Rare Words

There’s a rare word in Dutch – raar [raːr] – which is cognate with the English word rare, but means weird, strange, funny, odd or unusual.

It comes from the Middle Dutch rare (rare, unusual), from the Latin rārus (scattered, seldom, few, uncommon, thin, loose), from the Proto-Indo-European *h₁r̥h₁rós, from *h₁reh₁- (to separate) [source].

Here are some examples of how it’s used:

  • Ik heb een raar telefoontje gehad = I got a weird phone call
  • Want je doet een beetje raar = Because you’ve been acting a little weird
  • Dit is vast gewoon een raar misverstand = I’m sure it’s just a weird misunderstanding
  • M’n leven is nu nogal raar = My life is kind of, like, a little weird right now
  • Luister, dit gaat raar klinken … = Look, this is going to sound strange …

Source: Reverso Context

The Dutch words for rare include zeldzaam [ˈzɛlt.saːm] (rare, scarce), which is cognate with the Engish words seldom and seldsome (rare, uncommon), and schaars [sxaːrs] (scarce, rare, sparse), which is cognate with the Engish word scarce [source].

The English word rare comes from the same root, via the Middle English rare [ˈraːr(ə)/ˈrɛːr(ə)] (airy, vacuous, porous, breathable, sparsely spread, uncommon, scare, small, little), and the Old French rare/rere (rare, uncommon) [source].

Other descendants of the Latin word rārus include:

  • Albanian: rrallë [raːɫ] = sparse, infrequent, rare, outstanding
  • Catalan: rar [ˈrar] = rare, strange, odd, thin (of a gas)
  • Danish: rar [ʁɑːˀ] = pleasant, kind, nice
  • Dutch: raar [raːr] = weird, strange, funny, odd, unusual
  • French: rare [ʁɑʁ] = rare, sparse, scarce
  • German: rar [ʁaːʁ] = rare, scarce
  • Spanish: raro [ˈraɾo] = strange, odd, rare
  • Swedish: rar = cute, sweet, loveable, rare

So rare, and its relatives, are strangely funny, wiredly unusual, outstandingly odd, loveably cute, nicely sweet, sparsely scarce and oddly rare words, it seems.

Now here’s a rare bird, a little bittern or Ixobrychus minutus:

Little Bittern

Boring Cloaks

The Dutch word saai [saːi] means boring, tedious or dull. It originally meant woven woollen cloth. By the 19th century it was being used to mean annoying, and also came to mean boring, because cloth was thought to be dull and uninteresting apparently [source].

Saai comes from the Middle Dutch saye / saey, from the Old French saie [sɛ] (a short garment worn by ancient Persians, Romans, and Gauls in combat), from the Latin sagum [ˈsa.ɡʊ̃ˑ/ˈsaː.ɡum] (a military cloak), from the Ancient Greek σάγος [ˈsa.ɣos] (cloak, coat, habit), [source] from the Gaulish *sagos [source], from the Proto-Celtic word *sago- (a coarse woollen blanket or mantle) [source] (PDF), from the Proto-Indo-European *sagom (mantle) [source]

The word sagum also exists in English, and refers to a cloak, worn in ancient times by the Gauls, early Germans, and Roman soldiers, made of a rectangular piece of (usually red) coarse cloth and fastened on the right shoulder (see the photo below).

Words that come from the Latin sagum include the Spanish saya [ˈsaʝa] (skirt, petticoat, dress, woman), the Portuguese saia [ˈsajɐ/ˈsaja] (skirt, woman), and the obsolete French word sayon [sɛ.jɔ̃] (cassock, jacket) [source].

Romans

Slurping Snorkels

I learnt today that an elephant’s trunk in Dutch is a slurf [slʏrf], not to be confused with a smurf. As I like the sound of it, I thought I’d write about it.

Slurf also means proboscis, or jetbridge – the long, flexible tube thing through which you board a plane – also known as a vliegtuigslurf (“aeroplane trunk”). It has another slangy meaning, but I won’t go into that here [source].

It comes from slurven, a variant of slurpen (to slurp) from the Middle Dutch slorpen/slurpen (to slurp), from the Old Dutch *slurpen, from the Proto-Germanic *slarpaną (to sip, slurp), from the Proto-Indo-European *srebʰ-/*srobʰ- (to sip, slurp, gulp). The English word slurp comes from the same root, via the Middle Dutch [source], as does the word absorb, via the Latin absorbeō (swallow up) [source].

Elephants are good swimmers and use their trunks as snorkels, a word that comes from the German Schnorchel, which is related to schnarchen (to snore). It refers both to snorkels used by swimmers to breath under water, and exhaust tubes on diesel submarines. The Dutch word for snorkel is snorkel, and was borrowed from English [source].

The English words snort and snark come from the same root as the German schnarchen: the Proto-Germanic *snarkōną (to snore, snort), from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)nerg- (to sound, murmur, growl) [source].

However, snore comes from the Middle English snoren/fnoren (to snore loudly; snort), from snore/*fnore (snore; snort), from the Old English fnora (snort; sneezing), from the Proto-Germanic *fnuzô, from the Proto-Indo-European *pnew- (to breathe; snort; sneeze) [source]. Sneeze comes from the same root, as do pneumatic, pneumonia and related words [source].

Slurf

Whirling Dustsuckers

One of the Dutch words I learnt recently is stofzuiger [stɔfsœyɣər], or literally “dustsucker”. In English you might call it a vacuum, vacuum cleaner, hoover or even a dyson.

Stofzuiger comes from stof (dust) and zuigen (to suck, hoover, be bad at).

When I first learnt this word, I thought that stof might be related to stuff in English, so a Dutch vacuum cleaner would be a “stuffsucker”. However, stof is in fact two words in Dutch that have different meanings and come from different roots.

Stof as in dust comes from the Proto-Germanic *stubą, *stubjuz (dust), from the Proto-Indo-European *dʰeubʰ- (to whisk, smoke, obscure), from *dʰew- (to whirl, waft, stink, shake; steam, haze, smoke) [source].

Related words include:

  • huisstof = household dust
  • stofdoek = duster, dust cloth
  • stoffen = to dust, to remove dust from
  • stoffig = dusty
  • stofvrij = dustfree
  • stofwolk = dust cloud
  • stofzuigen = to vacuum / hoover
  • stofzuigerslang = vacuum cleaner hose (“dust-sucker-snake”)

The other stof means matter, material, substance, fabric or curriculum. It comes from the Middle Dutch stoffe, from the Old French estophe / estoffe, from estoffer (to decorate, garnish), from Old High German stoffōn (to stop, halt, stuff, insert), from the Proto-West Germanic *stuppōn (to cram, plug, stuff). The English word stuff comes from the same root.

Related words include:

  • afvalstof = waste product (“waste-stuff”)
  • brandstof = fuel (“burning-stuff”)
  • delfstof = mineral (“excavated-stuff”)
  • kleurstof = dye, colourant (“colour-stuff”)
  • koolstof = coal (“coal stuff”)
  • stikstof = nitrogen (“suffocating-stuff”)
  • voedingstof = nutrient (“food-stuff”)
  • waterstof = hydrogen (“water-stuff”)
  • zuurstof = oxygen (“sour-stuff”)

Are there interesting names for vacuum cleaners in other languages?

Henri stofzuiger

Job Tracks

In English you might talk about career paths, meaning “the way that you progress in your work, either in one job or in a series of jobs” [source].

In Dutch there is one word – baan [baːn] – that means both job and path. So you might think that a career path in Dutch would be a baanbaan, but it is in fact a carrière, carrièrepad or loopbaan [source].

A baan is a road, way or path; a track or lane; a job or professional occupation, or a sports field or court.

It comes from the Middle Dutch bane (open field, battlefield; lane, track; road, way, path), from the Old Dutch *bana, from the Proto-Germanic *bano (battlefield, clearing, open space, cleared way, path, track), from the Proto-Indo-European *gʷʰen- (to strike, kill) [source].

The English words defend and offend actually come from the same root, via the Latin *fendō (I hit, thrust) [source].

Related words in Dutch include:

  • banen = to make way, clear
  • baanbrekend = revolutionary, earthshaking (“path-breaking”)
  • bijbaan = side job, sideline, job on the side
  • busbaan = bus lane
  • droombaan = dream job, perfect job
  • hondenbaan = a really bad job, dog’s work
  • landingsbaan = runway, airstrip
  • loopbaan = career, career path
  • rijbaan = lane, carriageway
  • enkelbaans = one-way (road)
  • tweebaans = two-way (road)

Related words in other Germanic languages include the German Bahn (route, trail, rail(way), train, tram, lane, orbit), the Danish bane (track, trajectory), and the Swedish bana (path, race, track, railway, career, life) {source].

Carrière comes from the French carrière (career, riding arena, racecourse), from the Italian carriera (career, the fastest gait), from the Latin Latin carrāria (a wide road for vehicles, a path for carts) from the Latin carrus (wagon, cart, cartload, wagonload), from the Gaulish *karros (wagon), from the Proto-Celtic *karros (wagon) [source].

Stile

Flowing Pencils

Today while looking into the origins of the Dutch word for pencil – potlood [pɔt.loːt] – I found some interesting connections to words other languages.

Potlood also means crayon, and comes from pot (jar, pot) & lood (lead, plumb bob). Apparently it was originally a name for graphite, and was used for glazing pots, but was misidentified as a form of lead [source].

Other words featuring pot include:

  • potloodetui = pencil case
  • potloodslijper = pencil sharpener
  • bloempot = flower pot, planter
  • doofpot = cover-up (“deaf pot”)
  • potdoof = stone deaf, completely deaf
  • fooienpot = tip jar, stock pot
  • kookpot = cooking pot, saucepan, cauldron
  • stamppot= stew, mash, stamppot (a traditional Dutch dish made of potatoes mashed with one or several vegetables)

Lood comes from the Middle Dutch lôot (lead), from Old Dutch *lōt, from Proto-Germanic *laudą (lead), from the Proto-Celtic *loudom (lead), ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European *plewd- (to fly, flow, run) [source].

For the same Proto-Celtic root we get luaidhe, which is lead in Irish and Scottish Gaelic, leoaie (lead) in Manx, the English word lead, and related words in other Germanic languages [source].

Words for lead in Welsh (plwm), Cornish (plomm / plobm) and Breton (plom), come from the Latin plumbum (lead (metal), lead pipe, pencil), which is also the root of the English words plumb, plumber and plumbing [source].

A plumber in Dutch is a loodgieter [ˈloːtˌxi.tər] and plumbing is loodgieterswerk – a gieter [ˈɣi.tər] is a person who pours, e.g. a caster, or a watering can, so a loodgieter is someone who pours lead or a lead caster [source].

potlood

Artists’ Donkeys

Yesterday while preparing the latest episode of the Radio Omniglot podcast, which is about Dutch, I found that there are quite a few words of Dutch origin in English.

Some come directly from Dutch, some via other languages, such as French, and some come via Dutch from other languages.

  • avast – from the Dutch hou vast (hold tight)
  • bluff – probably from the Dutch bluffen (to brag)
  • booze – from the Middle Dutch busen (to drink to excess)
  • brandy – from the Dutch brandewijn (“burnt wine”).
  • cookie – from the Dutch koekje (little cake)
  • easel – from the Dutch (schilders)ezel (“painter’s donkey”)
  • iceburg – from the Dutch ijsberg (“ice mountain”)
  • knapsack – from the Middle Dutch knapzak (“snack bag”)
  • bamboo – from the Dutch bamboe, from the Portuguese bambu, from the Malay bambu, from the Kannada ಬಮ್ಬು (bambu)
  • cricket (the insect) – from the Middle English creket/crykett/crykette, from the Old French crequet/criquet (locust) from criquer (to make a cracking sound; creak), from the Middle Dutch kricken (to creak, crack)
  • cricket (the game) – perhaps from a Flemish dialect of Dutch met de krik ketsen (to chase a ball with a curved stick)

I particularly like schildersezel, or “painter’s donkey”, for an easel. It’s perhaps a relative of the clothes horse, which is also known as a drying horse or garment donkey, apparently.

The word ezel means donkey, ass, mule, fool, idiot, easel, (work)bench or trestle. Related words include:

  • ezelin = jenny, she-ass
  • ezelsveulen = foal of a donkey; utter idiot, hopeless fool
  • ezelachtig = asinine
  • ezeldrijver = donkey-driver
  • ezelsbruggetje = memory aid, mnemonic (“little donkey bridge”)
  • ezelsoor = dog-ear (turned down part of a page – “donkey’s ear”)

Here’s a tune I wrote called The Dancing Donkeys / Asynnod sy’n Dawnsio:

_B110826

Snails and corner shops

I have been learning Dutch for just over a week now and am enjoying it and finding it interesting. I can guess the meanings of many of the words I encounter as they are similar to German and/or English, but some are completely different. For example, I just learnt that shop is (de) winkel /ˈʋɪŋkəl/, and that shopping is (het) winkelen, which have no similarities to shop or shopping in English, or to their equivalents in German – Geschäft/Laden and einkaufen.

According to Wiktionary, winkel meant corner in Middle Dutch and Old Dutch, and comes from the Proto-Germanic word *winkilaz (corner, nook), from the Proto-Indo-European *weng- (to bend, bow, arch, curve) [source].

Winkel is apparently cognate with German Winkel (corner), and the Old English wincel (nook, corner), which is found in the word periwinkle (a type of sea snail). The use of winkel for shop is apparently derived from the meaning “corner in which merchandise is stalled”.

Related words include:

  • ijzerwinkel, ijzerwarenwinkel = hardware store (“iron (wares) shop”)
  • platenwinkel = record shop/store
  • webwinkel = online shop/store
  • winkelen = to shop; to go shopping – also boodschappen; het boodschappen doen
  • winkelcentrum = shopping centre / mall
  • winkelwagen = shopping trolley / cart
  • winkeltas = shopping bag
  • winkelassistent = shop assistant, personal shopper, sales clerk
  • winkelier = shopkeeper, storekeeper, retailer

– winkelhaak = try square; carpenter’s square