Seeding Discord

Yesterday I learnt an interesting phrase in French – semer la zizanie, which means to stir up ill-feeling, to mess around/about, to drive a wedge (between) or to wreak/raise havoc [source].

J. Zizanie des marais P8100001 2

The word semer means to sow, spread, scatter, lose or shake off. You can also semer le doute (cast doubts), semer la panique (spread panic) or semer la discorde (sow/seed discord, foster division) [source].

It comes from the Latin sēmināre (to sow), from sēminō (I plant, sow), from sēmen (seed, graft, offspring, cause), from the Proto-Italic *sēmen (seed), from the Proto-Indo-European *séh₁mn̥ (seed), from seh₁- (to sow, plant). English words from the same roots include season, seed, seminar and sow [source].

Zizanie means discord or ill-feeling, and comes from the Latin zīzania (tares, cockle), from zizā̆nium (tares, cockle, darnel, jealousy, discord), from the Ancient Greek ζῐζᾰ́νῐον (zizánion – darnel, ryegrass), from the Aramaic זזניא‎, from the Sumerian 𒍣𒍝𒀭 (zizān – wheat) [source].

Words from the same roots include زِوَان‎ (ziwān – darnel, ryegrass) in Arabic, zizzania (darnel, tare, discord) in Italian, and cizaña (darnel, tare, dissension, enmity) [source].

Tare is a vetch or any of the tufted grasses of genus Lolium [source]. Darnel is a species of ryegrass of the genus Lolium temulentum [source], and cockle is another name for the same plant [source].

Incidentally, the word wreak, which only appears in the phrase to wreak havoc (to cause damage, disruption or destruction), and a few other phrases, means to cause harm, afflict, inflict, harm, injure; to chasten, chastise, punish, smite, and used to mean to inflict or take vengeance on, or to take vengeance for [source].

Water Trumpets

Last night while talking about the weather in French, as you do, one expression that came up was une trombe d’eau, which means a cloudbust, downpour or waterspout [source]. There have been several of these this week.

The word trombe [tʁɔ̃b] on its own means waterspout or whirlwind [source]. It comes from the Italian tromba (trumpet, horn, bugler, well, shaft), possibly from the Frankish *trumba (trumpet), which is of imitative origin [source].

Other phrases featuring trombe include:

  • entrer en trombe = to burst in, storm in
  • sortir en trombe = to burst out, storm out
  • partir en trombe = to accelerate away
  • passer en trombe = to zoom past, hurtle past

A related word from the same roots is trompe [tʁɔ̃p], which means a trumpet, the trunk of an elephant [source] or a squinch (a small arch, corbelling, etc, across an internal corner of a tower, used to support a superstructure such as a spire) [source].

Shiny brass 3

Another word with the same roots is tromper [tʁɔ̃.pe] (to deceive, cheat on, disapoint, elude), which comes from the Old French tromper (to tramp, trump, delude), from trompe (horn, trump, trumpet) [source].

The English word trumpet also comes from the same roots, via the Old French trompette (trumpet), a diminutive or trompe [source]. As does the word trombone, via the Italian trombone (trombone, annoying or boring person), from tromba (trumpet) and -one (augmentative suffix) [source].

The trump an elephant makes, which is also a slang word for flatulence in the UK, and used to mean a trumpet, comes from the Old French French trompe (horn, trump, trumpet) [source]. However trump as in a trump card or a suit in cards is thought to come from the French triomphe (triumph), or the Old French triumphe, from the Latin triumphus (a hymn in honour of Bacchus, a triumph or celebration), from the Old Latin triumpus, from the Etruscan *𐌈𐌓𐌉𐌀𐌌𐌐𐌄 (*θriampe), from the Ancient Greek θρίαμβος (thríambos – a hymn to Dionysus) [source].

Myriads

The word myriad [ˈmɪɹi.æd/ˈmɪɹi.əd] means a countless number or multitude, and in the past it meant 10,000. It comes from the French myriade (myriad, 10,000), from the Latin Latin myrias (10,000), from the Ancient Greek μυριάς (muriás – countless, 10,000), from μῡρῐ́ος (mūríos – numberless, countless, infinite) [source].

Peering through the dust
A myriad of stars

The use of 10,000 to mean countless or infinite happens in other languages as well. For example in Chinese 万 [萬] (wàn) means 10,000 or a great number [source]. The same character (man) in Japanese means 10,000, a myriad, everything, all or various. When pronounced ban it means completely, absolutely or totally [source].

Do other languages do something similar?

Other English words that refer to a large but unspecified number include um(p)teen or umpty, which come from umpty (a colloquial name for a dash in Morse Code used as World War I army slang) and -teen [source].

Also zillion, gazillion, bazillion, jillion, bajillion and squillion [source].

Do you have any others?

Jealous Envy

What is the difference between envy and jealousy?

A friend asked me this, so I thought I’d write a post about it.

Jealous!

Envy means:

  • a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc
  • to regard (a person or thing) with envy [source]

In the past it meant:

  • hatred, enmity, ill-feeling
  • emulation; rivalry
  • public odium; ill repute.
  • to have envious feelings
  • to give (something) to (someone) grudgingly or reluctantly, to begrudge
  • to show malice or ill will, to rail
  • to do harm in, to injure, to disparage
  • to hate
  • to emulate

It comes from the Middle English envie (ill-will, hatred, enmity, spite, malice, envy, harm, eagerness), from the Old French envie, from the Latin invidia (envy, grudge, jealousy, prejudice, spite, odium), from invidus (envious, hostile, inimical), from invideō (I look askance or maliciously at, cast an evil eye upon), from in- (on, upon, after) and videō (see, observe, understand) [source].

Jealousy means:

  • jealous resentment against a rival, a person enjoying success or advantage, etc., or against another’s success or advantage itself
  • mental uneasiness from suspicion or fear of rivalry, unfaithfulness, etc., as in love or aims
  • vigilance in maintaining or guarding something.
  • a jealous feeling, disposition, state, or mood [source]

In the past it meant “A close concern for someone or something, solicitude, vigilance.” [source]

It comes from the Middle English jalousie (jealousness in a relationship, passion, desire, zealousness, devotion, belief), from the Old French jalousie, from jalous (eager, zealous, jealous), from the Late Latin zēlōsus (jealous, zealous), from the Latin zēlus (zeal, emulation, jealousy), from the Ancient Greek ζῆλος (zêlos – eager rivalry, zealous imitation, emulation, a noble passion) [source].

Other words from the same Ancient Greek root include zeal (diligent enthusiasm; powerful interest) and zealous (full of zeal; ardent, fervent; exhibiting enthusiasm or strong passion) [source].

Pseudonyms

A pseudonym [ˈs(j)uː.də(ʊ).nɪm / ˈsu.də.nɪm] is a false or fictitious name, especially one used by an author. It comes from the Ancient Greek words ψευδής [pseu̯.dɛ̌ːs] (false, lying, untrue) and ὄνυμα [ó.ny.ma] (name) [source].

Pseudonym

Hyponyms* include:

  • stage name (used by actors)
  • pen name, pen-name, nom de plume (used by writers)
  • nom de guerre (used by military types)
  • allonym = another person’s actual name adopted as a pseudonym

* a term that denotes a subcategory of a more general class [source].

Related words include:

  • ananym = a pseudonym derived by spelling one’s name backwards
  • anonym = an anonymous person, or an assumed or false name
  • cryptonym = a secret name, or code name

An antonym of pseudonym is alethonym, which is the true name of an individual. From the Ancient Greek ἀλήθεια [aˈli.θi.a] (truth) and ὄνυμα [source].

I was inspired to write about pseudonyms today after seeing this joke on Facebook:

I used to go out with a girl called Sue Denim, until I found out that it wasn’t her real name.

It took me a while to get the joke, as I actually know someone called Sue Denim, a singer-songwriter who was part of the band Robots in Disguise. I always thought it was her real name, but now I realise that it’s actually an onomatopoeic pseudonym.

Do you have a pseudonym / nom de plume / stage name? If not, what pseudonym might you use?

I suppose the usernames I use online are kind of pseudonyms: Omniglot, Omniglossia and Ieithgi. Some variations of my name that I use, or friends use, include Sai, Simi and Saimundo.

Turning Oxen

Ploughing

Some early alphabets, such as Ancient Greek, Latin and Etruscan were written in a style known as boustrophedon [ˌbuːstrəˈfiːdən], which involves alternate lines of a text being reversed, with letters also written in reverse. Here’s an example in Old / Archaic Latin:

Article 1 of the UDHR in Old Latin

The first and third lines of this text are written from right to left, while the second and fourth lines are written from left to right.

Transliteration
Opnēs hemones decnotāti et iouesi louberoi et parēs gnāscontor, rationes et comscientiās particapes sont, quibos enter sēd comcordiās studēōd agontinom est.

Translation
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Translation (boustrophedon style)
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in English written in boustrophedon style

The word boustrophedon could be translated literally as “like the ox turns [while plowing]”. It comes from βοῦς [bûːs] (ox), στροφή [stro.pʰɛ̌ː] (turn), and the adverbial suffix -δόν [dón] (like, in the manner of) [source].

From βοῦς we get such English words as beef, bovine, buffalo, butter and bulima [source], and the word cow comes from the same Proto-Indo-European root as βοῦς*gʷṓws (cattle) [source].

The word στροφή is the root of the English word strophe, which refers to “A turn in verse, as from one metrical foot to another, or from one side of a chorus to the other”, and appears in words like apostrophe and catastrophe [source].

The old Mayan script was written in a way similar to boustrophedon: in paired columns zigzagging downwards from left to right.

Sample of Mayan writing in the Mayan hieroglyphic script
From: Flickr

Chinese, Japanese and Korean could be also be written in this way but aren’t, as far as I know. They could also be written in other directions as illustrated below.

Examples of boustrophedon writing in Chinese

The text on the left starts on the top left and runs in vertical columns running from alternatively from top to bottom and bottom to top. The text on the right starts at the bottom right and runs in horizontal lines alternating from right to left and left to right.

If you’re thinking of created a writing system, one thing to consider is giving it a unique writing direction. This might inspire you.

Podiums

In Dutch the word podium [poː.di.(j)ʏm] means stage, and also podium or platform. It comes from Latin word podium (balcony, especially in an amphitheatre, parapet, podium), from the Ancient Greek πόδιον (pódion – base), a diminutive of πούς (poús – foot, leg), from the Proto-Indo-European pṓds (foot) [source].

AIAA NASA 60th Anniversary Reception (NHQ201809200009)

Some related words include:

  • hoofdpodium = main stage
  • podiumbeest = someone who enjoys being on stage and is often on stage (“stage beast”)
  • podiumkunsten = performing arts
  • poppodium = a venue where pop music is performed live

The English word podium (a platform on which to stand, as when conducting an orchestra or preaching at a pulpit; any low platform or dais) comes from the same root [source], as does the word pew, via the Middle English pewe, from the Middle French puie (balustrade), from the Latin podia, the plural of podium [source].

Other words from the same Latin root include poggio (hill) and podio (podium) in Italian, puig (hill, peak) in Catalan, and poyo (stone bench) in Spanish [source].

By the way, in English (and Dutch) the plural of podium can be either podiums or podia. Which do you prefer?

The diminutive of podium in Dutch is podiumpje, which means little or imaginary stage – I find Dutch diminutives like this very cute.

Britland

The word Britain is used to refer to the island of Great Britain, and is also to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or UK. As it’s the place I’ve lived most of my life, I thought I’d look into the origins of this word.

SS Great Britain

Britain comes from the Middle English Breteyn (Britain, Brittany), from the Old English Bryten/Breoton (Britain), from the Latin Britannia (the British Isles, Great Britain, the Roman province of Britain) – the land of the Britanni (Britons), from the Proto-Brythonic *Prɨdėn (Britain), from *Pritanī, which is possibly related to *Prɨdɨn (Picts), and the Ancient Greek Πρεττανική (Prettanikḗ – British Isles). The name Brittany comes from the same root [source].

Until the 1st century BC Britain was known as Albion in Latin, which comes from the Proto-Celtic *Albiū (luminous world, upper world, high mountain, alp, alpine pasture, Britain), from the Proto-Indo-European *albʰós (white) – possibly refering to the white chalk cliffs along the south coast of Britian [source].

After the Roman conquest of Britain in 43 AD, the name Britannia was used to refer to the Roman province of Britain, which consisted of what is now England and Wales and part of southern Scotland [source].

In Welsh, Britian is referred to as Ynys Prydain (The Island of Britain) or Prydain Fawr (Great Britian). These words, along with Prydyn (Scotland, (land of the) Picts), come from the same Proto-Brythonic root as Britain [source].

In Cornish, Britain is Breten and Great Britain is Breten Veur [source].

In Breton, Great Britain is Breizh-Veur and Brittany is Breizh.

The Irish name for Wales is An Bhreatain Bheag (“Little Britain”), while Great Britain is An Bhreatain Mhór, and Brittany is An Bhriotáin [source].

In Scottish Gaelic, A’ Bhreatainn Bheag is Brittany, Wales is a’ Chuimrigh, which comes from the Welsh name for Wales, Cymru and Great Britain is A’ Bhreatainn Mhór [source].

Kvetching

An interesting Dutch word I learnt recently is kwetsen [ˈkʋɛtsə(n)], which means to hurt (sb’s feelings) or to harm, and in some Dutch dialects it means to wound or injure.

Related words include:

  • kwetsbaar = vulnerable, fragile, vulnarability
  • kwetsend = hurtful, offensive, insulting
  • kwetsuur = injury, lesion, wound

It comes from the Middle Dutch word quetsen, from the Old Dutch quezzon (to damage, hurt), and was possibly influenced by or borrowed from the Old French quasser (to break, annul, quash), from the Latin quassāre (to shake, agitate), from the Proto-Indo-European *kʷeh₁t- (to shake) [source].

The German word quetschen [ˈkvɛtʃən] (to squash, crush, squeeze, mash, strain) probably comes from the same root [source], as does the Yiddish word קוועטשן‎ (kvetshn – to squeeze, pinch; bother, complain), from which we get the English word kvetch [kvɛtʃ] (to whine or complain, often needlessly and incessantly) [source].

Incidentally, the German equivalent of a squeezebox (an informal name for accordions, concertinas and related instruments) is a Quetschkommode, or literally a “squeeze commode / dresser / chest of drawers” [source].

Ciarán, Caitlín & Cathal

The English word quash (to defeat decisively; to void or suppress) comes from the same Old French word (quasser), via the Middle English quaschen, quasshen, cwessen, quassen (to crush, smash, cancel, make void, shake) [source].

From the same PIE root (*kʷeh₁t-) we get the English words pasta, paste, pastiche and pastry [source]. Pasta, for example, comes from the Italian pasta (paste, pasta), from the Late Latin pasta (dough, pastry cake, paste), from the Ancient Greek πάστα (pásta – barley porridge), from παστός (pastós – sprinkled with salt), from πάσσω (pássō – to sprinkle) [source].

Font Police

What do the words font and police have in common?

Well, a font or typeface as used in computers and other electronic devices is called a police [pɔ.lis] or police de caractères in French.

Words for font in various languages and fonts

As well as meaning font, police also means policy, branch or department. It comes from the Italian word polizza (policy, bill, voucher), from the Medieval Latin apodissa (receipt for money), from the Byzantine Greek *ἀπόδειξα (*apódeixa), from Ancient Greek ἀπόδειξις (apódeixis – proof, publication, demonstration). The English word policy comes from the same root [source].

The word police, as in the forces of law enforcement, comes from the Middle French police (governance; management), from Latin polītīa (state, government), from Ancient Greek πολιτεία (politeía – citizenship, government, adminstration), from πολῑ́της (polī́tēs – citizen) [source].

la police

Another French word for font, and also melting, smelting, thawing and
cast iron, is fonte [fɔ̃t]. This probably comes from fondre (to melt (down), smelt, dwindle), from the Old French fondre, from the Latin fundere (to melt), from fundō (I melt), from the Proto-Italic *hundō (pour out), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰewd- (to pour) [source].

The word font, as in “a receptacle in a church for holy water, especially one used in baptism”, comes from the Latin fōns/fontis (fountain), possibly from the Proto-Indo-European *dʰenh₂- (to flow) [source]. The name of the River Danube comes from the same root, via the Latin Dānubius, from the Proto-Celtic *Dānowyos, from *Dānu, from the Proto-Indo-European *déh₂nu (river goddess) [source].

Danube in Bratislava

What are your favourite fonts?