Sinking Basins

One of the Dutch words I learnt recently is gootsteen [ˈɣoːt.steːn], which is a sink or washbasin. It comes from goot (gutter) and steen (stone). According to Duolingo, you might encounter a gootsteen in a bathroom (badkamer / toilet) or kitchen (keuken).

A kitchen sink is a gootsteen, keukengootsteen, or aanrecht [ˈaːn.rɛxt], which is also a kitchen counter or counter top. Alles behalve het aanrecht is “everything but the kitchen sink”, a phrase that started to appear in writing in the early 20th century in newspapers and books in the USA [source].

A washbasin is also a wastafel (“wash-table”), wasbak (“wash-container”), or in Belgium a lavabo, from the Latin lavābō (I will wash).

What does the word sink mean to you?

How about washbasin?

Do you have other words for these things?

Are there separate words for them in other languages?

To me a sink is something you would normally find in a kitchen, or a laboratory. It is often square or rectangular and relatively deep.

Kitchen sink plus tap

A washbasin is something you would find in a bathroom and is often rounded a relatively shallow. Other types of washbasin are available.

Don't try this at home

Sources: Wiktionary, Reverso, Duolingo

Plurality

One of the sentences that came up in my Dutch lessons today was “De jeugd van vandaag is onze toekomst”, which is translated as “The youth of today are our future” (emphasis added).

In Dutch de jeugd (the youth) is singular and is accompanied by a singular form of the verb, is, while in English the youth are seen as a collection of people, so are plural. You could argue that since the youth is singular in English, so you should say the youth is rather than the youth are, but that sounds strange to me.

Other examples of this phenomenon include:

  • Het personeel is laat = The staff are late
  • Het team is succesvol = The team are/is successful
  • De meerderheid is er tegen = The majority are/is against it
  • De raad is nutteloos = The council are/is useless
  • De familie is verenigd = The family are/is united
  • Amazon is een enorm bedrijf = Amazon are/is a huge company

Apparently in American English it is common to use the singular with collective nouns like team and family, while in British English plurals are more commonly used.

If you see a company or a group of people like a team as a single entity, then it makes sense to use the singular form of the verb, but if you see them as a group of people, then the plural form makes more sense.

Would you use the singular or plural in the above examples?

Are there differences in usage like this in other languages?

More information about this:
https://justpublishingadvice.com/the-collective-noun-singular-or-plural-verb/
https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/collective-nouns

How about data? In scientific and financial papers it is often accompanied by a plural verb – the data are inconclusive, for example, but in everyday usage it is usually treated as singular – the data is out of date. Pedants might argue that data, like agenda, is plural, and their singular forms should be datum and agendum. While this is true in Latin, its not how these words are commonly used, at least since the 1940s. More discussion on this.

Data was borrowed from Latin data, the plural of datum (that is given), the past participle of (I give) [source].

Would you say a box of lego or a box of legos? How about a lego or a piece of lego? To my ears legos sounds strange, even though I know plenty of people use it.

You Pancake!

If you said to someone “Je bent een pannenkoek!“, they’d probably have no idea what you were talking about, unless they spoke Dutch. This is a kind of mild / affectionate insult in Dutch meaning literally “You’re a pancake”.

It’s often used to refer to oneself – Oh, wat ben ik toch een pannenkoek! (Oh, what a pancake I am!) when you’ve done something stupid, dumb, foolish or clumsy.

pancakes!

Pannenkoek [ˈpɑnə(n)ˌkuk] means pancake, crêpe or flapjack. It comes from pan (pan, cooking pot) and koek (cake, cookie, biscuit, pie).

Pan comes from the Middle Dutch panne (pan), from the Old Dutch *panna (pan), from the Latin panna, a contraction of patina (a broad, shallow dish; a pan; stewpan; a kind of cake; a crib, manger), from the Ancient Greek πατάνη (patánē – a kind of flat dish) [source].

Koek comes from the Middle Dutch coeke (cake), from the Old Dutch *kuoko (cake), from the Proto-Germanic *kōkô (cake). The English words cake, cookie and quiche come from the same root – cake via Old Norse, cookie via Dutch, and quiche via French [source].

Words used in a similar way in Dutch include sufkop (“dull head”, numskull), dommerd (dummy), gekkie (weirdo, goof), oelewapper (ding-dong, dummy, monkey), druif (grape), oliebol (donut, dumpling), koekebakker (“cake bakker”), uilskuiken (“owlet”, nincompoop, birdbrain), flapdrol (fool, nincompoop), mafkees (weirdo, goofball), oen (“castrated donkey”, moron), sukkel (dummy, idiot, twerp) [Information from Anna Rutten and Wiktionary].

Some equivalents of pannenkoek I can think in English are muppet, idiot, wally, plonker and numpty. Others, from Reverso, include: knucklehead, slouch, douche and potato-head.

Can you think of more in English or other languages?

Weaving Frocks

The Danish word frakke [ˈfʁɑgə] means coat or overcoat. It was borrowed from the German Frack [fʁak] (tails, tailcoat, dress coat), which came from the English frock, which generally means dress, but can also refer to a peasant’s smock, or a coarse wide-sleeved outer garment worn by members of some religious orders [source].

When the rights and authority are removed from a priest, government official or medical practioner, they are said to be defrocked, unfrocked or disfrocked [source]. Before being defrocked, you would have to be frocked (made into a cleric).

In a frock flick (costume drama), some of the characters might wear frock coats, while others might wear smock frocks, housefrocks or underfrocks or even go frockless, which might lead to them being defrocked [source].

Frock comes from the Middle English frok / frokke (habit, cope, cowl, coat), from Old French froc (frock, a monk’s gown or habit), perhaps from the Medieval Latin hrocus / roccus / rocus (a coat), from the Frankish *hroc / *hrok (skirt, dress, robe), from the Proto-Germanic *hrukkaz (robe, jacket, skirt, tunic), from the Proto-Indo-European *kreḱ- (to weave).

So these words have been weaving their way between the Germanic and Romance language families, and changing their meanings, pronunciations and spellings over time.

Other words from the same roots include:

  • Danish: rok [ˈʁʌg] = garment
  • Dutch: rok [rɔk] = skirt, petticoat
  • French: froc [fʁɔk] = frock (clerical garment), the clerical profession, trousers
  • German: Rock [ʁɔk] = skirt
  • Swedish: frack [fɹæk] = dress suit, tailcoat

A similar Danish word – jakke [ˈjɑgə] (jacket) – comes from the German Jacke (jacket), from the Old French jaque (a gambison – a type of tight-fitting shirt), which was either named after someone called Jaques (James), or from jaque de mailles (coat of arms) from the Arabic شـَكّ (šakk – breastplate). The English word jacket comes fromt the same root, via the Middle French jacquet.

The Danish word skjort [ˈsɡ̊joɐ̯d̥ə] sounds similar to skirt in English, but means shirt. It comes from the Old Norse skyrta (shirt), from the Proto-Germanic *skurtijǭ (skirt, apron). The English word skirt comes from the same root [source].

The English word shirt also comes from the same root, but via the Middle English sherte / shurte / schirte, from Old English sċyrte (a short garment; skirt; kirtle) [source].

The Danish word skørt [ˈsɡ̊ɶɐ̯d̥] (skirt, kilt) comes from the same root, via the Middle Low German schorte (armour) [source].

Another Danish word for skirt is nederdel (“lower part”).

coat hooks

Sources: Den Danske Ordbog, Wiktionary, Middle English Compendium, bab.la, Reverso

Clapping Dugs

Cats clapping

I learnt today, via the podcast Something Rhymes with Purple, that in Scots the word clap [klɑp] doesn’t mean quite the same as in English. The example they give is “Can A clap your dug?”, which isn’t asking if you applaud the pooch, but in fact means “Can I stroke/pet your dog?”.

As a noun, clap means a heavy blow or stroke, or an affectionate pat (more caressing than the English clap). For example, “My mither wad gie his bit headie a clap” (My mother would give his little head a pat/stroke). Then there’s in a clap, which means in a moment.

As a verb, clap means to pat affectionately, caressingly, approvingly; to press down, flatten; to flop, couch, lie down (of a hare); to adhere, cling, press (against).

Here are some examples of how it’s used:

  • And [he] clappit her on the shooder = And he patted her on the shoulder
  • He was sair clappit doun = He was very depressed
  • Wearying for a resting place, Doun on the steeple stairs I clappit = Tiring for a resting place, down the steep stairs I flopped

clap comes from the Old Norse klapp (to pat, stroke gently, chisel, hew).

The English words clap comes from the Middle English clappen (to make a loud noise; to pound, slap, strike, slam), from the Old English clæppan (to throb), from the Proto-Germanic *klappōną (to strike, pound, make loud noises, chatter), which is thought to be of onomatopoeic origin.

From the same root we get such words as:

  • German: klappen = to clap, fold, flip, bend, work out
  • Dutch: klappen = to clap, applaud, smack, crack, burst, fold, wag one’s lips, talk
  • Danish: klappe = to clap, applaud, pat
  • Swedish: klappa = to pat (sb on the shoulder), to pet (a cat), to clap
  • French: clapper = to click (the tongue)

Sources: Dictionary of the Scots Language / Dictionar o the Scots Leid, Wiktionary

Earth Apples & Ground Pears

One of the Dutch words I learnt recently is aardappel [ˈaːr.dɑ.pəl], which means potato, or literally “earthapple”. This is cognate with one of the German words for potato – Erdapfel [ˈeːɐ̯tˌʔa.p͡fl̩/], which is used mainly in southern Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Apparently earthapple also exists in English, although it’s rare, The Sinhala word අර්‍තාපල් [art̪aːpal] was apparently borrowed from Dutch [source].

One French word for potato, pomme de terre, means “apple of the earth”, though comes from different roots.

Untitled

Related words include:

  • aardappelpuree = mashed potato(es)
  • aardappelschilmesje = potato peeler
  • aardappel in de schil = baked potato, jacket potato, potato skins
  • aardappelsoep = potato soup
  • aardappelknödel = potato dumplings
  • aardappelsalade = potato salad
  • aardappeloogst = potato harvest
  • De aardappeleters = The Potato Eaters (a painting by Van Gogh – see below)

In case you’re feeling hungry now, here are a few receipes for potato-based dishes (in Dutch). I might even try some of these myself. It would be a fun way to practise using my Dutch.

De aardappeleters

Another Dutch word for potato is patat [paːˈtɑt], borrowed from the French patate (potato), which is used mainly in Canada and Louisiana, and comes from the Spanish patata (potato), from the Taíno batata (sweet potato) and/or the the Quechua papa (potato). This is also the root of the English word potato, and similar words in other languages [source].

Another German word for potato is Grundbirne [ˈɡʁʊntˌbɪʁ.nə] (ground pear), which is used in Austria. It’s cognate with the Luxembourgish Gromper [ˈɡʀompeʀ] (potato), the Slovenian krompir [krɔmpìːr] (potato), the Macedonian компир (potato) [source].

The Dutch word aardpeer means “earthpear”, and refers to the Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), a kind of sunflower native to North America [source].

The more common German word for potato, Kartoffel [kaʁˈtɔfəl], and related words in other languages, comes from the Italian tartufolo, a diminutive of tartufo (truffle), from the Medieval Latin *territūberum or the Latin terrae tūber (tuber of the earth) [source].

In Mandarin Chinese, a potato is a 土豆 (tǔdòu) or “earth bean”, at least in Mainland China. In Taiwan this means peanut [source] – a potato is a 馬鈴薯 (mǎlíngshǔ), or “horse bell potato / yam”, probably because potatoes look like the bells used on horses [source].

Elephants and Molehills

If you like to make a fuss about things, to make a big deal out of things, or to make a song and dance about things, you could be said to be making a mountain out of a molehill.

DSC08542

This phrase first appeared in writing in 1548 in Nicholas Udall’s translation of The firſt tome or volume of the Paraphraſe of Eraſmus vpon the newe teſtamente as “The Lacos could abide no length, the Sophistes of grece coulde through their copiousnes make an Elephaunt of a lye, and a mountayne of a molle hill”. It is based on the Latin proverb “elephantem ex musca facere” (to make an elephant from a fly). It is possible that Udall coined the phrase, or that someone else did so around that time [source].

The word mole (as in the animal) comes from the Middle English mold(e)warp (“earth-thrower”). This became molle, and later mole. In Old English a mole was a wand, which became want, and a molehill was a wantitump.

In Dutch the equivalent of to make a mountain out of molehill is van een mug een olifant maken (“to make an elephant from a fly”).

Are there similar sayings in other languages?

Lollygagging Elephants

Do you lollygag?

As a verb it means to dawdle, be lazy or idle, to avoid necessary work or effort. As a noun lollygag means silliness or nonsense [source].

I have been known to dawdle on occasion, and to loiter, tarry, dilly-dally, shilly-shally and even to procrastinate, but I rarely lollygag.

A nice equivalent of these words in Dutch is lanterfanten (to loiter, loaf/sit around, lollygag), which can be used in sentences like:

  • Er is geen tijd om te lanterfanten, slaapkop = There’s no time to dillydally, sleepyhead
  • Ik betaal ke niet om te lanterfanten = I don’t pay you to lounge about
  • De olifanten lanterfanten zoals gewoonlijk = The elephants are lounging around as usual

A lanterfanter is a slacker or good-for-nothing
and lanterfanteren means to waste one’s time or be lazy.

Lanterfanten comes from lanterfant (slacker, good-for-nothing, vagabond), from landtrouwandt (vagabond), from land (country) and trouwant (vagabond, beggar), from the Old French truant (vagabound, beggar, rogue) [source], which possibly comes from the Gaulish *trugan, or from the Breton truan (wretched) [source].

A related word is treuzelen (to dawdle, dilly-dally, stall).

Elephants Kaudulla National Park

Rare Words

There’s a rare word in Dutch – raar [raːr] – which is cognate with the English word rare, but means weird, strange, funny, odd or unusual.

It comes from the Middle Dutch rare (rare, unusual), from the Latin rārus (scattered, seldom, few, uncommon, thin, loose), from the Proto-Indo-European *h₁r̥h₁rós, from *h₁reh₁- (to separate) [source].

Here are some examples of how it’s used:

  • Ik heb een raar telefoontje gehad = I got a weird phone call
  • Want je doet een beetje raar = Because you’ve been acting a little weird
  • Dit is vast gewoon een raar misverstand = I’m sure it’s just a weird misunderstanding
  • M’n leven is nu nogal raar = My life is kind of, like, a little weird right now
  • Luister, dit gaat raar klinken … = Look, this is going to sound strange …

Source: Reverso Context

The Dutch words for rare include zeldzaam [ˈzɛlt.saːm] (rare, scarce), which is cognate with the Engish words seldom and seldsome (rare, uncommon), and schaars [sxaːrs] (scarce, rare, sparse), which is cognate with the Engish word scarce [source].

The English word rare comes from the same root, via the Middle English rare [ˈraːr(ə)/ˈrɛːr(ə)] (airy, vacuous, porous, breathable, sparsely spread, uncommon, scare, small, little), and the Old French rare/rere (rare, uncommon) [source].

Other descendants of the Latin word rārus include:

  • Albanian: rrallë [raːɫ] = sparse, infrequent, rare, outstanding
  • Catalan: rar [ˈrar] = rare, strange, odd, thin (of a gas)
  • Danish: rar [ʁɑːˀ] = pleasant, kind, nice
  • Dutch: raar [raːr] = weird, strange, funny, odd, unusual
  • French: rare [ʁɑʁ] = rare, sparse, scarce
  • German: rar [ʁaːʁ] = rare, scarce
  • Spanish: raro [ˈraɾo] = strange, odd, rare
  • Swedish: rar = cute, sweet, loveable, rare

So rare, and its relatives, are strangely funny, wiredly unusual, outstandingly odd, loveably cute, nicely sweet, sparsely scarce and oddly rare words, it seems.

Now here’s a rare bird, a little bittern or Ixobrychus minutus:

Little Bittern

Boring Cloaks

The Dutch word saai [saːi] means boring, tedious or dull. It originally meant woven woollen cloth. By the 19th century it was being used to mean annoying, and also came to mean boring, because cloth was thought to be dull and uninteresting apparently [source].

Saai comes from the Middle Dutch saye / saey, from the Old French saie [sɛ] (a short garment worn by ancient Persians, Romans, and Gauls in combat), from the Latin sagum [ˈsa.ɡʊ̃ˑ/ˈsaː.ɡum] (a military cloak), from the Ancient Greek σάγος [ˈsa.ɣos] (cloak, coat, habit), [source] from the Gaulish *sagos [source], from the Proto-Celtic word *sago- (a coarse woollen blanket or mantle) [source] (PDF), from the Proto-Indo-European *sagom (mantle) [source]

The word sagum also exists in English, and refers to a cloak, worn in ancient times by the Gauls, early Germans, and Roman soldiers, made of a rectangular piece of (usually red) coarse cloth and fastened on the right shoulder (see the photo below).

Words that come from the Latin sagum include the Spanish saya [ˈsaʝa] (skirt, petticoat, dress, woman), the Portuguese saia [ˈsajɐ/ˈsaja] (skirt, woman), and the obsolete French word sayon [sɛ.jɔ̃] (cassock, jacket) [source].

Romans