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?

Pling!

I discovered the other day the the exclamation mark (!), which is apparently known as an exclamation point in American English, has a number of other names. When it was first introduced by printers in the 15th century, it was known as a sign of admiration or exclamation or the note of admiration in English.

In the early 20th century it was known as an ecphoneme [source]. A related word is eroteme, which is another name for the question mark (?), and comes from the Ancient Greek ἐρώτημα (erṓtēma – question), from ερωτώ (erotó – to ask) [source].

In 1950s American typesetting manuals it was referred to as a bang. Related punctuation marks are the interrobang (‽), a combination of an exclamation mark and question mark that was invented in 1962 by Martin K. Speckter, an American advertising executive [source], and the gnaborretni (⸘), an inverted interrobang [source].

Printers might call it a screamer, gasper, slammer or startler.

British hackers apparently call it, or called it, a shriek or pling, which is my favourite name for this punctuation mark.

In Welsh the exclamation mark is known as a ebychnod, from ebychu (to exclaim) and nod (mark), or rhyfeddnod, from rhyfedd (strange, odd) and nod.

In Armenian the equivalent of the exclamation mark (see below) is known as a Բացականչական նշան (Bats’akanch’akan nshan) or “exclamatory mark/sign” or “screamer”.

Here are some exclamation marks in other alphabets:

Exclamation marks in various alphabets

What is the exclamation mark called in other languages?

Here’s a video I made last week about the word exclamation:

Longhaired Kites

An interesting Spanish word I learnt today is cometa [koˈmeta], which means both kite and comet. It comes from the Latin word comēta, an alternative version of comētēs (comet, meteor, shooting star; portent of disaster), from the Ancient Greek κομήτης (komḗtēs, – longhaired, comet), which refers to the tail of a comet, from κομᾰ́ω (komáō – let the hair grow long) and -της (-tēs – a suffix that forms nouns) [source].

Cometas

Related words and expressions include:

  • cometa voladora = hang gilder
  • hacer volar una cometa = to fly a kite

Other words for kite in Spanish include [source]:

  • papalote in Cuba, Honduras, Mexico, from the Classical Nahuatl pāpalōtl (butterfly) [source]
  • barrilete in Argentina, Nicaragua, a diminutive of barril (barrel) [source]
  • piscucha or papalota in El Salvador – the former of unknown origin. The latter from Classical Nahuatl like papalote
  • volantín in Peru, Chile, Argentina, probably from volar (to fly)
  • chiringa in Puerto Rico, probably a version of chiringo which means small in Puerto Rico and Cuba [source]

Are there any other words for kite in other Spanish-speaking countries?

Red Kites - Gigrin Farm Wales

Kite, as in the bird of prey of the subfamily Milvinae, is milano in Spanish, which also means the down of a thistle and flying gurnard (Dactylopteridae) – a type of fish. This comes from the Vulgar Latin *milānus, from the Latin milvus (kite, gurnard) [source].

Fire Towers

If you have red or ginger hair in the Netherlands or Dutch-speaking parts of Belgium you might be called a vuurtoren [ˈvyːrˌtoː.rə(n)], or literally a “fire tower”. This is apparently a rather rude way to refer to redheads. Other ways include roodhaar (red-hair), roodharige (red-haired), rosse (red), or rossekop (red-head) [source].

Highland cows / Bò Ghàidhealach / Hielan coo

As well as meaning redhead, vuurtoren also means lighthouse or beacon, and was a nickname for the old 250 Guilder note, which had a lighthouse on it. Another name for a lighthouse is a lichttoren, and a lighthouse keeper is a vuurtorenwachter.

Vuurtoren, De Cocksdorp, Texel

Vuur (fire, heat, heater, lighter) comes from the Middle Dutch vuur (fire, bonfire, passion), from Old Dutch fuir (fire), from Proto-West Germanic *fuir (fire), from Proto-Germanic *fōr (fire), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *péh₂wr̥ (fire) [source].

Toren (tower, rook (in chess)) comes the Middle Dutch torre (tower), from the Old Dutch turn (tower), from the Old French tur/tor (tower), from the Latin turris (tower, rook), from the Ancient Greek τύρρις (túrrhis – tower) [source].

A YouTube Channel I found recently is Linguriosa, which is run by a redheaded Spanish lass (una pelirroja) who makes interesting and funny videos about the Spanish language. She talks clearly and not too fast, so it’s great if you’re learning Spanish, as I am at the moment, or are a fluent speaker. Here’s an example:

Do you know of similar channels in other languages?

Thankfully Charismatic

What do the words thank you and charisma have in common?

Well, charisma (personal charm or magnetism) comes from the Ancient Greek χᾰ́ρῐσμᾰ (khárisma – grace, favour, gift), from χᾰρῐ́ζομαι (kharízomai – I show favor), from χᾰ́ρῐς (kháris – grace), from χαίρω (khaírō – I am happy) [source].

The Greek word for thank you, ευχαριστώ (efcharistó), comes from the same root, via εὐχαριστῶ (eukharistô), a contracted form of εὐχαριστέω (eukharistéō – to bestow a favour on, oblige; to be grateful, thankful; to thank, give thanks), from εὐχάριστος (eukháristos – grateful, thankful; pleasant, agreeable), from εὐ- (eu – good), χᾰ́ρῐς (kháris – grace) & -τος (-tos) [source].

The word Eucharist also comes from the same root, via the Middle English eukarist, from Old French, from the Ecclesiastical Latin eucharistia [source], as does the name Charis. In Greek mythology Charis was one of the Graces or Charites (Χάριτες), goddesses of charm, beauty, nature, human creativity and fertility, and wife of Hephaestus (Ἥφαιστος), the god of blacksmiths, metalworking, carpenters, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metallurgy, fire [source].

I decided to look into the origins of the charisma today because one of the YouTube channels I found recently is called The Charismatic Voice. Through this this channel I’ve discovered various singers and groups, including some who sing in languages other than English. As I enjoy listening to and singing songs in a variety of languages, this is great for me.

Here’s an example of a Mongolian song: