Distreetly Discrete

The words discrete and discreet are both pronounced in the same way – [dɪsˈkɹiːt] – but have different meanings, or in other words, are homophones. Until yesterday, I didn’t realise that they were discrete words.

Discretely Discreet

discrete means

1. apart or detached from others; separate; distinct
2. consisting of or characterized by distinct or individual parts; discontinuous. [source]

It also has specific meanings in mathematics that I won’t go into here.

discreet means

1. judicious in one’s conduct or speech, especially with regard to respecting privacy or maintaining silence about something of a delicate nature; prudent; circumspect.
2. showing prudence and circumspection; decorous
3. modestly unobtrusive; unostentatious [source]

discrete comes from the Old French discret (different), from the Latin discrētus (separate, differentiated), from discernō (I separate, set apart, divide, part), from dis- (asunder, in pieces, apart, in two) and cernō (I distinguish, divide, separate), from the Proto-Italic *krinō, from the Proto-Indo-European *krey- (to sieve) [source].

discreet comes from the same source, via the Middle English word discrete, which meant wise, morally discerning, prudent, polite, and also separate or distinct [source]. The two words separated during the Middle English period and acquired discrete meanings [source].

The word discern (to detect with the senses, perceive, distinguish) comes from the same roots [source].

Indiscrete and indiscreet are also discrete words. The former means not divided into discrete parts, while the latter means lacking prudence, revealing secrets, or tactless [source].

They both come from the Latin indiscretus (unseparated, undivided, indistinguisable), from in- (un-, non-, not) and discrētus (see above) [source].

So let’s not be indiscreet about discreetly keeping these words discrete.

Antidry

Recently I came across the French word antisèche [ɑ̃.ti.sɛʃ]. At first glance I would guess that it meant something like “anti-dry”, so maybe it’s a moisturiser or something similar that prevents dryness.

While that would be an accurate literal translation – it comes from anti- and sécher (to dry) – what it actually means is a cheat sheet or crib sheet. That is, a sheet of paper used to assist on a test [source].

antiseche

As well as meaning to dry, sécher also means to skip or miss (class), to dry out, to wither, to dry up or to be stumped. So an antisèche is something that prevents you from being stumped or drying up when asked difficult questions [source].

I have a number of antisèches, or maybe they’re more feuilles de référence, that summerise grammatical information for Irish and Russian. They’re very handy when I’m trying to write anything in these languages. You can find a variety of these for languages and other subjects on Amazon.

Are there interesting names for such things in other languages?

Turning Oxen

Ploughing

Some early alphabets, such as Ancient Greek, Latin and Etruscan were written in a style known as boustrophedon [ˌbuːstrəˈfiːdən], which involves alternate lines of a text being reversed, with letters also written in reverse. Here’s an example in Old / Archaic Latin:

Article 1 of the UDHR in Old Latin

The first and third lines of this text are written from right to left, while the second and fourth lines are written from left to right.

Transliteration
Opnēs hemones decnotāti et iouesi louberoi et parēs gnāscontor, rationes et comscientiās particapes sont, quibos enter sēd comcordiās studēōd agontinom est.

Translation
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Translation (boustrophedon style)
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in English written in boustrophedon style

The word boustrophedon could be translated literally as “like the ox turns [while plowing]”. It comes from βοῦς [bûːs] (ox), στροφή [stro.pʰɛ̌ː] (turn), and the adverbial suffix -δόν [dón] (like, in the manner of) [source].

From βοῦς we get such English words as beef, bovine, buffalo, butter and bulima [source], and the word cow comes from the same Proto-Indo-European root as βοῦς*gʷṓws (cattle) [source].

The word στροφή is the root of the English word strophe, which refers to “A turn in verse, as from one metrical foot to another, or from one side of a chorus to the other”, and appears in words like apostrophe and catastrophe [source].

The old Mayan script was written in a way similar to boustrophedon: in paired columns zigzagging downwards from left to right.

Sample of Mayan writing in the Mayan hieroglyphic script
From: Flickr

Chinese, Japanese and Korean could be also be written in this way but aren’t, as far as I know. They could also be written in other directions as illustrated below.

Examples of boustrophedon writing in Chinese

The text on the left starts on the top left and runs in vertical columns running from alternatively from top to bottom and bottom to top. The text on the right starts at the bottom right and runs in horizontal lines alternating from right to left and left to right.

If you’re thinking of created a writing system, one thing to consider is giving it a unique writing direction. This might inspire you.

Moose

Yesterday I added a page about the Moose Cree language to Omniglot. Moose Cree (ᐃᓕᓖᒧᐧᐃᓐ / ililîmowin) is a Central Algonquin language spoken mainly in the town of Moose Factory on Moose Factory Island on the Moose River in Ontario, Canada. That’s a lot of moose, or is it mooses, moosen or even meese? (see below)

Moose

A moose is:

“a ruminant mammal (Alces alces) with humped shoulders, long legs, and broadly palmated antlers that is the largest existing member of the deer family and inhabits forested areas of Canada, the northern U.S., Europe, and Asia” [source]

A moose can also be “a member of a major benevolent and fraternal order [Loyal Order of Moose]”.

The word moose was discussed in a previous post, along with the word elk and related words.

Today I thought I’d look into moose-related words in more detail.

Moose was first used in writing in English in 1603, and is thought to come from an Eastern Algonquian language such as Massachusett (moos), Narragansett (moos) or Penobscot (mos), from the Proto-Algonquian *môswa (it strips), referring to how a moose strips tree bark when feeding [source].

The standard plural of moose is moose, although mooses and meese are also used informally. I think a good alternative plural would be moosen, like oxen, children and aurochsen. What do you think?

In Moose Cree there are quite a few words moose-related words, including:

  • ᒨᓱ / môso = moose; human prey (in traditional stories about cannibals)
  • ᓈᐯ ᒨᓱ / nâpe-môso = a male moose
  • ᐊᔮᐯᐤ / ayâpew = a (fully grown) buck, bull
  • ᓅᓭ ᒨᓱ / nôse-môso = a female moose
  • ᒨᔓᔑᔥ / môšošiš = a moose calf
  • ᐱᐳᓈᔅᑯᔥ / piponâskoš = a one-year-old moose or caribou
  • ᒨᒨᓶᐤ / mômôswew = s/he eats moose

Source: The Dictionary of Moose Cree

There are also plenty of moose-related words in Plains Cree:

  • ᒨᓴᐧ / môswa = moose
  • ᔮᐯᐤ / yâpew = bull moose
  • ᒥᐢᑎᔮᐯᐤ / mistiyâpew = a big bull moose
  • ᔨᑭᐦᒐᐊᐧᓭᐢ / yikihcawases = a one-year-old bull moose
  • ᐊᐧᐢᑫᐤᒉᓭᐢ / waskewceses = a two-year-old bull moose
  • ᐅᑭᓄᒪᐧᒐᔦᓭᐢ / okinomwacayeses = a three-year-old bull moose
  • ᐅᓃᒐᓂᐤᒨᓴᐧ / onîcaniwmôswa = a female moose
  • ᓅᓭᐢ / nôses = a mother moose with one calf
  • ᐅᓃᓴᐧᐢᑯᒣᐤ / onîswaskomew = a mother moose with two calves
  • ᐅᐢᑳᔨᐢ / oskâyis = a young/baby moose

Source: Online Cree Dictionary

While there are pages about Massachusett (Wôpanâôtuwâôk) and Narragansett (Nãikanset) on Omniglot, there isn’t one about Penobscot (Pαnawάhpskewi), which is a variety of Eastern Abenaki that was spoken mainly in Maine in the USA until the 1990s, and which is currently being revived. I’ll be adding details soon.

There is an online Penobscot Dictionary which includes quite a few moose-related words.

Update: there is now a page about Penobscot on Omniglot.

Podiums

In Dutch the word podium [poː.di.(j)ʏm] means stage, and also podium or platform. It comes from Latin word podium (balcony, especially in an amphitheatre, parapet, podium), from the Ancient Greek πόδιον (pódion – base), a diminutive of πούς (poús – foot, leg), from the Proto-Indo-European pṓds (foot) [source].

AIAA NASA 60th Anniversary Reception (NHQ201809200009)

Some related words include:

  • hoofdpodium = main stage
  • podiumbeest = someone who enjoys being on stage and is often on stage (“stage beast”)
  • podiumkunsten = performing arts
  • poppodium = a venue where pop music is performed live

The English word podium (a platform on which to stand, as when conducting an orchestra or preaching at a pulpit; any low platform or dais) comes from the same root [source], as does the word pew, via the Middle English pewe, from the Middle French puie (balustrade), from the Latin podia, the plural of podium [source].

Other words from the same Latin root include poggio (hill) and podio (podium) in Italian, puig (hill, peak) in Catalan, and poyo (stone bench) in Spanish [source].

By the way, in English (and Dutch) the plural of podium can be either podiums or podia. Which do you prefer?

The diminutive of podium in Dutch is podiumpje, which means little or imaginary stage – I find Dutch diminutives like this very cute.

Befrogged

If you have a crush on someone or you are infutated with them, in Dutch you might say that je bent verkikkerd op iemand, which could be translated literally as “you are befrogged of someone”.

The word verkikkerd means ‘in love with (someone)’ or to ‘love (someone) very much’ [source]. It comes from kikker [ˈkɪkər] (frog, toad, cleat), from kikken (to croak, sound like a frog; utter, mention), which is onomatopoeic [source].

Groene kikker

Some other frog-related words and expressions in Dutch include:

  • kikkerbad = shallow children’s pool (“frog bath”)
  • kikkeren = to jump around crouching (like a frog)
  • kikkerland = a small, unimportant and rather wet country, virtually exclusively said of the Netherlands (“frog land”)
  • blitskikker = a person (usually young) who follows fashion closely, a fashionista (“fashionable frog”)
  • mafkikker = a werido, goofball, nutjob (“weird/crazy frog”)
  • Een koele kikker zijn = to be a cold-blooded person / a cold fish (“to be a cool frog”)
  • Een kikker in de keel hebben = to be hoarse (“to have a frog in the throat”)
  • Een opkikkertje = a pick-me-up (something that makes you happy, or a small glass of hard liquor)

Source: Wiktionary

In English the word frog means:

  • A small tailless amphibian of the order Anura that typically hops
  • Part of a violin bow
  • Road, as in frog and toad (Cockney rhyming slang)
  • The depression in the upper face of a pressed or handmade clay brick
  • An organ on the bottom of a horse’s hoof that assists in the circulation of blood.

It comes from the Middle English frogge [ˈfrɔɡ(ə)] (frog, toad, wretch, mushroom), the Old English frocga [ˈfroɡ.ɡɑ] (frog), and the Proto-Germanic *fruþgô (frog), from *fruþ (frog) [source].

Do you know any interesting frog-related expresssions?

Good Pickaxes

In French when you make a good guess or choice, you are said to be making une bonne pioche or literally “a good pickaxe” [source].

Claes Oldenburg

The word pioche [pjɔʃ] means pickaxe, and also a stock or pile of undealt cards in a card game, and chance or luck. It comes from pic (woodpecker, pick), from the Vulgar Latin *piccus (sharp point, peak, spike, pike), from the Latin pīcus (woodpecker, griffin), from the Proto-Italic *pikos, from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)peyk- (woodpecker; magpie), or from the Vulgar Latin *pīcca (pickaxe, pike), possibly from the Frankish *pikkōn (to peck, strike), from the Proto-Germanic *pikkōną (to pick, peck) [source].

Here are some examples of how pioche and related words are used:

  • faire une mauvaise pioche = to pick the wrong card
  • manche de pioche = pickaxe handle
  • pioche de jardinage = garden hoe
  • piocher = to dig up, to take from the pile, to take a card
  • piocher dans = to dip into
  • piocher pour qch = to cram for sth

Are there any interesting equivalents of this phrase in other languages, or any pickaxe-related phrases?

Together Living

A Dutch word I learnt recently is samenleving [‘samənlevɪŋ], which means society or community. It comes from samenleven (to live together, co-exist), from samen (together) and leven (to live), and could be literally translated as “together-living” [source].

Wonder All Around

Some related words include:

  • anderhalvemetersamenleving = ‘one and a half meter society’, in which (almost) everyone keeps a distance of one and a half meters where possible to prevent the spread of an infectious disease (especially Covid-19)’ [source]
  • wegwerpsamenleving = ‘throw away society’, in which using things once then throwing them away is normal [source]

The English word society comes from the Middle French societé (society), from the Old French societé (association, council, group, society, club), from the Latin societās (fellowship, association, alliance, union, community), from socius (associated, allied, partner, companion, ally), from the Proto-Indo-European *sokʷ-yo- (companion), from *sekʷ- (to follow) [source].

English words from the same PIE root include associate, consequence, obsequious, persue and sequel [source].

The English word community comes from the Old French comunité (community), from the Latin commūnitās (community; public spirit), from commūnis (common, ordinary, universal, public, democratic) [source].

In Old English a community was a gemænscipe [ˈjeˌmæːnˌʃi.pe], which is cognate with the Dutch word gemeenschap (community, society, fellowship) and the German word Gemeinschaft (community, group, company, sense of community). These come from the Proto-West Germanic *gamainiskapi (community), from *gamainī (common, shared, communal) and *-skapi (forms nouns denoting state) [source].

Dawning

A Dutch I learnt recently is uitdaging [ˈœy̯tˌdaː.ɣɪŋ], which means a challenge. It comes from uitdagen (to challenge), from uit (out, off, over), and dagen (to dawn, light, rise, start, call).

Dagen comes from the Middle Dutch dāgen (to dawn, rest (a horse), delay, summon), from the Old Dutch *dagon, from the Proto-Germanic *dagāną [ˈdɑ.ɣɑː.nɑ̃] (to dawn, to become day) [source].

dawn

The Scots word daw [dɑ:] (to dawn) comes from the same Proto-Germanic root, via the Middle English dawen and the Old English dagian (to dawn), as does the obselete English word daw [dɔː], which means to dawn, wake up, daunt or terrify [source].

The word dawning, a poetic word for dawn or the first beginnings of something, comes from the same Proto-Germanic root, and from it we get the word dawn (to begin to brighten with daylight, to start to appear) [source].

Jackdaw

The unrelated word daw is an old name for the jackdaw (Coloeus monedula), and also means idiot, simpleton or fool. It comes from the Middle English dawe, from the Old English dāwe, from the Proto-Germanic *dēhǭ (jackdaw), from the Proto-Indo-European *dʰākʷ- (jackdaw, starling, thrush) [source].

Daw is also found in Scots, and means a sluggard; a lazy, idle person; a slattern, a drab or an untidy woman, and comes from the jackdaw sense of daw [source].

Rush Reeds

The French word for daffodil is jonquille [ʒɔ̃.kij], which comes from the Spanish word junquillo (jonquil, rattan, strip of light wood, gold necklace), from junco [ˈxunko] (rush, reed, junk), from the Latin iuncus (rush, reed) [source].

Jonquilles

The English word jonquil [ˈdʒɑŋkwəl/ˈdʒɒŋkwəl] refers to a fragrant bulb flower (Narcissus jonquilla), a species of daffodil, or a shade of yellow, and comes from the same Latin root, via French and Spanish [source].

The English word junk also comes from the same Latin root, via the Middle English junke (old cable, rope) and the Old French jonc (rush) [source].

In Danish and Norwegian a daffodil is a påskelilje, which means literally “Easter lily” [source]. In German they are called Osterglocke (“Easter bell”) or Narzisse (narcissus) [source].

By the way, I wrote a post about words for daffodil in English, Welsh and other Celtic languages a while ago.