Soft mitigation

The Russian word милый means dear, sweet (having a pleasing disposition); beloved, dear or darling. I learnt this while putting together a page of terms of endearment in Russian today.

It comes from the Proto-Slavic word *milъ (sweet, dear), from the Proto-Indo-European word *meh₁y- (mild, soft).

The Czech word milý (nice, kind, good, dear, pleasant, sweet; boyfriend) comes from the same root, as do similar words in other Slavic languages, such as the Belarusian мілы (sweet, nice), the Bulgarian мил (dear), and the Polish miły (nice, pleasant).

The Latin mītis (gentle, mild, ripe) comes from the same Proto-Indo-European root, as does the Italian word mite (mild, moderate, balmy), the Portuguese word mitigar (to mitigate), the Spanish word mitigar (to mitigate, alleviate, allay, assuage, quench, soothe), and the English word mitigate.

I’m would like to put together pages of terms of endearment / affection in other languages. Can you help with this?

Thatched Stegosauruses!

What do togas, stegosauruses and thatch have in common?

Stegasaurus

These words all come from the Proto-Indo-European root *(s)teg- (cover, roof) [source].

Toga comes from the Latin togategō (I clothe) , from the Proto-Indo-European *togéh₂ (cover), from *(s)teg- (to cover) [source].

Stegosaurus comes from the Ancient Greek words στέγος (stégos – roof) and σαῦρος (saûros – lizard) [source], and στέγος comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *(s)teg- (cover, roof) [source]. The origins of σαῦρος are uncertain. So a stegosaurus is a “roof lizard”.

Thatch comes from the Old English þæc (roof-covering), from the Proto-Germanic *þaką (covering), from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)teg- (to cover) [source].

Words for house in the Celtic languages also come ultimately from the same root – (Welsh) chi (Cornish), ti (Breton), teach (Irish), taigh (Scottish Gaelic) and thie (Manx). More details.

Wise Clocks

city hall from Hantverkargatan Stockholm

The Swedish word klok [kluːk] means wise, sensible or intelligent. It doesn’t sound quite like the English word clock, but looks like it should. In fact it sounds more like cluck.

Some examples of how it’s used, and of related words:

  • klok gubbe = wise old man
  • klok gumma = wise woman
  • klok som en bok/pudel/uggla = as wise as a book/poodle/owl
  • En sådan politik skulle inte vara klok = Such a policy would be ill-advised
  • Detta är en klok rekommendation = This is a sensible recommendation
  • det verkar klokt = that seems wise
  • Är du inte klok? = Are you out of your mind?
  • Är du inte riktigt klok? = Are you crazy? Are you completely out of your mind?
  • Jag blev inte klok på det = I cannot make it out, It didn’t make sense to me
  • klokhet = wisdom, prudence, sense, wit
  • klokskap = cleverness
  • klokt = wisely, judiciously, sagely

Owls are also seen as wise in English, and although we don’t say ‘as wise as a book’, reading books can help on the road to wisdom. Poodles are not usually associated with wisdom in English, as far as I know, but it seems they are in Swedish.

In other languages, what is the equivalent of the phrase ‘as wise as an owl’?

Klok comes from the Old Norse klókr (arch, cunning, clever), from Middle Low German klôk.

The Swedish word for clock is klocka [klɔkːa], which comes from the Old Swedish klockæ, from Old Norse klokka (bell, clock), from Late Latin clocca (o’clock), probably from the Proto-Celtic *klokkos (bell), from the Proto-Indo-European *klēg-/*klōg- (onomatopoeia).

Sources: bab.la, Linguee, Ord.se, Svenska Akademiens Ordböcker, DinOrdbok, Wiktionary

Asterix and the King

Have you ever wonder why the names of the Gauls in the Asterix books all end in -ix?

Asterix & Obelisk

There were genuine Gauls with names ending in -ix, or rather rix, which means king in Gaulish. They include Vercingetorix (see photo), Dumnorix, Albiorix, Adgennorix and Dagorix [source]. Asterix and friends have joke names with the -ix suffix to make them sound Gaulish.

The word rix comes from the Proto-Celtic *rīxs (king), from Proto-Indo-European *h₃rḗǵs (ruler, king). Words for king in Irish (), Scottish Gaelic (rìgh), Manx (ree) and Welsh (rhi) come from this root [source].

The Welsh one is in fact rarely used – the usual Welsh word for king is brenin, which comes from the Proto-Celtic *brigantīnos ((someone) pre-eminent, outstanding), from the Proto-Indo-European *bʰerǵʰ- (to rise, high, lofty, hill, mountain) [source], which is also the root of such English words as barrow, burrow, bury, borough, burgher and fort [source].

Words for realm or kingdom in Germanic languages come from this root, including Reich (empire, realm) in German, rike (realm, kingdom, empire, nation) in Swedish, and rik (realm, kingdom) and kinrick / kin(g)rik (kingdom) in Scots.

We also get the English suffix -ric from this root – as in bishopric (a diocese or region of a church which a bishop governs), and in the obsolete English word for kingdom – kingric, which means “king king” [source].

The words for king in the Romance languages also come from *h₃rḗǵs, via the Latin rēx (king, ruler) [source].

Heys and Hedges

Last night I went to a session of Playford dancing. Bangor University Folk Society run a workshop for Playford dancing once a month, and some of those involved persuaded me to give it a try. It’s the kind of dancing you might see in dramas set in 17th or 18th century England.

Here’s an example of one of the dances we did last night (we weren’t wearing costumes like this though):

Apparently back in the 1600s middle class people in England were getting tired of difficult, formal dances, and started dancing the simpler dances of country folk as light relief. Dancing experts took the country dances and made them a bit more complex. The new dances proved very popular, and in 1651 a collection of them was pubished by John Playford in a book called ‘The English Dancing Master’. Several more editions and similar books were published after that.

In the early 20th century there was a revival of interest in folk music and dance, Playford’s book provided the earliest known descriptions of English country dances, and this style of dancing became known as ‘Playford dancing’ [source].

One of the moves we danced last night is called a hey or hay, a kind of figure of 8 weave. I wasn’t sure how to spell it, or where it came from, so I thought I’d find out.

A hey is “a choreographic figure in which three or more dancers weave between one another, passing by left and right shoulder alternately”. It comes from the French haie (hedge), and refers to the weaving patterns used in hedgelaying [source].

Haie comes from the Medieval Latin haga, from the Frankish *hagja, from Proto-Germanic *hagjō (hedge) [source], from the Proto-Indo-European *kagʰyóm (enclosure), which is also the root of the English words hedge and hawthorn [source].

Anyway, I really enjoyed the dancing and will probably be going along next month.

Flying Deer and Kites

Cerf-volant / Kite

Last night I learnt that the French word for kite is cerf-volant [sɛʁ.vɔ.lɑ̃], or “flying deer/stag”. Cerf-volant also means stag beetle.

Cerf (stag, hart) comes from the Old French cerf (deer), from Latin cervus (deer, stag), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱr̥h₂wós, from *ḱerh₂- (horn) [source].

Actually the cerf in cerf-volant comes from a different root to the cerf meaning stag – from the Occitan sèrp-volanta (flying serpent) [source].

Kites were possibly invented in China in the 6th century BC. They in first appeared in Europe during the 15th century and were in the form of serpents or dragons, which is perhaps why there were called sèrp-volanta [source].

In Chinese a kite is 风筝 [風箏] (fēngzheng): 风 [風] (fēng) = wind, and 箏 (zhēng) is a kind of musical instrument similar to a zither [source], so you could translate that word as “wind zither”.

Do kites have interesting names in other languages?

A Slew of Servants

When putting together a post on my Celtiadur today, I discovered that the English word slew (a large amount) is related to words in Celtic languages for troop, army, host or throng, and to words for servant in Slavic languages.

Slew was in fact borrowed from Irish – from the word slua (host, force, army; crowd, multitude, throng), from the Old Irish slúag / slóg (army, host; throng, crowd, company, assembly), from Proto-Celtic *slougos (troop, army), from the Proto-Indo-European *slowgʰos / *slowgos (entourage).

Manchester Day Parade

There are similar words in the other Celtic languages, including llu in Welsh, which means host, multitude, throng, crowd, flock, army, or regiment, and appears in the Welsh word for police: heddlu (hedd = peace).

In Manx the equivalent is sleih, which is the general word for people, and also means public, family, relations, inhabitants, crowd or populace.

Words for servant in Slavic languages, such as sluha in Czech and Slovak, sługa in Polish, and слуга (sluga) in Russian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Macedonian, all come from the same root, via the the Proto-Slavic word sluga (servant).

Another English word that comes from the same root is slogan, from the Scottish Gaelic sluagh-ghairm (battle cry), from the Old Irish slúag / slóg (army) and gairm (a call, cry) [source].

Sources: Wiktionary, On-Line Manx Dictionary, Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru

Cards, charts & papyrus

χάρτης / Papyrus

What do cards, charts and papyrus have in common?

The words card and chart both come from the Ancient Greek word χάρτης (khártēs – papyrus), via the Old French carte / charte / chautre (charter, record, letter), from Latin charta (see below) [source].

χάρτης comes from χαράσσω (kharássō – I scratch, inscribe), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰer- (to scratch) [source].

χάρτης is also the root of the Latin word charta (papyrus, paper, poem, a writing, map, the papyrus plant), from which we get words in many languages, including the Italian carta (paper, map, menu), the Spanish carta (letter, map, menu, playing card), the German Charta (charter), the Irish cárta (card), the Icelandic kort (map, card, credit card), and the Czech charta (charter).

I discovered this when looking into the origins of the Spanish word cartera (wallet, handbag), which comes from the same root, as do the English words cartel, cartography and charter.

Where? Whence? Whither?

Where, Whence, Whither?

In Russian, there are several different words meaning where. Each one means something slightly different, although in English they can all be translated as where.

где [ɡdʲe] means where, as in what location, and can also mean anywhere or somewhere. For example:

  • Где Вы живёте? = Where do you live?
  • Подумайте, не забыли ли где = Try and think whether you left it anywhere / somewhere

Related words include:

  • где-нибудь = somewhere, anywhere
  • где-то = somewhere
  • негде = nowhere
  • кое-где = here and there

где comes the from Old East Slavic къде (kŭde – where), from the Proto-Slavic kъde (where), from the Proto-Indo-European *kʷú-dʰe (where).

куда [kʊˈda] means where (to), and also what, why or much. It is the equivalent of whither in English, although that is rarely used these days. For example:

  • Куда ты идёшь? = Where are you going?
  • Куда мне столько денег? Why would I want so much money?
  • Мой дом куда больше = My house is much bigger
  • Он прекрасно знал, куда бежать = This kid knew exactly what he was doing

Related words include:

  • кое-куда = this place and that
  • куда-нибудь = anywhere, somewhere
  • куда-то = somewhere

куда comes from the Proto-Slavic *kǫda ( where, whither), from the Proto-Indo-European *kʷom-dʰ- (where).

откуда [ɐtˈkudə] means where from, from where, from which or whence (another rarely-used word). For example:

  • Откуда ты? = Where are you from?
  • Откуда ты это знаешь? = How do you know about that?
  • Откуда я знаю? = How do I know?

Related words include:

  • откуда-нибудь = from somewhere (or other)
  • откуда-то = from somewhere

откуда comes from the same root as куда.

Sources: Reverso, Wiktionary

Bibbling bibblers

Bibble

I came across a wonderful word yesterday – bibble – which means to eat and/or drink noisily, or to tipple. Or in Yiddish it means to worry.

It comes from the Middle English bibben (to drink), from the Latin bibō (I drink), from Proto-Indo-European *peh₃- (to drink) [source].

If you’re a bibbling bibbler, you may need a bib, which comes from the same root, and originally meant to drink heartily [source]. While bibbling, maybe you’ll engage in some bibble-babble (idle talk, babble), possibly in a bibbery (drinking house), which would be bibacious.

The words imbibe, potion and potable come from the same root, as do words for to drink in various languaages, including: ól (Irish), òl (Scottish Gaelic), yfed (Welsh), eva (Cornish), boire (French), and beber (Spanish, Portuguese, Galician, Asturian & Aragonese).

Words for beer Slavic languages come from the same root as well: pivo (Croatian, Czech, Slovak & Slovenian), piwo (Polish, Sorbian), and пиво (Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Macedonian & Serbian).