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.

Sea Swine

A porpoise is a small cetacean of the family Phocoenidae, and is related to dolphins and whales.

Eye Contact !

The word porpoise comes from the Middle English porpeys/purpeys, from the Anglo-Norman porpeis/purpeis, from the Old French po(u)rpois/pourpais (porpoise), from the Vulgar Latin *porcopiscis (porpoise), from the Latin porcus (pig) and piscis (fish) [source].

Other (archaic / poetic) English words for porpoises, and dolphins, include: sea hogs, sea pigs, seaswine, or mereswine, from the Old English mereswīn (porpoise).

In French a porpoise is a cochon de mer (“sea pig”), or a marsouin [maʁ.swɛ̃], which comes from the Old English mereswīn (porpoise), or from another Germanic language, such as *mariswīn (porpoise, dolphin) in Old Frankish, meerswijn (dolphin, porpoise) in Middle Dutch, or marsvín (dolphin) in Old Norse. These all come from the Proto-Germanic *mariswīną (dolphin, porpoise) from *mari (sea, ocean, lake) and *swīną (swine, pig) [source].

Related words in modern Germanic languages include:

  • Mereswyne/Merswine = porpoise or dolphin in Scots
  • Meerscheinchen = guinea pig in German
  • marsvín = guinea pig in Icelandic and Faroese
  • marsvin = guinea pig or porpoise in Danish and Norwegian
  • marsvin = guinea pig in Swedish
  • meerzwijn = porpoise in Dutch

Source: Wiktionary

1600 languages

Back in April 2021 I wrote a post about various milestones I’d reached, including adding the 1,500th language to Omniglot. Well, yesterday I added the 1,600th language, which seems to me like something to celebrate.

So what’s been happening since April?

Well, as well as continuing to add new material to Omniglot every day, and improving the existing content, I’ve been making Adventures in Etymology blog posts / podcasts / videos every week and posting them on YouTube, Instagram and Tiktok. They tend to get the most views on Tiktok, and I’m hoping that at least some of the people who see them there will visit other parts of the Omniglot Linguistic Universe (OLU).

In July I started making Omniglot News blog posts and podcasts which summarise all the lastest developments on Omniglot. They appear on Sundays on the Radio Omniglot site and on the Omniglot News page.

Lockdown restrictions have eased here in Wales, and we can now go to pubs, restaurants and cafés, and to concerts and other events. I go to a Welsh folk music session every other Tuesday where we speak and sing mainly in Welsh, and play Welsh tunes. There are usually people from many countries there, so I get chances to speak other languages as well. I’ve started going to a Welsh conversation group on Wednesday nights, and I regularly have opportunities to speak French and Mandarin, and often write emails in Dutch. So I’m able to practise using some of my languages.

I’ve been to a few concerts recently, include a great one this week featuring the Washboard Resonators:

The Washboard Resonators

In other news, the studio that’s being built in my garden is coming together. The roof should be finished in the next few days, and then they can start working other parts. I’m looking forward to using it to make recordings and videos and practise my music and singing. Hopefully the acoustics will be very good inside.

Studio / Stwdio

Pocket Hedgehogs

If I described someone as “keeping a hedgehog in their pocket”, what do you think I meant?

hedgehog

Well, the Welsh idiom “Mae e’n cadw draenog yn ei boced”, which literally translates as “he keeps a hedgehog in his pocket”, means that he is stingy or tight with his money [source].

There are many ways to say that someone is averse to spending money in English, including: frugal, miserly, thrifty, cheap, close-fisted, economical, ironfisted, mean, parsimonious, pennywise, tightfisted [source] or to have deep pockets and short arms.

Other ways to say someone is careful with their money in Welsh include:

  • crintach = mean, tight-fisted, miserly
  • crintachlyd = miserly, mean
  • cybyddlyd = miserly, covetous
  • cynnil = thrifty, frugal, sparing, economical, parsimonious
  • darbodol = provident, thrifty, provisional
  • darbodus = provident, thrifty, careful; heedful, considerate; wary, cautious, prudent, sagacious
  • diwastraff = without waste or extravagance, without expending needlessly or carelessly, thrifty, economical, effective; concise, laconic
  • fforddiol = sparing, economical, thrifty; cunning, deceitful
  • llawgaead = close-fisted, parsimonious, stingy, niggardly, miserly, mean
  • rhadus = gracious; generous; cheap, good value, economical, useful, thrifty

Sources: Geiriadur yr Academi, Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru

In French a miserly person is said to “avoir des oursins dans le porte-monnaie / la poche” (to have sea urchins in the wallet / purse / pocket) [source].

Do you know any other interesting idioms with a similar meaning?

You could say that I usually keep a hedgehog in my pocket (idiomatically, not literally), as I do tend to be careful with my money. At the moment I’m spending quite a bit on the studio that’s being built in my garden, and I can do this because I have savings I can dip into. The walls are now more or less finished and the roof will be installed this weekend. Parts for the roof include planks up to 6m long, with were quite a challenge to get through the house into the garden.

Studio / Stwdio

Greener Grass

According to The Phrase Finder, the phrase the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence:

expresses the idea that other people’s situations always seem better than one’s own. The proverb carries an implied warning that, in reality, the grass is equally green on one’s own side and that you should be satisfied with what you have.

Sheep in Gleann Cholm Cille

It’s earliest known appearance in print was apparently on 24th February 1917 in the Kansas Farmer – The Farm Paper of Kansas:

First example of the phrase the grass is always greener from the Kanas Farmer

A song written in 1924 by Raymond B. Egan and Richard A. Whiting was titled The Grass is Alway Greener (In The Other Fellow’s Yard).

Other versions of the phrase appeared before then. For example, in The New York Times in June 1853:

It bewitched your correspondent with a desire to see greener grass and set foot on fresher fields.

However, according the English Language & Usage, the ideas expressed by the phrase are a lot older than that. For example, in Ovid’s poem Ars Amatoria (The Art of Love) Book I Part IX, which was written in 2 AD, he says:

Fertilior seges est alienis semper in agris,
Vicinumque pecus grandius uber habet.

Translations of this include:

  • The crop of corn is always more fertile in the fields of other people;
    and the herds of our neighbours have their udders more distended. [source]
  • The seed’s often more fertile in foreign fields,
    and a neighbour’s herd always has richer milk. [source]
  • A larger crop adorns our neighbour’s field,
    More milk his kine from swelling udders yield. [source]

Here are versions of the expression in other languages [source].

French:

  • l’herbe est plus verte ailleurs
    the grass is greener elsewhere
  • l’herbe est (toujours) plus verte de l’autre côté de la montagne
    the grass is (always) greener on the other side of the mountain
  • l’herbe est toujours plus verte dans le pré du voisin
    the grass is always greener in a neighbour’s field
  • l’herbe est toujours plus verte chez le voisin
    the grass is always greener at the neighbour’s

Spanish:

  • el pasto siempre es más verde del otro lado
    the grass is always greener on the other side
  • la hierba parece más verde al otro lado de la valla
    the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence
  • la gallina de mi vecina más huevos pone que la mía
    my neighbor’s hen lays more eggs than mine
  • la gallina de mi vecina siempre es más gorda que la mía
    my neighbor’s hen is always fatter than mine

Portuguese:

  • a grama é sempre mais verde do outro lado
    the grass is always greener on the other side
  • a galinha da minha vizinha põe mais ovos que a minha
    my neighbor’s chicken lays more eggs than mine
  • a cabra da minha vizinha dá mais leite que a minha
    my neighbor’s goat gives more milk than mine

Welsh:

  • mae’r glaswellt yn lasach ar yr ochr arall bob tro
    the grass is always greener on the other side
  • man gwyn man draw
    white spot over there

Irish:

  • Is glas iad na cnoic i bhfad uainn
    The far away hills are green
  • Is milse gcónaí arian na gcomharsan
    The neighbour’s money is always sweet

Scottish Gaelic:

  • ‘S e miann na lacha an loch air nach bi i
    The duck prefers the loch where it isn’t

Korean:

  • 남의 떡이 더 커 보인다 (nam-ui tteog-i deo keo boinda)
    someone else’s cake looks bigger

Are there interesting equivalents of this phrase in other languages?

Bark, Ruffles and Beehives

The English word ruche [ɹuʃ] means a gathered ruffle or pleat of fabric used for trimming or decorating garments [source], or to flute, pleat or bunch up (fabric) [source].

ruffles

It comes from the French word ruche [ʁyʃ], which means a (bee)hive, ruffle or flounce, and comes from the Middle French rusche (beehive), from the Medieval Latin rusca (bark), from the Gaulish *ruskā, from the Proto-Celtic *rūskos (bark, beehive) [source], from the Proto-Indo-European h₃rewk- (to dig (up), till) [source].

ruches

Words from the same Proto-Celtic root include:

  • rusk [rysk/ʁysk] = bark, zest, beehive, bread pan;
    ruskenn = (bee)hive, apiary, frill, ruche (Breton)
  • rusc [rusk] = (bee)hive (Catalan)
  • rusk [ɾyːsk] = bark, peel (Cornish)
  • Reuse [ˈʁɔʏ̯zə] = fish trap, cage, shrimping net (German)
  • rúsc [ɾˠuːsˠk] = bark (of a tree); vessel made of bark (Irish)
  • roost [ruːst] = peel, bark, rind (Manx)
  • ruse [ˈrʉːsə] = fish trap (Norwegian)
  • rùsg [r̪ˠuːsɡ] = (tree) bark, peel, rind, husk, crust, fleece (Scottish Gaelic)
  • ryssja [rʏɧːa] = fish trap (Swedish)
  • rhisgl [ˈr̥ɪsɡl/ˈr̥ɪsɡɪl] = bark, rind, peel, husk (Welsh)

Sources: Grand Terrier Edition Skol Vreizh, TERMOFIS, catalandictionary.org, gerlyver kernewek, ReversoDictionary, teanglann.ie, On-Line Manx Dictionary, Bokmålsordboka | Nynorskordboka, Am Faclair Beag, Svenska Akademiens Ordböcker, Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru

Concerts and Beer

The Irish word ceolchoirm [ˈcʲolˠ.xorʲəmʲ] means concert. It is made up of ceol (music) and coirm [korʲəmʲ] (feast, banquet, ale, beer). There are similar words in Scottish Gaelic (cuirm-chiùil), and Manx (cuirrey kiaull) [source].

Ánuna

The word coirm comes from the Old Irish word coirm (ale, beer), from the Proto-Celtic *kurmi (beer). Words for beer in the Brythonic Celtic languages come from the same root: cwrw in Welsh, and korev in Cornish and Breton [source].

The Latin word cervēs(i)a [kerˈu̯eː.si.a], which means beer made of wheat, especially of higher quality, comes from the same Proto-Celtic root, as do words for beer in some Romance languages, including cervexa in Galician, cervesa in Catalan and Occitan, cerveza in Spanish and cerveja in Portuguese [source].

From the same Proto-Celtic root we get the French word cervoise [sɛʁ.vwaz], which was a kind of ale or beer made from barley or wheat and without hops during the Middle Ages [source]. The archaic Italian word cervogia [t͡ʃerˈvɔ.d͡ʒa] (beer, ale made from barley or oats) was borrowed from the Old French cervoise [source].

The usual French word for beer is bière [bjɛʁ], which was borrowed from the Middle Dutch bier/bēr (beer), from the Old Dutch *bier, from Frankish *bior (beer), from the Proto-Germanic *beuzą (beer) [source].

Beer samples

Words for beer is some Germanic languages come from the same root, including Bier in German, bier in Dutch, and beer in English [source].

The Italian word for beer, birra, was borrowed from the German Bier, and the Greek word μπίρα (bíra – beer, ale) was borrowed from Italian, as were words for beer in Arabic, بِيرَا‎ (bīrā), Maltese, birra, and Turkish, bira [source].

The Irish word beoir (beer) comes from the Middle Irish beóir (beer), from Old Norse bjórr (beer), which also has descendents in Scottish Gaelic (beòir), Manx (beer), Icelandic (bjór) and Faroese (bjór) [source].

Another word for beer or ale in North Germanic languages is øl (in Danish, Faroese, Norwegian) / öl (in Swedish and Icelandic). This comes from the Old Norse word ǫl (ale, beer), possibly from the Proto-Norse ᚨᛚᚢ (alu – ale), from the Proto-Germanic *alu (beer, ale), from Proto-Indo-European *h₂elut- (beer) [source].

Words for beer in Finnic languages possibly come from the same Proto-Germanic root, including õlu in Estonian, olut in Finnish, Igrian, Karelian and Veps, and oluq in Võro [source].

In Slavic languages words for beer come from the Proto-Slavic *pȋvo (drink, beer, beverage), including пиво (pivo) in Russian, Rusyn, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Macedonian and Serbian, pivo in Slovenian, Czech and Slovak, and piwo in Polish and Sorbian [source].

Here’s a map of words for beer in European languages:

A map of Europe showing words for beer

Source: https://ukdataexplorer.com/european-translator/?word=beer

Water Wagons

Sprinkling Wagon

In the French conversation group last night, one of the members mentioned that she has been on the wagon for two weeks, or in other words, she has stopped drinking alcohol. French equivalents of being on the wagon include:

  • s’abstenir de boire (de l’alcool) = to abstain from drinking (alcohol)
  • arrêter de boire = to stop drinking
  • être au régime sec = to be on a dry diet
  • être sobre = to be sobre
  • être clean = to be clean
  • être sur le wagon = to be on the wagon

If you fall of the wagon (go back to drinking), then you could say:

  • replonger (dans l’alcool) = to dive/plunge back (into alcohol)
  • se remettre / recommencer à boire = to start drinking again
  • rechuter = to relapse
  • tomber du wagon = to fall from the wagon
  • craquer = to snap, be unable to resist
  • dérailler = to derail, go off the rails, go off track
  • avoir la gorge en pente = to have a sloping throat

In English, the expression to be on the wagon usually means

“abstaining from drinking any alcoholic drink, usually in the sense of having given it up (as opposed to never having partaken); teetotal”

It can also means “Maintaining a program of self-improvement or abstinence from some other undesirable habit.” (such as smoking).

It was apparently coined in the USA and was originally ‘on the water-cart’, and became ‘on the water-wagon’ the ‘on the wagon’. It referred to carts (like the one pictured above) that were used to hose down dusty roads. The idea was that someone who was ‘on the wagon’ was drinking water rather than alcoholic drinks.

It was possibly first used by the temperance movement, which emerged in the 19th century in organisations such as the Washingtonian movement (founded in 1840), The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (founded in 1874) and The Anti-Saloon League (founded in 1893).

Sources: ReversoDictionary, Wiktionary, The Phrase Finder, Wikipedia

I have been on the wagon (teetotal) since 2002, and didn’t drink much alcohol before then anyway.

How do you talk about being ‘on the wagon’ or ‘falling off the wagon’ in other languages?

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.

Funny Grips

One of the Dutch words I learnt recently is grappig [ˈɣrɑ.pəx], which means funny or amusing. It comes from grap [ɣrɑp] (a joke or prank), and is related to grijpen [ˈɣrɛi̯pə(n)] (to grap, seize, intervene), which comes from the Middle Dutch gripen (to grab, attack, overwhelm, understand), from the Old Dutch grīpan (to seize, grasp), from the Proto-West Germanic *grīpan (to grab, to grasp), from the Proto-Germanic *grīpaną (to grab, grasp), from the Proto-Indo-European *gʰreyb- (to grab, grasp) [source].

The Hague Street Art in Het Achterom.

The English words grip and gripe come from the same Proto-Germanic root, as do words such as the German greifen (to grab, grasp, grip, seize, snatch, reach), the Danish gribe (to catch, seize, grab, grasp, grip), the Swedish gripa (to catch hold of, seize, detain), and the French griffer (to scratch) and gripper (to grab, grasp) [source].

Some related words and expressions include:

  • grapje = joke, kidding, joking
  • grappigheid = humour, funniness, comicality, liveliness, succulence
  • grappenmaker = joker, prankster, funny man, comic
  • grappen maken = to joke, make jokes, make fun

Do you know any good Dutch jokes?

Do you find jokes in languages you’re learning / have learnt funny? If you do, that is a sign that you really understand a language well.