Perspective

Yesterday was the Winter Solstice, at least here in the Northern Hemisphere. It was the shortest day of the year, and from now on the days will get longer.

winter solstice sunrise

This came up when I was talking to a Chinese friend yesterday, and she said that it was the longest night, and that the nights will get shorter from now on.

It struck me that this was an interesting perspective, and I wondered if this was a culture difference or just her.

Are the days getting longer or the nights getting shorter for you?

Is the glass half full or half empty?

Another thing I noticed recently is that the Dutch word lang means both long and tall. For example, to ask how tall someone is you would say “Hoe lang ben je?” (“How long are you?”), to which I would reply “Ik ben één meter zevenenzestig centimeter lang” (“I am 1m 67cm long”). When you translate it literally into English it sounds a bit strange, at least to me.

Sea Swine

A porpoise is a small cetacean of the family Phocoenidae, and is related to dolphins and whales.

Eye Contact !

The word porpoise comes from the Middle English porpeys/purpeys, from the Anglo-Norman porpeis/purpeis, from the Old French po(u)rpois/pourpais (porpoise), from the Vulgar Latin *porcopiscis (porpoise), from the Latin porcus (pig) and piscis (fish) [source].

Other (archaic / poetic) English words for porpoises, and dolphins, include: sea hogs, sea pigs, seaswine, or mereswine, from the Old English mereswīn (porpoise).

In French a porpoise is a cochon de mer (“sea pig”), or a marsouin [maʁ.swɛ̃], which comes from the Old English mereswīn (porpoise), or from another Germanic language, such as *mariswīn (porpoise, dolphin) in Old Frankish, meerswijn (dolphin, porpoise) in Middle Dutch, or marsvín (dolphin) in Old Norse. These all come from the Proto-Germanic *mariswīną (dolphin, porpoise) from *mari (sea, ocean, lake) and *swīną (swine, pig) [source].

Related words in modern Germanic languages include:

  • Mereswyne/Merswine = porpoise or dolphin in Scots
  • Meerscheinchen = guinea pig in German
  • marsvín = guinea pig in Icelandic and Faroese
  • marsvin = guinea pig or porpoise in Danish and Norwegian
  • marsvin = guinea pig in Swedish
  • meerzwijn = porpoise in Dutch

Source: Wiktionary

1600 languages

Back in April 2021 I wrote a post about various milestones I’d reached, including adding the 1,500th language to Omniglot. Well, yesterday I added the 1,600th language, which seems to me like something to celebrate.

So what’s been happening since April?

Well, as well as continuing to add new material to Omniglot every day, and improving the existing content, I’ve been making Adventures in Etymology blog posts / podcasts / videos every week and posting them on YouTube, Instagram and Tiktok. They tend to get the most views on Tiktok, and I’m hoping that at least some of the people who see them there will visit other parts of the Omniglot Linguistic Universe (OLU).

In July I started making Omniglot News blog posts and podcasts which summarise all the lastest developments on Omniglot. They appear on Sundays on the Radio Omniglot site and on the Omniglot News page.

Lockdown restrictions have eased here in Wales, and we can now go to pubs, restaurants and cafés, and to concerts and other events. I go to a Welsh folk music session every other Tuesday where we speak and sing mainly in Welsh, and play Welsh tunes. There are usually people from many countries there, so I get chances to speak other languages as well. I’ve started going to a Welsh conversation group on Wednesday nights, and I regularly have opportunities to speak French and Mandarin, and often write emails in Dutch. So I’m able to practise using some of my languages.

I’ve been to a few concerts recently, include a great one this week featuring the Washboard Resonators:

The Washboard Resonators

In other news, the studio that’s being built in my garden is coming together. The roof should be finished in the next few days, and then they can start working other parts. I’m looking forward to using it to make recordings and videos and practise my music and singing. Hopefully the acoustics will be very good inside.

Studio / Stwdio

Fighting Combs

The Scots word fecht [fɛçt / feːçt / faeçt] means to fight, or to struggle in the battle of life against misfortune, poverty, etc. It comes from the Middle English fighten (to fight, battle, quarrel), from the Old English feohtan (to fight), from the Proto-West Germanic *fehtan (to fight), from the Proto-Germanic *fehtaną (to comb, detangle, struggle (with), fight, shear) from the Proto-Indo-European *peḱ- (to pluck, ruffle, tousle, shear) [source].

Related words include:

  • fecht, feicht = a fight
  • fechtand, feghtand = fighting
  • fechtar, fechter = one who fights (in battle or in brawls)
  • fechting, fechtine = engaging in fight or battle

Source: DSL Dictionaries of the Scots Language / Dictionars o the Scots Leid

I learnt about this word on a video on Tiktok by @misspunnypennie – part of her Scots word of the day series. This particular video is about the word ilka, which means each or every. The example she gives includes fecht and fechter:

Agin ilka sair fecht there’s a bonnie fechter
(Against every hard fight there’s a fearless fighter)

By the way, if you prefer to avoid Tiktok, you can find compilations of the Scots Word of Day videos, and Scots-related videos by Miss Punny Pennie (a.k.a. Len Pennie) on Twitter and YouTube. Here’s Len talking about Scots:

When I heard the words fecht and fechter, I thought they must be related to the Dutch words vechten [ˈvɛxtə(n] (to fight, fighting) and vechter (fighter, warrior), which I learnt recently – they are indeed related and come from the same Proto-West-Germanic root [source].

20170924-153745LC

Other words from the same Proto-West-Germanic root (*fehtan) include: fight in English, fäkta (to fence, fight) in Swedish, fechten (to fence, fight) in German, and фехтовать [fʲɪxtɐˈvatʲ] (to fence) in Russian, which was borrowed from German. To fence here means to fight with swords rather than to make a fence [source]

There is also a Dutch word related to ilkaelk, which means each or every [source].

Concerts and Beer

The Irish word ceolchoirm [ˈcʲolˠ.xorʲəmʲ] means concert. It is made up of ceol (music) and coirm [korʲəmʲ] (feast, banquet, ale, beer). There are similar words in Scottish Gaelic (cuirm-chiùil), and Manx (cuirrey kiaull) [source].

Ánuna

The word coirm comes from the Old Irish word coirm (ale, beer), from the Proto-Celtic *kurmi (beer). Words for beer in the Brythonic Celtic languages come from the same root: cwrw in Welsh, and korev in Cornish and Breton [source].

The Latin word cervēs(i)a [kerˈu̯eː.si.a], which means beer made of wheat, especially of higher quality, comes from the same Proto-Celtic root, as do words for beer in some Romance languages, including cervexa in Galician, cervesa in Catalan and Occitan, cerveza in Spanish and cerveja in Portuguese [source].

From the same Proto-Celtic root we get the French word cervoise [sɛʁ.vwaz], which was a kind of ale or beer made from barley or wheat and without hops during the Middle Ages [source]. The archaic Italian word cervogia [t͡ʃerˈvɔ.d͡ʒa] (beer, ale made from barley or oats) was borrowed from the Old French cervoise [source].

The usual French word for beer is bière [bjɛʁ], which was borrowed from the Middle Dutch bier/bēr (beer), from the Old Dutch *bier, from Frankish *bior (beer), from the Proto-Germanic *beuzą (beer) [source].

Beer samples

Words for beer is some Germanic languages come from the same root, including Bier in German, bier in Dutch, and beer in English [source].

The Italian word for beer, birra, was borrowed from the German Bier, and the Greek word μπίρα (bíra – beer, ale) was borrowed from Italian, as were words for beer in Arabic, بِيرَا‎ (bīrā), Maltese, birra, and Turkish, bira [source].

The Irish word beoir (beer) comes from the Middle Irish beóir (beer), from Old Norse bjórr (beer), which also has descendents in Scottish Gaelic (beòir), Manx (beer), Icelandic (bjór) and Faroese (bjór) [source].

Another word for beer or ale in North Germanic languages is øl (in Danish, Faroese, Norwegian) / öl (in Swedish and Icelandic). This comes from the Old Norse word ǫl (ale, beer), possibly from the Proto-Norse ᚨᛚᚢ (alu – ale), from the Proto-Germanic *alu (beer, ale), from Proto-Indo-European *h₂elut- (beer) [source].

Words for beer in Finnic languages possibly come from the same Proto-Germanic root, including õlu in Estonian, olut in Finnish, Igrian, Karelian and Veps, and oluq in Võro [source].

In Slavic languages words for beer come from the Proto-Slavic *pȋvo (drink, beer, beverage), including пиво (pivo) in Russian, Rusyn, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Macedonian and Serbian, pivo in Slovenian, Czech and Slovak, and piwo in Polish and Sorbian [source].

Here’s a map of words for beer in European languages:

A map of Europe showing words for beer

Source: https://ukdataexplorer.com/european-translator/?word=beer

Kvetching

An interesting Dutch word I learnt recently is kwetsen [ˈkʋɛtsə(n)], which means to hurt (sb’s feelings) or to harm, and in some Dutch dialects it means to wound or injure.

Related words include:

  • kwetsbaar = vulnerable, fragile, vulnarability
  • kwetsend = hurtful, offensive, insulting
  • kwetsuur = injury, lesion, wound

It comes from the Middle Dutch word quetsen, from the Old Dutch quezzon (to damage, hurt), and was possibly influenced by or borrowed from the Old French quasser (to break, annul, quash), from the Latin quassāre (to shake, agitate), from the Proto-Indo-European *kʷeh₁t- (to shake) [source].

The German word quetschen [ˈkvɛtʃən] (to squash, crush, squeeze, mash, strain) probably comes from the same root [source], as does the Yiddish word קוועטשן‎ (kvetshn – to squeeze, pinch; bother, complain), from which we get the English word kvetch [kvɛtʃ] (to whine or complain, often needlessly and incessantly) [source].

Incidentally, the German equivalent of a squeezebox (an informal name for accordions, concertinas and related instruments) is a Quetschkommode, or literally a “squeeze commode / dresser / chest of drawers” [source].

Ciarán, Caitlín & Cathal

The English word quash (to defeat decisively; to void or suppress) comes from the same Old French word (quasser), via the Middle English quaschen, quasshen, cwessen, quassen (to crush, smash, cancel, make void, shake) [source].

From the same PIE root (*kʷeh₁t-) we get the English words pasta, paste, pastiche and pastry [source]. Pasta, for example, comes from the Italian pasta (paste, pasta), from the Late Latin pasta (dough, pastry cake, paste), from the Ancient Greek πάστα (pásta – barley porridge), from παστός (pastós – sprinkled with salt), from πάσσω (pássō – to sprinkle) [source].

Quobbled

If your hands and fingers become quobbled, should you be worried?

Quobbled is an dialect word from Wiltshire in the south west of England that means wrinkly – so there would be no need to worry, it’s just a temporary phenomenon.

Mike's wrinkly hands

According to Words and Phrases from the Past, quobbled is defined as:

quobbled, adj. of a woman’s hands: shrivelled and wrinked from being too long in the washtub (English dialect)

Another definition is found in A Glossary of Words Used in the County of Wiltshire
By George Edward Dartnell, and Edward Hungerford Goddard (1893):

quobble. n. and v. After being a long while in the washtub a woman’s hands are apt to get ‘all in a quobble,’ or ‘ter’ble quobbled,’ that is, shrivelled and drawn and wrinkled up.

In Joseph Wright’s 1903 book, The English dialect dictionary, being the complete vocabulary of all dialect words still in use, or known to have been in use during the last two hundred years; founded on the publications of the English Dialect Society and on a large amount of material never before printed. (they really went in for short, snappy title back then), we find:

quobble, v. Of water: to make a noise in boiling

Then there’s:

quob, sb. and v.
1. A marshy spot; a bog, quagmire; a quicksand.
2. all of a quob, in a mess; in a heap; a bad bruise
3. an unfirm layer of fat
4. A throb; a palpitation
5. v. To quiver like jelly; to throb, to palpitate

Related words include:

  • quobby = marshy, boggy, flabby, wanting solidity
  • quobmire, sb. a quagmire

Apparently quob comes from the East Friesian kwabbeln / kwobbeln (to tremble, vibrate). This is probably related to the West Frisian word kwab (weak, blubbery mass of fat or flesh; very fat person; brain lobe; jellyfish) [Source], and the Dutch word kwabbig (flabby, squishy) [Source]

Some other interesting words from Wiltshire dialect include:

  • dumbledore / dumble = the humble-bee
  • gigletting = fond of rough romping; wanton
  • lottle = to sound as water trickling in a small stream
  • muddle-fuss = a persistent meddler with other people’s affairs
  • to womble = to wobble about from weakness

Source: A Glossary of Words Used in the County of Wiltshire.

Climbing Up

The other day I came across an interesting Dutch word – klimop [‘klɪ.mɔp], which means ivy (Hedera helix).

Ivy

It comes from opklimmen (to climb up, become greater, become larger), and literally means “climb-up”, which seems like a good name for a plant the climbs up walls and other things [source].

Klimop also features in Afrikaans, and similar words are used in Low German (Klimmop) and Papiamentu (klemòk) [source].

Klimmen (to climb, go up) comes from the Middle Dutch climmen (to climb, rise, to go up, increase), from the Old Dutch *climban (to climb), from the Proto-Germanic *klimbaną (to climb) [source].

The English word climb comes from the same root, via the Middle English climben [ˈkliːmbən/ˈklimbən] (to climb, scale, ascend, soar), and the Old English climban [ˈklim.bɑn] (to climb). In Late Middle English the b was no longer pronounced, so climben became [ˈkliːmən/ˈklimən]. Then the i became a diphthong and the -en ending fell off, resulting in the pronunciation [klaɪm] [source].

The English word ivy comes from the Middle English ivi (ivy), from the Old English īfiġ [ˈiː.vij] (ivy), from the Proto-Germanic *ibahs (ivy), from the Proto-Indo-European *(h₁)ebʰ- [source].

From the same root we get words for ivy in Danish (efeu), German (Efeu) and Norwegian (eføy) [source], and words for yew (trees) in Celtic languages, including iúr in Irish and iubhar in Scottish Gaelic [more details]

Fences

There are various words in Dutch for fence, and apparently the new wooden fence in my garden (see below) is a schutting [ˈsxʏ.tɪŋ], which is definied as “a (usually wooden) solid, or nearly solid, barrier separating two pieces of land; fence” or in Dutch “gewoonlijk dichte afscheiding tussen twee tuinen, stukken land, windvang” [source].

New fence / Ffens newydd

Schutting comes from schutten (to stop, hold back, protect, cover), from the Proto-Germanic *skutjaną (to shoot, dash), from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)kewd- (to drive, fall upon, rush) [source]. The English word shoot comes from the same root [source].

Related words include beschutting (shelter, cover, board) and schuttingtaal (obscene / foul language).

Other Dutch words for fence include:

  • afrastering = fence, lattice, barricade – any kind of fence of wooden, metal, wire or mesh
  • heg = hedge, fence, hedgerow – hedge or wooden fence
  • hek = fence, gate – wooden or metal fence with spaces between the upright parts
  • hekwerk = fence, fencing, trellis – any type of fence
  • heler = fence – middleman for transactions of stolen goods
  • omheining = fence, enclosure, perimeter – any type of fence

The notes are based on Google image searches.

Incidentally, someone who remains neutral, does not have an opinion about something, or does not want to commit to something is known as a fence sitter, or someone who sits on the fence. One equivalent in Dutch is op het hek te zitten (“to sit on the fence/gate”). In Welsh a person who does this is known as Sioni bob ochr (“Johnny every side”), or eisteddwr pen clawdd (“hedge sitter”).

What about in other languages?

Steering Club

The other day I came across the Dutch word stuurknuppel [ˈstyːrˌknʏ.pəl] and had to find out where it comes from. I also rather like the sound of it.

Competition Pro

Stuurknuppel means joystick, stick or controls, particularly in an aeroplane. It comes from sturen [ˈstyːrə(n)] (to steer, guide, send), and knuppel [ˈknʏpəl], which means a club, cudgel or other blunt instrument, and also a clown, lout or awkward individual [source].

Sturen comes from the Middle Dutch sturen (to steer, direct, lead), from the Old Dutch stiuren, from the Proto-Germanic *stiurijaną (to direct, steer). The English word steer comes from the same root, as do related words in other Germanic languages [source].

Some related words include:

  • fietsstuur = handlebars
  • stuurhuis = wheelhouse, pilothouse
  • stuurhut = wheelhouse, cockpit, flight deck
  • stuurstang = handlebar, steering rod
  • stuurwiel = steering wheel
  • gummiknuppel = truncheon, baton
  • honkbalknuppel = baseball bat