Gaga

Last night some actual French people came to the French conversation group – a couple (Giles et Carmen) from Saint-Étienne in the southeast of France who are friends of a friend.

One interesting thing they said is that there is a local form of speech unique to Saint-Étienne and the surrounding area which they refer to as patois. Apparently it doesn’t have any other names they’re aware of.

Habitat

The city of Saint-Étienne is part of the Loire département and is home to about 174,000 people, and the metropolitan area it’s part of, Saint-Étienne Métropole, has about 497,000 inhabitants. It was an industrial city and a major coal mining centre, and has become a centre for design [source].

The population apparently comes from many different places, so the local speech includes words from various regional forms of speech. The city is named after Saint Stephen, a.k.a. Sanctus Stephanus de Furano (Saint-Étienne of Furan) [source], and the local people are known as Stéphanois (masculine) and Stéphanoises (feminine). So perhaps the local dialect could be called Stéphanais (Stephenish)?

I should have done this before, but I just searched for “patois de Saint-Étienne” and discovered that it does have a name (several, in fact): le gaga, le parler gaga, le parler stéphanois or l’arpitan stéphanois in French, and Parlâ Gaga in the language itself. These refer to a variety of Franco-Provençal / Arpitan spoken in the area, and a regional form of French spoken there that has influences from that language [source].

Here’s an example of Parlâ Gaga:

Lou rat de villa et lou rat dos champs
Djins lou tchion, ün rat de villa
Doutà de noblous ponchants,
Fit dj’una façonn civila,
Mandâ soun frâre dos champs.

Un repas de bateyailles
Serre fat djïns sa meissoun ;
Par assures les voulailles
Vou’erre dounc bion de seisoun.

Here it is in the original French:

Le rat des villes et le rats des champs
Autrefois le Rat de ville
Invita le Rat des champs,
D’une façon fort civile,
A des reliefs d’Ortolans.

Sur un Tapis de Turquie
Le couvert se trouva mis.
Je laisse à penser la vie
Que firent ces deux amis.

Source: http://gagaweb.chez.com/ratville.htm

Here are examples of spoken Parlâ Gaga:

More information about Parlâ Gaga:
https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parler_gaga
https://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/Annexe:Glossaire_du_parler_gaga
http://gagaweb.chez.com/

Early Peaches

The apricot or Prunus armeniaca, is named after Armenia, and has been cultivated in that area for a very long time. However, it was probably first domesticated in central Asia.

apricots glow

The Prunus armeniaca or common apricot is the most commonly cultivated apricot species. Other species are available that are native to China, Siberia and Europe [source].

Like the fruit, the word apricot has undergone quite a journey to arrive in English. It started in Latin as persica praecocia (“early ripening peach”), then moved into Greek as πραικόκιον (praikókion – apricot). That became βερικοκκίᾱ (berikokkíā – apricot tree) in Byzantine Greek, which was borrowed into Arabic as اَلْبَرْقُوق‎ (al-barqūq, – plum), then into Andalusian Arabic as الْبَرْقُوق‎ (al-barqūq – the plums). It jumped into Spanish as albaricoque (apricot), and into Catalan as a(l)bercoc (apricot). It was then borrowed into Middle French and became aubercot and later abricot.

Finally it arrived in English in the 1550s as abrecock, which eventually became apricot [source].

A word from the same roots is precocious, which originally referred to flowers or fruit that developed or ripened before the usual time, and later came to refer to people and other things [source].

Other words from the same roots include biscuit, charcuterie, concoct, cook, cusine, kitchen and kiln in English, kepti (to bake, roast) in Lithuanian, and poeth (hot, roast, cooked) in Welsh.

The ultimate root of these words (or at least parts of them) is the Proto-Indo-European word *pekw- (to cook, ripen) [source].

Hanging Nails

A hangnail is an angry nail, not a nail that’s hanging off. Let’s find out more.

Rusty key / rusten nøkkel

A hangnail is:

  • A loose, narrow strip of nail tissue protruding from the side edge and anchored near the base of a fingernail or toenail.
  • A pointed upper corner of the toenail (often created by improperly trimming by rounding the corner) that, as the nail grows, presses into the flesh or protrudes so that it may catch (“hang”) on stockings or shoes.

It comes from the old word agnail (a corn or sore on the toe or finger, torn skin near a toenail or fingernail), from Middle English agnail, from Old English angnægl, from ang (compressed, narrow, tight) and nægl (nail), from Proto-Germanic *naglaz (nail, peg), from Proto-Indo-European *h₃nogʰ- (nail). It was reanalyised as hang + nail in folk etymology [source].

Ang comes from Proto-Germanic *angus (narrow, tight) from Proto-Indo-European *h₂énǵʰus, (narrow, tight), from *h₂enǵʰ- (to constrict, tighten, narrow, tight, distresed, anxious) [source].

Words from the same root include anger, angina, angst, anguish, anxiety and anxious in English, ahdas (tight, narrow, cramped) in Finnish, cúng (narrow) in Irish, and узкий [ˈuskʲɪj] (narrow, tight) in Russian [source].

The word England possibly comes from the same root (at least the first syllable does) – from Middle English Engelond (England, Britain), from Old English Engla land (“land of the Angles”), from Proto-West Germanic *Anglī, from Proto-Germanic *angulaz (hook, prickle), from Proto-Indo-European *h₂enk- (to bend, crook), which may be related to *h₂enǵʰ- (to constrict, tighten, etc) [source].

Other names for hangnail include whitlow, wicklow, paronychia and nimpingang [source].

Whitlow comes from Middle English whitflaw. The whit part comes from Middle Dutch vijt or Low German fit (abscess), from Latin fīcus (fig-shaped ulcer), and the flaw part comes from Middle English flawe, flay (a flake of fire or snow, spark, splinter), probably from Old Norse flaga (a flag or slab of stone, flake), from Proto-Germanic *flagō (a layer of soil), from Proto-Indo-European *plāk- (broad, flat). [source]

Wicklow is a common misspelling of whitlow, and paronychia comes from Ancient Greek παρα (para – beside), and ὄνῠξ (ónux – claw, nail, hoof, talon) [source]

Nimpingang comes from Devonshire dialect and refers to “a fester under the finger nail”. Nimphing gang is an alternative version, and in West Somerset it is known as a nippigang. It comes from impingall (ulcer, infected sore), from Old English impian (to graft) [source] from Proto-West Germanic *impōn (to graft), from Vulgar Latin imputō (to graft), from Ancient Greek ἔμφυτος (émphutos – natural, (im)planted) [source]

Words from the same roots include imp (a small, mischievous sprite or a malevolent supernatural creature) in English and impfen (to inoculate, vaccinate) in German [source]

Tents and Tenants

Are the words tent and tenant related? Let’s find out.

MM07302011_21

A tent is a portable shelter made of fabric or other material stretched over a supporting framework of poles and usually stabilized or secured to the ground with cords and stakes [source].

It comes from the Middle English tente (tent, abode, dwelling place, pavilion) [source, from the Old French tente (tent, temporary hut or other similar building), from Vulgar Latin *tenta (tent), from tentus (stretched, extended, distended), from tendō (to stretch, distend, extend), from Proto-Italic *tendō (I stretch), from the Proto-Indo-European *ten- (to stretch, extend) [source].

A tenant is one that pays rent to use or occupy land, a building, or other property owned by another; a dweller in a place; an occupant [source].

It comes from the Middle English tenaunt (tenant – one who holds real property from another by feudal obligation or payment of rent) [source], from Anglo-Norman tenaunt (tenant), from Old French tenant (holder, possessor [of land or property], tenant, owner), from tenir (to hold), from Latin teneō (I hold, have, grasp), from Proto-Italic *tenēō (I hold), from the Proto-Indo-European *ten- (to stretch, extend) [source].

So they do come from the same PIE root, via different routes. Other words from the same PIE root include tenor, tone, tonic, tune, sustain and content [source].

Incidentally, in Old English the word for tent was teld, from the Proto-Germanic *teldą (tent, drape), which became teld (tent, castle, fort, hut) in Middle English, and teld (tent, to lodge in a tent, to pitch a tent), and tilt (a canvas covering for carts, boats, etc, tent) in Modern English, although these words are no longer used [source].

Jousting

Tilt, which means to slope or incline (smth), to slant, to be at an angle, to charge (at sb) with a lance, to joust, etc, comes from different roots. Apparently it came to be associated with jousting as the cloth barrier that separated combantants in a joust is called a tilt [source].

Pens and Pencils

The words pen and pencil appear to be related, but are they? Let’s find out.

Pens and Pencils

The word pen, as in a writing implement, comes from Middle English penne (pen, quill, wing, feather), from the Anglo-Norman penne, from Latin penna (wing, feather, quill pen), from Proto-Italic petnā (feather, wing), from Proto-Indo-European *péth₂r̥/pth₂én- (feather, wing), from *peth₂- (to spread out, to fly) [source].

Words from the same roots include petal, petulant, petition, plume, plumage, fathom, feather and helicopter in English, adar (birds) and adain (wing) in Welsh, and Faden (yarn, thread, fathom, suture) in German [source].

The word pen, as in an enclosure for animals, comes from Middle English pen(ne) (enclosure for animals), from Old English penn (enclosure, pen, fold), from Proto-Germanic *pennō/*pannijō (pin, bolt, nail, tack), from Proto-Indo-European *bend- (pointed peg, nail, edge).

The English word pin comes from the same PIE root, as does the Dutch word pin (peg, pin), the German word Pinne (pin, pivot, tiller), and the Swedish word pinne (stick, peg, pin) [source].

The word pencil comes from Anglo-Norman, from the Old French pincel (paintbrush), from the Vulgar Latin *penicellum, from the Latin pēnicillum (a painter’s brush, (style of) painting), a diminutive of pēniculus (brush, sponge), a diminutive of pēnis (tail, penis), from the Proto-Italic *pesnis, from the Proto-Indo-European *pes-ni-s, from *pes- (penis) [source].

Words from the same roots include penicillin in English and other languages, pincel (paintbrush) in Spanish and Portuguese, pinceau (paintbrush) in French and Pinsel (paintbrush) in German [source]. Penicillin and penicillium are apparently so named because the spore of the fungi resemble brushes [source].

Incidentally, the French idiom s’emmêler les pinceaux means to get one’s wires crossed to get things all mixed up, to get in a muddle or to misstep. Literally it means “to get tangled in the paintbrushes” [source].

Sailing Away

While putting together a post on my Celtiadur blog about words for ships and boats in Celtic languages, I realised that words for boats, ships and other nautical things in English come from many different languages. So I thought I’d write a blog post about them.

Laxey / Laksaa

The word boat comes from Middle English bot (boat, the path or course of one’s life), from Old English bāt (boat), from Proto-West Germanic *bait, from Proto-Germanic *baitaz (boat, small ship), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰeyd- (to break, split) [source].

The French word bateau (ship, boat), the Dutch word boot (boat), and the German word Boot (boat) were all borrowed from Middle or Old English.

Words for boat in North Germanic languages, such as Swedish (båt), Danish (båd) and Icelandic (bátur), were borrowed from Old Norse bátr, which was borrowed from Old English bāt (boat) [source].

Some words for boat in Irish (bád), Scottish Gaelic (bàta), Manx (baatey) and Welsh (bad) were also borrowed from Old English or Old Norse [source].

ship-13

The word ship comes from Middle English schip (ship, boat), from Old English scip (ship), from Proto-West Germanic *ship (ship), from Proto-Germanic *skipą (ship), from unknown origins [source].

Ship can be used to refer to a water-borne vessel generally larger than a boat, while boat usually refers to vessels smaller than a ship but larger than a dinghy. Boat also refers to submarines of any size, and lakers (ships used in the Great Lakes trade in North America).

Sunday Sailing.

A dinghy is a small open boat, propelled by oars or paddles, carried as a tender, lifeboat, or pleasure craft on a ship; a sailing dinghy, or an inflatable rubber life raft. It comes from Bengali ডিঙি (ḍiṅi – canoe), probably from Sanskrit द्रोण (droṇa – wooden vessel, bucket, trough), Proto-Indo-Iranian *dráwnam (wooden object), from Proto-Indo-European *dréw-no-m, from *dóru (tree, wood) [source].

A yacht is a sailing boat larger than a dinghy but smaller than a sailing ship, often with a cabin. It can also be a motor-powered private boat. It comes from yeaghe (light, fast sailing ship) from Dutch jacht (yacht, hunt), from jaghtschip (light sailing vessel, fast pirate ship: lit. “pursuit ship”).

Apparently the original Dutch jaghtschip were built to chase pirates and smugglers from the coast. In 1660 the Dutch East India Company presented one to King Charles II, who used it as a pleasure boat. It was then copied by British shipbuilders as a pleasure craft for wealthy gentlemen [source].

Tall Ships 015 Gloriaa_C

Another type of boat is a barque, which is a sailing vessel with three or more masts, with all masts but the sternmost square-rigged. It comes from Middle English barke (boat), from Middle French barque, from Latin barca (baris – a type of flat-bottomed freighter used on the Nile in Ancient Egypt), from Ancient Greek βᾶρις (bâris – Egyptian boat), from Coptic ⲃⲁⲁⲣⲉ (baare – small boat), from Demotic br, from Ancient Egyptian bꜣjr (transport ship, type of fish) [source].

Barge

The word barge (A large flat-bottomed towed or self-propelled boat used mainly for river and canal transport of heavy goods or bulk cargo), comes from the same roots, as does the Spanish barco (boat), the Galician barco (ship, boat, barge) and the Portuguese barco (boat) [source].

Green Canoe

The word canoe (a small long and narrow boat, propelled by one or more people) comes from Spanish canoa (canoe), probably from Taino *kanowa (canoe), from Proto-Arawak *kanawa (caone) [source].

Inuit kayak

Canoes are generally open on top, while kayaks are covered over except for the cockpit where the paddler sits. Kayak comes from Inuktitut ᖃᔭᖅ (qayaq – kayak, man’s boat), from Proto-Eskimo *qayaʁ (kayak) [source].

Umiak

If kayaks are men’s boats, are there women’s boats as well? There are – they are the umiak (a large, open boat made of skins stretched over a wooden frame that is propelled by paddles), from Inuvialuktun ᐅᒥᐊᖅ (umiaq – women’s boat) [source].

Incidentally, navy (a country’s entire sea force, including ships and personnel) comes from Middle English nave (navy), navye, from Old French navie (navy), from Latin nāvigia, from nāvigium (vessel, ship boat, from nāvis (ship, boat, vessel), from Proto-Indo-European *néh₂us (boat). In Old English navy was sciphere (“ship army”) [source].

English words from the same roots include navigate, nave, nautical and astronaut (lit. “star sailor”) [source].

Gadding About

In this post we explore the various meanings and origins of the word gad.

Gadfly

As an exclamation, gad! is a euphemistic alteration of the word God, and is the roughly equivalent of by God!, goodness gracious! and similar exclamations. It also appears in such exclamations as egad!, egads!, gadzooks!, gadsbobs!, gadsbudlikins! and gadsnouns!.

As a verb, to gad means:

  • to move from one location to another in an apparently random and frivolous manner
  • (of cattle) to run with the tail in the air, bent over the back, usually in an attempt to escape the warble fly

This comes from Middle English gadden (to go quickly, hurry, rush about), possibly from gadde. Related words include gadabout (a person who restlessly moves from place to place, seeking amusement or the companionship of others) and gaddish (inclined to gad, or move from place to place frivolously).

As a noun, gad means one who roams about idly, or a gadabout. This version comes from Middle English gade (a fool, simpleton), from Old English gāda (comrade, companion), from Proto-West Germanic *gadō, from Proto-Germanic *gadô/*gagadô (companion, associate), from Proto-Indo-European *gʰedʰ- (to join, unite).

The obsolete English word gadling (a companion in arms, fellow, comrade, a roving vagabond) comes from the same roots, as does the Dutch word gade (spouse), and the German word Gatte (spouse).

In Northern England and Scotland, gad is apparently used to mean a greedy and/or stupid person.

Finally, gad can mean:

  • a goad, a sharp-pointed rod for driving cattle, horses, etc, or one with a whip or thong on the end for the same purpose
  • a rod or stick, such as a fishing rod or a measuring rod
  • a pointed metal tool for breaking or chiselling rock
  • a spike on a gauntlet.

This comes from Middle English gad(de), from Old Norse gaddr (goad, spike), from Proto-Germanic *gazdaz (spike, rod, stake).

Words from the same roots include yard (a unit of length equal to 3 feet, a spar on a sail) in English, and gadd (stinger, sting, tooth) in Swedish.

Also from the same root in the English word gadfly, which refers to certain types of flies that irritate animals by buzzing around them and biting them to suck their blood, and by extension, a person of thing that irritates or instigates, or a person who takes without giving back. It is also a synonym of gadabout.

Sources: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gad#English
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gadfly#English
https://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/middle-english-dictionary/dictionary
https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=gad

Hiding in Caves

In this post we find out what links the word grotesque with caves and hiding.

Grotesque

Grotesque [ɡɹəʊˈtɛsk / ɡɹoʊˈtɛsk] as an adjective means:

  • Distorted and unnatural in shape or size; abnormal, especially in a hideous way
  • Disgusting or otherwise viscerally revolting
  • Sans serif (in typography)

As an noun it means:

  • A style of ornamentation characterized by fanciful combinations of intertwined forms
  • Anything grotesque
  • A sans serif typeface

It comes from Middle French grotesque (farcical, ridiculous; small cave, ornament), from Italian grottesco (grotesque) from grotta (cave, grotto) and -esco (relational suffix) [source]. Grotta comes from Vulgar Latin *grupta/*crupta, from Latin crypta (underground passage, tunnel, crypt, vault), from Ancient Greek κρυπτή (kruptḗ – crypt, vault) from κρύπτω (krúptō -hide), the origins of which are unknown [source].

Words from the same roots include grotto and crypt in English, grot (cave, cavern) in Dutch, and grotte (cave) in French [source].

The words grotty and gro(a)dy and clippings of grotesque: grotty is used in the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and means unpleasant, dirty, slovenly, offensive [source], shoddy, rundown, disgusting, gross, bad [source], while gro(a)dy is used in the USA and means nasty, dirty, disgusting, foul, revolting, yucky or grotesque [source].

Grody is shortened even further into gro (disgusting, unpleasant; gross), although that might come from gross [source].

Goose Summer

What links the word gossamer with geese and summer?

Cobweb

Gossamer means:

  • a fine film or strand as of cobwebs, floating in the air or caught on bushes, etc.
  • A soft, sheer fabric
  • Anything delicate, light and flimsy

It comes from the Middle English gossomer (a filmy substance consisting of fine cobwebs, gossamer; a web or filament of gossamer; something light, trivial, or worthless; a trivial wound), which is thought to come from go(o)s (goose, fool, idiot) and somer (summer). It first appeared in writing in about 1300, when it referred to cobwebs or other light things. Before that it may have referred to a period of warm weather in late autumn when geese were eaten, and later became associated with cobwebs as they are somewhat similar to goose down [source].

Related words include:

  • gossamered = cover with gossamer
  • gossamer spider = any small or young spider that spins webs by which to sail in the air.
  • gossamer-thin = light and thin; having a flimsy factual basis; unsubstantiated, hard to believe
  • gossamery = like gossamer; flimsy

A period of warm weather in late autumn is also known as an Indian summer, a term which was first used in North America in the late 18th century. It’s possible that Native Americans called it a form a summer as they harvested some late crops and were preparing for winter during this season, or that it was coined by Europeans and associated with the Native Americans’ activities [source].

Other names for this period include St. Luke’s summer, little summer of St. Luke, all-hallown summer, St. Martin’s summer and Michaelmas summer.

Do you know any other names for this period in English or other languages?

Smiling Hum

One of the Finnish words that I learnt recently and really like is hymy [ˈhymy] which means smile. Apparently it is imitative of the short humming sound associated with smiling. In fact, it’s difficult to say without smiling [source].

Woody smiling

Related words include:

  • hymytä = to smile
  • hymyillä = to smile, beam, smirk, grin
  • hymyilyttää = to make someone smile, to amuse, to feel like smiling
  • hymähtää [ˈhymæht̪æː(ʔ)] = to smile shortly, especially with a short “hm” sound; to scorn, often with ivallisesti (mockingly), to raise a corner of the upper lip slightly, especially in scorn, to sneer
  • hymykuoppa = dimple
  • hymiö [ˈhymiø̞] = emoticon, smiley 🙂
  • hyminä [ˈhyminæ] = a hum
  • hymistä [ˈhymis̠tæ(ʔ)] = to hum
  • hymistellä [ˈhymis̠ˌte̞lːæ(ʔ)] = to hum, to praise

Is hymähtää a particularly Finnish way of smiling?

Are there any other languages in which the words smile and hum are connected?

Incidentally, the English word smile comes from Middle English smilen (to smile), from Old Norse *smíla (to smile), from Proto-Germanic *smīlijaną (to smile), from Proto-Indo-European *smey- (to laugh, be glad, wonder) [source].

In Old English a word for to smile was smearcian, which comes from Proto-Germanic *smarōną (to mock, scoff at, deride), which possibly comes from *smīlijaną (to smile), from Proto-Indo-European *smey- (to laugh, etc) [source].

English words from the same root include smirk, smear, admire, marvel, miracle, and the name Miranda [source].