Small Cakes

An interesting Danish word I learnt recently is småkage [ˈsmʌˌkʰæːjə], which means biscuit or cookie, or literally “small cake” [source].

Færdige småkager

The Dutch word koekje [ˈkuk.jə], meaning cookie, is a diminutive of koek (cake), so you could say the it means “small cake” as well. It was borrowed into English and became cookie. This was borrowed back into Dutch as cookie to refer to internet cookies [source].

The word kage [ˈkʰæː(j)ə] (cake) comes from the Old Danish kakæ, from Old Norse kaka (cake), from Proto-Germanic *kakǭ (cake), from the Proto-Indo-European *gag-/*gōg- (round, ball-shaped object; lump; clump). The Dutch word koek comes from the same Proto-Germanic root [source].

The English word cake comes from the same Old Norse root, and has been borrowed by a number of other languages [source], including Dutch, where it became kaak [kaːk] (ship biscuit) and cake [keːk] (pound cake).

In French the word cake [kɛk] refers to fruitcake (containing rum) or quick bread (a smallish loaf-shaped baked good). In Portuguese it became queque [ˈkɛ.kɨ], meaning a muffin or cupcake – the same word in Spanish, pronounced [ˈkeke], refers to a cake, cupcake or biscuit.

The plural form cakes was borrowed into Danish and became kiks [ˈkʰiɡs] – a cracker. In German it became Keks (biscuit / cookie), which was borrowed into Russian and became кекс [kʲeks], which means cake, fruitcake, cupcake, dude or guy. This sounds a bit like the word kecks, which in northern England and Scotland is a slang word for trousers and/or underpants, from kicks (breeches).

Here’s an audio version of this post.

(Some audio by TTSMP3.com)

Incidentally, the photo above shows what I would call cookies. The one below shows what I call biscuits:

Biscuits

Not everyone would agree with this, perhaps, and apparently some might call these biscuits:

biscuits

They look more like scones to me.

What are biscuits / cookies to you?

Bird Talk

The word inauguration seems an appropriate one to investigate today. According to Wiktionary, it means “The act of inaugurating, or inducting into office with solemnity; investiture by appropriate ceremonies.” or “The formal beginning or initiation of any movement, enterprise, event etc.”.

Inauguration comes from the Middle French inauguration (installation, consecration), from the Latin Latin inaugurātiō (consecration or installment under good omens), from the Latin inaugurāre (to take auspices, take omens from the flights of birds, divine, consecate, install), from in (in, on) and augurō (to prophesy, interpret omens), from augur (augur, soothsayer) [source].

The origins of augur are uncertain – it might come from avis (bird) and garrire (to talk). As augury involved observing the flight of birds and divining omens from it, this makes sense. Alternatively it might come from the Old Latin *augus (increase) [source].

Incidentally, a soothsayer – one who predicts the future using magic, intuition or intelligence – originally meant one who tells the truth. It comes from sooth an old word for truth, augury, blandishment or reality, and sayer, one who says or makes announcements or a crier [source].

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?

Chimney John

At this time of year various gift givers are preparing to deliver presents. They have different names in different countries and languages. Let’s look at a couple:

In England presents are traditionally delivered by Father Christmas, who has been around in various guises since at least the 17th century. Originally he wasn’t a present giver but rather the spirit of good cheer, and bringing of peace, joy, good food and wine and revelry. He was depicted as a large man wearing green or red fur-lined robes. The first mention of a personification of Christmas in English appears in Ben Jonson’s 1616 play, Christmas his Masque, in which he is known simply as ‘Christmas’. He also went by ‘Sir Christmas’, ‘Lord Christmas’ or ‘Old Father Christmas’ [source].

After the English Civil War, when the Christmas was banned by the Puritan government, the Royalists adopted Father Christmas as a symbol of the ‘good old days’. During the 19th century he became more associated with children, presents, chimneys and so on as the Victorians adopted more child-centric Christmas traditions [source].

During the 19th century Santa Claus, based on the Dutch Sinterklaas (Saint Nicolas), came to the UK from the USA and Canada. Eventually Father Christmas and Santa Claus became synonomous and the names are now used interchangebly.

Other names for Father Christmas in the UK include Father Chrimbo, Daddy Chrimbo, and according to this site, Tabitha the Christmas Hedgehog (in Cumbria), Odin (in Yorkshire), Big Johny Winter (in Northumbria), Joel Noel (in Devon) and Gef the Talking Mongoose (in the Isle of Man).

Meanwhile in Wales presents are delivered by Siôn Corn [ʃoːŋ kɔrn] or “John of the chimney”. I can’t find information about the origins of this name. Does anybody know?

Sion Corn-Father christmas.

Who brings the presents / gifts where you are?

Fragments

One of the Spanish words I learnt this week was pizarra [piˈθara / piˈsara], which means slate (rock), (roof) slate, blackboard, chalkboard, whiteboard, or in Cuba, a dashboard [source]. It comes from the Basque word pizar (fragment, blackboard, slate) [source].

When I first saw it I thought it had something to do with pizzas, but obviously not, unless a blackboard is used as a menu in a pizza restaurant.

Starters, red and white pizzas, dessert menu - SPQR Pizzeria, Melbourne - stitched

Some related words and expressions include:

  • pizarra blanca = whiteboard
  • pizarra de papel = flip chart
  • pizarral = slate quarry
  • pizarrín = slate pencil
  • pizarrón = blackboard
  • pizarroso = slaty (soil) / slate (roof)

Another word for blackboard or chalkboard, which is used in Spain, is encerado [enθeˈɾado / enseˈɾado], which also means waxed, polished, wax-coloured, oilcloth, tarpaulin or tarp. It comes from encerar (to wax, polish), from the Latin incērāre (to wax), from cēra (wax, beeswax, honeycomb, wax tablet, wax seal, wax image) [source], which is also the root of the Spanish word cera (wax, crayon).

Another name for a waxed writing tablet in Latin is tabula, and they have been used since at least the 14th century BC – the oldest known example was found in a shipwreak near the town of Kaş in the southwest of Turkey. They usually consist of a wooden frame with wax in the middle, and often two such frames were joined together. A stylus was used to write in the wax, with a sharp end for writing and a flat end for erasing. They were used in parts of Europe until the 19th century [source].

TABLILLA DE CERA Y STYLUS

The Latin expression tabula rasa, meaning a blank/clean slate (lit. “an erased slate”) originally referred to a tabula that has had the writing erased from it, and now refers to the idea that individuals are born without any innate mental content [source].

In some places where slate is readily available, people used to write on it with chalk, especially in schools. They were also used to write people’s debts in pubs, and when their debts were paid, they had a clean slate, or had had their slate wiped clean.

iSlate

I feel the beginnings of a new section for Omniglot on writing surfaces and tools.

Incidentally, the word pizza was borrowed from Neapolitan, and is thought to be related to the Byzantine Gree wordk πίτα (píta – cake, pie) [source].

Here’s an audio-visual version of this post I made with Doodly:

Elephant Paths

A desire path is “a path created as a consequence of erosion caused by human or animal foot traffic. The path usually represents the shortest or most easily navigated route between an origin and destination.” They tend to appear as shortcuts where constructed paths are not direct, have gaps, or don’t exist. Desire paths are also known as desire lines (in transport planning), game trails, social trails, fishermen trails, herd paths, cow paths, elephant paths, goat tracks, pig trails, use trails or bootleg trails [source].

A view from Roman Camp
An example of a desire path on Roman Camp in Bangor

In Dutch a desire path is olifantenpad [ˈoː.li.fɑn.tə(n)ˌpɑt] or olifantenpaadje (elephant path) because elephants tend to choose the shortest path to wherever they go, and make paths on the way. These terms became popular particularly in 2011 after the publication of the book Olifantenpaadjes by Jan-Dirk van der Burg and Maarten ‘t Hart, in which they document such paths [source].

When such paths are made by animals, they are known as wildpad, wildspoor or (wild)wissel [source].

Are there other names for them?

Another kind of path is the geitenpad or goat path, which is may be narrow, temporary and dangerous, and may not be recognizable as a path. They are kind of the opposite of olifantenpad.

Other types of Dutch paden (paths) include:

  • bergpad = mountain path/road
  • bospad = forest path
  • fietspad = cycle path
  • gangpad = aisle
  • ruiterpad = bridle path/way
  • voetpad = footpath, walkway

In French a desire path is known as a chemin de l’âne (donkey path) or ligne de désir (line of desire).

What about in other languages?

Yulemonth

As today is the first day of December, I thought I’d look into the origins of the names for this month in various languages.

December comes from the Middle English December/Decembre, from the Old French decembre, from the Latin december, from decem (ten) and the adjectival suffix -ber. December was the tenth month in the Roman calendar, which started in March [source]. The days between December and March were not included in the calendar as part of any month. Later they became January and February and were added to the beginning of the calendar [source].

hoar frost

In the Old English December was known as Ġēolamonaþ/Gēolmōnaþ/Iūlmōnaþ (“Yule month”) or ǣrra ġēola (“before Yule”). The word Yulemonth apparently exists in modern English, although is rarely used [source]. December is associated with Yuletide / Christmas in a few other languages: mí na Nollag (“month of Christmas”) in Irish, Mee ny Nollick (“month of Christmas”) in Manx, and joulukuu (“yule month”) in Finnish and Võro.

In many languages the name of this month is a version of December, but there are some exceptions.

In Aragonese December is abiento, in Asturian it’s avientu, in Basque it’s abendu and in Occitan it’s abén. These all come from the Latin adventus (arrival, approach, advent), from adveniō (arrive) and the suffix -tus [source].

In Belarusian December is снежань (sniežań) [ˈsʲnʲeʐanʲ], which comes from снег (snjeh – snow) [source]. The Cherokee name for December is also related to snow: ᎥᏍᎩᎦ (vsgiga) or “snow moon” [source].

In Proto-Slavic the month after the Winter solitice was known as *prosinьcь. There are a number of possible roots for this word: *siňь (gray), *sijati (to shine, glow – referring to the winter solstice) or *prositi (to pray – referring to Christmas). Descendents in modern Slavic languages include prosinec (December) in Czech, просинац (December) in Serbian, and prosinec (January) in Slovenian.

In Welsh December is Rhagfyr [ˈr̥aɡvɨ̞r / ˈr̥aɡvɪr] (“foreshortening”), because it’s a time when days get shorter [source].

December is “twelve month” or “month twelve” in Chinese: 十二月 (shí’èryuè), Japanese: 十二月 (jūnigatsu), Korean: 십이월 (12월/十二月/12月 – sipiweol), and Vietnamese: tháng mười hai (𣎃𨑮𠄩).

Are there other interesting names for December in other languages?

You can find the names of months in many languages here.

A Touch of the Cafards

If a French-speaking person told you that they have the cafard, would you know what they meant?

In French, avoir le cafard means to feel down, blue or to have the blues. The word cafard [ka.faʁ] means depression, sadness, melancholoy. It also means a false devotee, hypocrite or bigot; an informant; or a cockroach [source].

Feeling blue

It comes from the Arabic كَافِر‎ (kāfir – unbeliever, disbeliever; farmer; ungrateful), from كَفَرَ‎ (kafara – to disbelieve, cover, conceal) [source].

Related words and expressions include:

  • un coup de cafard = a fit of the blues
  • attraper le cafard = to get the blues
  • donner le cafard = to depress
  • J’ai toujours le cafard les lundis = I always feel blue on Mondays
  • cafardeux (-euse) = glum, gloomy, depressing
  • cafarder = to sneak, to sneak on, to tattle (on), to tell tales, to rat (sb out), to blab, to grass up, to dob in, to tittle-tattle
  • cafardage = sneaking, talebearing, taletelling, tattling
  • cafardeur (-euse) = snitch, squealer, tattletale, grass, telltale

How would you describe someone who informs on / betrays people, or a cafardeur/cafardeuse, and what they do (cafarder)?

Thankfully Charismatic

What do the words thank you and charisma have in common?

Well, charisma (personal charm or magnetism) comes from the Ancient Greek χᾰ́ρῐσμᾰ (khárisma – grace, favour, gift), from χᾰρῐ́ζομαι (kharízomai – I show favor), from χᾰ́ρῐς (kháris – grace), from χαίρω (khaírō – I am happy) [source].

The Greek word for thank you, ευχαριστώ (efcharistó), comes from the same root, via εὐχαριστῶ (eukharistô), a contracted form of εὐχαριστέω (eukharistéō – to bestow a favour on, oblige; to be grateful, thankful; to thank, give thanks), from εὐχάριστος (eukháristos – grateful, thankful; pleasant, agreeable), from εὐ- (eu – good), χᾰ́ρῐς (kháris – grace) & -τος (-tos) [source].

The word Eucharist also comes from the same root, via the Middle English eukarist, from Old French, from the Ecclesiastical Latin eucharistia [source], as does the name Charis. In Greek mythology Charis was one of the Graces or Charites (Χάριτες), goddesses of charm, beauty, nature, human creativity and fertility, and wife of Hephaestus (Ἥφαιστος), the god of blacksmiths, metalworking, carpenters, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metallurgy, fire [source].

I decided to look into the origins of the charisma today because one of the YouTube channels I found recently is called The Charismatic Voice. Through this this channel I’ve discovered various singers and groups, including some who sing in languages other than English. As I enjoy listening to and singing songs in a variety of languages, this is great for me.

Here’s an example of a Mongolian song: