Essuie-tout

Essuie-tout [e.sɥi.tu] is what you might call paper towels in French. It literally means “wipe-all”, and comes from essuyer (to wipe, wipe down, soak up) and tout (whole, entirely, total, all) [source].

kitchen roll

Essuyer comes from the Old French essuier (to wipe), from the Latin exsūcāre from exsūcō (I juice, I dry), from ex- (out, away) and sūcus (juice, moisture) [source].

Such towels are also known as sopalin [sɔ.pa.lɛ̃] in French, which is a genericized trademark that was first registered in 1948 by the Société du papier linge (Linen Paper Company) and comes from the first syllables of the company name [source].

In English they are also known as kitchen towels, kitchen roll or kitchen paper. There may be other names for them as well. What do you call them?

Essuie also appears in essuie-glace (windscreen wiper), and essuie-mains (hand towel). Related words include; essuyer (to wipe, rub away, swab, suffer, experience), s’essuyer (to dry o.s.), ressuyer (to dry, dry out) [source].

You can essuyer une défaite (suffer a defeat), essuyer une rebuffade (suffer a rebuff), essuyer le feu (come under a fire), essuyer un refus (get a refusal), essuyer un revers (suffer a setback) or even essuyer la vaisselle (dry the dishes) [source].

Dahu Hunting

If someone sent you to hunt for a dahu, would you go?

Dahu

In French the expression chasse au dahu (dahu hunt) is one equivalent of a wild goose chase, that is “a wild or absurd search for something nonexistent or unobtainable; any senseless pursuit of an object or end; a hopeless enterprise” [source].

The dahu [da.y], or dahut, is an imaginary creature that lives in mountainous areas of France and Switzerland. According to legend, the dahu looks a bit like a mountain goat or a chamois, and has legs shorter on one side than the other. This makes it easier for it to stay upright on step mountain sloops, but also means that it can only go around the mountain in one direction.

There are two varieties of dahu: the dahu lévogyre [da.y le.vo.ʒiʁ] or laevogyrous dahu, which has shorter legs on the left side, so goes around mountains in an anti-clockwise direction, and the dahu dextrogyre [da.y dɛks.tʁo.ʒiʁ] or dextrogyre dahu, which has shorter legs on the right side, and goes around mountains in the opposite direction. In some stories the dextrogyre dahu are the males and the laevogyrous dahu are the females.

If you want to catch a dahu there are apparently several methods. One involves two people, one with a big bag who waits at the bottom of a mountain, while the other sneaks up behind a dahu and makes a dahu-like sound. The dahu will turn around when it hears the sound, loose its balance and roll down the hill to be caught in the bag. Another method involves putting some pepper on a stone on the mountain. The when a dahu comes to see what’s on the stone, it sniffs the pepper, sneezes and knocks itself out on the stone. A dahu hunt is best undertaken at night and between November to February.

Dahu hunting became popular in mountainous parts of eastern France in the late 19th century, when tourists from urban areas with little knowledge of the countryside started visiting the mountains in large numbers. Local mountain guides would convince some of these guillable visitors to go hunting dahu, and tell them that to catch a rare and precious dahu, they would have to hide themselves on a mountain slope all night.

In Scotland the wild haggis (Haggis scoticus) is sometimes hunted, though rarely caught, and according to American folklore, the sidehill gouger is a beast somewhat like a dahu with legs shorter on one side than the other that lives in the hills of Wisconsin. Such creatures are also known as Sidehill Dodger, Sidehill Galoot, Wampus, Wampahoofus, Boofum, Hunkus, Rickaboo Racker, Prock, Gwinter or Cutter Cuss [source].

The expression wild goose chase first appeared in writing in 1593 in a book about horsemanship by Gervase Markham, an English poet. He describes a type of horse race in which riders try to follow a lead horse taking an erratic course, a bit like wild geese following their leader when flying.

Are there interesting equivalents of a dahu hunt or wild goose chase in other languages?

More information about the Dahu
https://mythus.fandom.com/wiki/Dahu
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/dahu
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dahu
https://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/dahu
https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dahu

Antidry

Recently I came across the French word antisèche [ɑ̃.ti.sɛʃ]. At first glance I would guess that it meant something like “anti-dry”, so maybe it’s a moisturiser or something similar that prevents dryness.

While that would be an accurate literal translation – it comes from anti- and sécher (to dry) – what it actually means is a cheat sheet or crib sheet. That is, a sheet of paper used to assist on a test [source].

antiseche

As well as meaning to dry, sécher also means to skip or miss (class), to dry out, to wither, to dry up or to be stumped. So an antisèche is something that prevents you from being stumped or drying up when asked difficult questions [source].

I have a number of antisèches, or maybe they’re more feuilles de référence, that summerise grammatical information for Irish and Russian. They’re very handy when I’m trying to write anything in these languages. You can find a variety of these for languages and other subjects on Amazon.

Are there interesting names for such things in other languages?

Babyfoot

Apparently the game pictured below is known as babyfoot in French. Which is kind of cute.

Table soccer game

According to the Belgian magazine, Le Soir illustré, the French inventor Lucien Rosengart (1881–1976) came up with the game of table football in the 1930s when he was looking for things to keep his grandchildren entertained during the cold winter months. He called the game “baby foot”.

The name babyfoot, which is also written baby-foot is used in France, Canada and Switzerland. It is also known as football sur table or football de table in Canada, as kicker in Belgium, foot-foot in Switzerland, and football de table in France.

I would call it table football, which is the usual name for this game in the UK, and was patented by Harold Searles Thornton in 1921.

It was brought to the the USA in the 1950s by Lawrence Patterson, and it is called foosball [ˈfuːzbɔːl], which comes from the German name tischfußball (table football).

In German it is known as Tischfußball (table football), Tischkicker (table kicker) or Kicker.

What do you call it?

Do you know any interesting names for this game in other languages?

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Table_football
https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby-foot
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/TischfußFball

Good Pickaxes

In French when you make a good guess or choice, you are said to be making une bonne pioche or literally “a good pickaxe” [source].

Claes Oldenburg

The word pioche [pjɔʃ] means pickaxe, and also a stock or pile of undealt cards in a card game, and chance or luck. It comes from pic (woodpecker, pick), from the Vulgar Latin *piccus (sharp point, peak, spike, pike), from the Latin pīcus (woodpecker, griffin), from the Proto-Italic *pikos, from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)peyk- (woodpecker; magpie), or from the Vulgar Latin *pīcca (pickaxe, pike), possibly from the Frankish *pikkōn (to peck, strike), from the Proto-Germanic *pikkōną (to pick, peck) [source].

Here are some examples of how pioche and related words are used:

  • faire une mauvaise pioche = to pick the wrong card
  • manche de pioche = pickaxe handle
  • pioche de jardinage = garden hoe
  • piocher = to dig up, to take from the pile, to take a card
  • piocher dans = to dip into
  • piocher pour qch = to cram for sth

Are there any interesting equivalents of this phrase in other languages, or any pickaxe-related phrases?

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.

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].

Fiery Lakes

The French idiom Il n’y a pas le feu au lac [il n‿j‿a pa l(ə) fø o lak], or literally “There’s no fire on the lake”, is used when there is no hurry to do something. It could be translated as “What’s the big hurry?”, “What’s the rush?” or “Where’s the fire?”.

Fire Fountains

It has been used since the mid-20th century and apparently refers to Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) in Switzerland and the inability of Swiss people to hurry even in an emergency. It is also sarcastic in suggesting that water might be on fire [source].

Variations on this idiom, and phrases with similar meanings, include:

  • Il n’y a pas le feu = There’s no fire (on the lake)
  • Ya pas l’feu = There’s no fire (informal pronunciation)
  • Il n’y a pas de quoi paniquer = There’s no reason to panic
  • Il n’y a pas de quoi fouetter un chat = That’s not a reason to whip a cat
  • Rien ne presse = There’s no hurry, there’s no need to hurry
  • Ça ne presse pas = There’s no hurry / rush

Are there any interesting idioms in other languages involving fiery lakes?

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?