Strangely Rare

Strangely Rare

An interesting Dutch word I learnt recently is raar [raːr], which looks and sounds a bit like the English word rare, and is related to it, but actually means wierd, strange, funny, odd or unusual.

Here are some examples of how it’s used (from Reverso):

  • Ik heb een raar telefoontje gehad = So I got a weird phone call today
  • Want je doet een beetje raar = Because you’ve been acting a little weird
  • Zelden heb ik zo’n raar voostel gelezen = I have rarely come across a proposal as strange as this
  • Het lijkt gewoon op een raar besluit = Okay, well, it just seems like an odd decision

Raar comes from the Middle Dutch raer (rare, unusual), from the Latin rarus (scattered, seldom, few, rare, uncommon, thin, loose), ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European *h₁reh₁- (to separate) [source].

From the same root we get words in quite a few other languages, including:

  • The English word rare (uncommon, scarce), via the Middle English rare/rere (airy, vacuous, porous, breathable, uncommon, scarce, small) and Old French rare/rere (rare, uncommon).
  • The Danish word rar [ʁɑːˀ] (pleasant, kind, nice), via the Middle Low German rar (rare, valuable).
  • The French word rare [ʁɑʁ] (rare, scarce, sparse).
  • The Spanish words raro [ˈraɾo] (strange, odd, rare) and ralo (scarce, uncommon, sparse)
  • The Swedish word rar (cute, sweet, and rarely, rare), via the Middle Low German rar (rare, valuable).

Another Dutch word for strange is vreemd [vreːmt] (strange, weird odd, foreign) [source].

The Dutch word for rare is zeldzaam [ˈzɛlt.saːm], which also means scarce or uncommon. This comes from the Proto-Germanic *seldasiuniz (rarely seen), from *selda- (rare) and *siuniz (sight) [source].

The German word seltsam (strange, weird, odd, funny, curious) comes from the same root [source], as does the rare English word seldsome (rare, uncommon) [source].

The English word seldom (infrequently, rarely), comes from the Proto-Germanic *seldanē (seldom; rarely), from *seldanaz (rare) [source].

Here’s an audio version of this post.

(Some audio by TTSMP3.com)

Here’s a song I wrote a few years ago that seems to fit with today’s topic: It’s Okay To Be Odd

Fragments

One of the Spanish words I learnt this week was pizarra [piˈθara / piˈsara], which means slate (rock), (roof) slate, blackboard, chalkboard, whiteboard, or in Cuba, a dashboard [source]. It comes from the Basque word pizar (fragment, blackboard, slate) [source].

When I first saw it I thought it had something to do with pizzas, but obviously not, unless a blackboard is used as a menu in a pizza restaurant.

Starters, red and white pizzas, dessert menu - SPQR Pizzeria, Melbourne - stitched

Some related words and expressions include:

  • pizarra blanca = whiteboard
  • pizarra de papel = flip chart
  • pizarral = slate quarry
  • pizarrín = slate pencil
  • pizarrón = blackboard
  • pizarroso = slaty (soil) / slate (roof)

Another word for blackboard or chalkboard, which is used in Spain, is encerado [enθeˈɾado / enseˈɾado], which also means waxed, polished, wax-coloured, oilcloth, tarpaulin or tarp. It comes from encerar (to wax, polish), from the Latin incērāre (to wax), from cēra (wax, beeswax, honeycomb, wax tablet, wax seal, wax image) [source], which is also the root of the Spanish word cera (wax, crayon).

Another name for a waxed writing tablet in Latin is tabula, and they have been used since at least the 14th century BC – the oldest known example was found in a shipwreak near the town of Kaş in the southwest of Turkey. They usually consist of a wooden frame with wax in the middle, and often two such frames were joined together. A stylus was used to write in the wax, with a sharp end for writing and a flat end for erasing. They were used in parts of Europe until the 19th century [source].

TABLILLA DE CERA Y STYLUS

The Latin expression tabula rasa, meaning a blank/clean slate (lit. “an erased slate”) originally referred to a tabula that has had the writing erased from it, and now refers to the idea that individuals are born without any innate mental content [source].

In some places where slate is readily available, people used to write on it with chalk, especially in schools. They were also used to write people’s debts in pubs, and when their debts were paid, they had a clean slate, or had had their slate wiped clean.

iSlate

I feel the beginnings of a new section for Omniglot on writing surfaces and tools.

Incidentally, the word pizza was borrowed from Neapolitan, and is thought to be related to the Byzantine Gree wordk πίτα (píta – cake, pie) [source].

Here’s an audio-visual version of this post I made with Doodly:

Slovenly Sloofs

One of the interesting Dutch words I learnt recently is sloof [sloːf], which means an apron or drudge [source], or “a hard-working woman doing domestic work; e.g. a maid or housewife” [source].

Sloof meaning an apron comes from the Middle Dutch slove/sloof (an apron with short sleeves) [source].

Sloof meaning a drudge or toiling housewife comes from the verb sloven (to work hard, to drudge, to show off). For example, Hij haat me en ik sloof me uit = He hates me and I’m slaving for him [source].

A sloof (drudge) might wear a sloof (apron) and sloffen (slippers) as they slip (slip) around their sloffige (dusty) house seeking a sloop (pillowcase) and trying to avoid a slop (bad situation) and trying not to fall in slaap (asleep).

There are probably plenty of other words beginning with the pleasing combination sl in Dutch – there are certainly plenty in English – slip, slap, slop, sloop (from the Dutch sloep), slide, sleep, and so on.

No Slovenly Dressers Please

The English word sloven [ˈslʌvən] means a habitually dirty or untidy man or boy; a low, base, lewd person, and used to mean an immoral woman. It comes from the Middle Flemish sloovin (a scold), from the Proto-Germanic *slup-. It’s related to Middle Dutch sloef (untidy, shabby) [source].

Small Trinkets

If you mislay your bijou bijous you could say that have a bijou problemette.

bijoux

The word bijou can mean small and elegant (of a residence – often ironic),
intricate or finely made, or a jewel, a piece of jewellry; a trinket or a small intricate piece of metalwork. In the above sentence bijou bijous means ‘finely made jewelery’, and a bijou problemette means ‘a little problem’, an example of British understatement.

Bijou, as jewellery, comes from the French bijou (a piece of jewellery), from the Breton bizoù (ring), from biz (finger), from the Proto-Celtic *bistis (finger) [source].

Bijou, as in small and elegant, etc, comes from the Mediterranean Lingua Franca (Sabir) bijou, from the Occitan pichon (small, little), from the Late Latin pitinnus, possibly from Proto-Celtic *kʷezdis (piece, portion) [source], which is also the root of peth (thing, object) in Welsh, cuid (part portion) in Irish, and related words in other Celtic languages.

Yulemonth

As today is the first day of December, I thought I’d look into the origins of the names for this month in various languages.

December comes from the Middle English December/Decembre, from the Old French decembre, from the Latin december, from decem (ten) and the adjectival suffix -ber. December was the tenth month in the Roman calendar, which started in March [source]. The days between December and March were not included in the calendar as part of any month. Later they became January and February and were added to the beginning of the calendar [source].

hoar frost

In the Old English December was known as Ġēolamonaþ/Gēolmōnaþ/Iūlmōnaþ (“Yule month”) or ǣrra ġēola (“before Yule”). The word Yulemonth apparently exists in modern English, although is rarely used [source]. December is associated with Yuletide / Christmas in a few other languages: mí na Nollag (“month of Christmas”) in Irish, Mee ny Nollick (“month of Christmas”) in Manx, and joulukuu (“yule month”) in Finnish and Võro.

In many languages the name of this month is a version of December, but there are some exceptions.

In Aragonese December is abiento, in Asturian it’s avientu, in Basque it’s abendu and in Occitan it’s abén. These all come from the Latin adventus (arrival, approach, advent), from adveniō (arrive) and the suffix -tus [source].

In Belarusian December is снежань (sniežań) [ˈsʲnʲeʐanʲ], which comes from снег (snjeh – snow) [source]. The Cherokee name for December is also related to snow: ᎥᏍᎩᎦ (vsgiga) or “snow moon” [source].

In Proto-Slavic the month after the Winter solitice was known as *prosinьcь. There are a number of possible roots for this word: *siňь (gray), *sijati (to shine, glow – referring to the winter solstice) or *prositi (to pray – referring to Christmas). Descendents in modern Slavic languages include prosinec (December) in Czech, просинац (December) in Serbian, and prosinec (January) in Slovenian.

In Welsh December is Rhagfyr [ˈr̥aɡvɨ̞r / ˈr̥aɡvɪr] (“foreshortening”), because it’s a time when days get shorter [source].

December is “twelve month” or “month twelve” in Chinese: 十二月 (shí’èryuè), Japanese: 十二月 (jūnigatsu), Korean: 십이월 (12월/十二月/12月 – sipiweol), and Vietnamese: tháng mười hai (𣎃𨑮𠄩).

Are there other interesting names for December in other languages?

You can find the names of months in many languages here.

Thankfully Charismatic

What do the words thank you and charisma have in common?

Well, charisma (personal charm or magnetism) comes from the Ancient Greek χᾰ́ρῐσμᾰ (khárisma – grace, favour, gift), from χᾰρῐ́ζομαι (kharízomai – I show favor), from χᾰ́ρῐς (kháris – grace), from χαίρω (khaírō – I am happy) [source].

The Greek word for thank you, ευχαριστώ (efcharistó), comes from the same root, via εὐχαριστῶ (eukharistô), a contracted form of εὐχαριστέω (eukharistéō – to bestow a favour on, oblige; to be grateful, thankful; to thank, give thanks), from εὐχάριστος (eukháristos – grateful, thankful; pleasant, agreeable), from εὐ- (eu – good), χᾰ́ρῐς (kháris – grace) & -τος (-tos) [source].

The word Eucharist also comes from the same root, via the Middle English eukarist, from Old French, from the Ecclesiastical Latin eucharistia [source], as does the name Charis. In Greek mythology Charis was one of the Graces or Charites (Χάριτες), goddesses of charm, beauty, nature, human creativity and fertility, and wife of Hephaestus (Ἥφαιστος), the god of blacksmiths, metalworking, carpenters, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metallurgy, fire [source].

I decided to look into the origins of the charisma today because one of the YouTube channels I found recently is called The Charismatic Voice. Through this this channel I’ve discovered various singers and groups, including some who sing in languages other than English. As I enjoy listening to and singing songs in a variety of languages, this is great for me.

Here’s an example of a Mongolian song:

Earthskill

An interesting Dutch word I learnt this week was aardrijkskunde [ˈaːr.drɛi̯ksˌkʏn.də] which means geography. It comes from aardrijk (earth, world) and kunde (expertise, skill, ability), so could be translated literally as “earth-skill” or “world-expertise” [source].

Earth

The word geografie [ˌɣeː.oː.ɣraːˈfi] also exists in Dutch. It comes from the French géographie, from Latin geōgraphia, from Ancient Greek γεωγραφία (geōgraphía), which all mean geography, from γεω- (geō – earth) and γράφω (gráphō – to write) [source].

One of the things I like about Dutch is that there are lots of words like this that come from native roots, rather than being borrowed from Latin and/or Greek, as they tend to be in English. The meanings of such words may not be immediately obvious, but once I find out what their individual parts mean, I can usually remember them.

Other examples in Dutch include:

  • artsenijkunde = medicine (“medical-skill”)
  • dierkunde = zoology (“animal-skill”) – also zoölogie
  • geschiedkunde = history (“occurence-skill”)
  • natuurkunde = physics (“nature-skill”) – also fysica
  • oudheidkunde = archaeology (“antiquity/oldness-skill”) – also archeologie
  • sterrenkunde = astronomy (“star-skill”) – also astronomie
  • taalkunde = linguistics (“language-skill”) – also linguïstiek or taalwetenschap
  • wetenschap = science (“know-scape/ship”)

Source: Wiktionary

There’s a version of English known as Anglish in which words borrowed from other languages, especially Latin and Greek, have been replaced by words based on English roots. Geography, for example, is landlore, medicine is leechcraft, zoology is deerlore, history is stear or yorelore, astronomy is rodderlore, linguistics is speechlore and science is witship or wittenskip [source].

Other languages that tend to use their own wordhorde to make new words include Icelandic, Czech, Hungarian and Mandarin Chinese. They do borrow words for other languages, but not nearly as much as English and many other languages do.

Sundering

The Swedish word sönder means broken or asunder. It comes from the Old Swedish sundr (apart), from the Proto-Germanic *sundraz (separate, isolated, alone), from Proto-Indo-European *sn̥Hter-, from *senH- (apart, without, for oneself) [source].

Split Asunder

Related words and expressions include:

  • vara sönder = to be broken
  • gör sönder = breaking
  • mala sönder = to atomise
  • falla sönder = to fall apart, disintegrate
  • slå sönder = to tear apart
  • sönderbruten = broken
  • sönderbrytande = rupture
  • sönderbrytning = breakage
  • sönderdela = to chop, decompose, dissolve, split
  • sönderdelnig = disintegration, fragmentation, resolution
  • sönder fall = to divide

Source: bab.la

The English words sunder (to break into pieces) and asunder (into separate parts or pieces, broken) comes from the same root, via the Old English sunder (apart, separate, private, aloof, by one’s self). Asunder is usually used with verbs like tear, break, split or rip [source].

Other words from the same root include:

  • Dutch: zonder = without; zonderling = eccentric, strange, weird; weirdo, eccentric; uitzondereren = to exclude, except; afzondereren = to isolate
  • German: sondern = to separate, sunder; sondbar = strange, odd; Sonderling = eccentric, nerd, solitary person
  • Icelandic / Faroese: sundur = apart

Fairs and Carnivals

An interesting Dutch word I learnt recently is kermis [ˈkɛr.mɪs], which means a carnival, fair, fairground, funfair or amusement park [source]. I remember it by linking it to Kermit the Frog, and thinking of him going to a fair.

Opening Leuven kermis 2010

It comes from the Middle Dutch kermisse, a contraction of kerkmis, from kerk (church) and mis (mass) [source].

Some related expressions include:

  • kermisklant = funfair worker, carnival worker, carny, funfair customer
  • kermistent = an attraction at a carnival or a fair
  • kermisattractie = fairground attraction, fairground ride sideshow attraction
  • kermiskraam = fairground booth/stall
  • kermisterrein = fairground, midway, carnival
  • het is kermis in de hel = the devil’s beating his wife (“it is a funfair in hell”) – said when a sunshower* occurs

*sunshower = a rain shower which occurs while the sun is shining

Kermis is related to the German word Kirmes, which in parts of western and central Germany means a fair, funfair or fairground, but originally referred to a solemn mass held annually to celebrate the anniversary of the consecration of a village church – such masses are now known as Kirchweihfesten (parish celebrations). In time the Kirmessen became major village festivals [source].

Kirmes

The English word kirmiss was borrowed from Germany and/or Dutch, and in parts of the USA apparently refers to an indoor entertainment and fair combined [source].

This word was also borrowed from Dutch into French as kermesse (fête), and from French into Italian as kermesse (social event, gathering, meeting or gala) [source].

The English word fair, as in a funfair or (travelling) carnival, comes from the Middle English feire, from the Old French foire (celebration), from the Latin fēriae (holy day, festival, holiday, vacation) [source].

The English word carnival comes from the French carnaval (carnival), from the Italian carnevale (carnival), possibly from the Latin carnem levāmen (“meat dismissal”) or from carnuālia (meat-based country feast) [source].

Cozy Snuddles

You may have heard of the word/concept of hygge, which is “a Danish and Norwegian word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment”, according to Wikipedia.

I discovered this week that there is an equivalent in Swedish: mys [ˈmyːˌs], which means “trivsel som upp­står tack vare om­bonad miljö, trevlig aktivitet e.d.” (well-being that arises due to a cozy environment, pleasant activity, etc) [source] or cosiness [source].

Incidentally, the word hygge does exist in Swedish, but means a clearing in a forest made by felling trees. The Swedish translation of the Danish/Norwegian word hygge is danskt mys.

Lagom mysig.

It comes from the Danish/Norweigan myse (squint), and ultimately from the Greek μύειν (mýein – to close ones lips/eyes). The English word myopic and myopia come from the same root.

Related words include:

  • mysa = to smile, beam, cuddle, snuggle; to enjoy oneself; to be engaged in an activity that is comfortable or pleasurable; to be comfortable or content with something; to smile (with only slight movement of the mouth), particularly as a sign of contentedness or comfort (archaic)
  • mysig = snug, cosy, pleasant, comfortable, agreeable
  • mysigt = snugly
  • mysighet = coziness

Here are some examples from Duolingo of how mysa is used:

  • Jag myser på soffan med en kopp te = I snuggle on the sofa with a cup of tea
  • Jag gillar att mysa med min pojkvän = I like cuddling with my boyfriend

Are there similar words in other langauges?

Sources: Wiktionary, bab.la, The People’s Dictionary