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.

Iron Ferrets

What would you buy in a ferretería?

Trama

When I first saw this (Spanish) word, I thought it was a shop that sells ferrets. I was slightly disappointed to discover that it actually means hardware, or hardware store or ironmongers. Or in other words, a place selling things made of ferrous metal (iron).

ferreteria

It comes from ferrete (branding iron), from the Old French ferret (branding iron), a diminutive of fer (iron), from the Latin ferrum (iron); and -ería (a suffix that turns a noun into a store or restaurant that sells such an item; characteristic of) [source].

A shop selling ferrets (hurones) would be a huronería, and the Spanish word for ferret, hurón, comes from the Latin fūr (thief), which is also the root of the English word ferret [source]. More about ferrets.

Other words for hardware store in Spanish include:

  • quincallería – from quincalla (low-value hardware, junk)
  • tlapalería – from the Classical Nahuatl tlapalli (dye, ink, paint) – used in Mexico

Other words ending in -ería include [source]:

  • joyería = jewellers, jewelery store (not a shop selling joy)
  • ostrería = oyster bar
  • piratería = piracy, theft, booklegging (not a shop selling pirates)
  • sombrerería = hat shop
  • whiskería = whisky bar (not a seller of whiskers)

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]

Skip to the Bin

Yesterday I discovered that a French word for skip is benne [bɛn], which also means cable car, cable way, dumpster, bucket, bin, barrow or dump truck [source].

Skip

It comes from the Latin word benna (a wagon of wicker or basket-work – see below), which comes from the Gaulish word bennā [benːaː] (carriage), from the Proto-Indo-European word *bʰendʰ- (to bind, bond), which is also the root of English words such as band, bandage, bend, bin, bind, bond and bundle, and also the Welsh word ben (cart, wagon, carriage), and the Italian word benna (bucket, grab) [source].

Benna
Similar wagons are still used in parts of Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium. In Beligum they are known as banne, and they are benne in Switzerland. Sources: gutenberg.org and perseus.tufts.edu

Some related words in French include:

  • benne preneuse = grab bucket
  • benne basculante = dump bucket
  • benne à béton = concrete mixer
  • benne à boues = sludge skip
  • benne à papiers = paper recycling dumpster
  • benne à ordures = bin lorry, garbage truck
  • benne à déchets = rubbish bin, garbage bin
  • benne à cartons = cardboard bin

Incidentally, after I booked a skip the other day, my builder called to tell me that I didn’t need one after all. They will use a truck to take away all the detritus from the work in my garden. Fortunately I was able to cancel the booking and get a refund. Unfortuantely I can’t a refund on the skip permit, which the skip hire people applied for on my behalf.

Skips and Dumpsters

The hedge in my garden was cut down yesterday, and soon work will start clearing the end of the garden where my new studio will be built. Now I need to hire a skip for all the stuff that needs to be taken away.

My garden after the hedge was removed.
This is how my garden looks at the moment. The shed and the mound next to it will be removed next. The wooden fence on the left belongs to my neighbours, and hopefully they’ll fix it or replace it soon.

A skip in this sense is “a large open-topped container for waste, designed to be lifted onto the back of a truck to remove it along with its contents” (see below). It can also refer to a transportation container in a mine, usually for ore or mullock (waste material from a mine), a wheeled basket used in cotton factories, a charge of syrup in the pans (in sugar manufacture), or a beehive.

Skip

It comes from the Middle English word skep(pe) (basket, beehive made of straw or wicker), from the Old English sceppe, from Old Norse skeppa (basket), which is of unknown origin [source].

From the same Old Norse root we get the Swedish word skeppa [ɧɛpʰa] (to ship; to transport by ship or boat) [source].

Apparently the word skip is mainly used in the UK, and the equivalent in North America is a dumpster. Is that right? What about in other places?

The word dumpster comes from dump and Dempster, a brand name for such things that became generic [source].

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?

Worthless Slabs

Recently I discovered that the slate fences that are common in this part of Wales are known as crawiau in Welsh. I had thought they were something like ffensys llechi or ffensiau llechi, but according to one of the guys who is working on my garden at the moment, a native Welsh speaker, they’re called crawiau.

My garden / Fy ngardd

Such fences were made of pieces of slate from the local slate quarries that were no use for anything else, such as roof tiles. The Welsh word for this kind of slate is craw, which the Geiriadur Priysgol Cymru defines as “piece of slate which has been rejected, worthless slab”. So a slate fence made up of these worthless slabs, which are partially buried in the ground and wired together, is called a crawiau (the plural of craw).

The slate fence on one side of my garden have now been removed and is being replaced with a wooden one, which will stop my neighbour’s dog (Hector – see below) from getting in my garden all the time. My slate fences probably date back to when the houses on my street were built back in 1910 for local quarry workers.

Hector the dog

On the other side of the garden there’s a privet hedge, a slate fence and a wooden fence. I’m having the hedge removed to make more room in the garden, and then a garden studio will be built. I’ll use that for practising and recording music and songs, and maybe making podcasts and videos as well.

Here’s a tune I wrote a few months ago called “Hector Got Through the Fence Again” played on the cavaquinho. It’s one of the videos I’ve posted on Tiktok – yes, I am now on Tiktok as @ieithgi (same as Instagram). Incidentally, iethigi is a “term for one who is interested in the study of language (rather than of literature), philologist” or literally “languages-dog” [source]. Hector apparently responds best to commands in German, so he’s a bit of a ieithgi as well.

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

Unreliable Wool

If your thinking is woolly, it is unclear, fuzzy, hazy, confused, vague, cloudy and/or confused and irrational, and you base it more on emotions rather than logic. You might be said to be woolly-headed or woolly-minded. For those of you who use American English, just ignore the second l in woolly [source].

Highland cows / Bò Ghàidhealach / Hielan coo

If you like to do a bit of woolgathering, then you either gather tufts of wool caught on bushes, are absentminded, or like to indulge in idle fancies and daydreams [source].

In Dutch the word wollig [ˈʋɔ.ləx] means woolly, fluffy, fuzzy, and also vague, unclear or muddy (tone) [source].

In Welsh, one word for woolly is gwlanog [ˈɡwlanɔɡ], which also means fleecy, unshorn, downy, woollen, and a well-off or well-to-do person. There are more sheep than people in Wales and owning a lot of them was probably a sign of prosperity in the past.

A related Welsh word gwlanen [ˈɡwlanɛn], which means a flannel or face-cloth, and also a man of weak character, one who lacks backbone, and a spineless or unreliable person, gwlanennog means flannel-like, soft and also weak-willed, without backbone, unreliable or spineless [source].

So a well-off person who is spineless would be a gwlanog gwlanennog.

You can find more woolly words in Celtic languages in today’s Celtiadur post.

Incidentally, the English word flannel comes ultimately from *wlanā, a Gaulish word meaning wool, via Old French and Norman [source].

Are there any interesting wool-related expressions in other languages?