Blithely Blithesome

The Dutch word blij [blɛi] means happy, glad, pleased or delighted. It comes from the Middle Dutch blide (happy, cheerful, joyous), from the Old Dutch *blīthi (calm, happy), from the Proto-West Germanic *blīþī (happy), from the Proto-Germanic *blīþiz (serene, mild, pleasant, pleasing, delightful, friendly), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰlī- (light, fine, pleasant) from *bʰleh₁-/*bʰel- (to shine) [source].

Blij ei

Here are some related words and examples of how it’s used (from bab.la and Reverso):

  • blijdschap = joy, gladness
  • verblijden = to gladden, delight
  • blij zijn = to be glad, rejoice, enjoy, be happy
  • blij maken = to gladden, cheer up
  • heel blij zijn = to burst with joy
  • blij zijn met een dode mus = to get all excited about nothing (“to be happy with a dead mouse”)
  • Ik ben blij dat je ervan zult genieten = I’m glad you’ll enjoy it
  • Ik ben blij je eindelijk te ontmoeten = I’m pleased to finally meet you
  • Niet iedereen zal hiermee blij zijn = Not everyone is going to be happy with this

Words from the same root include the Swedish word blid [bliːd] (mild, kind), the Danish word blid [ˈbliðˀ] (gentle) and the word blíður, which means kind, obliging, mild, tender, affable, friendly or good-natured in Icelandic, and hospitable, hearty, friendly, sincere, pleased, mild or smooth in Faroese [source].

The English word blithe [blaɪð / blaɪθ] also comes from the same root, via the Middle English blithe (glad, happy, joyful; gentle, mild; gracious, merciful; bright, shining; beautiful, fair), and the Old English bliþe [ˈbliː.θe/ˈbliː.ðe] (happy, gentle) (to shine) [source].

It means carefree and lighthearted, or very happy or cheerful, and also lacking or showing a lack of due concern, heedless, casual and indifferent [source].

It tends to be used in certain expressions, such as:

  • He spoke with blithe ignorance of the true situation.
  • She had a blithe disregard for their feelings.

Some related (and rarely-used) words include blitheful (joyous), blitheless (sorrowful, sad, pitiful, miserable, wretched), blithely (without care, concern or consideration; or in a joyful, carefree manner), blithen (to be(come) happy), and blithesome (happy or spriteful, carefree).

Blithe [bləið] is more commonly used in Scottish English and in Scots, and means joyous, cheerful, happy, glad or well-pleased. A related word, used particularly in Orkney and Shetland, is blithemeat, which is a thanksgiving feast after the birth of a child [source].

In Shetland blithe is written blyde and means glad. Here are the Blyde Lasses, a folk duo from Shetland:

Milestones

A Manx milestone

Yesterday I added details of a language called Akawaio (Ka’pon) to Omniglot. It’s a Cariban language spoken mainly in northern Guyana, and also in northern Brazil and eastern Venezuela, by about 6,380 people.

You may be wondering why I mention this. What’s so special about this language? Well, it just happens to be the 1,500th language I’ve written about on Omniglot, and it feels like a significant milestone to me. There are many more languages out there: 7,139, according to Ethnologue – so only another 5,639 to go! That should keep me busy for a while.

Of the languages on Omniglot, the majority (1,107) are written with the Latin alphabet. There are also 126 written with the Cyrillic alphabet, 75 written with the Arabic alphabet, 72 written with the Devanagari alphabet, and smaller numbers of languages written with other alphabets and writing systems. [More language and writing stats]

It’s becoming increasingly challenging to find information about languages that don’t yet appear on Omniglot. About 4,065 of the world’s languages have a written form, although many are rarely written, and the remaining 3,074 are probably unwritten [source]. There is little or no documentation for many languages, and what documentation there is can be difficult to find. Inspite of this, I will continue to add new language profiles to Omniglot, and appreciate any help you can offer.

An Omniglot minion

I’ve been working on Omniglot on my own since 1998 – there are no minions or other assistants to help me. However, many other people have contributed to Omniglot, by sending me corrections, new material, suggestions, donations and so on, and I am profoundly grateful to all of them.

This is the 3,414th post I’ve written on this blog since launching it in March 2006. At first I tried to write something every day, but soon realised that was too much. At the moment I aim to write two posts a week, plus the language quiz on Sundays.

In April 2007 I started uploading videos to YouTube. Some of the videos feature silly little conversations in languages I’m learning. Others involve music-related events I’ve taken part in, and tunes and songs I’ve written. In 2021 I started uploading videos more regularly, particularly videos about words and etymology, and some songs as well. As well as the Adventures in Etymology videos I upload on Sundays, I plan to make videos featuring alphabets, phrases, etc in a variety of languages. Here’s one I made of the Danish alphabet:

Since June 2018 I’ve made 42 episodes of the Radio Omniglot Podacast, and 5 episodes of Adventures in Etymology, a new series I started in March 2021. It started as a series of videos I made for Instagram and Facebook, then I posted them on Youtube as well, and decided to add them to the Radio Omniglot site. I have ideas for other series I could make for Radio Omniglot, and would welcome any suggestions you may have.

In September 2018 I launched the Celtiadur, a blog where I explore connections between Celtic languages. This is based the Celtic cognates part of Omniglot. So far I’ve written 227 posts, and add a new one every week.

Since 1998 I’ve become fluent in Welsh and Irish, regained my fluency in French, maintained my fluency in Mandarin Chinese, more or less, and have learned enough Esperanto, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Spanish, Swedish, Danish and Dutch to have at least basic conversations. I’ve also learnt quite a bit of Russian and Czech, and some Romanian, Cantonese, Slovak, Slovenian, Serbian, Icelandic, Faroese, British Sign Language, Breton and Cornish.

I’m currently concentrating on Spanish, Swedish, Danish and Dutch, while trying to maintain my other languages, particularly French and Welsh. For the past 4 years or so I’ve studied languages every day on Duolingo – my current streak reached 1,369 today. I’ve also been using Mondly and Memrise. [More about my language learning adventures].

While not working on Omniglot or learning languages, I like to sing, play musical instruments and write songs and tunes. My musical adventures started long before Omniglot, but for many years after leaving school I only really listened to music. In 2005 I started going to Ireland every summer to learn Irish language, and also Irish songs, tunes and dances. This inspired me to take up music again. Since then I’ve learnt to play the guitar, mandolin, ukulele, cavaquinho and harp, and started playing the recorder, piano and tin whistle again. I’ve learnt songs in many different languages, and written quite a few songs and tunes.

Here’s a song I wrote in 33 different languages:

Enough of this shameless self-promotion. What about you? Have you reached any significant milestones recently?

Penny Pouches

An interesting Danish word I learnt today is pung, which means purse, wallet, pouch or scrotum. It comes from the Old Norse word pungr (purse) [source], and appears in words like:

  • punge = to pay (a large) sum of money
  • pengepung = wallet, purse, budget, pockets, funding (“money-pouch”)
  • pungdyr = marsupial (“pouch-animal”)
  • pungdjævel = Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii)
  • pungulv = Thylacine, Tasmanian tiger/wolf (Thylacinus cynocephalus)
  • pungbrok = hernia [source]

Pengepung

The word penge [ˈpʰɛŋə / ˈpʰɛŋŋ̩] means money, and was originally a plural of penning (coin), from the Old Danish pænning, Old Norse peningr (coin, penny, piece of property, article) [source], which was borrowed from the Old Saxon penning or the Old English penning/peniġ, from the Proto-Germanic *panningaz (coin) [source].

Some related expressions include:

  • pengeafpresning = extortion, extraction
  • pengekat = neck pouch
  • pengepolitik = monetary policy
  • pengeseddel = bill, banknote [source]

From the same root we get the English words penny and pence, the Irish word pingin (penny), the Dutch penning (medal, commemoration coin; money, cash), the German Pfennig (pfennig, penny), the Swedish words penning (coin, penny, money, cash), pengar (money) and peng (coin, money), and related words in other Germanic languages [source].

I carry my cash, cards and other bits and bobs in a wallet. How about you? If you use a pecunary receptacle, what do you call it, and what do you keep in it?

Soul Deer

The Dutch word dier [diːr / diər] means animal and is cognate with the English word deer, which originally meant animal, but the meaning narrowed over time. They are also cognate with words for animal in other Germanic languages, such as Tier in German, dyr in Danish and Norwegian, dýr in Faroese and Icelandic, and djur in Swedish [source].

deer

Dier comes from the Middle Dutch dier (animal), from the Old Dutch dier (animal), from the Proto-West Germanic *deuʀ ((wild) animal, beast), from the Proto-Germanic *deuzą ((wild) animal, beast), from the Proto-Indo-European *dʰewsóm [source], from *dʰews- (to breathe, breath, spirit, soul, creature) [source].

Some related words include:

  • dierdicht = poem about anthropomorphised animals
  • dierenarts = vet (mainly one who treats pets)
  • dierenrijk = animal kingdom
  • dierentuin = zoo
  • dierkunde = zoology
  • dierlijk = animal, beastly, instinctive, primitive
  • huisdier = pet
  • landbouwhuisdier = farm animal
  • zoogdier = mammal

Deer comes from the same root, via the Middle English deere, dere, der, dier, deor (small animal, deer), from the Old English dēor (animal) [source].

From the PIE root *dʰews- we also get the Russian word душа [dʊˈʂa] (soul, spirit, darling), via the Old East Slavic доуша (duša – soul), and the Proto-Slavic *duša (soul, spirit), and related words in other slavic languages.

Another Dutch word for animal is beest [beːst] which is cognate with the English word beast. Both come from the same PIE root as dier/deer (*dʰews-): beest via the Middle Dutch beeste (animal), from the Old French beste (beast, animal), from the Latin bēstia (beast) [source], and beast via the Middle English beeste, beste (animal, creature, beast, merciless person) [source].

Some related words include:

  • feestbeest = party animal
  • knuffelbeest = stuffed toy animal (“cuddle-beast”)
  • podiumbeest = someone who enjoys being on stage and is often on stage
  • wildebeest = wildebeest, gnu

The English word animal is also related to souls and spirits as it comes via Middle English and Old French, from the Latin anima (soul, spirit, life, air, breeze, breath) [source].

The Dutch word for deer is hert [ɦɛrt], which comes from the Old Dutch hirot, from the Proto-Germanic *herutaz (deer, stag), from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱerh₂- (horn). The English word hart comes from the same root via the Old English heorot (stag), and means a male deer, especially a male red deer after his fifth year [source].

Here’s an audio version of this post.

Big Cheesy Smiles

big cheese / le stort

If you’re a ‘big cheese‘, you’re an important, successful, or influential person, and/or you have an important and powerful position in an organization. Alternatively you might be called, or call yourself, a big fish, big gun, big noise, big shot, or big wheel [source].

Apparently the word cheese was used in the 19th century to mean something that was good, genuine, pleasant or advantageous. In John Camden Hotten’s The Slang Dictionary of 1863 it is defined as:

Cheese, anything good, first-rate in quality, genuine, pleasant, or advantageous, is termed the cheese. The London Guide, 1818, says it was from some young fellows translating “c’est une autre chose” into “that is another cheese.” But the expression cheese may be found in the Gipsy vocabulary, and in the Hindostanee and Persian languages. In the last chiz means a thing—that is the thing, i.e., the cheese.

In Urdu چیز (cheez) does mean thing [source]. The same word in Persian (Farsi) means article, entity, item, matter, object, stuff or thing [source]. In Hindi चीज (cīj) means thing, matter, object or concern [source].

Some other interesting cheese-related from the The Slang Dictionary include:

Cheese, or cheese it (evidently a corruption of cease), leave off, or have done; “cheese your barrikin,” hold your noise. Term very common.

Cheesecutter, a prominent and aquiline nose. Also a large square peak to a cap. Caps fitted with square peaks are called cheesecutter caps.

Cheesy, fine or showy. The opposite of “dusty.”

Nowadays the meaning of cheesy has changed a bit, and means “vulgarly pretentious or sentimental”, “banal, trite or in poor taste” or “inferior, cheap and shoddy” [source].

The expression big cheese first appeared in O. Henry’s 1910 novel Unprofessional Servant in which it meant ‘wealth or fame’. The meaning of an important person first appears in The Olean Evening Times in June 1922 as, “The big mayor of Olean fair, You’re the big cheese on the scene.” [source].

In Swedish the equivalent of a big cheese is le stort, or a ‘big smile’, which certainly makes me smile.

What about in other languages?

Sniding Wind

A Dutch friend included the expression sniding wind in a poem she wrote today:

Language quiz image

Tea by the sea
A sniding wind
comes from the east
It blows through
All my layers
Making my hands
Go cold and colder
White frotty waves
Black seaweed
Pink tea gone cold too
Quick rush back home
On my cloggerdy clogs

More Tea by the sea poems.

After writing it, she realised that sniding wind was an Anglified version of the Dutch expression snijdende wind (cutting wind).

While sniding doesn’t exist in English, the word snide [snaɪd] does, and means “disparaging or derisive in an insinuative way” and “tricky, deceptive, false, spurious, contemptible” [source].

Snide comes from snithe [snʌɪð / snaɪð] (sharp, cutting, cold, piercing (wind/weather)), from the Middle English snithen, from the Old English snīþan (to cut, lance, hew, reap, mow), from the Proto-Germanic *snīþaną (to cut), from the Proto-Indo-European *sneyt- (to cut) [source]. So it could have been a snithing wind – it certainly was yesterday.

The Dutch word snijden (to cut, carve, intersect) comes from the same root, as does the German word schneiden (to cut, trim, slice), the Swedish word snida (to carve, engrave), the Icelandic word sníða (to trim, tailor).

Dapper

The word dapper means “neat and trim in appearance” or “very spruce and stylish”, or “alert and lively in movement and manners” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. According to Wiktionary it means “neat, trim, stylisly or neatly dressed, quick, or little and active”, and according to the Urban Dictionary it means “incredibly smart, sexy and stylish”.

Dapper Feet

Synonyms include: dashing, jaunty, natty, raffish, rakish, snappy, spiffy and spruce. Do you have any others?

Dapper comes from the Middle English daper (pretty, neat), from the Middle Dutch dapper (stalwart, nimble), from the Old Dutch *dapar, from the Proto-Germanic *dapraz (stout; solid; heavy; bold), from the Proto-Indo-European *dʰob-/*dʰeb- (thick, heavy) [source] – so it’s meaning has changed a bit over time.

In Dutch dapper [ˈdɑpər] means brave, bold, bravely, daring, fearless, gallant, valiant or courageous, and it’s also used in the same sense as the English word. The word goedgekleed is also used to mean dapper, well-dressed or sharp.

Here are some examples of how it’s used (from Reverso and bab.la):

  • Je bent zo’n dapper kleine jongen = You’re such a brave young man
  • Ze zijn net zo slim en dapper als u = They’re smart and courageous, just like you
  • We moeten dapper zijn en sterk = We need to be brave and strong
  • Maar ik weet ook dat ze dapper hebben gevochten = But I know that they fought courageously
  • Laten we dapper zijn! = Let’s be brave!

Related words include:

  • dapperheid = bravery, prowess, courage
  • verdapperen = to regain one’s strength, strengthen, become fiercer (used in Belgium)

Cognate words in other languages include:

  • Bulgarian: дебел [dɛˈbɛl] = thick, close-woven, heavy (material), fat, stout, podgy, deep (voice)
  • Danish: tapper = brave, valiant, courageous
  • Faroese: dapur = sad
  • German: tapfer = brave, dauntless, hardy, tough
  • Icelandic: dapur = sad, dejected
  • Norwegian: daper = brave, courageous
  • Russian: дебелый [dʲɪˈbʲeɫɨj] = plump
  • Swedish: tapper = courageous, doughty, fearless, gallant, hardy, valiant, brave

Here’s an audio version of this post.

Strangely Rare

Strangely Rare

An interesting Dutch word I learnt recently is raar [raːr], which looks and sounds a bit like the English word rare, and is related to it, but actually means wierd, strange, funny, odd or unusual.

Here are some examples of how it’s used (from Reverso):

  • Ik heb een raar telefoontje gehad = So I got a weird phone call today
  • Want je doet een beetje raar = Because you’ve been acting a little weird
  • Zelden heb ik zo’n raar voostel gelezen = I have rarely come across a proposal as strange as this
  • Het lijkt gewoon op een raar besluit = Okay, well, it just seems like an odd decision

Raar comes from the Middle Dutch raer (rare, unusual), from the Latin rarus (scattered, seldom, few, rare, uncommon, thin, loose), ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European *h₁reh₁- (to separate) [source].

From the same root we get words in quite a few other languages, including:

  • The English word rare (uncommon, scarce), via the Middle English rare/rere (airy, vacuous, porous, breathable, uncommon, scarce, small) and Old French rare/rere (rare, uncommon).
  • The Danish word rar [ʁɑːˀ] (pleasant, kind, nice), via the Middle Low German rar (rare, valuable).
  • The French word rare [ʁɑʁ] (rare, scarce, sparse).
  • The Spanish words raro [ˈraɾo] (strange, odd, rare) and ralo (scarce, uncommon, sparse)
  • The Swedish word rar (cute, sweet, and rarely, rare), via the Middle Low German rar (rare, valuable).

Another Dutch word for strange is vreemd [vreːmt] (strange, weird odd, foreign) [source].

The Dutch word for rare is zeldzaam [ˈzɛlt.saːm], which also means scarce or uncommon. This comes from the Proto-Germanic *seldasiuniz (rarely seen), from *selda- (rare) and *siuniz (sight) [source].

The German word seltsam (strange, weird, odd, funny, curious) comes from the same root [source], as does the rare English word seldsome (rare, uncommon) [source].

The English word seldom (infrequently, rarely), comes from the Proto-Germanic *seldanē (seldom; rarely), from *seldanaz (rare) [source].

Here’s an audio version of this post.

(Some audio by TTSMP3.com)

Here’s a song I wrote a few years ago that seems to fit with today’s topic: It’s Okay To Be Odd

Suffering Gladly

Suffering (Fools) Gladly

In Danish, one way to say that you like something or someone involves suffering: jeg kan godt lide, or literally “I can good/well suffer”. The negative version is jeg kan ikke lide (“I cannot suffer”).

Here are some examples (from bab.la):

  • Alle kan godt lide den = Everyone is in favour
  • Jeg kan godt lide grønærter = I love green peas
  • Jeg kan ikke lide fodbold = I don’t like football
  • Jeg kan ikke lide at gentage mig selv = I don’t like repeating myself

The English expression I do not suffer fools gladly has a similar structure. A version of this phrase first appeared in the Bible as, “For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.” (2 Corinthians 11:19 – KJV). It is usually used in the negative these days though [source].

Another way to say you like something in Danish is to say that you think about it. For example, jeg synes om sprog = I like languages (“I think about languages”). As well as to like, synes om also means to love or appreciate [source], and synes means to think (about), seem or reflect on [source].

In English you might say that you think well of someone or something, although this might sound a bit old fashioned.

Similarly in Swedish, saying that you think about something/someone – tycka om, means that you like, enjoy, appreciate, get off on, relish or are fond of it/them [source]. If you really like or love something or someone, you could say that you think much about them, or tycka mycket om.

Here are some examples (from bab.la):

  • Jag kanske börjar tycka om arkeologi = Maybe I’m just really beginning to enjoy archeology
  • Barn som lär sig att tycka om frukt i skolan kommer att fortsätta att äta frukt som vuxna = Children who learn to like fruit at school will carry on eating fruit into adulthood
  • Jag tycker inte om dig = I dont like you

Another way to say you like something/someone in Swedish is gilla, which means to like, approve, favour, go for, hold with or be fond of [source]. For example, han gillar choklad – he likes chocolate.

In Spanish the most common way to say you like something is to use the verb gustar (to be pleasing, to taste), e.g. me gusta el té = I like tea, or literally “(to) me pleasing the tea” [source]. You could say in English that something is to your taste, or if you don’t like it, it’s not your cup of tea.

Here’s an audio version of this post.

(Danish, Swedish and Spanish audio by TTSMP3.com)

What other interesting ways are there to say you like or don’t like things?

Duolingo Progress

I’ve been studying various languages on Duolingo for nearly four years now. My current streak is at 1,238 days today, and I had a 96 day streak before then, so for the past 1,334 days I have been studying at least a little every single day. This year I’ve averaged about 1 hour a day, and at the moment I’m focusing on Dutch and Spanish. Last week I came top of the diamond league – the highest you can get.

My 2020 Duolingo report

So far I’ve completed courses in Swedish, Danish, Russian, Czech, Esperanto, Spanish and Romanian. The courses and the app have changed quite a bit – more for some languages than others. New lessons, tips and levels have been added, especially for Spanish, which has at least 3 or 4 times more lessons than the other languages I’ve studied. That makes sense, I suppose, as there are currently 28.6 million people learning Spanish on Duolingo – far more than any other language. Today I noticed that there are new grammar lessons in Spanish, which are useful, and there are also Spanish podcasts, which I haven’t listened to yet.

One aspect of Duolingo I’m not keen on is the hearts system. At the start of each day you have 5 hearts. Every time you make a mistake you loose one. If you run out of hearts, you can ‘buy’ more, refresh a topic you have already completed to gain more, or wait until the next day. Or you can subscribe and get unlimited hearts. Making mistakes is part of language learning, and not something you should have to worry about, as long as you learn from them. You sometimes get tips when you mistakes in Spanish, which are useful, but not in other languages.

If you’ve studied other languages on Duolingo, how do they compare to Spanish in terms of numbers and types of lessons?

I expect that there are more lessons, etc for French, German, Japanese, Italian, Korean and Chinese – the most popular languages after Spanish – than for less popular languages.