Extra Horses

In Dutch one word for horse is paard [paːrt]. It also means a knight in chess, a pommel horse or an ugly woman. When I learnt this recently, I starting wondering where it comes from, as you do.

Paard

At first I thought, it’s completely different to words for horse in other Germanic languages – hest in Danish and Norwegian, häst in Swedish, and hestur in Icelandic and Faroese.

While this is true, paard is in fact cognate with the German word for horse Pferd [pfeːrt], and also with the Afrikaans perd, the Luxembourgish Päerd, the Yiddish פֿערד (ferd), the English palfrey* and the French palefroi.

* palfrey = “a small horse with a smooth, ambling gait, popular in the Middle Ages with nobles and women” [source].

These words paard, Pferd, etc come from the Latin Latin paraverēdus, “an extra horse; post horse or courier’s horse for outlying or out of the way places” [source], from para- (beside, next to, near), from the Ancient Greek παρά (from, by, near), and verēdus (a fast or light breed of horse, a courier’s horse, a hunter), from the Gaulish *werēdos, from Proto-Celtic *uɸorēdos (horse) [source].

The Proto-Celtic word *uɸorēdos is also the root of the Welsh word gorwydd (steed, horse) and the Spanish word vereda (path, lane, sidewalk) [source].

The word horse itself comes from the Old English hors (horse), from the Proto-Germanic *hrussą (horse), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱr̥sos (horse), from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱers- (to run) [source]. This is also the root of the Proto-Celtic *karros (wagon) and the Latin currus (chariot, wagon) [source].

Others words that come from the Proto-Germanic *hrussą include the North Frisian hors (horse), the West Frisian hoars (horse), the Dutch ros (horse, steed), the German Ross (horse, thoroughbred, steed, charger, fool), and the Icelandic hross (horse).

From the Proto-Celtic *karros we get the Gaulish *karros (wagon), the Old Irish carr (cart, wagon), the Welsh car (vehicle, car, sled, dray), and karr (car, vehicle) in Cornish and Breton [source].

From the Latin currus, which was borrowed from Gaulish, we get the word carro (cart, wagon, truck, car, train car, etc) in Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Galician, Catalan and Occitan, and the English words car, cart and chariot [source].

The North Germanic words for horse come the Old Norse hestr (horse, stallion), from the Proto-Germanic *hangistaz (horse, stallion), from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱanḱest-/kankest- (horse) [source].

I’ve written before about words for horse in Indo-European languages, and you can find more about Celtic words for horse on my Celtiadur blog.

Writing up and down

One of the phrases that came up in the Swedish lessons I did yesterday on Duolingo was about writing things down, which in Swedish was skriva upp (“write up”). This seemed a bit upside down, or downside up, so I thought I’d invesigate.

Skriva upp means to book, charge, enter, note, put down, set down, take, stick, sign up or sign in [source], so in this context it’s being used to mean ‘put/set down’. A related expression is skriva upp på lista (“write up on list”), or to list.

Other expressions featuring skriva include:

  • skriva ut (“write out”) = to print, draw, check, make out, discharge
  • skriva över (“write over”) = to overwrite, replace,
  • skriva under (“write under”) = to sign, endorse, approve, subscribe
  • skriva på (“write on”) = to subscribe, commit, sign in
  • skriva om (“write about”) = to profile, rewrite
  • skriva ner (“write down”) = to dash off, record, write down
  • skriva ned (“write down”) = to bang out, set down, trace, write down. For example, skulle du kunna skriva ned det åt mig? (Could you write it down for me?)
  • skriva in (“write in”) = to key, register, book in, inscribe, pencil in, sign in
  • skriva ihop (“write together”) = to scribble, compile
  • skriva av (“write of”) = to duplicate, extract, transcribe, cancel, write off

Source: bab.la

While writing this, I realised that subscribe literally means “underwrite”, from the Latin sub- (under) and‎ scribo (write) – also the root of skrifa. However, underwrite means something different: to assume financial responsibility for something, and guarantee it against failure, or to lend support to something [source].

In English when you might write up notes you wrote down during an interview, making them more complete and detailed, or write up your diary, bringing it up-to-date. Maybe you’ll write off or write in to a newspaper and ask for your write-up be published. Maybe your debts will be written off (cancelled), and hopefully your car will not be a write-off (damaged beyond repair).

Can you think of other interesting expressions featuring write?

Butter Goose Table

smörgåsbord

One of the Dutch words I learnt this week is boterham [ˈboːtərˌɦɑm], which means sandwich. The boter part means butter, but it’s not certain where the ham part comes from – possibly *ramme / remme (thick slice of bread), or from ham (chunk). Or it might be an abbreviation of boterenbroot (buttered bread) [source].

In Swedish one word for sandwich is smörgås, from smör (butter) and gås (goose). It originally referred to small pieces of butter which float to the surface of the milk as it is churned, and which were spread on bread, and came to mean bread, butter plus toppings, or an open sandwich [source].

A smörgåsbord [ˈsmœrɡɔsˌbuːrd] (“butter-goose-table”) is a buffet made up of many cold dishes, and the slices of meat, cheese and other toppings on the smörgåsar are known as smör­gås­pålägg.

Other Swedish words for sandwich include macka (open sandwich), sandvikare (sandwich), snitt (dainty sandwich, cut, fashion) and sandwich.

The sandwich is named after the 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, who is reputed to have invented it as a convenient way to eat while playing cards. He didn’t come up with the idea of putting meat or filling between two slices of bread, but he certainly popularised it and gave it his title [source].

Sandwiches are also known as sarnies, sangers or butties, at least in the UK. Are there other words for them in other English-speaking places?

Are there interesting words for sandwiches in other languages?

Mind and Memory

In Russian the word for memory is память [ˈpamʲɪtʲ], which comes from the Proto-Slavic *pamętь (memory), from the prefix *pōˀ and *mintis (though, mind), from the Proto-Indo-European *méntis (thought) [source].

Related words include:

  • памятник [ˈpamʲɪtʲnʲɪk] = memorial, monument
  • памятный [ˈpamʲɪtnɨj] = commemorative, memorable, memorial
  • памятливый [ˈpamʲɪtlʲɪvɨj] = having a retentive memory, retentive
  • памятка [ˈpamʲɪtkə] = memo, memorandum
  • запамятовать [zɐˈpamʲɪtəvətʲ] = to forget (dated / colloquial)
  • злопамятный [zlɐˈpamʲɪtnɨj] = vindictive, rancorous, unforgiving, likely to hold a grudge
  • помнить [ˈpomnʲɪtʲ] = to remember

*méntis is also the root of such English words as dementia, mendacious, mental, mind, monitor and premonition.

Memory

Life Writing

In Russian, a painting or picture is a живопись [ʐɨvəpʲɪsʲ]. This comes from живой [ʐɨˈvoj] (alive, living, live, lively) and писать [pʲɪˈsatʲ] (to write). So you could say that a Russian painter is “writing life” and that their paintings are “life writing” [source].

An English word with a similar literal meaning, but a different actual meaning, is biography.

Another Russian word for picture, and also image or scene, is a картина [kɐrˈtʲinə], which comes from the Italian cartina (fine paper, map), from carta (paper, map, menu, card), from the Latin charta (papyrus, paper, poem), from the Ancient Greek χάρτης (khártēs – papyrus, paper), from χαράσσω (kharássō – I scratch, inscribe), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰer- (to scratch) [source].

If languages were logical and consistant, you might expect that Russian words for art, artist, painter, picture and to paint might be related to живопись. Most of them aren’t:

Art is искусство [ɪˈskustvə], which also means skill, craftsmanship, craft. It comes from the Old Church Slavonic искусьство (iskusĭstvo), from искоусъ (iskusŭ – test, experiment), probably from the Proto-Germanic *kustiz (choice, trail), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵews- (to taste, try), which is also the root of the English words choice, cost and gusto [source].

An artist or painter is a художник [xʊˈdoʐnʲɪk]. It comes from the Old East Slavic художьникъ (xudožĭnikŭ – artist, painter, master), from худогъ (xudogŭ – skillful, experienced, lucky), from the Proto-Slavic *xǫdogъ, from the Proto-Germanic *handugaz (handy, skilful, dextrous), which is also the root of the English word handy [source].

There are several Russian words for to paint:

  • рисовать [rʲɪsɐˈvatʲ] means to draw, paint, depict, and comes from the Polish rysować (to draw, sketch), from the Middle High German rīzen, from the Old High German rīzan (to scratch) [source].
  • красить [ˈkrasʲɪtʲ] means to paint, dye or adorn. It is related to the word краска (paint, dye, ink, colours), which comes from the Old Church Slavoic краса (krasa – decoration) [source].
  • писать [pʲɪˈsatʲ] means to write or paint (a painting). It comes from the Old East Slavic писати (pisati – to write, paint), from the Proto-Slavic *pisati (to draw depict, write), from the Proto-Indo-European *peyḱ- (to hew, cut out; stitch, embroider, sting; paint, mark, colour), which is also the root of the English words paint and picture [source].

mouse cat

An example of calligraphic art by Margaret Shepherd. More examples

Blazing a trail

Have you ever wonder why we talk about ‘blazing trails’?

Well, according to Dent’s Modern Tribes – The Secret Languages of Britain by Susie Dent, one of the books I got for my birthday last week, one of the original meanings of the word blaze was a white spot on a horse’s or cow’s forehead. It came to mean any light coloured mark or spot.

In the 18th century in North America, trails, paths and boundaries could be indicated by stripping a piece of bark off a tree and making a white mark on it. Thus to blaze a trail meant to mark trees along the trail in this way.

The word blaze, in this context, is thought to have come via northern English dialects, from the Old Norse blesi (white spot on a horse’s face), from the Proto-Germanic *blas- (shining, white), from the Proto-Indo-European *bʰel- (to shine, flash, burn) [source], which is also the root of the English word flame, and related words in other languages.

If I hadn’t known this, I would have guessed that blazing a trail originally involved literally blazing a trail with fire.

Blazed Horse

Longitudinal Cohorts

50 years ago this week a longitudinal cohort study known as the 1970 British Cohort Study or BCS70 started. The aim was to follow the lives of as many as possible of the 17,287 people born in England, Wales and Scotland during that week (5-11 April). Similar studies were started before then, and have been started since.

BCS70 has collected information on health, physical, educational and social development, and economic circumstances, and so on. It has become a vital source of evidence on key policy areas such as social mobility, education, training and employment, and economic insecurity [source].

1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70) illustration

More information about BCS70:
https://cls.ucl.ac.uk/cls-studies/1970-british-cohort-study/
https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/35/4/836/686544
https://www.youtube.com/user/CLScohort/videos

See some of the participants in BCS70:

Why am I telling you this?

Well, I am one of those 17,287 people, and today is my 50th birthday.

Previously I knew only one other person who shared a birthday with me, and one with a birthday the day before. Recently the people at BCS70 set up a Facebook group for participants in the survery, and I found there are quite a few people with the same birthday as me.

It’s interesting to get to know them, and to share memories and stories. For example, it snowed on the day I was born, and quite a few other people in the group have said that there was snow on their birthdays as well. Today, by contrast, it started as a warm, sunny day, and is starting to cloud over as I write this.

Another interesting thing I’ve noticed in the group is that people are using their day of birth to refer to themselves. Today, for example, we 9ers are all wishing each other a happy birthday, yesterday it was the 8ers, and tomorrow will be the 10ers.

On this day in 1970 Paul McCartney apparently accounced the official break-up of the Beatles [source]. Other sources say it happened on 10th April. I had nothing to do with it.

The word cohort in this context means “A demographic grouping of people, especially those in a defined age group, or having a common characteristic” [source].

It comes from the Old French cohorte (cohort, a division of the Roman legion), from the Latin cohors (court; farmyard or enclosure; retinue; circle, crowd; tenth part of a legion; ship’s crew; bodyguard; military unit of 500 men), from co- (with) and hortus (garden) [source]

The word longitudinal in this context means “sampling data over time rather than merely once” [source]

It comes from the Latin longitūdō (length, longitude), from longus (far, long) and -tūdō (-ness: suffix for forming nouns) [source]

Furloughs and Furlongs

The word furlough [ˈfɜː(ɹ).ləʊ / ˈfɝ.loʊ] seems to be appearing quite a lot at the moment. A note I got from my accountant today included it in the sentence “Do you want me to put you on furlough pay for the next few months?”.

The UK government is paying 80% of their usual pay to some of those who can’t currently work due to the pandemic. This is known as furlough pay, it seems.

I normally work from home anyway – so no change there, and am very fortunate that I can continue to earn money from my website. My social life has disappeared, or moved online, and I only go outside to buy food and for occasional walks. How are things where you are?

In a search I just did in Google news, the word furlough appears in such headlines as “Formula 1 puts half its staff on furlough”, “Liverpool reverses plan to furlough staff after backlash”, “… company to furlough workers, cut executive pay” and “1 in 4 city workers will get full pay while on furlough”.

According to The Free Dictionary a furlough is:

1. a vacation or leave of absence, as one granted to a person in military service; leave.
2. a usu. temporary layoff from work.
3. a temporary leave of absence authorized for a prisoner from a penitentiary.

Other definitions are available

It comes from the Dutch verlof (leave, furlough, permission), probably from the Middle Low German verlōf (furlough, permission), from the verb verlōven (to allow) [source].

I get this word mixed up with furlong [ˈfɜː(ɹ)lɒŋ], which means “A unit of length equal to 220 yards, 1⁄8 mile, or 201.168 meters, now only used in measuring distances in horse racing”. This comes from the Old English furlang, from furh (furrow) & lang (long) [source].

A furlang was originally “the length of the drive of the plough before it is turned, usually 40 rods*, the eighth of a mile” [source].

*A rod is “a unit of length equal to 1 pole, a perch, 1⁄4 chain, 5 1⁄2 yards, 16 1⁄2 feet, or exactly 5.0292 meters” [source]

Coronavirus – what the heck does it mean?

Today we have a guest post by Manish Sharma

We have all heard this word a lot lately and some of us are probably getting quite sick of it. Hopefully, not by it though. Have you wondered what does it actually mean though?

Let’s do an etymological analysis of coronavirus and see what we come up with. Do what? I hear you say! Fret not, it’s just a fancy way of saying what the word means and how it came to be.

Well, let’s see what we have here then.

So we know it’s clearly made up of two words: corona + virus. Well done, Sherlock! Is that it? What are you going to tell us next? That it’s caused by drinking too much Corona beer? Sadly, no, because there would have been a rather easy cure for it if that was true!

Beer (excuse the pun) with me though while I break it down for you.

Corona comes from the Latin word corōna, meaning a ‘crown’ or ‘garland’, which in turn is borrowed from the Greek word κορώνη (korṓnē), which means a ‘garland’ or a ‘wreath’ [source]. I guess something to do with the similarities in shape. It’s used to describe this class of viruses because of their peculiar structure, as we have all seen in the photos everywhere, the virus looks like a spherical ball with spike-like projections on its surface giving it an appearance of a crown. Not unlike the way solar flares project from the surface of the sun hence called solar corona.

Coronavirus

The Greek word κορώνη (korṓnē) has its origin in a Proto Indo-European or PIE (a hypothesised common ancestor of most of the Indian and European languages) word *ker or *sker which is the origin of the Sanskrit word कृत्त (kṛttá) or the Hindi word कट (kat), both meaning to ‘cut’ something. Incidentally, English words like, curtailed, shears, scissors, short, skirt and share have all descended from this same root [source].

A note on the relation between the words *ker and *sker before we move on. The prefix ‘s’ (s-mobile) sometimes occurs in the variations of the same word in different languages. For instance, the English word snake and Hindi word नाग (nāg) also share a common root – the Proto-Indo-European *sneg- (to crawl, a creeping thing) [source].

The word virus comes from the Latin word vīrus meaning poison, venom or slime. Same indeed as the Greek word ἰός (iós – poison, venom), which itself has descended from the PIE word *wisós (fluidity, slime, poison). Anybody who knows the Hindi or Sanskrit translation of the word poison or venom would have probably figured out where this is going. The Hindi word विष (viṣ – poison, venom) and the Sanskrit विष (viṣá – poison, venom), come from the same root as the word virus [source]. Fascinating, eh?

When you put the two together, you get coronavirus, or poison cut in the shape of a crown!

So, there you have it. We may not know for sure where this wretched virus came from but at least we now have an idea how its name came about.

Hope you enjoyed reading.

Sponge Mushrooms

In Swedish, I learned this week, there are two words for mushroom: svamp [svamp] (fungus, mushroom, toadstool, sponge) and champinjon [ɧampɪnˈjuːn] (mushroom) [source].

Svamp comes from the Old Swedish svamper (fungus, mushroom), from Old Norse svampr / svǫppr (sponge, mushroom, ball), from the Proto-Germanic *swammaz / swambaz (sponge, mushroom, fungus, swamp), which is also the root of the English word swamp [source].

The Old English word swamm (mushroom, fungus, sponge), and the Middle English swam (swamp, muddy pool, bog, marsh; fungus, mushroom), come from the same root as well [source].

Mushroom was borrowed from the Anglo-Norman musherum / moscheron (mushroom), from the Old French moisseron (mushroom), possibly from the Old French mosse / moise (moss), from the Frankish *mosa (moss) [source]

Champinjon was borrowed from the French champignon (mushroom, fungus, accelerator), from the Vulgar Latin *campāniolus (grows in the field), from the Late Latin campāneus (pertaining to fields), from Latin campānia (level country), which is also the root of the words campaign and champagne.

Apparently champinjon is used to refer to mushrooms used as food, and was borrowed into Swedish in 1690 [source], while svamp refers to mushrooms and fungi in general.

Svamp