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

Butterflies and Pavilions

What is the connection between pavilions and butterflies?

Well, the word pavilion comes from the Anglo-Norman pavilloun, from the Latin pāpiliōnem, from pāpiliō (butterfly, moth), probably because a pavilion looks a bit like a butterfly’s wings.

In French the word for butterfly is papillon [pa.pi.jɔ̃], which comes from the same root as pavilion, which is also a French word.

The word papillon also means a ticket, parking ticket; a wing nut or butterfly nut; someone brilliant, versatile and inconstant, or a flyer or tag.

A papillon de nuit (“night butterfly”) is a moth, a nœud papillon (“butterfly knot/bow”) is a bow tie and brasse papillon is butterfly stroke, a style of swimming that seems unnecessarily effortful to me.

A papillon adhésif is a sticky note / Post-it note, papillonnage means flitting about or flitting from one relationship to the next, and papillonner means to flit (about/incessantly).

Are there any interesting butterfly-related expressions in other languages?

Butterfly Pavillion

Sources: Wikitionary, Reverso, bab.la

Mooie koopjes!

An interesting Dutch word I learnt recently is goedkoop [ɣutˈkoːp], which means cheap, inexpensive or affordable. It comes from goed (good) and koop (for sale, buy, purchase), so literally means “good buy/purchase” [source].

Incidentally, the English word cheap comes from the Old English cēap (cattle, purchase, sale, traffic, business, bargain), from the Proto-Germanic *kaupaz/*kaupô (inn-keeper, merchant), from *kaupōną/*kaupijaną (to buy, purchase), from the Latin caupō (tradesman, innkeeper), which is the same root as the Dutch koop, and related words in other Germanic languages, such as Kauf (sale, purchase, buy) in German, and köp (purchase) in Swedish [source]

The diminutive of koop is koopje, which means bargin, (a) steal or cheap, and in Belgium it means a sale.

Related words include:

  • kopen = to buy, acquire, purchase, take over
  • koopavond = late opening, late-night shopping
  • koophandel = commerce
  • koopjesperiode = seasonal sales
  • koopkracht = purchasing/buying power
  • kooplieden = dealers, merchants
  • koopman = merchant, businessman
  • koopmanschap = business, commerce, trade
  • koopwaar = merchandise, wares
  • koopwaardig = worthy to buy
  • uitverkoop = (a) sale, sell-off
  • verkopen = to sell
  • koopziek = shopping addiction, shopaholism
  • miskoop = a bad buy
  • een kat in de zak kopen = to buy a pig in a poke (“to buy a cat in a bag”)

Source: bab.la

I like all these Dutch words with double vowels, and there are plenty of them – they look and sound quite cute to me. The title of this post means “nice bargins”, by the way.

Mooie koopjes hiero!

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?

Extra Horses

In Dutch one word for horse is paard [paːrt]. It also means a knight in chess, a pommel horse or an ugly woman. When I learnt this recently, I starting wondering where it comes from, as you do.

Paard

At first I thought, it’s completely different to words for horse in other Germanic languages – hest in Danish and Norwegian, häst in Swedish, and hestur in Icelandic and Faroese.

While this is true, paard is in fact cognate with the German word for horse Pferd [pfeːrt], and also with the Afrikaans perd, the Luxembourgish Päerd, the Yiddish פֿערד (ferd), the English palfrey* and the French palefroi.

* palfrey = “a small horse with a smooth, ambling gait, popular in the Middle Ages with nobles and women” [source].

These words paard, Pferd, etc come from the Latin Latin paraverēdus, “an extra horse; post horse or courier’s horse for outlying or out of the way places” [source], from para- (beside, next to, near), from the Ancient Greek παρά (from, by, near), and verēdus (a fast or light breed of horse, a courier’s horse, a hunter), from the Gaulish *werēdos, from Proto-Celtic *uɸorēdos (horse) [source].

The Proto-Celtic word *uɸorēdos is also the root of the Welsh word gorwydd (steed, horse) and the Spanish word vereda (path, lane, sidewalk) [source].

The word horse itself comes from the Old English hors (horse), from the Proto-Germanic *hrussą (horse), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱr̥sos (horse), from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱers- (to run) [source]. This is also the root of the Proto-Celtic *karros (wagon) and the Latin currus (chariot, wagon) [source].

Others words that come from the Proto-Germanic *hrussą include the North Frisian hors (horse), the West Frisian hoars (horse), the Dutch ros (horse, steed), the German Ross (horse, thoroughbred, steed, charger, fool), and the Icelandic hross (horse).

From the Proto-Celtic *karros we get the Gaulish *karros (wagon), the Old Irish carr (cart, wagon), the Welsh car (vehicle, car, sled, dray), and karr (car, vehicle) in Cornish and Breton [source].

From the Latin currus, which was borrowed from Gaulish, we get the word carro (cart, wagon, truck, car, train car, etc) in Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Galician, Catalan and Occitan, and the English words car, cart and chariot [source].

The North Germanic words for horse come the Old Norse hestr (horse, stallion), from the Proto-Germanic *hangistaz (horse, stallion), from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱanḱest-/kankest- (horse) [source].

I’ve written before about words for horse in Indo-European languages, and you can find more about Celtic words for horse on my Celtiadur blog.

Writing up and down

One of the phrases that came up in the Swedish lessons I did yesterday on Duolingo was about writing things down, which in Swedish was skriva upp (“write up”). This seemed a bit upside down, or downside up, so I thought I’d invesigate.

Skriva upp means to book, charge, enter, note, put down, set down, take, stick, sign up or sign in [source], so in this context it’s being used to mean ‘put/set down’. A related expression is skriva upp på lista (“write up on list”), or to list.

Other expressions featuring skriva include:

  • skriva ut (“write out”) = to print, draw, check, make out, discharge
  • skriva över (“write over”) = to overwrite, replace,
  • skriva under (“write under”) = to sign, endorse, approve, subscribe
  • skriva på (“write on”) = to subscribe, commit, sign in
  • skriva om (“write about”) = to profile, rewrite
  • skriva ner (“write down”) = to dash off, record, write down
  • skriva ned (“write down”) = to bang out, set down, trace, write down. For example, skulle du kunna skriva ned det åt mig? (Could you write it down for me?)
  • skriva in (“write in”) = to key, register, book in, inscribe, pencil in, sign in
  • skriva ihop (“write together”) = to scribble, compile
  • skriva av (“write of”) = to duplicate, extract, transcribe, cancel, write off

Source: bab.la

While writing this, I realised that subscribe literally means “underwrite”, from the Latin sub- (under) and‎ scribo (write) – also the root of skrifa. However, underwrite means something different: to assume financial responsibility for something, and guarantee it against failure, or to lend support to something [source].

In English when you might write up notes you wrote down during an interview, making them more complete and detailed, or write up your diary, bringing it up-to-date. Maybe you’ll write off or write in to a newspaper and ask for your write-up be published. Maybe your debts will be written off (cancelled), and hopefully your car will not be a write-off (damaged beyond repair).

Can you think of other interesting expressions featuring write?

Life Writing

In Russian, a painting or picture is a живопись [ʐɨvəpʲɪsʲ]. This comes from живой [ʐɨˈvoj] (alive, living, live, lively) and писать [pʲɪˈsatʲ] (to write). So you could say that a Russian painter is “writing life” and that their paintings are “life writing” [source].

An English word with a similar literal meaning, but a different actual meaning, is biography.

Another Russian word for picture, and also image or scene, is a картина [kɐrˈtʲinə], which comes from the Italian cartina (fine paper, map), from carta (paper, map, menu, card), from the Latin charta (papyrus, paper, poem), from the Ancient Greek χάρτης (khártēs – papyrus, paper), from χαράσσω (kharássō – I scratch, inscribe), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰer- (to scratch) [source].

If languages were logical and consistant, you might expect that Russian words for art, artist, painter, picture and to paint might be related to живопись. Most of them aren’t:

Art is искусство [ɪˈskustvə], which also means skill, craftsmanship, craft. It comes from the Old Church Slavonic искусьство (iskusĭstvo), from искоусъ (iskusŭ – test, experiment), probably from the Proto-Germanic *kustiz (choice, trail), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵews- (to taste, try), which is also the root of the English words choice, cost and gusto [source].

An artist or painter is a художник [xʊˈdoʐnʲɪk]. It comes from the Old East Slavic художьникъ (xudožĭnikŭ – artist, painter, master), from худогъ (xudogŭ – skillful, experienced, lucky), from the Proto-Slavic *xǫdogъ, from the Proto-Germanic *handugaz (handy, skilful, dextrous), which is also the root of the English word handy [source].

There are several Russian words for to paint:

  • рисовать [rʲɪsɐˈvatʲ] means to draw, paint, depict, and comes from the Polish rysować (to draw, sketch), from the Middle High German rīzen, from the Old High German rīzan (to scratch) [source].
  • красить [ˈkrasʲɪtʲ] means to paint, dye or adorn. It is related to the word краска (paint, dye, ink, colours), which comes from the Old Church Slavoic краса (krasa – decoration) [source].
  • писать [pʲɪˈsatʲ] means to write or paint (a painting). It comes from the Old East Slavic писати (pisati – to write, paint), from the Proto-Slavic *pisati (to draw depict, write), from the Proto-Indo-European *peyḱ- (to hew, cut out; stitch, embroider, sting; paint, mark, colour), which is also the root of the English words paint and picture [source].

mouse cat

An example of calligraphic art by Margaret Shepherd. More examples

Longitudinal Cohorts

50 years ago this week a longitudinal cohort study known as the 1970 British Cohort Study or BCS70 started. The aim was to follow the lives of as many as possible of the 17,287 people born in England, Wales and Scotland during that week (5-11 April). Similar studies were started before then, and have been started since.

BCS70 has collected information on health, physical, educational and social development, and economic circumstances, and so on. It has become a vital source of evidence on key policy areas such as social mobility, education, training and employment, and economic insecurity [source].

1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70) illustration

More information about BCS70:
https://cls.ucl.ac.uk/cls-studies/1970-british-cohort-study/
https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/35/4/836/686544
https://www.youtube.com/user/CLScohort/videos

See some of the participants in BCS70:

Why am I telling you this?

Well, I am one of those 17,287 people, and today is my 50th birthday.

Previously I knew only one other person who shared a birthday with me, and one with a birthday the day before. Recently the people at BCS70 set up a Facebook group for participants in the survery, and I found there are quite a few people with the same birthday as me.

It’s interesting to get to know them, and to share memories and stories. For example, it snowed on the day I was born, and quite a few other people in the group have said that there was snow on their birthdays as well. Today, by contrast, it started as a warm, sunny day, and is starting to cloud over as I write this.

Another interesting thing I’ve noticed in the group is that people are using their day of birth to refer to themselves. Today, for example, we 9ers are all wishing each other a happy birthday, yesterday it was the 8ers, and tomorrow will be the 10ers.

On this day in 1970 Paul McCartney apparently accounced the official break-up of the Beatles [source]. Other sources say it happened on 10th April. I had nothing to do with it.

The word cohort in this context means “A demographic grouping of people, especially those in a defined age group, or having a common characteristic” [source].

It comes from the Old French cohorte (cohort, a division of the Roman legion), from the Latin cohors (court; farmyard or enclosure; retinue; circle, crowd; tenth part of a legion; ship’s crew; bodyguard; military unit of 500 men), from co- (with) and hortus (garden) [source]

The word longitudinal in this context means “sampling data over time rather than merely once” [source]

It comes from the Latin longitūdō (length, longitude), from longus (far, long) and -tūdō (-ness: suffix for forming nouns) [source]

Coronavirus – what the heck does it mean?

Today we have a guest post by Manish Sharma

We have all heard this word a lot lately and some of us are probably getting quite sick of it. Hopefully, not by it though. Have you wondered what does it actually mean though?

Let’s do an etymological analysis of coronavirus and see what we come up with. Do what? I hear you say! Fret not, it’s just a fancy way of saying what the word means and how it came to be.

Well, let’s see what we have here then.

So we know it’s clearly made up of two words: corona + virus. Well done, Sherlock! Is that it? What are you going to tell us next? That it’s caused by drinking too much Corona beer? Sadly, no, because there would have been a rather easy cure for it if that was true!

Beer (excuse the pun) with me though while I break it down for you.

Corona comes from the Latin word corōna, meaning a ‘crown’ or ‘garland’, which in turn is borrowed from the Greek word κορώνη (korṓnē), which means a ‘garland’ or a ‘wreath’ [source]. I guess something to do with the similarities in shape. It’s used to describe this class of viruses because of their peculiar structure, as we have all seen in the photos everywhere, the virus looks like a spherical ball with spike-like projections on its surface giving it an appearance of a crown. Not unlike the way solar flares project from the surface of the sun hence called solar corona.

Coronavirus

The Greek word κορώνη (korṓnē) has its origin in a Proto Indo-European or PIE (a hypothesised common ancestor of most of the Indian and European languages) word *ker or *sker which is the origin of the Sanskrit word कृत्त (kṛttá) or the Hindi word कट (kat), both meaning to ‘cut’ something. Incidentally, English words like, curtailed, shears, scissors, short, skirt and share have all descended from this same root [source].

A note on the relation between the words *ker and *sker before we move on. The prefix ‘s’ (s-mobile) sometimes occurs in the variations of the same word in different languages. For instance, the English word snake and Hindi word नाग (nāg) also share a common root – the Proto-Indo-European *sneg- (to crawl, a creeping thing) [source].

The word virus comes from the Latin word vīrus meaning poison, venom or slime. Same indeed as the Greek word ἰός (iós – poison, venom), which itself has descended from the PIE word *wisós (fluidity, slime, poison). Anybody who knows the Hindi or Sanskrit translation of the word poison or venom would have probably figured out where this is going. The Hindi word विष (viṣ – poison, venom) and the Sanskrit विष (viṣá – poison, venom), come from the same root as the word virus [source]. Fascinating, eh?

When you put the two together, you get coronavirus, or poison cut in the shape of a crown!

So, there you have it. We may not know for sure where this wretched virus came from but at least we now have an idea how its name came about.

Hope you enjoyed reading.