, but the words for to sing / speak in Celtic languages come from the same root as the English words hen and chant.

The root is the Proto-Indo-European *keh₂n- (to sing) [source].

This became *kan- (to sing) in Proto-Celtic, which became canaid (to sing) in Old Irish, and can (to chant, sing, speak, talk) in modern Irish. In Scottish Gaelic it became can (to sing, rehearse, say, name or call), and in Manx it became caayn (to bray, whine; song).

In Proto-Brythonic it became *kėnɨd (to sing), which became canam (to sing) in Old Welsh, canu (to sing, intone, chant, state, say) in modern Welsh, kana (to sing) in Cornish, canaff (to sing) in Middle Breton and kanañ (to sing) in Breton [source].

In Proto-Germanic *keh₂n- became *hanô (rooster), *hanjō (hen) and *hōnaz (fowl). The English word hen developed from *hanjō, via the Old English hænn / henn (hen). In other Germanic languages these words became: Huhn (hen, chicken) and Henne (hen) in German; hen (hen) in Dutch [source]; and höna (hen) in Swedish [source].

*keh₂n- is also the root of the Latin canō (I sing), from which words for to sing in Romance language developed, such as chanter (to sing) in French and cantar (to sing) in Spanish [source], and the English word chant [source].

See also the Celtiadur

Glass eyes

Glasögon

Recently I learnt an interesting word in Swedish – glasögon, which means glasses or spectacles, and literally means “glass eyes”.

Glas means glass, and comes from the Proto-Germanic *glasą (glass), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰel- (to shine, shimmer, glow) [source].

Ögon is the plural of öga (eye), and comes from the Old Swedish ø̄gha (eye), from Old Norse auga (eye), from Proto-Germanic *augô (eye), from Proto-Indo-European *h₃ekʷ- (eye; to see) [source].

The Swedish word glas reminds me of the Russian word for eye, глаз (glaz), which I remember by thinking of a glass eye. Глаз comes from the Old East Slavic глазъ (glazŭ – ball, eye), from the Proto-Slavic *glazъ (ball), from Proto-Indo-European *g(ʰ)el- (round, spherical, stone) [source].

The Russian word for glasses is очки (ochki), which comes from очи (ochi), the plural of око (oko), the old Russian word for eye, which comes from the same Proto-Indo-European root as öga and eye [source].

In Danish and Norwegian, the word for glasses is briller, which means ‘a person wearing glasses’ in Dutch, and to shine or sparkle in French [source]. The German word for glasses is simliar – Brille, and the Dutch is bril [source].

Briller, Brille and bril come from the Middle High German berillus (beryl), from the Latin beryllus (beryl), probably from the Ancient Greek βήρυλλος (bḗrullos – beryl), from Sanskrit वैडूर्य (vaidurya – a cat’s eye gem; a jewel), from Dravidian. Probably named after the city Velur (modern day Belur / ಬೇಲೂರು) in Karnataka in southern India. The first glasses, made in about 1300 in Italy, were made from beryl [source].

Beryl is a mineral which comes from three forms: morganite (orange), aquamarine (blue-green – pictured top right) and heliodor (green-yellow).

The French word for glass, lunettes, means “little moons” [source].

Are there interesting words for glasses, spectacles, specs, or eyes in other languages?

Polyglot Conference – Day 1

The Polyglot Conference officially started today. There were talks and workshops all day on all sorts of interesting topics. I went to talks on Slovenian, linguistic relavtivity, Romani, the Cathars, and audiolinguistics. They were all interesting, especially the linguistic ones.

There was plenty of time between the talks to talk to other participants, and I managed to make some recordings in quite a variety of languages for the next episode of my podcast. I hope to make more recordings tomorrow.

I had conversations in English, Welsh, French, Irish, German, Russian, Mandarin, Japanese, and tried to speak a few other languages.

They are preparing Ljubljana for the Ljubljana Marathon tomorrow, and quite a few streets are being lined with barriers. I hope I’ll be able to get to the conference venue tomorrow.

Exploring Copenhagen / Udforskning af København

Today I am in Copenhagen on the way to see a friend in Aarhus. I left Bangor at way-too-early o’clock this morning, and arrived in Copenhagen early this afternoon. I’m staying in an AirBnB in Sydhavn, not far from the centre of the city. One of my hosts is from Moldova, and the other is a Dane, who I haven’t met yet. I spoke a bit of Russian and Romanian with my Moldovan host, which she seemed pleased to hear.

This afternoon I explored the touristy part of Copenhagen, and saw some nice parks, a castle, lots of boats, including a tall ship, a little mermaid, and some interesting buildings. I heard quite a few different languages being spoken, including Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Mandarin, Cantonese and other flavours of Chinese, English, French and even a bit of Danish. My knowledge of Danish is limited – I can read Danish quite well, and speak and understand it a little.

Cycling seems to be a popular way to get around here, perhaps because Copenhagen is so flat. There are plenty of cycle paths, and even traffic lights for cyclists. There are also many cargo bikes – three-wheeled contraptions with a large container on the front for shopping, children, pets or other things. Some cyclists indicate they’re stopping by raising their arm, as if asking a question, which is practical, but looks quite funny to me.

Here are a few photos:

Copenhagen / København

Tomorrow I’m off to Aarhus to see a Czech friend who teaches Linguistics at the university there. We usually speak a mixture of Czech, English and Welsh, and now we can add some Danish to the mix.

Later addition – I’ve met both my hosts now – the guy is actually from the Faroe Islands, and we’ve just had a very interesting conversation about Faroese and other languages. He told me that they used to borrow a lot of words into Faroese, especially from Danish, but now tend to create new words from Faroese roots. He finds it hard to understand some of the new words, as he’s not used to using them. They speak English to each other, by the way, as he doesn’t speak Russian or Romanian, and she speaks only a little Danish, and no Faroese.

It’s not just about languages

Dance workshop at the Polyglot Gathering

As well as talks about language learning, languages and related topics, this year’s #PoylgotGathering includes workshops in singing songs in various languages, calligraphy, knitting and dancing. Yesterday I caught the end of a dancing workshop, and learnt a bit of belly dancing, and a folk dance from Brittany. It was a lot of fun.

I also did a bit of juggling and poi spinning with a few other polyglots yesterday, and there was a musical jam session with a few people who had instruments with them. I don’t have any instruments with me this year as I’m travelling light with only one small bag.

Tonight there’s an international cultural evening, and I plan to sing a Welsh folk song (Gwcw Fach), and maybe a Scottish Gaelic song (Illean Bithibh Sunndach). Some of us who took part in the singing workshop on Thursday with be singing songs in Maori and Spanish.

Languages I spoke yesteday – English, French, German, Spanish, Welsh, Irish, Swedish, Slovak, Mandarin, Dutch, Esperanto, Portuguese.

Polyglotting

My name tag for the 2018 Polyglot Gathering

Today is the second full day of the #PolyglotGathering. It’s been a lot of fun, with some very interesting talks, and I’ve met a lot of people I know from previous polyglot events, and many new people too.

So far I’ve had conversations in English, French, German, Spanish, Welsh, Irish, Mandarin, Swedish, Russian and Esperanto, and have spoken odd bits of Manx, Danish, Icelandic, Czech, Italian, Portuguese and Slovak. I’ve learnt about Warlpiri, Bengali and Ukrainian, and have sung songs in Spanish, Italian, Serbian and Maori.

This morning I’ll be giving my presentation on Deconstructing Language. My original plan was to talk mainly about how grammar works and how it develops, but What I’ll actually talk about is where words come from and how and why they change over time.