A Little Alliteration

I like a little alliteration, don’t you?

A Little Allteration

Alliteration is “The repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of two or more words immediately succeeding each other, or at short intervals.” [source]. As in the sentence above. It comes from Modern/New Latin alliterationem, from alliterare (to begin with the same letter), from Latin ad (to, near) and lītera (letter, script) [source].

Other names for this include consonance (the repetition of consonants sounds) [source] and head rhyme. If similar or indentical vowel sounds are being repeated, as in “How now, brown cow?”, it’s called assonance [source] or slant rhyme.

Other kinds of rhymes include:

  • syllabic rhyme: the last syllable of each word sounds the same but does not necessarily contain stressed vowels. E.g. cleaver, silver; pitter, patter.
  • imperfect (or near) rhyme: a rhyme between a stressed and an unstressed syllable. E.g. wing, caring
  • weak (or unaccented) rhyme: a rhyme between two sets of one or more unstressed syllables. E.g. hammer, carpenter
  • semirhyme: a rhyme with an extra syllable on one word. E.g. bend, ending
  • forced (or oblique) rhyme: a rhyme with an imperfect match in sound. E.g. green and fiend; one, thumb)
  • pararhyme: all consonants match. E.g. tick, tock; bing, bong

Other types of rhyme, and other ways of classifying rhymes are available [More details].

I use a variety of rhymes in the songs I write. For example, my latest song was inspired by a phrase from the Irish course in Duolingo “Léann na lachan na nuachtán.” (The ducks read the newspaper). I made a more alliterative version: “Tá lacha ag léamh leabhar sa leabhrlann le leon agus luch.” (A duck is reading a book in the library with a lion and a mouse). The English version is only slightly alliterative, and that’s what often happens with translations, and why songs and poems are difficult to translate.

Here are the words of the song. Parts are quite alliterative, in Irish at least.

Eachtraí na Lacha (The Duck’s Adventures)

Tá an lacha ag léamh sa leabharlann
The duck is reading in the library
Tá an lacha ag léamh sa leabharlann
le leon agus luch (with a lion and a mouse)

Tá an lacha ag siúl go Sligeach
The duck is walking to Sligo
Tá an lacha ag siúl go Sligeach
ag lorg lámhainní (looking for gloves)

Tá an lacha ag canadh amhrán
The duck is singing a song
Tá an lacha ag canadh amhrán
faoi sionach an-sionnachúil (about a very cunning fox)

Tá an lacha ag labhairt Laidin
The duck is speaking Latin
Tá an lacha ag labhairt Laidin
lena lucht leanúna (with its supporters)

Tá an lacha ina coladh ina leabaidh
The duck is sleeping in its bed
Tá an lacha ina coladh ina leabaidh
Agus sin deireadh an scéil
And that’s the end of the tale
Agus sin deireadh an scéil

Here’s a rough recording:

I’ve been thinking of making it trilingual in Irish, English and Welsh, but haven’t got round to it yet.

Here’s an alliterative phrase I came up with that seems to translate well into a variety of languages:

  • English: Singers sing songs
  • Albanian: Këngëtarët këndojnë këngë
  • Armenian: Երգիչները երգեր են երգում (Yergich’nery yerger yen yergum)
  • Aymara: Q’uchunakax q’uchunak q’uchupxi
  • Bengali: গায়কেরা গান গায় (Gāẏakērā gāna gāẏa)
  • Bulgarian: Певците пеят песни (Pevtsite peyat pesni)
  • Catalan: Els cantants canten cançons
  • Corsican: I cantanti cantanu canti
  • Croatian: Pjevači pjevaju pjesme
  • Danish: Sangere synger sange
  • Dhivehi (Maldivian): (lavakiyuntherin lavakiyaeve) ލަވަކިޔުންތެރިން ލަވަކިޔައެވެ
  • Esperanto: Kantistoj kantas kantojn
  • Estonian: Lauljad laulavad laule
  • Finnish: Laulajat laulavat lauluja
  • French: Les chanteurs chantent des chansons
  • Galician: Os cantantes cantan cancións
  • Greek: Οι τραγουδιστές τραγουδούν τραγούδια (Oi tragoudistés tragoudoún tragoúdia)
  • Haitian Creole: Chantè chante chante
  • Hindi: गायक गीत गाते हैं (gaayak geet gaate hain)
  • Lingala: Bayembi bayembaka banzembo
  • Mongolian: Дуучид дуу дуулдаг (Duuchid duu duuldag)
  • Romanian: Cântăreții cântă cântece
  • Russian: Певцы поют песни (Pevtsy poyut pesni)
  • Swedish: Sångare sjunger sånger
  • Turkish: Şarkıcılar şarkılar söylüyor
  • Welsh: Cantorion yn canu caneuon

Translations by Google Translate. More are available

It’s unusual to find a phrase like this that has alliterative translations into so many different languages.

Are there other kinds of rhymes that you like / use / know?

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Buckling Swashes

Have you a swashed any buckles or buckled any swashes recently? Do you known the differences between a pirate, a privateer and a buccaneer? What about a freebooter or a corsair?

Pirate Ship, Key West, Florida.

A swashbuckler is a swordsman or fencer who engages in showy or extravagant swordplay, a daring adventurer or a kind of period adventure story with flashy action and a lighthearted tone [source].

A swashbuckler likes to swashbuckle, that is, take part in exciting romantic adventures [source].

Swash as a noun has a variety of meanings, including:

  • The water that washes up on shore after an incoming wave has broken.
  • A narrow sound or channel of water lying within a sand bank, or between a sand bank and the shore, or a bar over which the sea washes.
  • A wet splashing sound.
  • A smooth stroke; a swish.
  • A swishing noise.
  • A long, protruding ornamental line or pen stroke found in some typefaces and styles of calligraphy.
  • A streak or patch.

As a verb, to swash means:

  • To swagger; to act with boldness or bluster (toward).
  • To dash or flow noisily; to splash.
  • To swirl through liquid; to swish.
  • To wade forcefully through liquid.
  • To swipe.
  • To fall violently or noisily.
  • To streak, to color in a swash. [source].

Swash also appears in swash letter (an italic capital letter with top and bottom flourishes, intended to fill an unsightly gap.) [source]; and swish-swash (a repeated swishing action or sound, going back and forth) [source].

Sword & Buckler

A buckler is “a kind of shield, of various shapes and sizes, held in the hand or worn on the arm (usually the left), for protecting the front of the body. In the Middle Ages in England, the buckler was a small shield, used not to cover the body but to stop or parry blows.” [source].

A pirate is “a criminal who plunders at sea; commonly attacking merchant vessels, though often pillaging port towns.” It comes from Old French pirate (pirate), from Latin pīrāta (pirate), from Ancient Greek πειρατής (peiratḗs – brigand, robber), from πεῖρα (peîra – trial, attempt, plot). It replaced the Old English word wīċing, which could refer to a pirate or a viking [source], although vikings were more commonly called Norþmenn (north people), hǣþene (pagans) or Dene (Danes) [source].

A privateer was historically a privately owned warship that acted under a letter of marque to attack enemy merchant ships and take possession of their cargo. An officer or any other member of the crew of such a ship, or in other words, a government-sanctioned pirate [source].

Buccaneer is another word for pirate, and specifically refers to pirates who preyed on the ships of other nations on the Spanish Main and in the Pacific in the 17th century. It comes from French boucanier (buccaneer), from boucaner (to smoke or broil meat and fish, to hunt wild beasts for their skins), from boucan ([Tupi-style] grill), from Old Tupi m(b)oka’ẽ (wooden grill) [source].

A freebooter refers to an adventurer who pillages, plunders or wages ad-hoc war on other nations. It comes from Dutch vrijbuiter (freebooter, pirate), from vrijbuit (plunder, spoils) [source]. The old word flibustier (a French pirate in the Americas) comes from the same roots [source], as does filibuster [source].

Incidentally, the Dutch word buit (spoil, booty, loot, prey, gains), and the English word booty, might ultimately come from the Proto-Celtic word *boudi (victory, booty, spoils), as does the name Boudica [source].

Saint-Malo corsair ship

A corsair refers specifically to French privateers, especially from the port of Saint-Malo, and the ships they sail. It can also refer to privateers and pirates in general.

It comes from French corsaire (privateer, corsair, pirate), from Italian corsaro (privateer, corsair, pirate), from Medieval Latin cursārius (pirate, sea-raider), from Latin cursus (course, running, race, way, passage, journey, voyage) [source].

Are there any other words for pirate that I’ve missed?

For more seafaring-related words, see this podcast, which inspired this post:

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Chocolate Peanuts

What’s the connection between chocolate and peanuts?

Nestle Goobers

Well, peanuts covered with chocolate taste good, and they are both native to the Americas, but apart from that, a French word for peanut, cacahuète [ka.ka.ɥɛt / ka.ka.wɛt], was borrowed from Spanish cacahuate / cacahuete [ka.kaˈwa.t̪e / kakaˈwete] (peanut), which comes from the Classical Nahuatl cacahuatl (cocoa bean), from Proto-Nahuan *kakawatl, from Proto-Mixe-Zoque *kakawa (cacao) [source]. This is also the root of words for cacao, the main ingredient in chocolate (at least good chocolate), in many languages [source].

In Spanish, cacahuate is used in Honduras and Mexico, while cacahuete is used in Spain and El Salvador. Another word for peanut in Spanish is maní, which is used in most other Spanish-speaking countries. It was borrowed from Taíno [source].

The origins of the word chocolate are not entirely clear. The English word was borrowed from the Spanish chocolate, and it’s thought that the Spanish word came from Classical Nahuatl. Possibly from *xocolātl (to make sour) and ātl (water), or from a combination of the Yucatec Maya word chocol (hot) and the Classical Nahuatl ātl (water) [source].

Other English words that come from Classical Nahuatl include avocado, chia, chili, guacamole, haricot and tomato, as well as names such as Aztec, Guatemala and Mexico [source].

Incidentally, in the southern USA peanuts are/were known as goobers, and this word used to refer to people from Georgia and North Carolina, and to foolish, simple or amusingly silly people. Goober comes from Gullah, from the Kongo word ngubá (peanut) [source].

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Surfing the Mountains

Did you know that you can surf on the mountains in Switzerland?

A Swiss friend of mine spends his winters teaching skiing and snowboarding in Switzerland, and the rest of the time he lives here in Bangor in north Wales. When talking about teaching snowboarding in French, he says “j’enseigne le surf (“I teach the surf / surfing”), which confuses me a bit, even though I know what he means. Is this a common way to refer to snowboarding in Swiss French, or French in general?

snowboard

According to Wikipedia, French words for snowboard(ing) include snowboard, surf des neiges, plance à/de neige, and snowboarders are nivoplanchistes or snowboardeurs in France, and planchistes in Quebec.

Apparently the first snowboards were developed in 1965 when Sherman Poppen, an engineer in Muskegon, Michigan, invented a toy for his daughters by fastening two skis together. He called this invention the snurfer (a combination of snow and surfer).

Other names that have been used for snowboards include Skiboard and the the Lonnie Toft flying banana. The name snowboard was possibly first used by Jake Burton Carpenter, who founded a company to make them in Londonderry, Vermont in 1977.

What are snowboards and snowboarding called in other languages?

Are you a snowboarder or skier?

I’ve never tried either. I used to do a lot of inline skating in Brighton, but since I moved to Bangor, I’ve kind of given up due to the lack of suitable places round here to skate. I used to go ice skating occasionally as well, but the last time I did that, I broke my ankle and decided to give that up too.

Incidentally, to surf (on water) is faire du surf in French, and to surf (the internet) is surfer sur Internet [source].

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Ruffled Rifles

The words rifle and ruffle sound similar, but are they related? Let’s find out.

A rifle is a firearm fired from the shoulder with a long, rifled barrel, which increases range and improves accuracy. It is short for “rifled gun”, referring to the spiral grooves inside the barrel (rifling).

Rifles

It comes from Middle English riflen (to rob, plunder, search through), from Old French rifler (to lightly scratch, scrape off, plunder), from Proto-Germanic *rīfaną (to tear, rend), from Proto-Indo-European *h₁reyp- (to tear) [source].

A ruffle is any gathered or curled strip of fabric added as trim or decoration; or a disturbance, agitation or commotion.

Ruffly Stuff

It comes from Middle English ruffelen, perhaps from Old Norse hrufla (to graze, scratch), or Middle Low German ruffelen (to wrinkle, curl). Beyond that, the etymology is not certain [source].

So it seems that rifle and ruffle are not related.

Words that do come from the same roots as rifle include rift, rip and rope in English; rive (bank [of a river]) in French, and arriba (above, over, up) in Spanish [source].

Words that do come from the same roots as ruffle include ruff in English, and hrufla (to graze, scratch) in Icelandic [source].

The English word riffle (a swift, shallow part of a stream causing broken water; a succession of small waves; a quick skim through the pages of a book; to ruffle with a rippling action, etc) is possibly an alteration of ruffle [source].

Riffles

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Sabhal Mòr Ostaig

Oban / An t-Òban
A sunny morning in Oban / Madainn ghrianach anns an Oban

The trip from Oban to Skye went smoothly, and I bumped into a couple on the bus who I met at SMO last year. There were several other SMO-bound people on the bus, but I didn’t know them at the time. We arrived safely at Broadford on Sunday afternoon, and got a lift to the college from there. Along the way, there was sunshine, lots of rain and some high winds, and the views from the bus were beautiful.

Tyndrum / Taigh an Droma
Changing buses in Tyndrum / Ag atharrachadh bhusaichean ann an Taigh an Droma

So far, the Gaelic song course has been a lot of fun. There are eleven of us in the class from Scotland, England, Ireland, Switzerland and Germany. Some are here for the first time, others have been here before. Most speak at least some Gaelic, and there’s one native speaker. For me, it’s my 10th time here doing Gaelic song courses, and the 7th course I’ve done with Christine Primrose – the other song courses were with Joy Dunlop, Margaret Stewart and Mary Ann Kennedy.

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig
Àrainn Chaluim Chille – the newer part of the college / Am pàirt as ùire den cholaiste

We learnt five songs on Monday, eleven yesterday, and another four today. Some of them I already know, or have at least heard before, which makes it easier to pick them up. Others are a bit more challenging with lots of verses, and complex melodies that change with every verse to fit to the words. Everything is taught by ear, and Christine likes to tell stories about the songs, the people who wrote them, and how life was at the time they were written. A lot of the songs are relatively old – from the 17th or 18th centuries, and have been passed on orally since then.

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig
Àrainn Ostaig – the older part of the college / am pàirt as sine den cholaiste

On Monday night there was a pub quiz, which was good fun. The team I was in didn’t win, but we were only one point behind the winning team.

The people who study here and work here come from many different places and speak a variety of languages. I try to speak as much Scottish Gaelic as I can while I’m here – that’s one of the reasons why I come here – and I’ve also had conversations in French, Irish and Mandarin Chinese, and spoken odd bits of Welsh, German, Portuguese, Japanese, and even a bit of English.

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig
The views from here are quite nice / Tha na seallaidhean às an seo gu math snog

Last night there was a concert featuring Eilidh Shaw and Ross Martin, a husband and wife duo – he plays the guitar, and she sings and plays the fiddle. They write interesting songs and lively tunes in a traditional Scottish style and sounded great. It was also a nice way to celebrate my birthday.

We have a bit of time off today, and there’s a music session in the bar tonight. I was planning to go for a walk, but it’s raining quite a lot, so I’m spending my free afternoon relaxing in my room, learning a bit more Gaelic, writing nonsense like this, and reading.

Giving Up

I have some news – I’ve had enough of learning languages and am giving up, throwing in the towel, putting the fiddle in the roof, throwing a spoon, and throwing the axe in the lake.

Giving up

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I like speaking other languages, at least sometimes, but the process of learning them can be a bit tedious. I already speak some languages reasonably well and don’t currently need to learn any more, so maybe my time would be better spent doing other things.

My other main passion is music – I like to sing, to play instruments, and to write songs and tunes. I’ll be spending more time doing this, and will maybe even focus on one instrument, at least for a while, and learn to play it better.

The question is, which instrument? I have a house full of them, including a piano, harps, guitars, ukuleles, recorders, whistles, ocarinas, harmonicas, melodicas, a mandolin, a bodhrán and a cavaquinho.

The instrument I play most often at the moment is the mandolin, so maybe I should focus on that.

If you’ve noticed the date, you may realise that this post is in fact an April Fool. I’m not giving up on learning languages, and actually do enjoy the process, most of the time, and while I do want to improve my mandolin playing, I also want to improve my playing of other instruments.

Incidentally, let’s look at some ways to say that you’re giving up.

In English you might say you quit, you’re calling it a day, you’re calling it quits you’re throwing in the towel or the sponge or the cards, or you’re throwing up your hands.

Equivalent phrases in other languages include:

  • hodit flintu do žita = to throw a flint into the rye (Czech)
  • jeter le manche après la cognée = to throw the handle after the axe (French)
  • leggja árar í bát = to put oars in a boat (Icelandic)
  • do hata a chaitheamh leis = to throw your hat in (Irish)
  • gettare le armi = to throw away your weapons (Italian)
  • 匙を投げる (saji o nageru) = to throw a spoon (Japanese)
  • подня́ть бе́лый флаг (podnjat’ belyj flag) = to raise the white flag (Russian)
  • leig an saoghal leis an t-sruth = to let the world flow (Scottish Gaelic)
  • baciti pušku u šaš = to throw a gun into the sedge (Serbian)
  • kasta yxan i sjön = to throw the axe into the lake (Swedish)
  • rhoi’r ffidl yn y to = to put the fiddle in the roof (Welsh)

More details of these phrases can be found on Wiktionary.

Do you have any others?

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Whimperatives

When you ask someone to do something for you, but in an indirect kind of way, or in other words, you phrase an order or imperative obliquely as a question, this is apparently called a whimperative. For example, you might say “Would you mind closing the window?”, rather than the more direct “Please, close the window” or “Close the window!”. Or you might say “Why don’t you be quiet?” instead of “Be quiet” [source].

Do Not Discard It In The Void

This word was coined by Jerrold Sadock, a professor of Linguistics at the University of Chicago, in an essay he wrote in 1970. It’s a blend of whimper and imperative. Another term for a whimperative is interrogative directive [source].

A whimper is a low intermittent sob, and to whimper means to cry or sob softly and intermittently, to cry with a low, whining, broken voice, to whine, to complain, or to say something in a whimpering manner [source].

It is probably of imitative origin, or may by related to wimmern (to whimper, moan) in German. The words wimp and wimpy possibly come from whimper, and were likely influenced by the charcter J. Wellington Wimpy in the Popeye comics [source].

Always Tuesday - Bijou Planks 81/365

The word imperative (essential, crucial, expressing a command) comes from the Latin word imperātīvus (of or proceeding from a command, commanded), from imperō (to comand, give orders to, demand, rule, govern), from in- (in) and parō (to arrange, order, resolve) [source].

Words from the same roots include pare (to cut away the outer layer from something, especially a fruit or a vegetable) in English, parer (to adorn, bedeck, fend off) in French, parer (to stop, halt, put up, lift, stand up) in Spanish and paratoi (to prepare) in Welsh [source].

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Clinking Hardware

Yesterday I discovered that a hardware store in French is a quincaillerie [kɛ̃.kaj.ʁi]. This word can also refer to hardware, ironmongery or junk, or in French, une ensemble hétéroclite de choses inutiles (a motley collection of useless things) [source]

Quincaillerie

Quincaillerie comes from quincaille (hardware, utensils) a variant of clincaille [klɛ̃.kaj], which is related to clinquant [klɛ̃.kɑ̃] (flashy, kitsch, pretentious), from clinquer [klɛ̃.ke] (to rattle, make a metalic noise), which comes from the onomatopeic word clic (click).

Similar words exist in Spanish: quincallería (hardware store) and quincalla (low-value hardware, junk). They were borrowed from French [more details].

Incidentally, the word clinquant [ˈklɪŋkənt] also exists in English, and was borrowed from French, which was possibly borrowed from Dutch klinken (to sound, ring, clink), As an adjective it means glittery, gleaming, sparkling, dressed in, or overlaid with, tinsel finery, and as a noun it means Dutch metal, tinsel or glitter [source].

Computer / IT hardware is matérial (informatique) or hardware in French [source] and computer software is logiciel [source].

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Overflowing Vases

The French equivalent of the saying “the straw that broke the camel’s back” or “the last / final straw” is la goutte d’eau qui fait déborder le vase (the drop of water that makes the vase overflow). Which makes as much a sense, and no animals are harmed.

La goutte d'eau qui fait déborder le vase. it's the straw that breaks the camel's back

These sayings mean “The final additional small burden that makes the entirety of one’s difficulties unbearable.” The earliest known version in English appears in a debate between Thomas Hobbes and John Bramhall in 1677: ‘the last Feather may be said to break a Horses Back’.

It is thought to be based on the Arabic proverb: اَلْقَشَّة اَلَّتِي قَصَمَت ظَهْر اَلْبِعِير⁩ (al-qašša allatī qaṣamat ẓahr al-biʕīr), or “The straw that broke the camel’s back”.

Other versions in English include:

  • It is the last straw that overloads the camel (1799)
  • It was the last ounce that broke the back of the camel (1832)
  • The last straw will break the camel’s back (1836)
  • As the last straw breaks the laden camel’s back (1848)
  • This final feather broke the camel’s back (1876)
  • The straw that broke the donkey’s back
  • The last peppercorn breaks the camel’s back
  • The melon that broke the monkey’s back
  • The feather that broke the camel’s back
  • The straw that broke the horse’s back
  • The hair that broke the camel’s back
  • The last ounce broke the camel’s back

There is also “the last drop makes the cup run over”, and variations on that theme in English.

Versions in quite a few other languages also refer to overflowing cups or other vessels, for example:

  • German: der Tropfen, der das Fass zum Überlaufen bringt.
    the drop that makes the barrel overflow
  • Italian: la goccia che fa traboccare il vaso
    the drop of water that makes the glass overflow
  • Russian: ка́пля, перепо́лнившая ча́шу (káplja, perepólnivšaja čášu)
    the drop that made the bowl overflow
  • Turkish: bardağı taşıran son damla
    the last drop that makes the glass overflow

There are, however, quite different versions in some languages:

  • Scottish Gaelic: théid capall don choille ach brisidh aon uallach a chridhe
    the colt will go to the forest, but one burden will break his heart
  • Welsh: pennog gyda phwn dyrr asgwrn cefn ceffyl
    adding a herring to a load break’s a horse’s backbone (not sure of this translation)

Are there interesting equivalents of this saying in other languages?

Sources: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/the_straw_that_broke_the_camel%27s_back#English
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_that_broke_the_camel%27s_back
https://geiriaduracademi.org/
https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/the-last-straw.html

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