A dilemma is “a situation necessitating a choice between two equal, esp. equally undesirable, alternatives”, or “a problem that seems incapable of a solution” [source].
It comes, via Late Latin, from the Ancient Greek δίλημμα (dílēmma, – ambiguous proposition), from δι- (di-, having two of) and λῆμμα (lêmma, – premise, proposition) [source].
Today I spotted the word trilemma in an article in The Spectator. I hadn’t seen it before, but from the context it appears to be a variant of dilemma involving three choices.
According to Wiktionary, a trilemma is “A circumstance in which a choice must be made between three options that seem equally undesirable” or “put another way, in which a choice must be made among three desirable options, only two of which are possible at the same time.”
I thought trilemma was a recently-coined word, but according to Wikpedia, it was first used in writing back in 1672.
If you do, then you are in a bad mood and easily annoyed, especially in the morning, or ill-humoured and downright obnoxious first thing in the morning [source].
An example of how to use it: “The secret is not to talk to him at all until he’s been awake for at least an hour. Wait till the matutolypea subsides.” [source]
Matutolypea comes from the Latin Mātūta, the Roman goddess of morning or dawn [source] (pictured above), and the Greek λῠ́πη – lúpē (sadness, suffering, affliction) [source], so could also be translated as “dawn saddness”.
Those you suffer from matutolypea might be said to have got up on the wrong side of the bed or woken on the wrong side of the bed. According to a superstition that dates back to the Romans, the wrong side of the bed is the left side, as the left is associated with bad luck and is decidely sinister in Latin. The Roman emperor Augustus Caeser apparently always got up on the right side of bed beacuse of this superstition [source].
According to the Grammar Monster, “an ancient superstition that evil spirits lay on a certain side of the bed. A person who wakes up and gets out the “wrong” side of the bed disturbs the evil spirits and attracts their wrath, putting the person in a foul mood.”
Even though I get up on the left side of my bed every morning, as the right side is against a wall, I rarely suffer from matutolypea.
Are there any words, phrases or sayings in other languages about being miserable in the morning?
On 18th April 2020 the good ship Costa Pacifica will set sail from Barcelona with 100 polyglots on board. They will be taking part in the first Polyglot Cruise, which is organized by Kris Broholm of the Actual Fluency Podcast.
The cruise is open to anybody interested in languages, whether you consider yourself a polyglot or not. During the week-long event there will be presentations, discussions and workshops every day, and plenty of time to enjoy the ameneties of the ship, and to explore the places it visits, including Palma (Mallorca), La Valetta (Malta), Catania and Genoa (Italy).
For a shared cabin it costs US$897 (about €788 / £704) for the week, which includes participation in the polyglot activities, accommodation, meals, entertainment, and use of other facilities on the ship. It’s more if you want a single cabin, or a travelling as a couple or family.
This may sound like a lot, but I think it’s worth it, and I signed up yesterday. I’ll giving a short presentation on the old Mediterranean Lingua Franca (Sabir), a pidgin that was used by sailors and others around the Mediterranean from about the 11th century to the 19th century. It was based particuarly on Venetian, Genoese, Catalan and Occitan, and also contained words from French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Greek, Turkish, Arabic and Berber.
If you book within the next 5 days, you can enjoy early bird prices, and if you use the offer code OMNIGLOT, you can get a further US$50 discount.
What do togas, stegosauruses and thatch have in common?
These words all come from the Proto-Indo-European root *(s)teg- (cover, roof) [source].
Toga comes from the Latin togategō (I clothe) , from the Proto-Indo-European *togéh₂ (cover), from *(s)teg- (to cover) [source].
Stegosaurus comes from the Ancient Greek words στέγος (stégos – roof) and σαῦρος (saûros – lizard) [source], and στέγος comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *(s)teg- (cover, roof) [source]. The origins of σαῦρος are uncertain. So a stegosaurus is a “roof lizard”.
Thatch comes from the Old English þæc (roof-covering), from the Proto-Germanic *þaką (covering), from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)teg- (to cover) [source].
Words for house in the Celtic languages also come ultimately from the same root – tŷ (Welsh) chi (Cornish), ti (Breton), teach (Irish), taigh (Scottish Gaelic) and thie (Manx). More details.
One of the Czech words I learnt this week is knihkupectví [ˈkɲɪxkupɛt͡stviː], which means bookstore / bookshop.
It’s one of a number of words that come from kniha (book), including :
knihkupec – book seller
knihovna – library, bookcase
knihovník – librarian
knihomol – bibliophile, book lover, bookworm
knížka / knížečka – diminutives of book
knižní záložka – bookmark
The word kniha comes from the Proto-Slavic *kъniga (book), but beyond that its origins are shrouded in the mists of time. More details.
In Czech it’s easy to see the connection between these words, which makes learning them easier. In English there are book-related words derived from Old English (book), Latin (library) and Greek (bibliophile).
In Welsh most book-related words share a common root:
The words card and chart both come from the Ancient Greek word χάρτης (khártēs – papyrus), via the Old French carte / charte / chautre (charter, record, letter), from Latin charta (see below) [source].
χάρτης comes from χαράσσω (kharássō – I scratch, inscribe), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰer- (to scratch) [source].
χάρτης is also the root of the Latin word charta (papyrus, paper, poem, a writing, map, the papyrus plant), from which we get words in many languages, including the Italian carta (paper, map, menu), the Spanish carta (letter, map, menu, playing card), the German Charta (charter), the Irish cárta (card), the Icelandic kort (map, card, credit card), and the Czech charta (charter).
I discovered this when looking into the origins of the Spanish word cartera (wallet, handbag), which comes from the same root, as do the English words cartel, cartography and charter.
Recently I learnt an interesting word in Swedish – glasögon, which means glasses or spectacles, and literally means “glass eyes”.
Glas means glass, and comes from the Proto-Germanic *glasą (glass), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰel- (to shine, shimmer, glow) [source].
Ögon is the plural of öga (eye), and comes from the Old Swedish ø̄gha (eye), from Old Norse auga (eye), from Proto-Germanic *augô (eye), from Proto-Indo-European *h₃ekʷ- (eye; to see) [source].
The Swedish word glas reminds me of the Russian word for eye, глаз (glaz), which I remember by thinking of a glass eye. Глаз comes from the Old East Slavic глазъ (glazŭ – ball, eye), from the Proto-Slavic *glazъ (ball), from Proto-Indo-European *g(ʰ)el- (round, spherical, stone) [source].
The Russian word for glasses is очки (ochki), which comes from очи (ochi), the plural of око (oko), the old Russian word for eye, which comes from the same Proto-Indo-European root as öga and eye [source].
In Danish and Norwegian, the word for glasses is briller, which means ‘a person wearing glasses’ in Dutch, and to shine or sparkle in French [source]. The German word for glasses is simliar – Brille, and the Dutch is bril [source].
Briller, Brille and bril come from the Middle High German berillus (beryl), from the Latin beryllus (beryl), probably from the Ancient Greek βήρυλλος (bḗrullos – beryl), from Sanskrit वैडूर्य (vaidurya – a cat’s eye gem; a jewel), from Dravidian. Probably named after the city Velur (modern day Belur / ಬೇಲೂರು) in Karnataka in southern India. The first glasses, made in about 1300 in Italy, were made from beryl [source].
Beryl is a mineral which comes from three forms: morganite (orange), aquamarine (blue-green – pictured top right) and heliodor (green-yellow).
The French word for glass, lunettes, means “little moons” [source].
Are there interesting words for glasses, spectacles, specs, or eyes in other languages?
In Slovenian beseda [bɛˈséːda] is the word for word or term.
Some expressions featuring beseda include:
– besedna igra = wordplay, pun, play on words
– brez besed = speechless (with shock etc.)
– častna beseda = word of honour
– dati častno besedo = to give one’s word
– držal te bom za besedo = I am going to take you at your word
– mož beseda = man of hono(u)r
– z besedo na dan! = spit it out! let the cat out (of the bag)!
This comes from the Proto-Slavic *besěda, which originally meant sitting outdoors (at night), then an outdoor gathering, or a conversation or speech at such a gathering.
*besěda comes from *bez (outside) and *sěděti (to sit).
– Belarusian: слова (slova)
– Russian: слово (slovo)
– Ukrainian: слово (slovo)
– Bulgarian: дума (duma); слово (slovo)
– Macedonian: збор (zbor)
– Serbian: реч (reč)
– Croatian: rije
– Czech: slovo
– Slovak: slovo
– Polish: słowo
Slovo, and variations, comes from the Proto-Slavic *slovo (word), from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱléwos (fame), which is also the root of the Welsh clyw (hearing), the Irish clú (honour, praise, fame), the Latvian slava (rumor, reputation, fame), and the Greek κλέος (kléos – renown, fame, honour).
Yesterday I learnt the Russian word for beef, говядина [ɡɐˈvʲædʲɪnə], and the promotely forgot it. So I thought I’d investigate its etymology to help me remember it.
говядина comes from говядо [ɡɐˈvʲadə] and old word for cattle. This comes from the Proto-Slavic *govędo (head of cattle, bull, ox), from the Proto-Indo-European *gʷew-n̥d-, from *gʷṓws (cattle) [source].
The usual Russian word for cow is корова [source], which comes from the Proto-Slavic *kőrva (cow), from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱerh₂- (horn) [source].
*gʷṓws is also the root of:
gak = boar (Albanian)
govs = cattle, cow (Latvian)
говядо = beef (Ukrainian)
говедо = cattle (Bulgarian, Macedonian & Serbian)
govedo = cattle (Croatian & Slovenian)
hovado = brute (Czech & Slovak)
gowjedo = cow (Lower Sorbian)
*kūz = cow (Proto-Germanic)
Kuh = cow (German)
koe = cow (Dutch)
ku = cow (Norwegian)
ko = cow (Swedish, Danish, North Frisian)
coo, kye = cow (Scots)
βοῦς = cow (Ancient Greek)
bōs = cow, bull, ox (Latin)
bou = ox (Catalan)
bue = ox, beef (Italian)
bife = steak (Portuguese)
bou= ox, idiot (Romanian)
buey= ox. steer (Spanish)
bœuf = cow, ox, beef, jam session (French)
*bāus = cow (Proto-Celtic)
*bōws = ox (Proto-Celtic)
bu, buw = cow, bullock, head of cattle (Middle Welsh)
buwch = cow (Welsh)
bugh = cow (Cornish)
bu, buoc’h = cow (Breton)
bó = cow (Irish)
booa = cow (Manx)
bò = cow (Scottish Gaelic)
The English words beef and bovine come ultimately from the same root. Beef comes from the Middle English beef, bef, beof, from the Anglo-Norman beof, from the Old French buef, boef (ox). from Latin bōs (“ox”)
The Proto-Indo-European word *gʷowkólos, from *gʷṓws (cow) & *kʷel- (to revolve, move around, sojourn) gives us the following words in the Celtic languages [Source].
When does the morning start for you? How about the afternoon, evening or night? Does it vary from day to day, perhaps depending on the sun, or do you stick to clock time?
Dictionary definitions of these words are as follows:
morning – the time from sunrise to noon; the time from midnight to noon [source].
afternoon – the part of day between noon and sunset [source].
evening – the latter part and close of the day and early part of the night; the period from sunset or the evening meal to bedtime [source].
night – the time from dusk to dawn when no sunlight is visible [source].
For me mornings start when the sun rises. That can vary a lot here from just before 5am in the summer to 8:30am in the winter. I often wake up when the sun comes up, but don’t usually get up until later.
Afternoon starts just after midday (12pm) – that doesn’t vary, though my lunchtime may be between 12pm and 3pm. Here the sun sets between 4pm in the winter and nearly 10pm in summer. So my afternoons would be very long in the summer if they lasted until sunset. Instead I think of them as going until I have my evening meal, which is usually between 6pm and 7pm.
Evenings for me start after my evening meal and last until bedtime. Nights overlap somewhat, usually from when it gets dark until sunrise.
Not all languages distinguish between afternoon and evening – there is one word for both. In Spanish and Portuguese it’s tarde, in Catalan it’s tarda, in Greek it’s απόγευμα, in Irish it’s tráthnóna and in Scottish Gaelic it’s feasgar.
If you’re a native speaker of one of these languges, do you think of the time between noon and night as a one period?
Are there other ways of dividing the day in other languages?