Lady Gunilda

When is a gun not a gun?

Ballista

The word gun nowadays refers to “A device for projecting a hard object very forcefully; a firearm or cannon, etc”. However, originally it wasn’t just used for firearms. The word possibly comes from the name of a ballista, a type of giant crossbow (see above), that was used at Windsor Castle in England in the 14th century – Domina Gunilda (Lady Gunilda).

An inventory of the munitions of Windsor Castle conducted in 1330-31 included the entry:

Una magna balista de cornu quæ vocatur Domina Gunilda.
(A great ballista of horn which is called Lady Gunilda.)

Not long after that, the word gonne starts to appear. It was also written gon, gonn, goone or gun, and referred to:

  1. A trebuchet or similar kind of pellet-firing siege engine.
  2. A cannon or other large firearm; a piece of artillery.
  3. A portable handheld firearm; a gun (i.e. a hand cannon).
  4. A projectile (rare).

Later, it began to be used specifically for firearms.

The name Gunilda comes from the Old Norse name Gunnhildr, from gunnr (war) and‎ hildr (battle). It’s a female name that’s poetically translated as “battle maid”. Other versions include Gunhilda, Gun(n)hild, Gunill(a), Gunnel, Hildur, Hilda and Hildegard.

Here’s a little song from Hildegard von Blingin’, because why not?

Other names from the same roots include Brunhild(a), Imelda and Matilda.

Sources: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gun#English
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gunne#Middle_English
https://www.wordorigins.org/big-list-entries/gun
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Reconstruction:Proto-Germanic/hildiz

Goosnargh

What does the word goosnargh suggest to you?

Gertie and Bertie
A couple of geese that I encountered unexpectedly when walking around Bangor.

When I first came across this word the other day, I guessed it might be an exclamation you make when encountering an unexpected goose. Goosnargh!

The Village, Goosnargh.

Somewhat disappointingly, Goosnargh [ˈɡuːznər] is in fact a village between Broughton and Longridge in the City of Preston district of Lancashire in the northwest of England, not far from where I grew up. It’s apparently famous for its Goosnargh cakes, a type of caraway seed shortcake biscuit traditionally sold at Whitsun (the seventh Sunday after Easter).

Here’s a recipe: https://bakingforbritain.blogspot.com/2005/09/goosnargh-cakes-from-lancashire.html

The name comes the Old Irish name Gosan or Gusan and the Old Norse word erg (hill pasture), which is thought to come from the Old Irish áirge (a place for milking cows). Alternatively, it might come from the Old Norse gudhsins hörgi (“at the idol’s (god’s) temple”). Goosnargh appears in the Domesday Book as Gusansarghe, and by 1212 it had changed to Gosenargh.

Áirge became áirí (milking-place, herd (of cows), ground manured in previous year; ground from which potatoes have been cropped) in Irish, àirigh [aːrʲɪ] (hill pasture, bothy, sheiling, pastoral summer residence, sheiling (knitting pattern)) in Scottish Gaelic, and eairee (hill pasture, shieling) in Manx. The Faorese word ærgi [ˈaɹt͡ʃɪ] (a pasture for cattle to graze over the summer with a hut where the people tending them live meanwhile; a shieling, saeter) also come from the same roots.

According to Douglas Adams in his novel In So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish, goosnargh is a Betelgeusian word used by Ford Prefect “when he knew he should say something but didn’t know what it should be.”

However, in The Meaning of Liff, in which Douglas Adams’ gives comic meanings to British place names, goosnargh is defined as “Something left over from preparing or eating a meal, which you store in the fridge despite the fact that you know full well you will never ever use it.”

I certainly have a few goosnarghs (leftovers) in my fridge. How about you?

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goosnargh
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Goosnargh
https://www.teanglann.ie/en/fgb/áirí
https://www.faclair.com/

Saturn’s Bathing Day

The English word Saturday comes ultimately from the Proto-West Germanic *Sāturnas dag (Saturn’s day), which is a calque (translation) of the Latin diēs Saturnī (day of Saturn).

Saturday

There are similar words in other West Germanic languages, such as West Frisian (saterdei), Low German (Saterdag), and Dutch (zaterdag), all of which mean Saturday [source].

There German word for Saturday, Samstag, comes from Middle High German sam(e)ztac, from Old High German sambaztag (Sabbath day), from Gothic *𐍃𐌰𐌼𐌱𐌰𐍄𐍉 (*sambatō), a version 𐍃𐌰𐌱𐌱𐌰𐍄𐍉 (sabbatō – Saturday, the Sabbath day), from Koine Greek σάββατον (sábbaton – Sabbath), from Hebrew שַׁבָּת‎ (šabbāṯ – Sabbath), possibly from Akkadian 𒊭𒉺𒀜𒌈 (šapattum – the middle day of the lunar month).

Words from the same roots include samedi (Saturday) in French, sâmbătă (Saturday) in Romanian, and szombat (Saturday, Sabbath) in Hungarian [source].

In northern and eastern Germany, another word for Saturday is Sonnabend (“Sunday eve”), as apparently in Germanic recking, the day begins at sunset. It a calque of the Old English sunnanǣfen (Saturday evening) [source].

Words for Saturday in the North Germanic languages have a different root, however. These include lördag in Swedish, lørdag in Danish and Norwegian, leygardagur in Faroese and laugardagur in Icelandic. They all come from the Old Norse laugardagr, from laug (pool) and dagr (day), so literally “bathing day” [source].

These words have also been borrowed into Finnic languages: Saturday is lauantai in Finnish, laupäev in Estonian and lavvantaki in Ingrian.

Are there any other languages in which Saturday means something like “bathing day”, or something else interesting?

See also: Days of the week in many languages on Omniglot.

Snudging & Snuggling

Do you like to snudge?

Snuggling

To snudge is an old word that means to lie snug or quiet, to save in a miserly manner, or to hoard, and a snudge is a miser or sneaking fellow.

You might also snudge along, which means to walk looking down, with an abstracted appearance. Many people do this while staring at their phones. Or on a cold day, you might snudge over the fire, that is, keep close to the fire.

Snudge is related to snug, which apparently means tight or handsome in some English dialects, and possibly comes from Old Norse snoggr (short-haired), from Proto-Germanic *snawwuz (short, quick, fast).

Related words in other languages include snöggur (short, swift, fast) in Icelandic, snög (neat) in Danish, and snygg (handsome, good-looking, proper, nice) in Swedish.

Snug originally meant compact or trim (of a ship), and especially protected from the weather. Later it came to mean in a state of ease or comfort, then to fit closely, as in snug as a bug in a rug or as in snug as a bee in a box. It also means warm and comfortable, cosy, safisfactory, and can be a small, comfortable back room in a pub (in the UK).

Then there’s snuggle, which means an affectionate hug, or the final remnant left in a liquor bottle, and as a verb, it means to lie close to another person or thing, hugging or being cozy/cosy, or to move or arrange oneself in a comfortable and cosy position.

Instead of snuggling, you might prefer snerdling, croozling, snoodling, snuzzling or even neezling, which all mean more or less the same thing – being cozy and snug.

Do you know any other interesting words for snudging or snuggling?

How about versions of the phrase as in snug as a bug in a rug in other languages?

In Scottish Gaelic there’s cho seasgair ri luchag ann an cruach (“as snug as a mouse in a haystack”), and cho blàth ‘s cofhurtail ri ugh ann an tòn na circe (“as warm and comfortable as an egg in the backside of a hen”),

Sources:
https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/columnists/scots-has-more-than-400-words-for-snow-and-we-may-need-them-if-snowmageddon-descends-susie-dent-3959696
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/snudge#English
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/snug#English
https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=snug
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/snuggle#English
https://westcountryvoices.co.uk/weird-and-wonderful-words-week-3/

Hanging Nails

A hangnail is an angry nail, not a nail that’s hanging off. Let’s find out more.

Rusty key / rusten nøkkel

A hangnail is:

  • A loose, narrow strip of nail tissue protruding from the side edge and anchored near the base of a fingernail or toenail.
  • A pointed upper corner of the toenail (often created by improperly trimming by rounding the corner) that, as the nail grows, presses into the flesh or protrudes so that it may catch (“hang”) on stockings or shoes.

It comes from the old word agnail (a corn or sore on the toe or finger, torn skin near a toenail or fingernail), from Middle English agnail, from Old English angnægl, from ang (compressed, narrow, tight) and nægl (nail), from Proto-Germanic *naglaz (nail, peg), from Proto-Indo-European *h₃nogʰ- (nail). It was reanalyised as hang + nail in folk etymology [source].

Ang comes from Proto-Germanic *angus (narrow, tight) from Proto-Indo-European *h₂énǵʰus, (narrow, tight), from *h₂enǵʰ- (to constrict, tighten, narrow, tight, distresed, anxious) [source].

Words from the same root include anger, angina, angst, anguish, anxiety and anxious in English, ahdas (tight, narrow, cramped) in Finnish, cúng (narrow) in Irish, and узкий [ˈuskʲɪj] (narrow, tight) in Russian [source].

The word England possibly comes from the same root (at least the first syllable does) – from Middle English Engelond (England, Britain), from Old English Engla land (“land of the Angles”), from Proto-West Germanic *Anglī, from Proto-Germanic *angulaz (hook, prickle), from Proto-Indo-European *h₂enk- (to bend, crook), which may be related to *h₂enǵʰ- (to constrict, tighten, etc) [source].

Other names for hangnail include whitlow, wicklow, paronychia and nimpingang [source].

Whitlow comes from Middle English whitflaw. The whit part comes from Middle Dutch vijt or Low German fit (abscess), from Latin fīcus (fig-shaped ulcer), and the flaw part comes from Middle English flawe, flay (a flake of fire or snow, spark, splinter), probably from Old Norse flaga (a flag or slab of stone, flake), from Proto-Germanic *flagō (a layer of soil), from Proto-Indo-European *plāk- (broad, flat). [source]

Wicklow is a common misspelling of whitlow, and paronychia comes from Ancient Greek παρα (para – beside), and ὄνῠξ (ónux – claw, nail, hoof, talon) [source]

Nimpingang comes from Devonshire dialect and refers to “a fester under the finger nail”. Nimphing gang is an alternative version, and in West Somerset it is known as a nippigang. It comes from impingall (ulcer, infected sore), from Old English impian (to graft) [source] from Proto-West Germanic *impōn (to graft), from Vulgar Latin imputō (to graft), from Ancient Greek ἔμφυτος (émphutos – natural, (im)planted) [source]

Words from the same roots include imp (a small, mischievous sprite or a malevolent supernatural creature) in English and impfen (to inoculate, vaccinate) in German [source]

Sailing Away

While putting together a post on my Celtiadur blog about words for ships and boats in Celtic languages, I realised that words for boats, ships and other nautical things in English come from many different languages. So I thought I’d write a blog post about them.

Laxey / Laksaa

The word boat comes from Middle English bot (boat, the path or course of one’s life), from Old English bāt (boat), from Proto-West Germanic *bait, from Proto-Germanic *baitaz (boat, small ship), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰeyd- (to break, split) [source].

The French word bateau (ship, boat), the Dutch word boot (boat), and the German word Boot (boat) were all borrowed from Middle or Old English.

Words for boat in North Germanic languages, such as Swedish (båt), Danish (båd) and Icelandic (bátur), were borrowed from Old Norse bátr, which was borrowed from Old English bāt (boat) [source].

Some words for boat in Irish (bád), Scottish Gaelic (bàta), Manx (baatey) and Welsh (bad) were also borrowed from Old English or Old Norse [source].

ship-13

The word ship comes from Middle English schip (ship, boat), from Old English scip (ship), from Proto-West Germanic *ship (ship), from Proto-Germanic *skipą (ship), from unknown origins [source].

Ship can be used to refer to a water-borne vessel generally larger than a boat, while boat usually refers to vessels smaller than a ship but larger than a dinghy. Boat also refers to submarines of any size, and lakers (ships used in the Great Lakes trade in North America).

Sunday Sailing.

A dinghy is a small open boat, propelled by oars or paddles, carried as a tender, lifeboat, or pleasure craft on a ship; a sailing dinghy, or an inflatable rubber life raft. It comes from Bengali ডিঙি (ḍiṅi – canoe), probably from Sanskrit द्रोण (droṇa – wooden vessel, bucket, trough), Proto-Indo-Iranian *dráwnam (wooden object), from Proto-Indo-European *dréw-no-m, from *dóru (tree, wood) [source].

A yacht is a sailing boat larger than a dinghy but smaller than a sailing ship, often with a cabin. It can also be a motor-powered private boat. It comes from yeaghe (light, fast sailing ship) from Dutch jacht (yacht, hunt), from jaghtschip (light sailing vessel, fast pirate ship: lit. “pursuit ship”).

Apparently the original Dutch jaghtschip were built to chase pirates and smugglers from the coast. In 1660 the Dutch East India Company presented one to King Charles II, who used it as a pleasure boat. It was then copied by British shipbuilders as a pleasure craft for wealthy gentlemen [source].

Tall Ships 015 Gloriaa_C

Another type of boat is a barque, which is a sailing vessel with three or more masts, with all masts but the sternmost square-rigged. It comes from Middle English barke (boat), from Middle French barque, from Latin barca (baris – a type of flat-bottomed freighter used on the Nile in Ancient Egypt), from Ancient Greek βᾶρις (bâris – Egyptian boat), from Coptic ⲃⲁⲁⲣⲉ (baare – small boat), from Demotic br, from Ancient Egyptian bꜣjr (transport ship, type of fish) [source].

Barge

The word barge (A large flat-bottomed towed or self-propelled boat used mainly for river and canal transport of heavy goods or bulk cargo), comes from the same roots, as does the Spanish barco (boat), the Galician barco (ship, boat, barge) and the Portuguese barco (boat) [source].

Green Canoe

The word canoe (a small long and narrow boat, propelled by one or more people) comes from Spanish canoa (canoe), probably from Taino *kanowa (canoe), from Proto-Arawak *kanawa (caone) [source].

Inuit kayak

Canoes are generally open on top, while kayaks are covered over except for the cockpit where the paddler sits. Kayak comes from Inuktitut ᖃᔭᖅ (qayaq – kayak, man’s boat), from Proto-Eskimo *qayaʁ (kayak) [source].

Umiak

If kayaks are men’s boats, are there women’s boats as well? There are – they are the umiak (a large, open boat made of skins stretched over a wooden frame that is propelled by paddles), from Inuvialuktun ᐅᒥᐊᖅ (umiaq – women’s boat) [source].

Incidentally, navy (a country’s entire sea force, including ships and personnel) comes from Middle English nave (navy), navye, from Old French navie (navy), from Latin nāvigia, from nāvigium (vessel, ship boat, from nāvis (ship, boat, vessel), from Proto-Indo-European *néh₂us (boat). In Old English navy was sciphere (“ship army”) [source].

English words from the same roots include navigate, nave, nautical and astronaut (lit. “star sailor”) [source].

Gadding About

In this post we explore the various meanings and origins of the word gad.

Gadfly

As an exclamation, gad! is a euphemistic alteration of the word God, and is the roughly equivalent of by God!, goodness gracious! and similar exclamations. It also appears in such exclamations as egad!, egads!, gadzooks!, gadsbobs!, gadsbudlikins! and gadsnouns!.

As a verb, to gad means:

  • to move from one location to another in an apparently random and frivolous manner
  • (of cattle) to run with the tail in the air, bent over the back, usually in an attempt to escape the warble fly

This comes from Middle English gadden (to go quickly, hurry, rush about), possibly from gadde. Related words include gadabout (a person who restlessly moves from place to place, seeking amusement or the companionship of others) and gaddish (inclined to gad, or move from place to place frivolously).

As a noun, gad means one who roams about idly, or a gadabout. This version comes from Middle English gade (a fool, simpleton), from Old English gāda (comrade, companion), from Proto-West Germanic *gadō, from Proto-Germanic *gadô/*gagadô (companion, associate), from Proto-Indo-European *gʰedʰ- (to join, unite).

The obsolete English word gadling (a companion in arms, fellow, comrade, a roving vagabond) comes from the same roots, as does the Dutch word gade (spouse), and the German word Gatte (spouse).

In Northern England and Scotland, gad is apparently used to mean a greedy and/or stupid person.

Finally, gad can mean:

  • a goad, a sharp-pointed rod for driving cattle, horses, etc, or one with a whip or thong on the end for the same purpose
  • a rod or stick, such as a fishing rod or a measuring rod
  • a pointed metal tool for breaking or chiselling rock
  • a spike on a gauntlet.

This comes from Middle English gad(de), from Old Norse gaddr (goad, spike), from Proto-Germanic *gazdaz (spike, rod, stake).

Words from the same roots include yard (a unit of length equal to 3 feet, a spar on a sail) in English, and gadd (stinger, sting, tooth) in Swedish.

Also from the same root in the English word gadfly, which refers to certain types of flies that irritate animals by buzzing around them and biting them to suck their blood, and by extension, a person of thing that irritates or instigates, or a person who takes without giving back. It is also a synonym of gadabout.

Sources: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gad#English
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gadfly#English
https://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/middle-english-dictionary/dictionary
https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=gad

Tarn

In the north of England, particularly in Cumbria, the word tarn is used to refer to a small mountain lake. It is also apparently used in the USA, mainly in Montana, to refer to small mountain lakes or ponds.

Little Langdale Tarn
Little Langdale Tarn

According to Wikipedia, “a tarn or corrie loch is a mountain lake, pond or pool, formed in a cirque excavated by a glacier. A moraine may form a natural dam below a tarn.”

Tarn comes from the Middle English terne/tarne (lake, pond, pool), from the Old Norse tjǫrn (small lake, pond, pool), from the Proto-Germanic *ternō (a mountain lake without tributaries, watering hole, small pool), from the Proto-Indo-European *der (to split, separate, tear, crack, shatter) [source].

Words from the same Old Norse root include tjörn (pond) in Icelandic, tjørn (pond) in Faroese, tjärn (small forest lake) in Swedish, and tjern (a small forest or mountain lake) in Danish and Norwegian [source].

English words from the same PIE root include (to) tear, derma (the inner layer of the skin), and dermic (of or relating to the dermis or skin) [source].

Other words from the same PIE root, via Proto-Celtic, include: darn (piece, fragment, patch, part) in Welsh, darn (fragment, part) in Breton, and possibly dréacht (part, portion, draft) in Irish and dreuchd (job, occupation, role, function) in Scottish Gaelic [source].

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Kissing Day

The 14th February is a special day for some – Valentine’s Day, or in Scottish Gaelic Là nam Pòg (“Kissing Day”), which I think is a fun name for the day. Do any other languages have interesting names for Valentine’s Day?

Act Like You're my Valentine

Apparently the practise of sending loved ones cards on Valentine’s Day became popular in the late 18th / early 19th century, in the UK at least, and really took off after 1840, when postage stamps were invented. In 1868 the chocolate company Cadbury started making heart-shaped boxes of chocolates for Valentine’s Day, and the giving of chocolates quickly became popular on this day [source].

By the way, a nice term of affection I learnt recently in Scots is ma wee scone (my little scone). Have you ever heard or used this or something similar? Have you compared your loved ones to other types of food?

Other Scottish Gaelic terms I’ve learnt recently for special days include Là na Gogaireachd (April Fools’ Day – 1st April) and Oidhche na Taigeise (Burns Night – 25th January), or literally “Night of the Haggis”.

The word gogaireachd means a fool’s errand or the act of making a fool of someone. Là na Gogaireachd is also translated as All Fools ‘Day, Gowk’s Day or Hunt-the-Gowk Day. A gowk is a cuckoo or fool in Scots and northern dialects of English. It also means to make foolish or stupefy, and comes from the Old Norse gaukr (cuckoo), from the Proto-Germanic *gaukaz (cuckoo), from the Proto-Indo-European *gʰegʰuǵʰ- (cuckoo) [source]. April Fools’ Day is also Là nan Amadan (Idiots’ Day) in Scottish Gaelic.

The word taigeis (haggis) was borrowed from the English haggis, which comes from the Late Middle English hagis (haggis), from hag(gen) (to chop, cut, hack), from the Old Norse hǫggva (to hew), or from hakken (to chop, hack dice, mince), from the Old English hēawan (to chop, hew; to dice, mince), both ultimately come from the Proto-Indo-European *kewh₂- (to hew; to beat, strike; to forge) [source].

Kenning

If something is beyond your ken, it is beyond your knowledge or understanding. The word ken only really appears in this phrase, but in some dialects of English in northern England, and in Scots and Scottish English, ken is more commonly used.

Ken

In English ken means to know, perceive, understand; knowledge, perception or sight. It comes from the Middle English kennen (to make known, tell, teach, proclaim, annouce, reveal), from the Old English cennan (to make known, declare, acknowledge), from cunnan (to become acquainted with, to know), from the Proto-West Germanic *kannijan (to know, to be aware of), from the Proto-Germanic *kannijaną (to make known), from *kunnaną (to be able), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵn̥néh₃ti (to know, recognize) from *ǵneh₃- (to know) [source].

Some related words include:

  • beken = to make known, reveal, deliver, commit
  • foreken = to perceive, realise ahead of time, foreknow, preconceive
  • kenning = sight, view, a distant view at sea; range r extent of vision (esp. at sea), a small portion, as little as one can discrimminate or recognize
  • misken = to mistake one for another, fail to know, misunderstand, ignore, disregard, neglect
  • outken = to surpass or exceed in knowledge

These are no longer used, rarely used, or only used in some dialects of English.

Kenning also means “A metaphorical compound or phrase, used especially in Germanic poetry (Old English or Old Norse) whereby a simple thing is described in an allusive way.” It was borrowed from Old Norse [source].

Some examples of kenning in Old Norse and Old English include:

  • báru fákr (wave’s horse) = ship
  • gjálfr-marr (sea-steed) = ship
  • heofon-candel (sky-candle) = sun
  • grennir gunn-más (feeder of ravens) = warrior
  • winter-ġewǣde (winter-raiment) = snow
  • hilde-leoma (battle light) = sword
  • seġl-rād (sail-road) = sea
  • hwæl-weġ (whale-way) = sea
  • heofon-candel (sky-candle) = sun
  • ban-hus (bone-house) = body

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenning, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_kennings, https://projects.iq.harvard.edu/cb45/kennings

There are cognates in other Germanic languages, including:

  • ken = to know (a person, a thing), be acquainted with in Afrikaans
  • kende = to know (be acquainted or familiar with) in Danish
  • kjenne = to know (be acquainted or familiar with), to feel or sense in Norwegian
  • känna = to feel or sense, or to know (a person) in Swedish
  • kennen = to know (a thing), be acquainted with in Dutch
  • kennen = to know, be acquainted with, be familiar with in German

In Scots ken means “To know, be aware of, apprehend, learn (a fact)”, and comes from the same roots as the English word [source]. Some related words include:

  • ken(n)ing = imparting, teaching, recognition, indentification, knowing
  • kenable = obvious, easily recognisable
  • kenmark = a distinguishing mark, mark of owenership on an animal, brand
  • kennage = knowledge, information
  • kenspeckle = easily recognisable, conspicuous, of familiar appearance