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 initated with the 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?

Hairy Cats and Little Dogs

When you see a caterpillar, does it make you think of a cat or a dog?

Caterpillar

Why do I ask? Well, the word caterpillar comes from the Late Latin words catta (cat) and pilōsa, a form of pilōsus (hairy, shaggy), via the Old Northern French word catepeluse (caterpillar). So a caterpillar is a “hairy cat” [source].

In French the word for caterpillar is chenille [ʃə.nij], which comes from the Latin canīcula (little dog) because apparently the head of a caterpillar looks like a dog [source].

In Welsh a caterpillar is a deilbryf (“insect/lava/maggot of leaves”), ymlusgyn (“little creeper”), teiliwr (blewog) (“(hairy) tailor”) or teiliwr cantroed (“tailor with hundred feet”) [source].

In Irish a caterpillar is a cruimh chabáiste (“cabbage maggot”) or a péist cháil (“cabbage/kale beast”) [source].

Are there interesting words for caterpillars in other languages?

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].

Iron Ferrets

What would you buy in a ferretería?

Trama

When I first saw this (Spanish) word, I thought it was a shop that sells ferrets. I was slightly disappointed to discover that it actually means hardware, or hardware store or ironmongers. Or in other words, a place selling things made of ferrous metal (iron).

ferreteria

It comes from ferrete (branding iron), from the Old French ferret (branding iron), a diminutive of fer (iron), from the Latin ferrum (iron); and -ería (a suffix that turns a noun into a store or restaurant that sells such an item; characteristic of) [source].

A shop selling ferrets (hurones) would be a huronería, and the Spanish word for ferret, hurón, comes from the Latin fūr (thief), which is also the root of the English word ferret [source]. More about ferrets.

Other words for hardware store in Spanish include:

  • quincallería – from quincalla (low-value hardware, junk)
  • tlapalería – from the Classical Nahuatl tlapalli (dye, ink, paint) – used in Mexico

Other words ending in -ería include [source]:

  • joyería = jewellers, jewelery store (not a shop selling joy)
  • ostrería = oyster bar
  • piratería = piracy, theft, booklegging (not a shop selling pirates)
  • sombrerería = hat shop
  • whiskería = whisky bar (not a seller of whiskers)

Unreliable Wool

If your thinking is woolly, it is unclear, fuzzy, hazy, confused, vague, cloudy and/or confused and irrational, and you base it more on emotions rather than logic. You might be said to be woolly-headed or woolly-minded. For those of you who use American English, just ignore the second l in woolly [source].

Highland cows / Bò Ghàidhealach / Hielan coo

If you like to do a bit of woolgathering, then you either gather tufts of wool caught on bushes, are absentminded, or like to indulge in idle fancies and daydreams [source].

In Dutch the word wollig [ˈʋɔ.ləx] means woolly, fluffy, fuzzy, and also vague, unclear or muddy (tone) [source].

In Welsh, one word for woolly is gwlanog [ˈɡwlanɔɡ], which also means fleecy, unshorn, downy, woollen, and a well-off or well-to-do person. There are more sheep than people in Wales and owning a lot of them was probably a sign of prosperity in the past.

A related Welsh word gwlanen [ˈɡwlanɛn], which means a flannel or face-cloth, and also a man of weak character, one who lacks backbone, and a spineless or unreliable person, gwlanennog means flannel-like, soft and also weak-willed, without backbone, unreliable or spineless [source].

So a well-off person who is spineless would be a gwlanog gwlanennog.

You can find more woolly words in Celtic languages in today’s Celtiadur post.

Incidentally, the English word flannel comes ultimately from *wlanā, a Gaulish word meaning wool, via Old French and Norman [source].

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

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?

Bonnets

What would you call a knitted woolen hat with a bobble on top?

Lost: red bobble hat

I would call it a bobble hat, and I discovered yesterday that in French such a hat is called un bonnet à pompons or un chapeau à pompons or simply un bonnet. What about in other languages?

Bonnet [bɔ.nɛ] also means hat, cap, beanie, knit cap, skully, stocking cap or (bra) cup. Other types of bonnet include:

  • bonnet d’âne = dunce’s cap
  • bonnet de bain = bathing cap, swimming hat
  • bonnet de nuit = nightcap
  • bonnet de police = forage cap
  • bonnet de douche = shower cap

A bigwig, or “person of consequence”, is un gros bonnet, and the French equivalent of six of one, half a dozen of the other is bonnet blanc, blanc bonnet.

Bonnet comes from the Middle French bonet, from the Old French bonet (material from which hats are made), from the Frankish *bunni (that which is bound), from the Proto-Germanic *bundiją (bundle), from the Proto-Indo-European *bʰendʰ- (to tie).

The English word bonnet comes from the same root, and can refer to various types of headgear, particularly a type of hat usually framing the face and tied with ribbons under the chin and worn mainly by females.

baby bonnets

In Scots a bonnet/bunnet refers to “A head covering for men or boys, including all kinds of caps, but not hats”.

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

Sample Monsters

In Dutch the word monster [ˈmɔnstər] means a sample, and also a monster. It was borrowed from the Old French word monstre (monster) in the 13th century and at first meant a monster or monstrosity, and later in the 14th century came to mean a sample, specimen or test piece as well. It is also used to describe something very large [source].

Tree monster

The Old French word monstre came from the Latin mōnstrāre (to show), from mōnstrum (a divine omen indicating misfortune, an evil omen, portent; monster), from monēre (to warn, admonish). From the same root we get such English words as monster, muster, monitor, admonish [source], and also money, which is named after the Roman goddess Juno Moneta, whose temple in Rome housed the mint [source].

Here are some examples of how monster is used (from Duolingo and Reverso):

  • We wegen het monster af = We weigh the sample (or monster)
  • Hij neemt een monster van onze koeien = He takes a sample from our cows
  • Een troebel monster moet worden gefiltreerd = When the sample is cloudy, it should be filtered
  • Hier kon ik het monster aanroepen = It’s where I was told I could summon the monster
  • Loch Ness is de perfecte bergplaats voor een prehistorisch monster = Loch Ness would be the perfect hiding place for a prehistoric monster
  • Een driekoppig monster en vliegende schotels = A three-headed sea monster and some flying saucers

Some related words include:

  • monsterlijk = monstrous(ly)
  • monstergolf = monster wave, giant breaker, rogue
  • monsterjacht = monster hunt(ing), monster yacht
  • monsterjager = monster hunter
  • monsterverbond = monstrous convenant, unholy alliance
  • monsterzege = landslide (victory), monster victory
  • zeemonster = sea monster
  • bloedmonster = blood sample

Is monster, or something similar, used to mean something very big in other languages?

Petty Things

In the French conversation group I take part in, the word petit, which means small or little, is often mispronunced [pɛti] rather than [pə.ti], which annoys the founder of group. This might seem a rather petty thing to worry about, but pronunciation is quite important – not so much within the group, but for when we talk to actual native speakers of French.

Petit fours

Petit means small, little, minor, slight, short, mean, child, little one, youngest, young (of an animal).

Some related words and expressions include:

  • mon petit = dear (used ironically), son
  • ma petite = dear, young lady, sweetheart
  • les petits (enfants) = small children
  • les tout-petits = the little ones, the tiny tots, the toddlers
  • pauvre petit = poor little thing
  • faire des petits = to have kittens / puppies
  • petit à petit = little by little, gradually
  • petit ami = boyfriend
  • petit déjeuner = breakfast
  • petit doigt = little finger, pinky
  • petit-fils = grandson
  • petite amie = girlfriend
  • petit caisse = petty cash
  • petite-fille = granddaughter
  • petite phrase = catch phrase
  • petite sortie = stroll

Petit comes from the Vulgar Latin *pitittus (small, little), from *pit- or *pittus/*piccus (small, little), possibly from the Proto-Celtic *pett- (part, bit, piece) or from *bikkos (small, little) [source]. When I noticed the possible Celtic connection I decided to write this post, as such connections interest me a lot. The Proto-Celtic word *bikkos is the root of words for small in all the modern Celtic languages, such as bach in Welsh and beag in Irish. [More details].

The word petit also exists in English and is pronounced [ˈpɛti] or [pəˈtiː] in the UK, and [ˈpɛdi], [pəˈti] or [pəˈtit] in the American English. It means small, petty or minor [source]. In it’s feminine form, petite, it usually refers to a woman who is short and small.

Both petit and petite come from the Old French word petit (small, little, worthless, poor (quality)). Petit was used in surnames from 1086, and as an adjective meaning small, little, minor, trifling or insignificant, from the 14th century. Petite was used from the 18th century, at first to mean little or small in size, usually when referring to a woman or girl, and from the early 20th century it came to refer to a size of women’s clothing.

Petit became petty in most cases, except in certain expressions, such as petit bourgeois (conventional middle-class), petit mal (a mild form of epilepsy), petit four (small, fancy cake – see above) [source].

Petty originally meant small, little or minor. By the early 16th century it was being used to mean “of small or minor importance, not serious” and by the 1580s it came to mean “small-minded” [source].

If you are a petty person, or one who is mean or ungenerous in small or trifling things, you might have petty grievances, which are of little importance or consequence, and maybe a petty mind, or narrow ideas and/or interests, and you might like to take petty revenge. Maybe you are in charge of the petty cash (a cash fund for paying small charges), and you might be a a petty officer (a minor officer on a merchant ship, or a noncommissioned officer in the US Navy) [source].