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].

Oak Knowers

To me the word druid makes me think of Getafix, the druid in the Asterix comics – an old man with a long white beard who brews magic potions in a big cauldron. He has other names, such as Panoramix in many other European languages, and Kensawthetrix (“knows all the tricks”) in Scots [More details].

IMGR6414-ed

According to TheFreeDictionary, a druid is:

  1. a member of an ancient order of priests in Gaul, Britain, and Ireland in the pre-Christian era
  2. a member of any of several modern movements attempting to revive druidism

It comes from the French druide (druid), from the Old French druide (druid), from the Latin Druidae (the Druids), from the Gaulish *druwits (druid), from the Proto-Celtic *druwits (druid), from *daru (oak) amd *wid/*windeti (to know, to see), so a druid is an “oak knower/seer”, from the Proto-Indo-European *dóru (tree) and *weyd- (to see) [Source].

In Proto-Brythonic a druid or seer was a *drüw, which became dryw [drɨu̯/drɪu̯] (druid, seer) and derwydd (prophet, wise man, druid) in Welsh, drewydh (druid) in Cornish and drouiz (druid) in Breton [source]. It was also borrowed into Old English as drȳ (sorcerer, magician), which became drī(mann)/driʒ(mann) (sorcerer, magician) in Middle English [source]. A few modern druids use the word drymann, or something similiar, to refer to themselves.

Here’s a traditional Welsh folk tune called Y Derwydd (The Druid):

There is sheet music for several versions of this tune on The Session.

Jargon

When I come across an unfamiliar word, I usually find it interesting and intriguing, and try to find out what it means and where it comes from. I also do this when I hear words being used in ways that are unfamiliar to me.

For example, the builder who is currently working on the new studio in my garden often shares building jargon with me. I find this interesting as I can see examples of what he means. The latest term was snots, which refers to drops of cement that fall off while it’s being applied to walls. [More details].

Jargon image

Sometimes, though, I find new words annoying, especially when a lot of them appear together. For example, I often receive emails from companies who are keen to advertise on Omniglot, who want to managing the ads on my site, or who want to redesign the site. These emails include lots of specialist vocabulary and abbreviations that I only partially understand. If I think they have something to offer that might benefit the site, I will try to decipher the jargon. Otherwise I don’t bother.

According to Dictionary.com, jargon [ˈdʒɑː.ɡən/ˈdʒɑɹ.ɡən] is:

  • the language, especially the vocabulary, peculiar to a particular trade, profession, or group: medical jargon.
  • unintelligible or meaningless talk or writing; gibberish.
  • any talk or writing that one does not understand.
  • pidgin.
  • language that is characterized by uncommon or pretentious vocabulary and convoluted syntax and is often vague in meaning.

It comes from the Middle English jargo(u)n (the sound of conversation, talking), from the Old French jargon (talk, chatter, conversation, talking), a variant of gargon/gargun (chatter, talk, language) [source].

When people mention things like header bidding, operational yield management, proprietary stacks, display inventory, RPMs and CPMs (all from one email), I tend to switch off. Perhaps it would be useful and lucrative for me to know about such things, but I’d rather not. I might also find myself becoming a little irritated with people who use such terms, and wondering why they can’t just use more transparent language.

How do you feel about jargon and other unfamiliar forms of language?

Old Long Since

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and if you’re celebrating it with others, you might just sing the song Auld Land Syne. So I thought I’d look into the history of the song and the meanings and origins of some of the words.

Auld Lang Syne

Auld Land Syne was based on a Scottish folk song with parts of it written by Robert Burns. It acquired the traditional tune in 1799. Burns sent a copy the original song to the Scots Musical Museum in 1788 claiming that it had never been written down before, and that he got it from an old man. The first verse and chorus have a lot in common with the ballad “Old Long Syne”, which was published by James Watson in 1711.

Here is Burn’s version of the song:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

Chorus
For auld lang syne, my jo, (For old times, my dear)
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet, (And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet)
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup! (And surely you’ll buy your pint-pot)
and surely I’ll be mine! (and surely I’ll buy mine)
And we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes, (We two have run about the hills)
and pou’d the gowans fine; (and picked the daisies fine)
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit, (But we’ve wandered many a weary foot)
sin’ auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn, (We two have paddled in the stream)
frae morning sun till dine; (from morning sun till dinner time)
But seas between us braid hae roar’d (But seas between us broad have roared)
sin’ auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere! (And there’s a hand my trusty friend)
and gie’s a hand o’ thine! (And give me a hand o’ thine)
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught, (And we’ll take a right good-will draught)
for auld lang syne.

This is what it sounds like in the original Scots:

For auld lang syne [fər o̜ːld lɑŋ səin] means literally “for old long since”, and can be translated as “for old times”, “for days gone by” or “for the sake of old times”.

pint-stoup [pəint.stʌup] means pint-pot, that is a tankard or drinking vessel containing a Scots pint (3 imperial pints / 1.696 L) [source].

brae [breː] = the brow of a hill, a hill, hillside or the high ground adjoining a river bank. From the Middle English bro/bra (bank of a stream, raised edge of a ditch or pit), from the Old Norse brá (eyebrow, eyelash) [source].

pou [puː] (also pul and pow) = to pull, to pluck (fruit, flowers, etc), or to gather produce of any kind. From the Middle English pullen, from Old English pullian (to pull, draw, tug, pluck off) [source].

gowan [ɡʌu.ən] = common daisy (Bellis perennis). From the old northern English dialect word golland. Possibly from the Old Norse gull/goll (gold) [source].

fiere [fiːr] = a companion, comrade, spouse, contemporary or equal. From the (Northumbrian) Old English fǣra, for ġefēra (companion, comrade), from ġe- (co-) and fēra (traveller) [source].

waught [wɑːxt] = to quaff, drink deeply, take large draughts (of); a draught of liquid, a long pull, swig or gulp of any drink. Of unknown origin.

Sources: Wikipedia, Dictionary.com, DSL – Dictionaries of the Scots Language / Dictionars o the Scots Leid, Wiktionary

Sea Swine

A porpoise is a small cetacean of the family Phocoenidae, and is related to dolphins and whales.

Eye Contact !

The word porpoise comes from the Middle English porpeys/purpeys, from the Anglo-Norman porpeis/purpeis, from the Old French po(u)rpois/pourpais (porpoise), from the Vulgar Latin *porcopiscis (porpoise), from the Latin porcus (pig) and piscis (fish) [source].

Other (archaic / poetic) English words for porpoises, and dolphins, include: sea hogs, sea pigs, seaswine, or mereswine, from the Old English mereswīn (porpoise).

In French a porpoise is a cochon de mer (“sea pig”), or a marsouin [maʁ.swɛ̃], which comes from the Old English mereswīn (porpoise), or from another Germanic language, such as *mariswīn (porpoise, dolphin) in Old Frankish, meerswijn (dolphin, porpoise) in Middle Dutch, or marsvín (dolphin) in Old Norse. These all come from the Proto-Germanic *mariswīną (dolphin, porpoise) from *mari (sea, ocean, lake) and *swīną (swine, pig) [source].

Related words in modern Germanic languages include:

  • Mereswyne/Merswine = porpoise or dolphin in Scots
  • Meerscheinchen = guinea pig in German
  • marsvín = guinea pig in Icelandic and Faroese
  • marsvin = guinea pig or porpoise in Danish and Norwegian
  • marsvin = guinea pig in Swedish
  • meerzwijn = porpoise in Dutch

Source: Wiktionary

Lukewarm

If something is lukewarm [ˌluːkˈwɔːm / ˌlukˈwɔɹm], it is somewhere between warm and cool. Or you might be lukewarm (unenthusiastic) about an idea or proposal.

A word cloud based on the contents of this post

Something that is a bit cooler than lukewarm, or something that you’re less enthusiastic about is lukecold, a rare word that I hadn’t heard before.

The word luke comes from the Middle English lew (tepid), which is apparently still used in some dialects in northern England, and also in Scots, where it means lukewarm, tepid or slightly heated. That comes from the Old English hlēow (warm, sunny), from the Proto-Germanic *hliwjaz/*hlēwaz (lukewarm), from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱal(w)e-/*ḱlēw- (warm, hot).

Some words from the same Proto-Germanic root include:

  • Danish: ly = shelter
  • Dutch: lauw [lɑu̯] = lukewarm (temperature); cold, indifferent; nice, cool, chill, and flauw = boring, tasteless, uninspired; languid, weak, vague, hazy (via Old French)
  • French: flou [flu] = fuzzy, blurred, blurry, unclear
  • German: lau [laʊ̯] = lukewarm, tepid; mild; cushy, easy
  • Icelandic: hlýr [l̥iːr] = warm
  • Norwegian: ly [lyː] = lukewarm, mild; shelter
  • Swedish: ly = hangout

Sources: Wiktionary, Dictionaries of the Scots Language /
Dictionars o the Scots Leid

Carefully Garrulous

What do the words care and garrulous have in common?

Well, care comes from the Middle English care (grief, sorrow), from the Old English caru/ċearu (worry, anxiety, care, sorrow, grief), from the Proto-West-Germanic *karu (care, worry), from the Proto-Germanic *karō (complaint, lament, grievance, moan, worry, sorrow, care, concern), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵeh₂r- (to shout, call, cry; voice) [source].

Careful now

Garrulous (excessively or tiresomely talkative) comes from the Latin garrulus (talkative), from garriō (I chatter, prattle), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵeh₂r- (to call, cry), which is apparently of imitative origin [source].

JAY (Garrulous glandarius)
Pictured above is a Eurasian Jay, also known as Garrulus glandarius – the garrulus part means chattering/noisy and the glandarius part means “of acorns”.

So, they come from the same PIE root, via different paths. Other words from the same root include [source]:

  • Italian: garrire [ɡarˈrire] = to chirp (of birds); to flutter, flap, wave (of flag)
  • Portuguese: garrir [ɡɐˈʁiɾ] = to resound, gossip, shine
  • Irish: gair [ɡaɾʲ] = to call, summon, invoke, name, proclaim, inaugurate, acclaim; and gáir [ɡɑːɾʲ/ɡæːɾʲ] = cry, shout, report, fame, notoriety; to shout, laugh
  • Scottish Gaelic: gàir [ɡaːrʲ] = laugh, cry, shout; outcry, clamour;
    and gairm [ɡɤrʲɤm] = call, cry, declare, announce
  • Manx: gerr = crow, shout
  • Welsh: gair [ɡai̯r] = word, speech, phrase, greeting, salutation
  • Cornish: ger = word
  • Breton: ger = word, speech, question

The English word slogan also comes from the same root, or at least part of it does. It comes from sloggorne/slughorn(e) (battle cry), from the Scottish Gaelic sluagh-ghairm [ˈsl̪ˠuəɣərəm] (slogan, war cry), from the Old Irish slúag/slóg (army, assembly, crowd) and gairm (call, cry).

Fighting Combs

The Scots word fecht [fɛçt / feːçt / faeçt] means to fight, or to struggle in the battle of life against misfortune, poverty, etc. It comes from the Middle English fighten (to fight, battle, quarrel), from the Old English feohtan (to fight), from the Proto-West Germanic *fehtan (to fight), from the Proto-Germanic *fehtaną (to comb, detangle, struggle (with), fight, shear) from the Proto-Indo-European *peḱ- (to pluck, ruffle, tousle, shear) [source].

Related words include:

  • fecht, feicht = a fight
  • fechtand, feghtand = fighting
  • fechtar, fechter = one who fights (in battle or in brawls)
  • fechting, fechtine = engaging in fight or battle

Source: DSL Dictionaries of the Scots Language / Dictionars o the Scots Leid

I learnt about this word on a video on Tiktok by @misspunnypennie – part of her Scots word of the day series. This particular video is about the word ilka, which means each or every. The example she gives includes fecht and fechter:

Agin ilka sair fecht there’s a bonnie fechter
(Against every hard fight there’s a fearless fighter)

By the way, if you prefer to avoid Tiktok, you can find compilations of the Scots Word of Day videos, and Scots-related videos by Miss Punny Pennie (a.k.a. Len Pennie) on Twitter and YouTube. Here’s Len talking about Scots:

When I heard the words fecht and fechter, I thought they must be related to the Dutch words vechten [ˈvɛxtə(n] (to fight, fighting) and vechter (fighter, warrior), which I learnt recently – they are indeed related and come from the same Proto-West-Germanic root [source].

20170924-153745LC

Other words from the same Proto-West-Germanic root (*fehtan) include: fight in English, fäkta (to fence, fight) in Swedish, fechten (to fence, fight) in German, and фехтовать [fʲɪxtɐˈvatʲ] (to fence) in Russian, which was borrowed from German. To fence here means to fight with swords rather than to make a fence [source]

There is also a Dutch word related to ilkaelk, which means each or every [source].

Climbing Up

The other day I came across an interesting Dutch word – klimop [‘klɪ.mɔp], which means ivy (Hedera helix).

Ivy

It comes from opklimmen (to climb up, become greater, become larger), and literally means “climb-up”, which seems like a good name for a plant the climbs up walls and other things [source].

Klimop also features in Afrikaans, and similar words are used in Low German (Klimmop) and Papiamentu (klemòk) [source].

Klimmen (to climb, go up) comes from the Middle Dutch climmen (to climb, rise, to go up, increase), from the Old Dutch *climban (to climb), from the Proto-Germanic *klimbaną (to climb) [source].

The English word climb comes from the same root, via the Middle English climben [ˈkliːmbən/ˈklimbən] (to climb, scale, ascend, soar), and the Old English climban [ˈklim.bɑn] (to climb). In Late Middle English the b was no longer pronounced, so climben became [ˈkliːmən/ˈklimən]. Then the i became a diphthong and the -en ending fell off, resulting in the pronunciation [klaɪm] [source].

The English word ivy comes from the Middle English ivi (ivy), from the Old English īfiġ [ˈiː.vij] (ivy), from the Proto-Germanic *ibahs (ivy), from the Proto-Indo-European *(h₁)ebʰ- [source].

From the same root we get words for ivy in Danish (efeu), German (Efeu) and Norwegian (eføy) [source], and words for yew (trees) in Celtic languages, including iúr in Irish and iubhar in Scottish Gaelic [more details]

Skips and Dumpsters

The hedge in my garden was cut down yesterday, and soon work will start clearing the end of the garden where my new studio will be built. Now I need to hire a skip for all the stuff that needs to be taken away.

My garden after the hedge was removed.
This is how my garden looks at the moment. The shed and the mound next to it will be removed next. The wooden fence on the left belongs to my neighbours, and hopefully they’ll fix it or replace it soon.

A skip in this sense is “a large open-topped container for waste, designed to be lifted onto the back of a truck to remove it along with its contents” (see below). It can also refer to a transportation container in a mine, usually for ore or mullock (waste material from a mine), a wheeled basket used in cotton factories, a charge of syrup in the pans (in sugar manufacture), or a beehive.

Skip

It comes from the Middle English word skep(pe) (basket, beehive made of straw or wicker), from the Old English sceppe, from Old Norse skeppa (basket), which is of unknown origin [source].

From the same Old Norse root we get the Swedish word skeppa [ɧɛpʰa] (to ship; to transport by ship or boat) [source].

Apparently the word skip is mainly used in the UK, and the equivalent in North America is a dumpster. Is that right? What about in other places?

The word dumpster comes from dump and Dempster, a brand name for such things that became generic [source].