Cows, beef and shepherds

Cows among the heather in Cregneash, Isle of Man

Yesterday I learnt the Russian word for beef, говядина [ɡɐˈvʲædʲɪnə], and the promotely forgot it. So I thought I’d investigate its etymology to help me remember it.

говядина comes from говядо [ɡɐˈvʲadə] and old word for cattle. This comes from the Proto-Slavic *govędo (head of cattle, bull, ox), from the Proto-Indo-European *gʷew-n̥d-, from *gʷṓws (cattle) [source].

The usual Russian word for cow is корова [source], which comes from the Proto-Slavic *kőrva (cow), from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱerh₂- (horn) [source].

*gʷṓws is also the root of:

  • gak = boar (Albanian)
  • govs = cattle, cow (Latvian)
  • говядо = beef (Ukrainian)
  • говедо = cattle (Bulgarian, Macedonian & Serbian)
  • govedo = cattle (Croatian & Slovenian)
  • hovado = brute (Czech & Slovak)
  • gowjedo = cow (Lower Sorbian)
  • *kūz = cow (Proto-Germanic)
  • Kuh = cow (German)
  • koe = cow (Dutch)
  • ku = cow (Norwegian)
  • ko = cow (Swedish, Danish, North Frisian)
  • coo, kye = cow (Scots)
  • βοῦς = cow (Ancient Greek)
  • bōs = cow, bull, ox (Latin)
  • bou = ox (Catalan)
  • bue = ox, beef (Italian)
  • bife = steak (Portuguese)
  • bou= ox, idiot (Romanian)
  • buey= ox. steer (Spanish)
  • bœuf = cow, ox, beef, jam session (French)
  • *bāus = cow (Proto-Celtic)
  • *bōws = ox (Proto-Celtic)
  • bu, buw = cow, bullock, head of cattle (Middle Welsh)
  • buwch = cow (Welsh)
  • bugh = cow (Cornish)
  • bu, buoc’h = cow (Breton)
  • bó = cow (Irish)
  • booa = cow (Manx)
  • bò = cow (Scottish Gaelic)

The English words beef and bovine come ultimately from the same root. Beef comes from the Middle English beef, bef, beof, from the Anglo-Norman beof, from the Old French buef, boef (ox). from Latin bōs (“ox”)

The Proto-Indo-European word *gʷowkólos, from *gʷṓws (cow) & *kʷel- (to revolve, move around, sojourn) gives us the following words in the Celtic languages [Source].

  • *boukolyos = herdsman (Proto-Celtic)
  • *bʉgöl = herdsman (Proto-Brythonic
  • bugail = shepherd, pastor (Welsh)
  • bugel = child, shepherd (Cornish)
  • bugel = child (Breton)
  • búachaill = cowherd (Old Irish)
  • buachaill = boy, herdsman, servant, boyfriend (Irish)
  • bochilley = shepherd, herdsman (Manx)
  • buachaill, buachaille = cowherd, herdsman, shepherd, youth (Scottish Gaelic)

Horses, chariots and cars

Horses at Newborough on Anglesey - photo by Simon Ager

Today I saw a post on Facebook asking why words for horse are so different in languages like English and German, so I thought I’d investigate.

In English horse-related words include horse, stallion (male horse), mare (female horse), foal (young horse), filly (young female horse), colt (young male horse), pony (a small breed of horse), palfrey (a small horse with a smooth, ambling gait) and equine (a horse or horse-like animal; related to horses).

Horse comes from the Middle English horse / hors, from the Old English hors (horse), from the Proto-Germanic *hrussą (horse), from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱr̥sos (horse), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱers- (to run) [source]. This is also the root of the Proto-Celtic word *karros (wagon), from which we get the Latin currus (chariot, wagon), and the English words car, cart and chariot, and related words in other languages.

Stallion comes from the Middle English stalion, from the Middle French estalon and is of Germanic origin [source].

Mare comes from the Middle English mare / mere, from the Old English mere / miere (female horse, mare), from the Proto-Germanic *marhijō (female horse) [source].

Foal comes from the Middle English fole, from the Old English fola, from the Proto-Germanic *fulô, from the Proto-Indo-European *pōlH- (animal young) [source]

Filly comes from the Old Norse fylja [source].

Colt comes from the Old English colt (young donkey, young camel), from the Proto-Germanic *kultaz (plump; stump; thick shape, bulb), from the Proto-Indo-European *gelt- (something round, pregnant belly, child in the womb), from *gel- (to ball up, amass) [source].

Pony comes from the Scots powny, from the Middle French poulenet (little foal), from the Late Latin pullanus (young of an animal), from pullus (foal) [source].

Palfrey comes from the Anglo-Norman palefrei (steed), from the Old French palefroi, from the Late Latin paraverēdus (post horse, spare horse) [source].

Equine comes from the Latin equīnus (of or pertaining to horses), from equus (horse) [source].

The equivalent words in other European languages include:

Germanic languages

  German Dutch Danish Norwegian Swedish Icelandic
horse Pferd Paard hest hest häst hestur
stallion Hengst hengst hingst hingst hingst graðhestur
mare Stute merrie hoppe hoppe sto
märr
hryssa
foal Fohlen veulen føl føll
fole
föl folald

The German word Pferd and the Dutch paard come from the Middle High German phert / pherit / pferift (riding horse), from the Old High German pherit / pfarifrit / parafred, from the Late Latin paraverēdus (substitute post horse) [source], from para-, from the Ancient Greek παρά (from, by, near) & verēdus (a fast or light breed of horse), from the Proto-Celtic *uɸorēdos (horse) [source], *uɸo- (under) & *rēdo- (to ride; riding, chariot), from the Proto-Indo-European *(H)reydʰ- (to ride) [source].

The words hengst and hingst come from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱanḱest- / *kankest- (horse), which is also the root of the Welsh, Cornish and Breton words for mare, and of the Old English word for horse or stallion, hengest.

Romance / Italic languages

  French Italian Romanian Spanish Portuguese Latin
horse cheval cavallo cal caballo cavalo equus
stallion étalon stalone armăsar padrillo garanhão celo
mare jument giumenta
cavalla
iapă yegua égua equa
foal poulain puldero mânz potro potro equuleus
equulus
pullus
vitulus

In Latin there was another word for horse – caballus, which was only used in poetry in Classical Latin, and was the normal word for horse in Late and Vulgar Latin. It possibly comes from the Gaulish caballos [source]. This is also the root of the English words cavalry, cavalier, cavalcade and chivalry,

The word equus comes from the Proto-Italic *ekwos, from the Proto-Indo-European *h₁éḱwos (horse) [source].

Celtic languages

  Breton Cornish Welsh Irish Manx Scottish Gaelic
horse marc’h margh ceffyl capall cabbyl each
stallion marc’h margh march
stalwyn
stail collagh
grihder
greadhair
mare kazeg kasek caseg láir laair làir
foal ebeul ebel ebol searrach sharragh searrach

The Scottish Gaelic word for horse, each, comes from the
Old Irish ech (horse), from Proto-Celtic *ekʷos (horse), from the Proto-Indo-European *h₁éḱwos (horse), which is also the root of the Breton, Cornish and Welsh words for foal.

The Breton marc’h (horse), the Cornish margh (horse) and the Welsh march (stallion) come from the Proto-Brythonic *marx (horse), from Proto-Celtic *markos (horse), from the Proto-Indo-European *márkos (horse). [source]. This is also the root of the Irish marcaigh (to ride), the Scottish Gaelic marcaich (to ride), and the Manx markiagh (to ride).

You can find more about Celtic words for horse on my Celtiadur blog

Slavic languages

  Bulgarian Czech Polish Russian Serbian Slovak
horse кон kůň kón
konno
лошадь коњ kôň
stallion жребец hřebec ogier
rumak
конь
жеребец
жребец žrebec
mare кобила klisna klacz
kobyła
кобыла кобила kobyla
foal жребец hříbě źrebak жеребёнок фоал žriebä

The Russian word for horse, лошадь, is a borrowing from a Turkic language, probably Tatar [source].

The other Slavic words for horse come from the Proto-Slavic konjь (horse), of unceratin origin [source].

Other European languages

  Latvian Lithuanian Albanian Greek
horse zirgs arklys kalë άλογο
ίππος
stallion ērze erelis hamshor επιβήτορα
mare ķēve kumelė merak φοράδα
foal kumeļi kumeliukas pjellë πουλάρι

Sources: Reverso, Linguee, bab.la, Google Translate

Newborough beach

International Mother Language Day

International Mother Language Day Poster

As you might know, today is International Mother Language Day. The theme this year is “Linguistic diversity and multilingualism: keystones of sustainability and peace”.

To do my bit for multilinguism, I’m currently learning Swedish, Russian, Romanian and Slovak, and practising other languages, especially French and Welsh. So far today I’ve learnt a bit more Romanian and Russian, listened to some Welsh language radio, and read a bit of Swedish.

Tonight I studied some Swedish and Slovak, spoke English and Laala, read in English, Latin and Scots, and sang in English, Welsh, French, Zulu and Church Slavonic.

What languages have you spoken, read, heard, written, sung and/or studied today?

Rollipokes, ronners and roudges

If I offered you a rollipoke, would you have any idea what it was or what to do with it?

This is a word I came across while looking for something else in the Dictionary of The Scots Language / Dictionar o the Scots Leid today. It is defined as, “A sacking of loosely woven hemp in which cheese was wrapped before being buried to ripen.”

Rollipoke comes from roll / row, one of the meanings of which is ‘to wrap up, around, in’; and poke is a variant of pock (a simple type of bag or pouch, a small sack or sack-like receptacle).

Ronner and roudge are other words for the rollipoke.

In East Anglian varieties of English, a rollipoke is “hempen cloth of very coarse texture. Perhaps so named, because only fit to be used as bags or wrappers for rolls or bales of finer goods.” [from The Vocbulary of East-Anglia Etc. Volume 2]

Some examples of use of poke / pock (also written powk, poak, etc):

– An ill-bred loon or twa crackit a paper pyoke at the verra time he was speakin’.

– Every young sheeld hed his muckle pokky o’ sweeties, ‘at he haandit aboot in nev-fues.

– He wambles like a poke o’ bran.

Glossary
– loon = a rogue, rascal, scoundrel, a worthless person
– sheeld (a variant of chield) = child
– muckle = large, big
– nev-fues = ?
– to wamble = to stagger, totter, wobble

Pock can also mean:

– the bag used by a beggar for collecting meal or the like given in charity, a beggar’s scrip or wallet.

– a sack or bag holding a certain quantity of wool, a measure of wool

– A net in the form of a bag or pouch used for catching salmon, a purse-net; a bag-shaped net for catching small coal-fish

Related words include:

butter-poki = a small thin bag through which the water is strained from freshly-churned butter

pock-end = the bottom or corner of a bag or receptacle, esp. one used to hold money.

pock-pud(ding) = (1) a dumpling or steamed pudding cooked in a bag of muslin or similar thin material; (2) a jocular or pejorative nickname for an Englishman from the supposed fondness of the English for steamed puddings, with an additional implication of omnivorousness and stolidity.

Protagonists and sidekicks

When listening to The Allusionist podcast today I learnt an interesting word – tritagonist, who was the actor who played the third role in ancient Greek drama.

Tritagonist comes from the Ancient Greek word τρίτἀγωνιστής (triagōnistḗs), from τρίτ ‎(third) and ἀγωνιστής ‎(combatant, participant).

The actors who played the first and second roles in ancient Greek drama were known as the protagonist and deuteragonist, or sidekick. Proto- comes from πρῶτος ‎(first), a superlative of πρό ‎(before), and deuter- from δευτερ (second).

Proto goes back to the Proto-Indo-European *pro/*per- (to go over), which is also the root of:

– Proto-Celtic *ɸro = before, in front of, in addition
– Welsh rhy = too
– Irish ro = too
– Proto-Germanic *fram = from, by, due to
– English from
– Scots frae = from
– Swedish från = from; and fram = forward
– Icelandic frá = from, away from, about
– Latin per = through, by means of, during, and related words in Romance languages.

The antonym of protagonist is antagonist, from ἀντί ‎(against) and ἀγωνιστής (combatant, participant).

Source: Wiktionary

Mony a mickle maks a muckle

There’s a Scots saying Mony a mickle maks a muckle, or Many a mickle makes a muckle, which means “A lot of small amounts, put together, become a large amount”.

The word muckle certainly means large, and also big, great; much, a great deal of, a lot of; grown-up, mature, adult; of great social consequence, of high rank, great; captial (letter).

In the context of the saying you’d expect mickle to mean small. However it is actually a variant form of muckle. The original version of the saying was apparently “Mony a pickle maks a muckle” – pickle means “A grain of oats, barley, wheat; a small particle of any kind, a grain, granule, speck, pellet.” It’s possible that pickle became mickle to make the saying more alliterative.

Another source states that this phrase was first recorded in writing in 1614 as “many a little made a mickle” and the Scots version was “A wheen o’ mickles mak’s a muckle”.

I came across a Japanese equivalent of this saying today: ちりも積もれば山となる or 塵も積もれば山となる (Chiri mo tsumoreba yama to naru), which means something like “Piling up dust/garbage makes a mountain”, and is translated as “many a little makes a mickle”. I thought that’s wrong, mickle means a little, but now I know better, possibly.

Related sayings in English include:

– Save a penny, save a pound
– Little strokes fell great oaks
– Little and often fills the purse
– Every little helps
– Little drops of water, little grains of sand, make a mighty ocean and a pleasant land

Do you know any others in English or other languages?

Sources: Dictionary of the Scots Language / Dictionar o the Scots Leid, The Scotsman, jisho, Stake Exchange, Wordwizard

Pauchle

I came across an interesting Scots word yesterday – pauchle [ˈp(j)ɑxl] – which I needed to look up, although from the context you can get an idea of its meaning:

They’re hoping that they can pauchle the party rule book in order to insist that Corbyn must gain the support of at least 51 of the party’s Westminster and EU parliamentary contingent in order to stand again in a leadership contest. [from Wee Ginger Dug]

According to my Scots dictionary it means:

Pauchle (1) noun
1. a bundle, small load (of goods); the personal belongings of someone in service and living away from home, (usually) kept in a trunk
2. a small bundle or parcel of something; a quantity of something; a small quantity of something taken by an employee from his employer, either furtively or as a perquisite*
3. a packet (of letters)
4. a swindle, a piece

Pauchle (1) verb
1. to be guilty of a minor dishonesty, cheat; rig (an election)
2. to steal, embezzle, pocket
3. to shuffle (playing cards)

or

Pauchle (2) verb
1. to move feebly but persistently, shuffle, hobble, struggle along (pauchle alang, awa, on)
2. to struggle, strive, expend effort and energy
3. to work ineffectually, bungle, potter

If you are in a pauchle, you are in a chaotic or disorganized state, or behind with your work.

It is probably of onomatopoeic origin.

See also: http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/pauchle_n1_v1
and http://caledonianmercury.com/2010/04/23/useful-scots-word-pauchle/006074

So it looks like quite a useful word. Are there other words for a little something you take from your employer?

*A perquisite is “a benefit which one enjoys or is entitled to on account of one’s job or position” [source]

Multilingual Britain

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Kerstin Cable about the languages of the British Isles for the The Creative Language Learning Podcast, which she makes with Lindsey Dow of Lindsey Does Languages.

The podcast is now online as The Secret Languages of Great Britain.

In the podcast we talk about the indigenous languages used in the UK, such as English, Scots, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Cornish, British Sign Language, Romany and so on. We also mention some of the more recent arrivals, such as Polish, Punjabi and Urdu.

In other news, I’ve decided to go the North American Polyglot Symposium in Montreal in July. I booked my tickets and hotel today, and have started thinking about the talk I’m going to do there. I plan to expand what I discussed in the podcast.

Stuckies, pleeps and doos

I came across some interesting Scots words in a TED talk today which I hadn’t heard before – stuckies, pleeps and doos.

What do you think they mean?

Clue: they’re types of bird.

In the talk the presenter, a native speaker of Scots, explains how he was told from his first day at school that many of the words he was using were wrong, and that it was the same story for many other children. They have to learn ‘proper’ English words. He talks about how Scots has been marginalised and replaced by a version of English spoken with a Scottish accent known as Attic or Scottish English. He explains how words in Scots have much richer associations in his brain than their English equivalents.

Here’s the talk:

How much can you understand?

Answers
A stuckie is a starling, a pleep is an oyster catcher, and a doo is a dove.

Multilingual musicians

A Sardinian friend of mine, Elena Piras, knows six languages (Sardinian, Italian, English, Scottish Gaelic, French and Spanish) and sings in most of them, plus a few others, including Scots, Bulgarian and Georgian.

Here’s a recording of a performance from earlier this year in which she sings in Sardinian, Scots, English, Scottish Gaelic and Bulgarian.

Elena aims to sing each language in as close to a native accent as possible, and I think she does this very well.

Another multilingual singer is Jean-Marc Leclercq or JoMo, who holds the world record for singing in the most languages in one performance: 22. I heard him doing this at the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin in May this year. His pronunciation in the languages I know didn’t sound entirely native-like, and it sounded like he had a strong French accent in the other languages.

Do you know other singers who sing in multiple languages?

How well do they pronounce them?

I myself sing in various languages, and try to pronounce as well as I can, but know I could do better.

Here’s a recording of a song I wrote earlier this year in the five languages I know best (English, French, Welsh, Mandarin and Irish):

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