Bibbling bibblers

Bibble

I came across a wonderful word yesterday – bibble – which means to eat and/or drink noisily, or to tipple. Or in Yiddish it means to worry.

It comes from the Middle English bibben (to drink), from the Latin bibō (I drink), from Proto-Indo-European *peh₃- (to drink) [source].

If you’re a bibbling bibbler, you may need a bib, which comes from the same root, and originally meant to drink heartily [source]. While bibbling, maybe you’ll engage in some bibble-babble (idle talk, babble), possibly in a bibbery (drinking house), which would be bibacious.

The words imbibe, potion and potable come from the same root, as do words for to drink in various languaages, including: ól (Irish), òl (Scottish Gaelic), yfed (Welsh), eva (Cornish), boire (French), and beber (Spanish, Portuguese, Galician, Asturian & Aragonese).

Words for beer Slavic languages come from the same root as well: pivo (Croatian, Czech, Slovak & Slovenian), piwo (Polish, Sorbian), and пиво (Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Macedonian & Serbian).

Frowning nosey nostrils!

Frowny face

What is the connection between frown, nose and nostrils?

The English word frown comes from the Middle English frounen (to frown as an expression of disapproval, displeasure, shame, fear, or jealousy), from the Old French frognier (to frown or scowl), from Gaulish *frognā (nostril), from the Proto-Celtic *srognā, from the Proto-Indo-European *sregʰ- (snore) [source].

The Proto-Celtic word *srognā is the root of the following words in the modern Celtic languages:

  • Irish (Gaeilge): srón [sˠɾˠoːnˠ] = nose; sense of smell; prow, projection
  • Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig): sròn [sdrɔːn] = nose, snout, trunk; promontory; snout (of a glacier); toe (of a shoe)
  • Manx (Gaelg): stroin [strɛin] = nose, promontory, headland, ness, naze, nose-piece
  • Welsh (Cymraeg): ffroen = nostril; muzzle of a gun, mouth of a cannon, nozzle of a pair of bellows; hole, entrance, opening (of a pipe), spout
  • Cornish (Kernewek): frig [fri:g] = nostril
  • Breton (Brezhoneg): froen = nostril, fri = nose

I’m not sure if the Cornish word frig comes from the same root, but it seems likely.

The French word renfrogner (to scowl), the Galician word enfurruñar (to frown, to get angry), the Spanish word enfurruñarse (to get angry, get cross, to sulk, to cloud over) also come from the same root.

Sources: Wiktionary, Am Faclair Beag, Online Manx Dictionary, Teanglann.ie, Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, Gerlyver Kernewek, Dictionnaire Favereau, Reverso

This is one of the connections I found recently while working on the Celtiadur, my collection of Celtic cognates.

One language

Omnigot logo

Yesterday I say a post in the Silly Linguistics Community on Facebook challenging people to write a sentence in all the languages they speak. This is what I came up with:

Tha e duilich writing une phrase ym mhob språk atá agam, pero ich 試試 red ennagh symoil を書く, kaj nun я хочу říct že il mio tomo tawa supa está cheio de țipari.

This means “It is difficult writing a sentence in every language I speak, but I will try to write something interesting, and now I want to say my hovercraft is full of eels”.

The languages, in order, are Scottish Gaelic, English, French, Welsh, Swedish, Irish, Spanish, German, Chinese, Manx, Japanese, Esperanto, Russian, Czech, Italian, Toki Pona, Portuguese and Romanian.

It’s not the best sentence ever, perhaps, but I enjoyed the challenge of putting it together. It also got me thinking about how many languages and writing systems I could use in a version of my motto “one language is never enough“. This motto appears on some versions of my logo, such as the one above, and I usually try to write it in several difficult languages.

Here are some versions I came up with today. The first version incorporates some of the languages I speak and am learning, plus a few others.

Une singură 语言 är nikdy недостаточно – languages = French, Romanian, Chinese, Swedish, Czech / Slovak, Russian.

Ett seule 言語 ist nunca yn ddigon – languages = Norwegian / Swedish, French, Japanese, German, Portuguese / Galician / Spanish, Welsh.

Jeden lingua er niemals suficiente – languages = Czech / Polish / Slovak / Rusyn, Asturian / Chamorro / Corsican / Galician / Italian / Latin / Sicilian / Interlingua, Danish / Faroese / Icelandic / Norwegian, German, Spanish / Asturian.

Can you incorporate more languages and/or writing systems into this phrase?

Le mal de pays

One of the things that came up at the French conversation group last night was homesickness.

In French there are a number of ways to express this concept:
– nostalgique = homesick (adj)
– avoir le mal de pays = to be homesick (for a place/country)
– s’ennuyer de (sa famille) = to be homesick (for one’s family)
– avoir la nostalgie (de qch) = to be homesick (for something)

Example
L’odeur de l’herbe lui donna la nostalgie de la ferme de ses parents.
The smell of the grass made her homesick for her parents’ farm.

The Welsh word for homesickness is hiraeth /hɪəraɪ̯θ/, which is apparently one of those words that is untranslatable. It means homesickness tinged with grief or sadness over the lost or departed. It is a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness, and the earnest desire for the Wales of the past. It has similarities to saudade in Portuguese and morriña in Galician [source].

Do other languages have words with a similar meaning?

Cave canem!

Carea Castellano

I received a email today asking when the Spanish word perro (dog) replaced can, a word for dog derived from the Latin canis, which appears in the name Canary Islands, (Islas Canarias in Spanish).

The Spanish word perro first appeared in the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española in 1737 [source]; was originally pejorative [source] and is possibly of onomatopoeic origin from the growling sounds made by dogs, perr perr (sounds more like a cat’s purr to me). Shepherds also used that sound to call their dogs. Another possibility is that perro comes from a pre-Roman language [source].

In Spanish the word can was used for dog until about the 14th century, after which it was gradually replaced by perro. The words for dog in most other Romance languages come from the Latin word canis: cane (Italian), chien (French), câine (Romanian), cão (Portuguese), can (Galician). One exception is Catalan, in which the word for dog is gos. [source].

The root of the Latin word canis, which appears in biological name for the subspecies of dogs: canis lupus familiaris, comes from the Proto-Indo-European base *kwon- (dog). This is also the root of the English hound (via the Proto-Germanic *khundas and the Old English hund), the English canine, the Greek κυων (kuōn), the German hund, the Irish cu and the Welsh ci [source].

The English word dog comes from the Old English docga, a word of unknown origin which was probably the name of a particular breed of dog, and had largely replaced the word hound as the general term for dog by the 16th century [source]. Hound started to be used to mean “a dog used for hunting” from the 12th century [source].

The name Islas Canarias probably comes from the Latin Insula Canaria (Island of the Dogs), which was originally just the name of Gran Canaria. It is possible that the dogs referred to were seals [source].