Endearing Bids

An interesting French word I learnt yesterday was enchère [ɑ̃.ʃɛʁ], which means a bid in an auction or sale, or in bridge (the card game) [source].

Enchère comes from enchérir, which means to make more expensive, to bid; to outbid, to make a bid (at auction); to go up (in price), to become more expensive.

Enchérir comes from cher (dear, dearly) plus a couple of affixes [source].

Cher means dear both in the sense of expensive, and in the sense of beloved, and dearly, as in payer cher (to pay dearly). It is also used to start letters.

Related words and expressions include:

  • faire une enchère = to (make a) bid
  • mettre aux enchères = to put up for auction
  • vente aux enchères = auction
  • enchère publique = public auction
  • renchérir sur = to add something to, to become more expensive
  • surenchéir = to outbid, to bid higher, to raise one’s bid, to try and outbid each other
  • enchérisseur, enchérisseuse = bidder
  • enchérissement = rise in cost, price surcharge

Encheres Voxan 100505 188

If you translate enchérir literally into English, you get to endear, which means to attach, attract, bind, captivate, charm, engage, win. Back in the 16th century, however, it meant to make (something) more precious or valuable, and then it came to mean to make (something) more expensive; to increase the cost of, or to stress (something) as important; to exaggerate [source].

The English word bid comes from the Middle English bidden (to ask, beseech, demand, comand), from the Old English biddan (to ask, demand), from the Proto-Germanic *bidjaną (to ask), from the Proto-Indo-European *gʷʰedʰ- (to request, pray, ask for) [source], which is also the root of the Welsh words gwaedd (to shout, cry), gweiddi (prayer) and gweiddïo (to pray).

Auction comes from the Latin auctiō (an increase, auction), from augere (to increase) [source]

Grockles and Emmets

In Devon, and other parts of the UK, visitors, holidaymakers and recent migrants are sometimes referred to as grockles, and in Cornwall they’re known as emmets. These words tend to be mildly derogatory, and partly affectionate.

A friend asked me about the origins of these words, and whether there are equivalents in French, so I thought I’d look into it.

Grockle apparently comes from a cartoon strip about a boy called Jimmy and his pet grockle (a dragon-like creature), which first appeared as Jimmy Johnson’s Grockle in The Rover comic in the 1932, then as Jimmy and his Grockle in the The Dandy in 1937 then as My Grockle and Me in Sparky in 1966.

Jimmy and his Grockle

One story is that Arthur Rivers, who ran the boating-lake at Goodrington in the 1950s, started using the term, which he got from The Dandy. His assistant, Freddie Fly, told Peter Draper, the scriptwriter for The System about it while working at a bar in Torquay.

Another story is that a local man started using grockle to refer to an elderly lady who regularly swan at the swimming pool where he was working one summer. Then other summer workers began to refer to visitors as grockles.

It was popularised by its use in the 1964 film The System, which is set in Torquay in Devon. This is an example of how the word is used in the film:

Most holidaymakers are grockles. But the real ones you can spot a mile off. Usually they wear shorts, woollen socks and black leather shoes, with their shirt undone all the way down the front so you can see the full extent of their manly chests.

Related words include:

  • grockle art = pictures for selling to grockles
  • grockle bait = cheap arcades or souvenirs
  • grockle box / grockle shell = caravan
  • grockle coop = hotel
  • grockle can = a tourist bus
  • grockle catcher = an easy to reach beach or beauty spot which acts to stop tourists finding other local spots
  • grockle fodder = fish and chips
  • grockle nest = a holiday home, second home or campsite
  • grockle-ridden = full of grockles

In Cornwall the equivalent is emmet (tourist, ant), from the Middle English emete / ampte (ant), from the Old English word æmette (ant), from the Proto-Germanic ēmaitijǭ (ant), from *maitijǭ (cutter, slicer, biter) [source].

A favourite destination in Cornwall for emmets is apparently Porthemmet (which may or may not exist).

Possible equivalents in French include:

  • excursionniste = (day) tripper
  • estivant = summer visitor
  • Juillettiste = July visiter
  • aoûtien = August visiter
  • villégiateur = vacationer

Are any of these derogatory?

Are there similar words in other languages?

Weymouth Beach

Sources: Wiktionary, Lexico, Wiktionary, UK Comics Wiki, We Are South Devon

Job Tracks

In English you might talk about career paths, meaning “the way that you progress in your work, either in one job or in a series of jobs” [source].

In Dutch there is one word – baan [baːn] – that means both job and path. So you might think that a career path in Dutch would be a baanbaan, but it is in fact a carrière, carrièrepad or loopbaan [source].

A baan is a road, way or path; a track or lane; a job or professional occupation, or a sports field or court.

It comes from the Middle Dutch bane (open field, battlefield; lane, track; road, way, path), from the Old Dutch *bana, from the Proto-Germanic *bano (battlefield, clearing, open space, cleared way, path, track), from the Proto-Indo-European *gʷʰen- (to strike, kill) [source].

The English words defend and offend actually come from the same root, via the Latin *fendō (I hit, thrust) [source].

Related words in Dutch include:

  • banen = to make way, clear
  • baanbrekend = revolutionary, earthshaking (“path-breaking”)
  • bijbaan = side job, sideline, job on the side
  • busbaan = bus lane
  • droombaan = dream job, perfect job
  • hondenbaan = a really bad job, dog’s work
  • landingsbaan = runway, airstrip
  • loopbaan = career, career path
  • rijbaan = lane, carriageway
  • enkelbaans = one-way (road)
  • tweebaans = two-way (road)

Related words in other Germanic languages include the German Bahn (route, trail, rail(way), train, tram, lane, orbit), the Danish bane (track, trajectory), and the Swedish bana (path, race, track, railway, career, life) {source].

Carrière comes from the French carrière (career, riding arena, racecourse), from the Italian carriera (career, the fastest gait), from the Latin Latin carrāria (a wide road for vehicles, a path for carts) from the Latin carrus (wagon, cart, cartload, wagonload), from the Gaulish *karros (wagon), from the Proto-Celtic *karros (wagon) [source].

Stile

Bed litter

What links litter and beds?

Well, back in about 1300 a litter was a bed. Later on it came to mean a bed-like vehicle carried on the shoulders. By the the 15th it also referred to straw used for bedding, particularly for animals, and then the offspring of an animal born at the same time.

By the 18th century litter could also be “scattered oddments” or “disorderly debris”, and by the 19th century litter was straw bedding for animals and the animal waste in it.

The verb to litter originally meant to provide with bedding, and later came to mean to give birth to, to strew with objects, and to scatter in a disorderly way.

Litter comes from the Anglo-Norman litere (portable bed), from the Old French litiere (litter, stretcher, bier, straw, bedding), from the Medieval Latin lectaria (litter), from the Latin lectus (bed, lounge, sofa, dining-couch), from the Proto-Indo-European *legh- (to lie down, lay).

From the same PIE root we also get such words as the English lie, lay, low, law and lair, the Irish luigh (to lie down) and luí (bed), and the Welsh gwely (bed) and lle (place, location).

Shetland dialect

Sources: Online Etymology Dictionary, Wiktionary

Artists’ Donkeys

Yesterday while preparing the latest episode of the Radio Omniglot podcast, which is about Dutch, I found that there are quite a few words of Dutch origin in English.

Some come directly from Dutch, some via other languages, such as French, and some come via Dutch from other languages.

  • avast – from the Dutch hou vast (hold tight)
  • bluff – probably from the Dutch bluffen (to brag)
  • booze – from the Middle Dutch busen (to drink to excess)
  • brandy – from the Dutch brandewijn (“burnt wine”).
  • cookie – from the Dutch koekje (little cake)
  • easel – from the Dutch (schilders)ezel (“painter’s donkey”)
  • iceburg – from the Dutch ijsberg (“ice mountain”)
  • knapsack – from the Middle Dutch knapzak (“snack bag”)
  • bamboo – from the Dutch bamboe, from the Portuguese bambu, from the Malay bambu, from the Kannada ಬಮ್ಬು (bambu)
  • cricket (the insect) – from the Middle English creket/crykett/crykette, from the Old French crequet/criquet (locust) from criquer (to make a cracking sound; creak), from the Middle Dutch kricken (to creak, crack)
  • cricket (the game) – perhaps from a Flemish dialect of Dutch met de krik ketsen (“to chase a ball with a curved stick”)

I particularly like schildersezel, or “painter’s donkey”, for an easel. It’s perhaps a relative of the clothes horse, which is also known as a drying horse or garment donkey, apparently.

The word ezel means donkey, ass, mule, fool, idiot, easel, (work)bench or trestle. Related words include:

  • ezelin = jenny, she-ass
  • ezelsveulen = foal of a donkey; utter idiot, hopeless fool
  • ezelachtig = asinine
  • ezeldrijver = donkey-driver
  • ezelsbruggetje = memory aid, mnemonic (“little donkey bridge”)
  • ezelsoor = dog-ear (turned down part of a page – “donkey’s ear”)

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Purple Fleas

une puce puce (a purple flea)

What do the words purple and flea have in common?

Well in French, there is one word – puce [pys] – that means both purple and flea. It also means (micro)chip or bullet point.

Here are a few expressions featuring puce:

  • marché aux puces = flea market
  • ma puce = my love, sweetie, honey, dear, sweetheart
  • puce électronique = microchip
  • puce d’ordinateur = computer chip
  • carte à puce = smart card
  • puce mémoire = memory card
  • puce d’eau = water flea
  • puce de sable/mer = sand flea
  • liste à puce = bulleted list
  • pucer = to chip, tag
  • aller faire téter les puces = to go to sleep
  • donner la botte aux puces = to go to bed
  • avoir la puce à l’oreille = to be vigiliant
  • mettre la puce à l’oreille = to suspect, worry

If you were so inclined, you could say: Ma puce, une puce puce puce une puce puce avec une puce puce, or “Sweetie, a puce flea is tagging a puce flea with a puce tag”, but that would be rather silly.

Puce comes from the Old French pu(l)ce (flea), from the Latin pūlicem, from pūlex (flea), from the Proto-Indo-Euopean plúsis (flea). This is also the root of the English word flea, via the Proto-Germanic *flauhaz.

The colour puce is a dark redish-brown or a brownish-purple. It was first used to refer to this colour in about the 17th century in French, and possibly a lot earlier, and in the 18th century in English. It refers to the colour of bloodstains on flea-ridden bedding which would appear as a result of the fleas biting people and leaving their droppings or being squashed.

Puce was apparently a favourite colour of Marie Antoinette, and became fashionable in 19th century Paris.

There are a couple of other words that sound simliar to puce: pouce (thumb, inch) and pousse (growth, shoot). Both are pronounced [pus] though, so there should be no confusion.

Sources: Reverso, Wiktionary, Wikipedia

Familie en Gezin

In the Dutch lessons I’ve been working on recently I’ve noticed that there appear to be two different words for family: familie and gezin. From the context I can’t work out if they have different meanings or uses, so I thought I’d investigate.

Familie [fɑˈmi.li] means extended family, i.e. parents, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, etc.

It comes from the French famille (family), from the Latin familia (family, household), from famulus (servant, slave)

Gezin [ɣəˈzɪn] means nucelear family, i.e. parents and children, home or household.

It comes from the Middle Dutch ghesinde (companion), from the Proto-Germanic *gasinþiją. from *senþ-/sinþ- (to go, travel; seek, aim), from the Proto-Indo-European *sent- (to head for, go). The German word Gesinde (servants, farmhands) comes from the same root, as does the Old English word ġesīþ (companion, comrade)

Related words inlcude:

  • familiebedrijf = family business
  • familielid = family member, relative
  • familienaam = family name
  • familietraditie = family tradition
  • taalfamilie = language family
  • familierecht / gezinsrecht = family law
  • gezinshereniging = family reunion
  • gezinshulp = homemaker
  • gezin stichten = to start a family
  • eenoudergezin = single parent family
  • pleeggezin = foster family

Bakfiets Extralong

Sources: Reverso, bab.la, Woorden.org, Wiktionary

Breath Forts

One of the words that came up this week in the French conversation group I’m part of was château gonflable or inflatable/bouncy castle.

Bouncy castle

The word gonflable means inflatable, and comes from gonfler (to blow up, inflate, pump up, swell, rise, bore), from the Latin cōnflāre, from cōnflō (I kindle (a fire); I forge, fuse, melt (metal); I refine / purify; I inflame (passions)), from con- (with) & flō (breathe, blow) [source].

From the same root we get the English word conflate (to mix together different elements; to fail to distinguish separate things).

Other expressions featuring gonflable include:

  • sac/coussin gonflable = airbag
  • bateau gonflable = inflatable boat
  • matelas gonflable = air bed/mattress
  • aire de jeux gonflables = soft play area

I call such things bouncy castles, but they have other names, such as inflatable castles, bouncing castle, bouncy houses, bounce houses, jumping castle, moon bounces, moonwalks or jumpers.

What do you call them?

Gallo

While browsing YouTube this morning I came across a video about Gallo, a Gallo-Romance language spoken in Brittany and Normandy in the northwest of France.

Gallo is one of the langues d’oïl, and is closely related to such languages as Norman and Picard. It is recognised as a minority language in France, and is taught at state schools in Upper Brittany, although few students choose to study it.

One of the comments on the video goes as follows:

De ce que j’en entends dans ce reportage, c’est plutôt une déformation paysanne du français et non une langue avec sa grammaire et son vocabulaire comme le breton.

Which means:

From what I hear in this report, it is rather a peasant distortion of French and not a language with its grammar and vocabulary like Breton.

This kind of thing seems to be quite common when minority and regional languages and dialects are discussed. Speakers of majority languages often belittle them, claim they are not proper languages, that they don’t have their own grammar, and/or that they are ‘just’ dialects, patois, or distorted / corrupted versions of a majority language, and so on.

I wonder why people feel the need to make such comments. Any ideas?

Sponge Mushrooms

In Swedish, I learned this week, there are two words for mushroom: svamp [svamp] (fungus, mushroom, toadstool, sponge) and champinjon [ɧampɪnˈjuːn] (mushroom) [source].

Svamp comes from the Old Swedish svamper (fungus, mushroom), from Old Norse svampr / svǫppr (sponge, mushroom, ball), from the Proto-Germanic *swammaz / swambaz (sponge, mushroom, fungus, swamp), which is also the root of the English word swamp [source].

The Old English word swamm (mushroom, fungus, sponge), and the Middle English swam (swamp, muddy pool, bog, marsh; fungus, mushroom), come from the same root as well [source].

Mushroom was borrowed from the Anglo-Norman musherum / moscheron (mushroom), from the Old French moisseron (mushroom), possibly from the Old French mosse / moise (moss), from the Frankish *mosa (moss) [source]

Champinjon was borrowed from the French champignon (mushroom, fungus, accelerator), from the Vulgar Latin *campāniolus (grows in the field), from the Late Latin campāneus (pertaining to fields), from Latin campānia (level country), which is also the root of the words campaign and champagne.

Apparently champinjon is used to refer to mushrooms used as food, and was borrowed into Swedish in 1690 [source], while svamp refers to mushrooms and fungi in general.

Svamp