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

Wurbling Wurblers

Wurble is a wonderful word that I learnt today. What do you think it means?

  1. to warble words in a waffly kind of way
  2. to wriggle like a worm
  3. to talk or sing with water in your mouth

Annelid
A wurble wurbling

Wurble [wʌrbl] is a Scots words that means:

1. To move forward in a twisting, sinuous manner like a worm, to wriggle, crawl; to walk with a knock-kneed gait.
2. To work hard, esp. on some finicky tedious job, to strive, struggle, contend with difficulties.
3. To join two threads by twisting and rubbing the ends together; to patch up a quarrel [source].

Wurble is also written warble or wirble. Related words are wurbler (worm), and wurdle, which means “to work hard with little prospect of success” [source]. As far as I know, the word game, Wordle has no connection to wurdle or wurble.

The English word warble [ˈwɔɹbl̩ / ˈwɔːbl̩] is not related to wurdle or wurble. It means to sing like a bird, to cause to quaver or vibrate, to modulate a tone’s frequency, to be modulated or to be uttered melodiously [source].

Reed Warbler, Acrocephalus scirpaceus
Reed Warbler, Acrocephalus scirpaceus

Warble comes from the Old North French werbler (to sing with trills and quavers, from the Frankish *werbilon, possibly from the Proto-Germanic *hwirbilaz (circle, ring, whirl) [source].

Dawning

A Dutch I learnt recently is uitdaging [ˈœy̯tˌdaː.ɣɪŋ], which means a challenge. It comes from uitdagen (to challenge), from uit (out, off, over), and dagen (to dawn, light, rise, start, call).

Dagen comes from the Middle Dutch dāgen (to dawn, rest (a horse), delay, summon), from the Old Dutch *dagon, from the Proto-Germanic *dagāną [ˈdɑ.ɣɑː.nɑ̃] (to dawn, to become day) [source].

dawn

The Scots word daw [dɑ:] (to dawn) comes from the same Proto-Germanic root, via the Middle English dawen and the Old English dagian (to dawn), as does the obselete English word daw [dɔː], which means to dawn, wake up, daunt or terrify [source].

The word dawning, a poetic word for dawn or the first beginnings of something, comes from the same Proto-Germanic root, and from it we get the word dawn (to begin to brighten with daylight, to start to appear) [source].

Jackdaw

The unrelated word daw is an old name for the jackdaw (Coloeus monedula), and also means idiot, simpleton or fool. It comes from the Middle English dawe, from the Old English dāwe, from the Proto-Germanic *dēhǭ (jackdaw), from the Proto-Indo-European *dʰākʷ- (jackdaw, starling, thrush) [source].

Daw is also found in Scots, and means a sluggard; a lazy, idle person; a slattern, a drab or an untidy woman, and comes from the jackdaw sense of daw [source].

Lillilu

This week I wrote a new song – a lullaby inspired by learning that a Scots word for lullaby is lillilu. This is also written lilly-loo or lilli-lu, and an extended version is lillila-baloo [source].

baby sleep

Here’s a recording of the song:

This got me wondering about whether there are interesting words meaning lullaby in other languages. Here are some I found:

  • French: berceuse – from bercer (to craddle, rock), from the Old French bercier (to rock), from Vulgar Latin *bertiāre, from Gaulish, from Proto-Celtic *berta- (to shake)
  • Irish: suantraí – from suan (sleep) and -traí (type of music)
  • Italian: ninnananna (onomatopoetic)
  • Portuguese: canção de ninar (sleep song) – ninar = to sing to sleep, canção de embalar (rocking song)
  • Spanish: canción de cuna (cradle song), nana (lullaby, wet nurse, nursemaid), arrurrú – from arrullo (cooing, murmur, lullaby)
  • Welsh: hun-gân (sleep song), (si-)lwli (onomatopoetic), su(o)-gân (lulling song), hwian-gân (murmur song)

Do you know of any other interesting ones?

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.

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

Humdudgeon

Humdudgeon is an interesting Scots word I came across the other day on TikTok.

Can you guess what it means?

Here are some possibilities:

  1. a species of duck
  2. a fuss or needless complaint
  3. a children’s game
  4. a tool for extracting stones from cows’ hooves

It is in fact a fuss or needless complaint, a big stupid person of an evil disposition, or a bungler. In the plural it means a fit of sulks. Here are some examples of how it’s used:

  • Dinnae ye be giein me ony ae yer humdudgeon
    Don’t give my any fuss
  • I would never be making a hum-dudgeon about a scart on the pow.
    I would never make a fuss about a cormorant on the pool
  • You’re a fearful humdurgeon
    You’re a fearful bungler

It is a combination of hum (a hoax or imposition, humbug) and dudgeon (feeling of anger or resentment) [source]. It can also refer to an imaginary illness [source].

Hum comes from the Middle English hummen (to hum, buzz, drone, make a murmuring sound to cover embarrassment), which is probably of imitative origin [source].

The origins of dudgeon are uncertain. It possibly comes from the English word dudgen (something worthless, trash, contemptible), or from the Italian word aduggiare (to overshadow) [source].

If you’re in high dudgeon you’re indignant and enraged or if you leave in high dudgeon you do so resentfully or furiously. Can you also be in low dudgeon (generally happy and content) or even in in mid dudgeon (more or less happy but somewhat angry as well)?

To me, High Dudgeon sounds like a quiant little village somewhere in the southwest of England where the residents are relentlessly indignant and enraged about everything. While in nearby Low Dudgeon people are much more chilled.

Cotswolds
A photo of Lower Slaughter, a real village in the Cotswolds in the southwest of England, not far from Upper Slaughter. The slaughter part of their names comes from the Old English word slothre (a muddy or miry place) [source], which probably comes from slóh (a slough, hollow place filed with mire, a pathless, miry place) [source]

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].

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