Gardens and Castles

The word for garden in Russian, and also in Belarusian, Ukrainian and Serbian, is сад [sat], which also means orchard. It comes from the Proto-Slavic word *sadъ (plant, garden).

The word for garden in most other Slavic languages is the same: sad in Croatian, Slovenian, Polish, Slovak and Sorbian. There are also similar words in Latvian (sads) and Lithuanian (sõdas) [source].

The word sad also exists in Czech, but just means orchard. The Czech word for garden is zahrada [ˈzaɦrada], which comes from za (for, in, behind), and hrad (castle), from the Proto-Slavic *gȏrdъ* (settlement, enclosed place). So zahrada could be translated as “in/behind the castle” [source].

*The Proto-Slavic *gȏrdъ comes ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰórtos (enclosure), which is also the root of the Irish gort (wheatfield), the Welsh garth (hill, enclosure), the Latin hortus (garden), and the English horticulture, yard and garden, and related words in other languages.

Powis Castle

Outlaws and Brigands

Here are a few words that might be relevant today, if you happen to be in the UK:

Election – the choice of a leader or representative by popular vote, comes from the Anglo-Norman eleccioun, from the Latin ēlectiō (choice, option), from ēligō (I pluck out, I choose).

Vote – a formalized choice on matters of administration or other democratic activities, comes from the Latin vōtum (prayer, votive offering, wish, longing), from voveō (to vow, promise solemnity, dedicate, wish), from Proto-Indo-European *h₁wegʷʰ- (to promise, vow, praise).

Ballot – originally, a small ball placed in a container to cast a vote; now, a piece of paper or card used for this purpose, or some other means used to signify a vote. It comes from Italian ballotta (ballot, shot, ball, boiled chestnut), a diminutive of balla (bale, bundle).

Poll – a collection of votes, from the Middle English pol(le) (scalp, pate), probably from the Middle Dutch pol / pōle / polle (top, summit; head), from Proto-Germanic *pullaz (round object, head, top), from Proto-Indo-European *bolno-, *bōwl- (orb, round object, bubble), from *bew- (to blow, swell). The meaning of a “collection of votes” was first recorded in 1625, and came from the notion of counting heads.

Labour – comes from the Middle English labouren, from Old French laborer (to work, labour), from Latin laborare (to labor, strive, exert oneself, suffer), from labor (labor, toil, work, exertion).

Liberal – comes from Old French liberal (appropriate for a free person, generous, giving), from the Latin līberālis (befitting a freeman), from līber (free).

Conservative – comes from the Middle French conservatif (conservative), from Latin cōnservō (to preserve, conserve), from con- (with) and servō (to save, rescue, preserve, retain, watch).

Tory – comes from the Middle Irish tóraidhe, (outlaw, robber or brigand), from tóir (pursuit) [More details].

Source: Wiktionary.

Procastination

Procrastinate Now! (or tomorrow, or whenever you feel like it)

Procrastination – “the act of postponing, delaying or putting off, especially habitually or intentionally.” From the Middle French procrastination, from the Latin prōcrāstinātiō (a putting off until tomorrow), from prōcrāstinō (procrastinate), from prō (of) + crāstinus (tomorrow), from crās (tomorrow) [source].

Crās comes from the Proto-Italic *krās, and is probably from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱerh₂- (head, top), which is the root of words for head, horn, cow and others in various Indo-European languages
[source].

Crās became crai in Italian, crás in Portuguese and cras in Sardinian. These all mean tomorrow, but only the Sardinian one is still used. Tomorrow is domani in Italian – from the Late Latin dē māne (of the early morning), amanhã in Portuguese – from Vulgar Latin *ad maneana (at morning). The French demain (tomorrow), and the Romanian dimineață (morning), come from the same root as the Italian domani.

The antonym of procrastination is precrastination / pre-crastination, or “the completion of a task too quickly or too early, when taking more time would result in a better outcome” [source]. It was coined by David Rosenbaum in an article he wrote in 2014: Pre-crastination: hastening subgoal completion at the expense of extra physical effort. [More information].

I have a tendency to procrastinate, and often put off things that don’t seem important or urgent. For example, there’s a pile of papers on my desk that could do with filing, and I might just get round to it one of these days. It’s not the end of the world if I don’t though.

Sometimes, when I’m in a getting-things-done-mood, I go round doing all the things I’ve been putting off for days/week/months/years. Or at least as many of them as I can before I get distracted by something more interesting.

Some things I put off and do something easier instead – writing this blog post, for example, rather than recording the next episode of my podcast, or doing some language lessons rather than practising one of my instruments.

I precrastinate as well, but wasn’t aware of it. Or at least I didn’t have a word for this practice until now.

Are you a procrastinator, and/or a precrastinator?

What task / jobs / activities do you tend to put off?

What things to you prefer to do instead?

Random Flowing Slumps

One of the random Swedish words I learnt recently that I rather like is slumpmässig, which means random, arbitary or haphazard, and isn’t just en slumpmässig radda bokstäver (a random jumble of letters).

Some other examples of how it’s used include:

  • Jag skall nämna några saker i slumpmässig ordningsföljd
    I would like to list a few issues in no particular order
  • Denna utveckling är inte slumpmässig
    This has not happened by chance

Related words include:

  • slump = accident, chance, coincidence, happenstance, hazard
  • slumpa = to randomize
  • slumpartad = casual, coincidental, fortuitous, serendipitous
  • slumpartat möte = chance encounter
  • slumpmässigt = random, haphazardly

Source: bab.la dictionary

The English word slump is possibly related to the Danish and Norwegian word slumpe (to happen on by chance), which comes from the Middle Low German slumpen, and may be onomatopoeic in origin [source].

Incidentally, the English word random comes from the Middle English randoun / raundon (force, magnitude, haste, intensity), from the Old French randon, from randir (to run, gallop), from the Frankish *rant / *rand (run), from the Proto-Germanic *randijō, from *rinnaną (to run), from the Proto-Indo-European *(H)r ̊-nw- (to flow, move, run) [source].

Which is all a bit random, is it not?

Where Three Roads Meet

Trivia - where three roads meet

I learned the other day that the word trivia (insignificant trifles of little importance), comes from the Latin trivia, the plural of trivium – crossroads, public space, or literally “a place where three roads meet”. From trēs (three) and via (road, street, way, journey, march, passage, way method).

Apparently this term came to be used for anything commonplace. Also, beginners courses in universities used to be called trivium, and the word came be used to refer to things that are basic, simple or trivial [source].

The Latin word via comes from the Proto-Indo-European *weǵʰ- (to bring, to transport), which is the root of such English words as way, wagon, wain (as in hay wain), weigh, wag, vehicle, vector, voyage, obvious and devious [source].

Knives and Cutlasses

Canif

Yesterday I discovered that the French word for penknife is canif [ka.nif], which was borrowed from the Middle English knif / knyf [kniːf] (knife, dagger) [source]. The English word knife comes from the same root.

Knif comes from the Old English cnīf [kniːf] (knife), which was possibly borrowed or influenced by the Old Norse knífr (knife), which comes from the Proto-Germanic *knībaz [ˈkniː.βɑz] (pincers, shears, knife), from the Proto-Indo-European *gneybʰ- (to pinch, nip), from *gen- (to pinch, squeeze, bend, press) [source].

Cnīf was first used in writing in the 11th century. Before then, seax [sæɑ̯ks] was the word for a knife or dagger, which is related to the word Saxon [source].

The French word for knife is couteau [ku.to], which comes from the Old French coutel, from the Latin cultellus (small knife, dagger), a diminutive of culter [ˈkul.ter] (knife, razor) [source], which is also the root of words for knife in Romance languages, the English words cutlass and cutlery, and the Welsh word cyllell [ˈkəɬɛɬ].

Buoys & Oxen

What is the connection between buoys and oxen?

Buoy

Well, the word buoy comes from the Middle Dutch boeye (float, buoy), from the Old French buie (fetter, chain), probably from Frankish *baukan (sign, signal), the root of the English word beacon, or from the Latin boia (a (leather) collar, band, fetter), from the Ancient Greek βόεος (bóeos – of ox-hide), from βοῦς (boûs – ox), from the Proto-Indo-European *gʷow- (cow) [source].

Traditional Ox & cart

How do you pronounce buoy, by the way?

I pronounce it [ˈbɔɪ], as in boy, but I understand that some pronounce it [ˈbuːiː] or [ˈbui], like bwee.

Cheese, Juice and Porridge

In North Germanic languages such as Swedish, the word for cheese is ost, or something similar. Since I learnt this, I’ve been wondering where it comes from, so I decided to investige.

Ost comes from the Old Norse ostr (cheese), from the Proto-Germanic *justaz (cheese), from the Proto-Indo-European *yewH-s- (sap, juice, broth), from *yewH- (to blend, mix (food), knead).

From the same root we get the Latin word iūs (gravy, broth, soup, sauce, juice), from which we get the English juice, the French jus (juice), and the Welsh uwd [ɨ̞u̯d / ɪu̯d] (porridge, oatmeal).

Words for cheese in Finnic and Samic languages are also related: juusto in Finnish, juust in Estonian, and vuostá in Northern Sami.

Brunost

Hopes and Dreams

I learnt this week that there are two words in Russian for dream – сон [son] and мечта (mɛtʃˈt̪a). The former refers to the dreams you have when asleep, while the latter refers to dreams as in hopes, wishes or visions.

If you’re asleep and dreaming, in Russian you ‘see dreams’, or видеть сны [ˈvʲidʲɪtʲ snɨ]. If you’re dreaming of becoming rich or famous, then you use the verb мечтать [mʲɪt͡ɕˈtatʲ]. If you have a bad dream or nightmare though, it’s a кошмар [koʃˈmar], from the French cauchemar (nightmare)

Сон means sleep or dream, and comes from the Proto-Slavic *sъnъ (sleep, dream), from the Proto-Balto-Slavic *supnas (sleep), from Proto-Indo-European *súpnos (dream). This is also the root of words for sleep in North Germanic languages such as Danish (søvn), Icelandic (svefn) and Swedish (sömn), and the archaic English word sweven (a dream, vision) [source].

Мечта comes from the Proto-Slavic *mьčьta (dream), possibly from Proto-Indo-European *meyk- (to shimmer), [source].

Some examples of how they’re used:

  • День и ночь меня преследует один и тот же сон = The same dream haunts me day and night
  • С тех пор, как ты уехал, мне снится один и тот же сон = I keep having this dream since you left
  • У меня есть мечта = I have a dream
  • Быть художником – это последняя мечта, которая у Джимми осталась = Being an artist is the last dream Jimmy has
  • Даже находиться в этом офисе – это та мечта, ставшая реальностью = Just being in this office is a dream come true

Source: Reverso

Do other languages make this distinction between different kinds of dreams?

Registering the Matrix

Language quiz image

Yesterday I learnt that the French for a number plate / license plate / vehilce registration plate is une plaque d’immatriculation [source].

The word immatriculation means registration, and comes from the word immatriculer (to register), which comes from the Medieval Latin immatriculare (to join) [source]. This comes from the Latin mātrīcula (public register), a diminutive of mātrīx (uterus, womb, source, origin, list, register) [source].

Mātrīx comes from Latin māter (mother, woman, nurse, motherland), from the Proto-Italic *mātēr (mother), from Proto-Indo-European *méh₂tēr (mother), which is the root of words for mother in many languages [source].

The English word matrix comes from the Latin mātrīx, either directly, or via the Old French matrice (pregnant animal) [source].

I never know what connections I’ll find when I set off on an etymological adventure like this. Yesterday I found that matriculation and mātrīx were connected, which inspired me to write this, but I wouldn’t have guessed that mātrīx and māter were also connected.