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.

Enlisted Fathers

As today is St Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d look into the origins of the name Patrick.

Happy St Patrick's Day / Lá ḟéile Pádraig sona ḋuit! / Dydd Gwyl Padrig Hapus

Patrick comes from the Latin name Patricius, which comes from the word patricius (patrician, noble), from patrēs cōnscrīptī (Roman senators, or literally “enlisted fathers”) [source].

patrēs is the plural of pater (father, head of household, parent, forefather, priest), which comes from the Proto-Italic *patēr (father), from the Proto-Indo-European *ph₂tḗr (father), from *peh₂- (to protect, shepherd) and‎ *-tḗr (agent suffix) [source].

Another word that comes from pater is patronus, which in the magical world of Harry Potter is a spirit guardian that can be summoned with the charm Expecto Patronum [source]. This is genunine Latin and means “I await my protector” [source].

cōnscrīptī is the plural of cōnscrīptus (senator, counsel(l)or; enrolled, enlisted, composed), which comes from conscrībō (I enroll, enlist, draw up, compose), from con- (with), and‎ scrībō (I write) [source].

The English word conscript (One who is compulsorily enrolled, often into a military service) comes from the same Latin root [source].

Charlatan Snake Oil

The term snake oil is used to refer to a scam, a fraudulent medicine or remedy, or deceptive marketing. It was first appeared in writing in 1858 in the USA. In Georgia, for example, snake oil was sold as a folk remedy for rheumatism and gout, and it was said to be a cure for deafness in parts of Pennsylvania.

Snake Oil

Some such remedies contained oil made from the fat of snakes, especially rattlesnakes, but many didn’t. In the early 20th century such products started to be condemned in professional pharmacy journals as they didn’t contain any snake oil at all. As a result the term snake oil became associated with phony remedies and quackery [source].

In French snake oil is known as remède de charlatan (charlatan medicine) or poudre de perlimpinpin (perlimpinpin powder).

The word charlatan (quack (doctor), charlatan), comes from the Italian ciarlatano (charlatan, quack), from ciarlatore (chatterer) and cerretano (hawker, quack). The latter term means literally a “native of Cerreto”, and is the root of this word because the Italian village of Cerreto di Spoleto in Umbria in the province of Perugia was once widely known for its quacks.

Arrived in Umbria. Some views from our rental in the hills of Cerreto di Spoleto in de Valnerina valley. Lovely nature, birds and cicadas as background music.

Perlimpinpin [pɛʁ.lɛ̃.pɛ̃.pɛ̃] is one of the French names for Rumpelstiltskin, a company that makes children’s clothes, a restaurant in Paris, and probably others things. The origins of the word are uncertain. According to one theory, it’s a combination of prêle (horsetail – Equisetum hyemale) and pimpin (Pandanus montanus – a type of tree from the island of Réunion), two plants that were used as in a herbal medicine in 17th century France [source].

Stellar Stars

Stars

Here’s an interesting question that I was sent to me by email:
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I am curious as to why some of the languages that developed from Latin had to put an extra ‘e’ at the start of some of their words.

Here are some examples:

Latin Italian French Spanish English
stēlla stella étoile estrella star
status stato état estado state
spero speranza espère esperanza hope
spōnsa sposa épouse esposa wife

It looks as if the Gauls, and the people living in the Iberian peninsula, couldn’t cope with the st- and sp- beginnings, and had to stick an ‘e’ on the front. Is this because words in the Celtic languages they spoke didn’t have such beginnings? I can’t find any similar words in modern Welsh.
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Incidentally, the words for hope have a cognate in English – esperance, which is a old word for hope or expectation [source], and the ones for wife have a cognate in spouse (husband, wife).

Let’s look at the origins of some of these words to see how they have changed over time.

The Latin word stēlla (star), comes from the Proto-Italic *stērolā (star), from Proto-Indo-European *h₂stḗr (star). This became estoile/esteile/estelle in Old French, and estoile in Middle French. It was (e)strela in Old Portuguese and estrella in Old Spanish So the extra e has been there for a while [source].

In Proto-Celtic the word for star was *sterā, from the same PIE root as the Latin stēlla. This became *ster in Proto-Brythonic, Old Breton and Old Cornish, and ster in modern Breton and Cornish. So at least some speakers of Celtic languages could cope with the initial st-. In Old Welsh it was *ser, in Middle Welsh it was ser / syr, and in modern Welsh it’s sêr. It was also borrowed into Old Irish as ser [source].

The Latin word status means state, status, condition, position, place or rank. It became estat in Old French, from which we get the English word estate. Meanwhile in Old Spanish it was (e)strela, and in Old Portuguese it was estado [source].

It was borrowed into Old Irish as stad (stop, stay, delay), which is the same in modern Irish [source]. Proto-Brythonic borrowed it as *ɨstad from the Vulgar Latin *istatus, this became (y)stad / (y)stât in Middle Welsh and ystad (state, condition, situation) in modern Welsh [source].

Do any of you have any thoughts on this question?

Lillilu

This week I wrote a new song – a lullaby inspired by learning that a Scots word for lullaby is lillilu. This is also written lilly-loo or lilli-lu, and an extended version is lillila-baloo [source].

baby sleep

Here’s a recording of the song:

This got me wondering about whether there are interesting words meaning lullaby in other languages. Here are some I found:

  • French: berceuse – from bercer (to craddle, rock), from the Old French bercier (to rock), from Vulgar Latin *bertiāre, from Gaulish, from Proto-Celtic *berta- (to shake)
  • Irish: suantraí – from suan (sleep) and -traí (type of music)
  • Italian: ninnananna (onomatopoetic)
  • Portuguese: canção de ninar (sleep song) – ninar = to sing to sleep, canção de embalar (rocking song)
  • Spanish: canción de cuna (cradle song), nana (lullaby, wet nurse, nursemaid), arrurrú – from arrullo (cooing, murmur, lullaby)
  • Welsh: hun-gân (sleep song), (si-)lwli (onomatopoetic), su(o)-gân (lulling song), hwian-gân (murmur song)

Do you know of any other interesting ones?

Gadwaddicking Gads

If someone told you they were going to gadwaddick, what do you think they meant?

jaunting cars

Here are a few possible meanings of to gadwaddick:

  1. to drag or tail along, to walk draggingly
  2. to go on a pleasure trip, to jaunt, to gad about
  3. to saunter, to walk slowly and clumsily

It is in fact the second, and is used in Norfolk dialect in the east of England. The first definition is for the word to drail, which is used in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Dorest, Somerset in the the southwest of English, and the third definition is for the word to dadge, which comes from the dialects of Northumbria and Cumbria in the north of England.

These words all come from The English dialect dictionary by Joseph Wright, which was published in 1900.

A gadabout is someone who restlessly moves from place to place, seeking amusement or the companionship of others, or in other words, someone who gads about [source], or gadwaddick about in Norfolk.

The verb to gad means “to move from one location to another in an apparently random and frivolous manner”. It comes from the Middle English word gadden (to hurry, to rush about) [source].

A gad is a greedy and/or stupid person, at least in northern England and Scotland, and comes from the Middle English gade (a fool, simpleton, rascal, scoundrel), from the Old English gada (fellow, companion, comrade, associate), from the Proto-West Germanic *gadō, from the Proto-Germanic *gadô/*gagadô (companion, associate), from the Proto-Indo-European *gʰedʰ- (to join, unite) [source].

Year of the Tiger

Today is the first day of the Year of the Tiger 🐅, according to the Chinese Lunar calendar, so to anybody who celebrates this:

恭喜發財 / 恭喜發財 (Chinese New Year wishes)

The Chinese character for tiger is 虎, which is pronounced hǔ [hu˦˩˧] in Mandarin, fu² [fuː˧˥] in Cantonese. It also means brave, fierce or vigorous, and is used as a surname. The usual word for tiger is in fact 老虎 (lǎohǔ / lou5 fu²) – the first character means old or venerable and shows respect for this dangerous animal.

Here’s how the character 虎 has changed over the past 3,500 years or so:

Evolution of the Chinese character for tiger (虎)

The phrase 恭喜发财 [恭喜發財], which means literally “congratulations, make a fortune”, is the most common way to wish someone a Happy (Lunar) New Year in Chinese. It can be followed by the phrase 红包拿来 [紅包拿來] (hóngbāo ná lái), which means “bring out the red packet”, and refers to the red envelopes containing money that are traditionally given as gifts at Lunar New Year. It was apparently first used among Cantonese speakers in the mid-19th century, and is now used by speakers of other varieties of Chinese [source].

Last night I was invited to celebrate Chinese New Year by my neighbours, one of whom is Chinese. We had a very enjoyable evening and some rather tasty Chinese food.

Sources: LINE Dict Chinese-English, mdbg.net, Wiktionary

Britland

The word Britain is used to refer to the island of Great Britain, and is also to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or UK. As it’s the place I’ve lived most of my life, I thought I’d look into the origins of this word.

SS Great Britain

Britain comes from the Middle English Breteyn (Britain, Brittany), from the Old English Bryten/Breoton (Britain), from the Latin Britannia (the British Isles, Great Britain, the Roman province of Britain) – the land of the Britanni (Britons), from the Proto-Brythonic *Prɨdėn (Britain), from *Pritanī, which is possibly related to *Prɨdɨn (Picts), and the Ancient Greek Πρεττανική (Prettanikḗ – British Isles). The name Brittany comes from the same root [source].

Until the 1st century BC Britain was known as Albion in Latin, which comes from the Proto-Celtic *Albiū (luminous world, upper world, high mountain, alp, alpine pasture, Britain), from the Proto-Indo-European *albʰós (white) – possibly refering to the white chalk cliffs along the south coast of Britian [source].

After the Roman conquest of Britain in 43 AD, the name Britannia was used to refer to the Roman province of Britain, which consisted of what is now England and Wales and part of southern Scotland [source].

In Welsh, Britian is referred to as Ynys Prydain (The Island of Britain) or Prydain Fawr (Great Britian). These words, along with Prydyn (Scotland, (land of the) Picts), come from the same Proto-Brythonic root as Britain [source].

In Cornish, Britain is Breten and Great Britain is Breten Veur [source].

In Breton, Great Britain is Breizh-Veur and Brittany is Breizh.

The Irish name for Wales is An Bhreatain Bheag (“Little Britain”), while Great Britain is An Bhreatain Mhór, and Brittany is An Bhriotáin [source].

In Scottish Gaelic, A’ Bhreatainn Bheag is Brittany, Wales is a’ Chuimrigh, which comes from the Welsh name for Wales, Cymru and Great Britain is A’ Bhreatainn Mhór [source].

Oak Knowers

To me the word druid makes me think of Getafix, the druid in the Asterix comics – an old man with a long white beard who brews magic potions in a big cauldron. He has other names, such as Panoramix in many other European languages, and Kensawthetrix (“knows all the tricks”) in Scots [More details].

IMGR6414-ed

According to TheFreeDictionary, a druid is:

  1. a member of an ancient order of priests in Gaul, Britain, and Ireland in the pre-Christian era
  2. a member of any of several modern movements attempting to revive druidism

It comes from the French druide (druid), from the Old French druide (druid), from the Latin Druidae (the Druids), from the Gaulish *druwits (druid), from the Proto-Celtic *druwits (druid), from *daru (oak) amd *wid/*windeti (to know, to see), so a druid is an “oak knower/seer”, from the Proto-Indo-European *dóru (tree) and *weyd- (to see) [Source].

In Proto-Brythonic a druid or seer was a *drüw, which became dryw [drɨu̯/drɪu̯] (druid, seer) and derwydd (prophet, wise man, druid) in Welsh, drewydh (druid) in Cornish and drouiz (druid) in Breton [source]. It was also borrowed into Old English as drȳ (sorcerer, magician), which became drī(mann)/driʒ(mann) (sorcerer, magician) in Middle English [source]. A few modern druids use the word drymann, or something similiar, to refer to themselves.

Here’s a traditional Welsh folk tune called Y Derwydd (The Druid):

There is sheet music for several versions of this tune on The Session.