Cards, charts & papyrus

χάρτης / Papyrus

What do cards, charts and papyrus have in common?

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.

Glass eyes

Glasögon

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?

Famous outside words

beseda (word in Slovenian)

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).

In other Slavic languages the same root became:

– Belarusian: бяседа (bjasjeda) = banquet
– Russian: беседа (beséda) = conversation, talk, discussion
– Ukrainian: бесіда (besida) = talk, conversation, discussion
– Bulgarian: беседа (beséda) = talk, conversation
– Macedonian: беседа (beseda) = speech, oration, sermon
– Serbo-Croatian: бесједа / besjeda = speech, word (archaic)
– Czech: beseda = discussion
– Slovak: beseda = discussion
– Polish: biesiada = feast, banquet

Words for word in other Slavic languages include:

– 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).

Sources: Wiktionary, PONS, dict.com

Cows, beef and shepherds

Cows among the heather in Cregneash, Isle of Man

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].

  • *boukolyos = herdsman (Proto-Celtic)
  • *bʉgöl = herdsman (Proto-Brythonic
  • bugail = shepherd, pastor (Welsh)
  • bugel = child, shepherd (Cornish)
  • bugel = child (Breton)
  • búachaill = cowherd (Old Irish)
  • buachaill = boy, herdsman, servant, boyfriend (Irish)
  • bochilley = shepherd, herdsman (Manx)
  • buachaill, buachaille = cowherd, herdsman, shepherd, youth (Scottish Gaelic)

Dividing the day

Illustration of clock

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?

Horses, chariots and cars

Horses at Newborough on Anglesey - photo by Simon Ager

Today I saw a post on Facebook asking why words for horse are so different in languages like English and German, so I thought I’d investigate.

In English horse-related words include horse, stallion (male horse), mare (female horse), foal (young horse), filly (young female horse), colt (young male horse), pony (a small breed of horse), palfrey (a small horse with a smooth, ambling gait) and equine (a horse or horse-like animal; related to horses).

Horse comes from the Middle English horse / hors, from the Old English hors (horse), from the Proto-Germanic *hrussą (horse), from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱr̥sos (horse), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱers- (to run) [source]. This is also the root of the Proto-Celtic word *karros (wagon), from which we get the Latin currus (chariot, wagon), and the English words car, cart and chariot, and related words in other languages.

Stallion comes from the Middle English stalion, from the Middle French estalon and is of Germanic origin [source].

Mare comes from the Middle English mare / mere, from the Old English mere / miere (female horse, mare), from the Proto-Germanic *marhijō (female horse) [source].

Foal comes from the Middle English fole, from the Old English fola, from the Proto-Germanic *fulô, from the Proto-Indo-European *pōlH- (animal young) [source]

Filly comes from the Old Norse fylja [source].

Colt comes from the Old English colt (young donkey, young camel), from the Proto-Germanic *kultaz (plump; stump; thick shape, bulb), from the Proto-Indo-European *gelt- (something round, pregnant belly, child in the womb), from *gel- (to ball up, amass) [source].

Pony comes from the Scots powny, from the Middle French poulenet (little foal), from the Late Latin pullanus (young of an animal), from pullus (foal) [source].

Palfrey comes from the Anglo-Norman palefrei (steed), from the Old French palefroi, from the Late Latin paraverēdus (post horse, spare horse) [source].

Equine comes from the Latin equīnus (of or pertaining to horses), from equus (horse) [source].

The equivalent words in other European languages include:

Germanic languages

  German Dutch Danish Norwegian Swedish Icelandic
horse Pferd Paard hest hest häst hestur
stallion Hengst hengst hingst hingst hingst graðhestur
mare Stute merrie hoppe hoppe sto
märr
hryssa
foal Fohlen veulen føl føll
fole
föl folald

The German word Pferd and the Dutch paard come from the Middle High German phert / pherit / pferift (riding horse), from the Old High German pherit / pfarifrit / parafred, from the Late Latin paraverēdus (substitute post horse) [source], from para-, from the Ancient Greek παρά (from, by, near) & verēdus (a fast or light breed of horse), from the Proto-Celtic *uɸorēdos (horse) [source], *uɸo- (under) & *rēdo- (to ride; riding, chariot), from the Proto-Indo-European *(H)reydʰ- (to ride) [source].

The words hengst and hingst come from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱanḱest- / *kankest- (horse), which is also the root of the Welsh, Cornish and Breton words for mare, and of the Old English word for horse or stallion, hengest.

Romance / Italic languages

  French Italian Romanian Spanish Portuguese Latin
horse cheval cavallo cal caballo cavalo equus
stallion étalon stalone armăsar padrillo garanhão celo
mare jument giumenta
cavalla
iapă yegua égua equa
foal poulain puldero mânz potro potro equuleus
equulus
pullus
vitulus

In Latin there was another word for horse – caballus, which was only used in poetry in Classical Latin, and was the normal word for horse in Late and Vulgar Latin. It possibly comes from the Gaulish caballos [source]. This is also the root of the English words cavalry, cavalier, cavalcade and chivalry,

The word equus comes from the Proto-Italic *ekwos, from the Proto-Indo-European *h₁éḱwos (horse) [source].

Celtic languages

  Breton Cornish Welsh Irish Manx Scottish Gaelic
horse marc’h margh ceffyl capall cabbyl each
stallion marc’h margh march
stalwyn
stail collagh
grihder
greadhair
mare kazeg kasek caseg láir laair làir
foal ebeul ebel ebol searrach sharragh searrach

The Scottish Gaelic word for horse, each, comes from the
Old Irish ech (horse), from Proto-Celtic *ekʷos (horse), from the Proto-Indo-European *h₁éḱwos (horse), which is also the root of the Breton, Cornish and Welsh words for foal.

The Breton marc’h (horse), the Cornish margh (horse) and the Welsh march (stallion) come from the Proto-Brythonic *marx (horse), from Proto-Celtic *markos (horse), from the Proto-Indo-European *márkos (horse). [source]. This is also the root of the Irish marcaigh (to ride), the Scottish Gaelic marcaich (to ride), and the Manx markiagh (to ride).

You can find more about Celtic words for horse on my Celtiadur blog

Slavic languages

  Bulgarian Czech Polish Russian Serbian Slovak
horse кон kůň kón
konno
лошадь коњ kôň
stallion жребец hřebec ogier
rumak
конь
жеребец
жребец žrebec
mare кобила klisna klacz
kobyła
кобыла кобила kobyla
foal жребец hříbě źrebak жеребёнок фоал žriebä

The Russian word for horse, лошадь, is a borrowing from a Turkic language, probably Tatar [source].

The other Slavic words for horse come from the Proto-Slavic konjь (horse), of unceratin origin [source].

Other European languages

  Latvian Lithuanian Albanian Greek
horse zirgs arklys kalë άλογο
ίππος
stallion ērze erelis hamshor επιβήτορα
mare ķēve kumelė merak φοράδα
foal kumeļi kumeliukas pjellë πουλάρι

Sources: Reverso, Linguee, bab.la, Google Translate

Newborough beach

Zed, Zee or Izzard?

Zed / Zee

The letter Z is known as zed [zɛd] in the UK, Canada, India, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia, and as zee [ziː] in American English.

The name zed comes from the Greek name for the letter Ζ ζ zeta (ζήτα). The name zee is comes from an English dialectal form of the 17th century, and rhymes with other letter names, like bee, cee, dee, etc.

Another dialectal name for this letter from the 18th century is izzard [ˈɪzərd], which possibly comes from the Occitan izèda or the French ézed.

The letter Z has had a number of different forms in different alphabets:

An image showing the development of the letter Z

It’s origins can be traced back to an Egyptian Hieroglyph which looked like the Proto-Sinaitic version, which meant sword or weapon.

Names for the letter Z in other languages include:

  • zeta – Italian, Basque, Spanish and Icelandic
  • zê – Portuguese
  • zäta = Swedish
  • zæt = Danish
  • zet = Dutch, Indonesian, Polish, Romanian and Czech
  • Zett = German
  • zett = Norwegian
  • zède = French
  • zét in Vietnamese
  • zo = Esperanto

Sources: Wikipedia and Wiktionary

What do you call this letter?

Eponyms

An eponym is a word that derives from, or that is believed to derive from, the name of a real or ficticious person.

Eponym comes from the Ancient Greek ἐπώνυμος (epṓnumos), from ἐπί (epí, – upon) & ὄνυμα (ónuma – name).

Examples of eponyms include:

  • Boycott, from Charles Boycott, an English land agent based in Ireland in the 19th century.
  • Caesarean section, Tsar, Czar and Kaiser from Gaius Julius Caesar, Roman consul and general in the first century BC.
  • Europe, and variants, from Εὐρώπη (Eurṓpē), the mother of King Minos of Crete in Greek mythology.
  • Dunce, from John Duns Scotus (c 1265-1308), a philospher whose work was admired at first, but was later attacked and ridiculed. His followers were known as Dunsmen or Dunses, and the word dunce eventually became associated with lack of learning or opposition to new thinking. By the 1580s, a dunce was a dim witted person [source].
  • Leotard, from Jules Leotard, a French acrobat and trapeze artist in the 1800s

Many more examples of eponyms.

If your name was to become an eponym, what would you like to be remembered for? And what form would you like it to take?

Going to the circus

Last week I went to the circus. It wasn’t a traditional circus in a big top with animals and clowns, but the wonderful Pirates of the Carabina with their Relentless Unstoppable Human Machine in the theatre in the local arts centre.

Juggling some clubs

I also saw the film The Greatest Showman, a film based loosely on the life of P.T. Barnum.

I enjoyed both very much, and thought I’d write about the word circus, and related words.

In English a circus can be:

1. A traveling company of performers that may include acrobats, clowns, trained animals, and other novelty acts, that gives shows usually in a circular tent.

2. A round open space in a town or city where multiple streets meet.

3. A spectacle; a noisy fuss

If you’ve ever wondered why Oxford Circus in London is so named, when there are usually no of clowns, acrobats or other circusy things there, now you know.

In ancient Roman a circus was an open air stadium for chariot racing, horse racing and performances. Most Roman circuses were oblong rather than round.

The word circus comes from the Latin circus (ring, circle), from the Ancient Greek κίρκος (kírkos – circle, ring, racecourse), from the Proto-Indo-European *sker / *ker (to turn, to bend), which is also the root of the English words ring and rink. [source].

The word juggle comes the Middle English jogeler (juggler), and and from the Old French jogler, jongler (to have fun with someone), from the Latin joculāri (to jest; joke). It is also related to the Old French jangler (to regale; entertain; have fun; trifle with; tease; mess around; gossip; boast; meddle), from the Frankish *jangalōn (to chit-chat with; gossip).
[source].

The word clown is possibly related to the Icelandic klunni (klutz) or the Old Frisian klönne (klutz) [source].

The word big top, for a large tent, was first used in 1825 by J. Purdy Brown’s itinerating show in Virginia [source]. Why that particularly term was used is uncertain.

The photo is one of me juggling clubs that I took last year. I’ve been juggling and doing other circusy things for over 30 years, and have considered joining a circus, or becoming a circus skills trainer. At the moment I go to the Bangor University Circus Society every week to practise my circus skills, and to teach others. More photos are available on Flickr.

Are any of you into juggling or other circus skills?

Lend me a word

English is a bit of a mongrel. It is basically a West Germanic language, but contains words from many other languages, especially French, Latin, Greek and Old Norse. In fact, only about 26% of English vocabulary is Germanic, 29% is from French, 29% from Latin, 6% from Greek, and the rest from many other languages [source].

When English borrows words from other languages, which it does all the time, most people see the process as a positive one that expands and enriches English vocabulary.

There will always be some who object to the adoption of certain words, however, within a few generations, or even a few years, those words can become fully integrated in the language, and people might not even be aware they were borrowed in the first place.

Japanese is also open and accepting of foreign words, mainly from Chinese and English. These loan words are changed to fit Japanese phonetics, and some are shortened and combined to make original new words, such as リモコン (rimokon) = remote control, and オープンカー (ōpun-kā) = convertible car.

Borrowing between languages is common around the world where languages come into contact. The borrowing often flows from large languages, like English or Spanish, into smaller languages, such as regional, minority and endangered languages.

When smaller languages borrow from bigger languages, some believe the smaller languages suffer in the process, becoming corrupted, impoverished, polluted, etc. Such sentiments are much less common when talking about borrowing from smaller languages into bigger languages.

There seems to be a double standard here.

Borrowing will happen, even though language regulators, such as the Académie française, might object and try to stop it. Languages change and influence one another. They can borrow many words from other languages without losing their identity, and without breaking down into incomprehensible grunts.

What do you think?

Do languages benefit from borrowing?