According to Dictionaries of the Scots Language /
Dictionars o the Scots Leid, snirtle [ˈsnɪrtəl] is a variation of snirt, which means “to snigger, to make a noise through the nose when attempting to stifle laughter, to sneer”, “to snort, to breathe sharply and jerkily through the nose”, or “a snigger, a suppressed laugh”.
Some related expressions and examples of how it’s used:
to snirt(le) (with)in one’s sleeve = to snigger surreptitiously
to snirt out a-laughing = to burst out into laughter, after having unsuccessfully tried to stifle it
The young were snirtin’ in their sleeves
He snirtled in an ecstasy of disgust
Mary, still choking, snirted tea over the table
Snirtle and snirt are probably initative of the sounds you make when you snirt or snirtle.
Are there words with similar meanings in other languages?
One of the Spanish words I learnt today was ¡guácala! [ˈɡwa.ka.la], which means yuck! ew! gross! it’s disgusting! and similar exclamations of disgust. It’s used in El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico and the Dominican Republic to indicate dislike, disgust, or rejection [source].
It comes from guacal (wooden crate, tub, calabash tree), from the Classical Nahuatl huacalli [kwaˈkalːi] (wooden crate) [source]. Why a word for a wooden crate became an exclamation of disgust is not clear.
Here are some examples of how it’s used (from ReversoContext and Duolingo):
¡Guácala! ¡Sabe horrible! = Yuck! It tastes horrible!
¡Guácala, casi lo pisé! = Ew, I almost stepped in it.
¡No, guácala! = No, it’s disgusting!
¡Guácala, mal postre = Euhhh… bad pie
Related words include:
guácara = vomit
guacarear = to vomit
Both of which are used in Mexico.
Other Spanish words with a similar meaning include:
¡Qué asco! = Yuck! How revolting! How disgusting!
¡Puaj! = Ew! Yeech! Blecchh! Yuk! Phooey! Gross!
¡Uf! = Phew! Ugh!
¡Puf! = Yuck!
Are there other words in Spanish with a similar meaning?
What about equivalent words in other languages?
One of my favourite expressions in Welsh is ych a fi! [əx ə viː], which means yuck! [source].
The word ych, pronounced [ɨːχ/iːχ], also means ox.
An interesting Spanish word I learnt today is cometa [koˈmeta], which means both kite and comet. It comes from the Latin word comēta, an alternative version of comētēs (comet, meteor, shooting star; portent of disaster), from the Ancient Greek κομήτης (komḗtēs, – longhaired, comet), which refers to the tail of a comet, from κομᾰ́ω (komáō – let the hair grow long) and -της (-tēs – a suffix that forms nouns) [source].
papalote in Cuba, Honduras, Mexico, from the Classical Nahuatl pāpalōtl (butterfly) [source]
barrilete in Argentina, Nicaragua, a diminutive of barril (barrel) [source]
piscucha or papalota in El Salvador – the former of unknown origin. The latter from Classical Nahuatl like papalote
volantín in Peru, Chile, Argentina, probably from volar (to fly)
chiringa in Puerto Rico, probably a version of chiringo which means small in Puerto Rico and Cuba [source]
Are there any other words for kite in other Spanish-speaking countries?
Kite, as in the bird of prey of the subfamily Milvinae, is milano in Spanish, which also means the down of a thistle and flying gurnard (Dactylopteridae) – a type of fish. This comes from the Vulgar Latin *milānus, from the Latin milvus (kite, gurnard) [source].
If someone told you they were feeling a bit nesh, would you know what they meant?
Nesh [nɛʃ] means “sensitive to the cold” and “timid or cowardly”, according to Dictionary.com, and is apparently used in in northern and Midlands English dialects. Although I grew up in the northwest of England, I’d never heard it before a friend mentioned it yesterday.
Delicate, weak, poor-spirited, susceptible to cold weather, harsh conditions etc
Soft, friable, crumbly
As a verb it means “to make soft, tender or weak”, or “to act timidly”.
It comes from the Middle English nesh/nesch/nesche, from the Old English hnesċe/ hnysċe/hnæsċe (soft, tender, mild; weak, delicate; slack, negligent; effeminate, wanton), from the Proto-West Germanic *hnaskwī (soft), from the Proto-Germanic *hnaskuz (soft, tender), from the Proto-Indo-European *knēs-/*kenes- (to scratch, scrape, rub).
Related words include:
neshen = to make tender or soft, to mollify
neshness = the condition of being nesh
From the same roots we get the German word naschen (to nibble, to eat sweets on the sly), and the English word nosh (food, a light meal or snack, to eat), via the Yiddish word נאַשן (nashn – to snack, eat) [source].
In Spanish the word llama has several different meanings. As well as being a domesticated South American camelid of the genus Lama glama, it also a flame, and means “he/she/it calls”, or in other words the third person singular present tense form of the verb llamar (to summon, call, knock, ring). Each version of llama comes from a different root [source].
The animal llama [ˈʎama] comes from the the Quechua word llama. Other members of the genus lama include:
alpaca [alˈpaka] (Vicugna pacos) comes from the Aymara word allpaqa
guanaco [ɡwaˈnako] (Lama guanicoe) comes from the Quechua word wanaku
vicuña [biˈkuɲa] (Lama vicugna / Vicugna vicugna) comes from wik’uña
The flaming version of llama, which is pronounced [ˈʝama/ˈɟ͡ʝa.ma], is an alternative version of flama (flame), and comes from the Latin flamma (flame, fire), from the Proto-Italic *flagmā, from Proto-Indo-European *bʰlē- (to shimmer, gleam, shine) [source].
Some English words from the same root include flame, flambé and flagrant.
Llamar [ʝaˈmaɾ/ɟ͡ʝaˈmaɾ] (to summon, call, etc) comes from the Old Spanish lamar, from the Latin clāmāre, from clamō (cry out, clamer, yell, shout), from the Proto-Indo-European *kelh₁- (to shout) [source].
Words from the same root include acclaim, claim, clamour, council and haul [source].
When I see words beginning with a double l, which are quite common in Spanish, I have to stop myself giving them a Welsh pronounciation [ɬ]. There is in fact a Welsh word which resembles llama – llamu, which means to jump, leap, bound, spring. It comes from the Proto-Celtic word *lanxsman (jump), from the Proto-Indo-European *h₁lengʷʰ- (light; move lightly) [source]. The Welsh for llama is lama, by the way.
Yesterday I had my second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine (AstraZeneca), and feel just fine. So I thought I’d look at the origins of vaccine and related words.
Vaccine comes from the Latin word vaccīnus (of or derived from a cow), from vacca (cow), from the Proto-Indo-European *woḱéh₂ (cow) [source]. Why cows? Well, from 1796 to 1840, people were vaccinated against smallpox by being infect with cowpox (variola vaccīna), a much less serious virus – a procedure developed by Edward Jenner [source].
Some related words include:
immunisation / immunization = the process by which an individual is safely exposed in a controlled manner to a material that is designed to prime their immune system against that material. From the French immunisation. Coined by Albert Calmette (1863-1933), a French physician, bacteriologist and immunologist, who developed a vaccine against tuberculosis, and the first antivenom for snake venom [source]
inoculation = the introduction of an antigenic substance or vaccine into the body to produce immunity to a specific disease. From the Latin inoculātio (inoculation, ingrafting), from inoculō (I ingraft an eye or bud of one tree into another, inoculate, graft by budding, implant), from in- (in, within, inside) and oculus (eye) [source]
injection = the act of injecting, or something that is injected. From the Middle French injection, from Latin iniectio/injectiō (injection, inspiration, instillation), from iniciō (I throw, cast, hurl or place in), from in- (in, within, inside) and iaciō (throw, hurl) [source]
While putting together a post on the Celtiadur this week, I came across the Welsh word mwyara [mʊɨ̯ˈara/mʊi̯ˈaːra], which means to gather/pick blackberries, to go blackberrying, and also to be idle. I wouldn’t associate picking blackberries with being idle, but someone must have done in the past. Is picking blackberries or other fruit associated with idleness in other languages?
Mwyara comes from mwyar (blackberries, berries), from the Proto-Brythonic *muɨar (blackberries, berries), from the Proto-Celtic *smiyoros (berries) [source].
Idle means to pass time doing nothing, to move, loiter or saunter aimlessy, or (of a machine or engine) to operate at a low speed [source]. It comes from the Middle English idel/ydel, from the Old English īdel (empty, void, bereft, worthless, useless, vain), from the Proto-Germanic *īdalaz (idle, void, unused), from the Proto-Indo-European *yeh₁- [source].
Words from the same root include the Dutch ijdel (vain, idle, petty) and iel (thin, slender), the German eitel (vain), and the Welsh iâl (clearing, glade) [source].
In Dutch the word monster [ˈmɔnstər] means a sample, and also a monster. It was borrowed from the Old French word monstre (monster) in the 13th century and at first meant a monster or monstrosity, and later in the 14th century came to mean a sample, specimen or test piece as well. It is also used to describe something very large [source].
The Old French word monstre came from the Latin mōnstrāre (to show), from mōnstrum (a divine omen indicating misfortune, an evil omen, portent; monster), from monēre (to warn, admonish). From the same root we get such English words as monster, muster, monitor, admonish [source], and also money, which is named after the Roman goddess Juno Moneta, whose temple in Rome housed the mint [source].
The Dutch word blij [blɛi] means happy, glad, pleased or delighted. It comes from the Middle Dutch blide (happy, cheerful, joyous), from the Old Dutch *blīthi (calm, happy), from the Proto-West Germanic *blīþī (happy), from the Proto-Germanic *blīþiz (serene, mild, pleasant, pleasing, delightful, friendly), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰlī- (light, fine, pleasant) from *bʰleh₁-/*bʰel- (to shine) [source].
Here are some related words and examples of how it’s used (from bab.la and Reverso):
blijdschap = joy, gladness
verblijden = to gladden, delight
blij zijn = to be glad, rejoice, enjoy, be happy
blij maken = to gladden, cheer up
heel blij zijn = to burst with joy
blij zijn met een dode mus = to get all excited about nothing (“to be happy with a dead mouse”)
Ik ben blij dat je ervan zult genieten = I’m glad you’ll enjoy it
Ik ben blij je eindelijk te ontmoeten = I’m pleased to finally meet you
Niet iedereen zal hiermee blij zijn = Not everyone is going to be happy with this
Words from the same root include the Swedish word blid [bliːd] (mild, kind), the Danish word blid [ˈbliðˀ] (gentle) and the word blíður, which means kind, obliging, mild, tender, affable, friendly or good-natured in Icelandic, and hospitable, hearty, friendly, sincere, pleased, mild or smooth in Faroese [source].
The English word blithe [blaɪð / blaɪθ] also comes from the same root, via the Middle English blithe (glad, happy, joyful; gentle, mild; gracious, merciful; bright, shining; beautiful, fair), and the Old English bliþe [ˈbliː.θe/ˈbliː.ðe] (happy, gentle) (to shine) [source].
It means carefree and lighthearted, or very happy or cheerful, and also lacking or showing a lack of due concern, heedless, casual and indifferent [source].
It tends to be used in certain expressions, such as:
He spoke with blithe ignorance of the true situation.
She had a blithe disregard for their feelings.
Some related (and rarely-used) words include blitheful (joyous), blitheless (sorrowful, sad, pitiful, miserable, wretched), blithely (without care, concern or consideration; or in a joyful, carefree manner), blithen (to be(come) happy), and blithesome (happy or spriteful, carefree).
Blithe [bləið] is more commonly used in Scottish English and in Scots, and means joyous, cheerful, happy, glad or well-pleased. A related word, used particularly in Orkney and Shetland, is blithemeat, which is a thanksgiving feast after the birth of a child [source].
In Shetland blithe is written blyde and means glad. Here are the Blyde Lasses, a folk duo from Shetland:
When I put together a page about a language on Omniglot, I discover small parts of other worlds, as each language is a kind of world unto itself. As well as learning a little about the languages , I also learn about the people who speak them, the places they live and bits and pieces of history, politics, and other topics.
Today, for example, I put together a new page about Bassari (o-niyan), a Senegambian language spoken in parts of Senegal, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. While doing this I found out about the language, how it’s written, the people who speak it, and the geography of these countries. I sort of knew where Senegal was, but couldn’t have reliably pointed to Guinea or Guinea-Bissau on a map, and didn’t know anything about them.
It may not be much, but I find these glimpses into other linguistic worlds very interesting, and this is one of the reasons why I enjoy working on Omniglot. Although I’ll probably never meet people who speak many of the languages I write about, or visit places where they’re spoken, at least I can know something about them and visit them virtually.
In other news, I have been thinking about making several different programmes under the umbrella of Radio Omniglot. So far I’ve been making one longish podcast more or less every month. Then a few months ago I started a new series – Adventures in Etymology – a weekly dive into the wonderful world of word origins.
Originally I made some audio versions of Omniglot blog posts, then I made them into videos. This took quite a bit of time, so I decided to make shorter ones more often. At first I posted them just on Instagram and Facebook, then I added them on YouTube and Radio Omniglot as well.
I have a few ideas for other short podcasts, such as Omniglot News, which would be about recent developments on Omniglot, and language-related news. Maybe I will also make something about Celtic words I find while putting together posts for my Celtiadur, and even some language-related comedy.
Do you have suggestions for topics I could cover on Radio Omniglot?