Snirtle

An interesting word I learnt yesterday from the Something Rhymes With Purple podcast was snirtle, which means “to try to suppress your laughter (often without success)”.

laughing

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary it is Scots and means “to laugh with snorts”, and Wiktionary defines it as “to snigger” or “a snigger”.

According to Dictionaries of the Scots Language /
Dictionars o the Scots Leid
, snirtle [ˈsnɪrtəl] is a variation of snirt, which means “to snigger, to make a noise through the nose when attempting to stifle laughter, to sneer”, “to snort, to breathe sharply and jerkily through the nose”, or “a snigger, a suppressed laugh”.

Some related expressions and examples of how it’s used:

  • to snirt(le) (with)in one’s sleeve = to snigger surreptitiously
  • to snirt out a-laughing = to burst out into laughter, after having unsuccessfully tried to stifle it
  • The young were snirtin’ in their sleeves
  • He snirtled in an ecstasy of disgust
  • Mary, still choking, snirted tea over the table

Snirtle and snirt are probably initative of the sounds you make when you snirt or snirtle.

Are there words with similar meanings in other languages?

¡Guácala!

One of the Spanish words I learnt today was ¡guácala! [ˈɡwa.ka.la], which means yuck! ew! gross! it’s disgusting! and similar exclamations of disgust. It’s used in El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico and the Dominican Republic to indicate dislike, disgust, or rejection [source].

*****GUACALA**** golosina visual ***nutritiva y saladita

It comes from guacal (wooden crate, tub, calabash tree), from the Classical Nahuatl huacalli [kwaˈkalːi] (wooden crate) [source]. Why a word for a wooden crate became an exclamation of disgust is not clear.

Here are some examples of how it’s used (from ReversoContext and Duolingo):

  • ¡Guácala! ¡Sabe horrible! = Yuck! It tastes horrible!
  • ¡Guácala, casi lo pisé! = Ew, I almost stepped in it.
  • ¡No, guácala! = No, it’s disgusting!
  • ¡Guácala, mal postre = Euhhh… bad pie

Related words include:

  • guácara = vomit
  • guacarear = to vomit

Both of which are used in Mexico.

Other Spanish words with a similar meaning include:

  • ¡Qué asco! = Yuck! How revolting! How disgusting!
  • ¡Puaj! = Ew! Yeech! Blecchh! Yuk! Phooey! Gross!
  • ¡Uf! = Phew! Ugh!
  • ¡Puf! = Yuck!

Are there other words in Spanish with a similar meaning?

What about equivalent words in other languages?

One of my favourite expressions in Welsh is ych a fi! [əx ə viː], which means yuck! [source].

The word ych, pronounced [ɨːχ/iːχ], also means ox.

Longhaired Kites

An interesting Spanish word I learnt today is cometa [koˈmeta], which means both kite and comet. It comes from the Latin word comēta, an alternative version of comētēs (comet, meteor, shooting star; portent of disaster), from the Ancient Greek κομήτης (komḗtēs, – longhaired, comet), which refers to the tail of a comet, from κομᾰ́ω (komáō – let the hair grow long) and -της (-tēs – a suffix that forms nouns) [source].

Cometas

Related words and expressions include:

  • cometa voladora = hang gilder
  • hacer volar una cometa = to fly a kite

Other words for kite in Spanish include [source]:

  • papalote in Cuba, Honduras, Mexico, from the Classical Nahuatl pāpalōtl (butterfly) [source]
  • barrilete in Argentina, Nicaragua, a diminutive of barril (barrel) [source]
  • piscucha or papalota in El Salvador – the former of unknown origin. The latter from Classical Nahuatl like papalote
  • volantín in Peru, Chile, Argentina, probably from volar (to fly)
  • chiringa in Puerto Rico, probably a version of chiringo which s used to mean smal in Puerto Rico and Cuba [source]

Are there any other words for kite in other Spanish-speaking countries?

Red Kites - Gigrin Farm Wales

Kite, as in the bird of prey of the subfamily Milvinae, is milano in Spanish, which also means the down of a thistle and flying gurnard (Dactylopteridae) – a type of fish. This comes from the Vulgar Latin *milānus, from the Latin milvus (kite, gurnard) [source].

Neshness

If someone told you they were feeling a bit nesh, would you know what they meant?

Nesh [nɛʃ] means “sensitive to the cold” and “timid or cowardly”, according to Dictionary.com, and is apparently used in in northern and Midlands English dialects. Although I grew up in the northwest of England, I’d never heard it before a friend mentioned it yesterday.

According to Wiktionary it means:

  • Soft, tender, sensitive, yielding
  • Delicate, weak, poor-spirited, susceptible to cold weather, harsh conditions etc
  • Soft, friable, crumbly

As a verb it means “to make soft, tender or weak”, or “to act timidly”.

It comes from the Middle English nesh/nesch/nesche, from the Old English hnesċe/ hnysċe/hnæsċe (soft, tender, mild; weak, delicate; slack, negligent; effeminate, wanton), from the Proto-West Germanic *hnaskwī (soft), from the Proto-Germanic *hnaskuz (soft, tender), from the Proto-Indo-European *knēs-/*kenes- (to scratch, scrape, rub).

Related words include:

  • neshen = to make tender or soft, to mollify
  • neshness = the condition of being nesh

Chocolate Beetroot Brownies

From the same roots we get the German word naschen (to nibble, to eat sweets on the sly), and the English word nosh (food, a light meal or snack, to eat), via the Yiddish word נאַשן‎ (nashn – to snack, eat) [source].

Flaming Llamas!

In Spanish the word llama has several different meanings. As well as being a domesticated South American camelid of the genus Lama glama, it also a flame, and means “he/she/it calls”, or in other words the third person singular present tense form of the verb llamar (to summon, call, knock, ring). Each version of llama comes from a different root [source].

The animal llama [ˈʎama] comes from the the Quechua word llama. Other members of the genus lama include:

  • alpaca [alˈpaka] (Vicugna pacos) comes from the Aymara word allpaqa
  • guanaco [ɡwaˈnako] (Lama guanicoe) comes from the Quechua word wanaku
  • vicuña [biˈkuɲa] (Lama vicugna / Vicugna vicugna) comes from wik’uña

llama_1

The flaming version of llama, which is pronounced [ˈʝama/ˈɟ͡ʝa.ma], is an alternative version of flama (flame), and comes from the Latin flamma (flame, fire), from the Proto-Italic *flagmā, from Proto-Indo-European *bʰlē- (to shimmer, gleam, shine) [source].

Junior Jarl squad

Some English words from the same root include flame, flambé and flagrant.

Llamar [ʝaˈmaɾ/ɟ͡ʝaˈmaɾ] (to summon, call, etc) comes from the Old Spanish lamar, from the Latin clāmāre, from clamō (cry out, clamer, yell, shout), from the Proto-Indo-European *kelh₁- (to shout) [source].

Words from the same root include acclaim, claim, clamour, council and haul [source].

When I see words beginning with a double l, which are quite common in Spanish, I have to stop myself giving them a Welsh pronounciation [ɬ]. There is in fact a Welsh word which resembles llamallamu, which means to jump, leap, bound, spring. It comes from the Proto-Celtic word *lanxsman (jump), from the Proto-Indo-European *h₁lengʷʰ- (light; move lightly) [source]. The Welsh for llama is lama, by the way.

Cow Throwing

Yesterday I had my second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine (AstraZeneca), and feel just fine. So I thought I’d look at the origins of vaccine and related words.

Vaccine

Vaccine comes from the Latin word vaccīnus (of or derived from a cow), from vacca (cow), from the Proto-Indo-European *woḱéh₂ (cow) [source]. Why cows? Well, from 1796 to 1840, people were vaccinated against smallpox by being infect with cowpox (variola vaccīna), a much less serious virus – a procedure developed by Edward Jenner [source].

Some related words include:

immunisation / immunization = the process by which an individual is safely exposed in a controlled manner to a material that is designed to prime their immune system against that material. From the French immunisation. Coined by Albert Calmette (1863-1933), a French physician, bacteriologist and immunologist, who developed a vaccine against tuberculosis, and the first antivenom for snake venom [source]

inoculation = the introduction of an antigenic substance or vaccine into the body to produce immunity to a specific disease. From the Latin inoculātio (inoculation, ingrafting), from inoculō (I ingraft an eye or bud of one tree into another, inoculate, graft by budding, implant), from in- (in, within, inside) and oculus (eye) [source]

injection = the act of injecting, or something that is injected. From the Middle French injection, from Latin iniectio/injectiō (injection, inspiration, instillation), from iniciō (I throw, cast, hurl or place in), from in- (in, within, inside) and iaciō (throw, hurl) [source]

Idle blackberrying

While putting together a post on the Celtiadur this week, I came across the Welsh word mwyara [mʊɨ̯ˈara/mʊi̯ˈaːra], which means to gather/pick blackberries, to go blackberrying, and also to be idle. I wouldn’t associate picking blackberries with being idle, but someone must have done in the past. Is picking blackberries or other fruit associated with idleness in other languages?

Blackberries

Mwyara comes from mwyar (blackberries, berries), from the Proto-Brythonic *muɨar (blackberries, berries), from the Proto-Celtic *smiyoros (berries) [source].

Idle means to pass time doing nothing, to move, loiter or saunter aimlessy, or (of a machine or engine) to operate at a low speed [source]. It comes from the Middle English idel/ydel, from the Old English īdel (empty, void, bereft, worthless, useless, vain), from the Proto-Germanic *īdalaz (idle, void, unused), from the Proto-Indo-European *yeh₁- [source].

Words from the same root include the Dutch ijdel (vain, idle, petty) and iel (thin, slender), the German eitel (vain), and the Welsh iâl (clearing, glade) [source].

Sample Monsters

In Dutch the word monster [ˈmɔnstər] means a sample, and also a monster. It was borrowed from the Old French word monstre (monster) in the 13th century and at first meant a monster or monstrosity, and later in the 14th century came to mean a sample, specimen or test piece as well. It is also used to describe something very large [source].

Tree monster

The Old French word monstre came from the Latin mōnstrāre (to show), from mōnstrum (a divine omen indicating misfortune, an evil omen, portent; monster), from monēre (to warn, admonish). From the same root we get such English words as monster, muster, monitor, admonish [source], and also money, which is named after the Roman goddess Juno Moneta, whose temple in Rome housed the mint [source].

Here are some examples of how monster is used (from Duolingo and Reverso):

  • We wegen het monster af = We weigh the sample (or monster)
  • Hij neemt een monster van onze koeien = He takes a sample from our cows
  • Een troebel monster moet worden gefiltreerd = When the sample is cloudy, it should be filtered
  • Hier kon ik het monster aanroepen = It’s where I was told I could summon the monster
  • Loch Ness is de perfecte bergplaats voor een prehistorisch monster = Loch Ness would be the perfect hiding place for a prehistoric monster
  • Een driekoppig monster en vliegende schotels = A three-headed sea monster and some flying saucers

Some related words include:

  • monsterlijk = monstrous(ly)
  • monstergolf = monster wave, giant breaker, rogue
  • monsterjacht = monster hunt(ing), monster yacht
  • monsterjager = monster hunter
  • monsterverbond = monstrous convenant, unholy alliance
  • monsterzege = landslide (victory), monster victory
  • zeemonster = sea monster
  • bloedmonster = blood sample

Is monster, or something similar, used to mean something very big in other languages?

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:

Petty Things

In the French conversation group I take part in, the word petit, which means small or little, is often mispronunced [pɛti] rather than [pə.ti], which annoys the founder of group. This might seem a rather petty thing to worry about, but pronunciation is quite important – not so much within the group, but for when we talk to actual native speakers of French.

Petit fours

Petit means small, little, minor, slight, short, mean, child, little one, youngest, young (of an animal).

Some related words and expressions include:

  • mon petit = dear (used ironically), son
  • ma petite = dear, young lady, sweetheart
  • les petits (enfants) = small children
  • les tout-petits = the little ones, the tiny tots, the toddlers
  • pauvre petit = poor little thing
  • faire des petits = to have kittens / puppies
  • petit à petit = little by little, gradually
  • petit ami = boyfriend
  • petit déjeuner = breakfast
  • petit doigt = little finger, pinky
  • petit-fils = grandson
  • petite amie = girlfriend
  • petit caisse = petty cash
  • petite-fille = granddaughter
  • petite phrase = catch phrase
  • petite sortie = stroll

Petit comes from the Vulgar Latin *pitittus (small, little), from *pit- or *pittus/*piccus (small, little), possibly from the Proto-Celtic *pett- (part, bit, piece) or from *bikkos (small, little) [source]. When I noticed the possible Celtic connection I decided to write this post, as such connections interest me a lot. The Proto-Celtic word *bikkos is the root of words for small in all the modern Celtic languages, such as bach in Welsh and beag in Irish. [More details].

The word petit also exists in English and is pronounced [ˈpɛti] or [pəˈtiː] in the UK, and [ˈpɛdi], [pəˈti] or [pəˈtit] in the American English. It means small, petty or minor [source]. In it’s feminine form, petite, it usually refers to a woman who is short and small.

Both petit and petite come from the Old French word petit (small, little, worthless, poor (quality)). Petit was used in surnames from 1086, and as an adjective meaning small, little, minor, trifling or insignificant, from the 14th century. Petite was used from the 18th century, at first to mean little or small in size, usually when referring to a woman or girl, and from the early 20th century it came to refer to a size of women’s clothing.

Petit became petty in most cases, except in certain expressions, such as petit bourgeois (conventional middle-class), petit mal (a mild form of epilepsy), petit four (small, fancy cake – see above) [source].

Petty originally meant small, little or minor. By the early 16th century it was being used to mean “of small or minor importance, not serious” and by the 1580s it came to mean “small-minded” [source].

If you are a petty person, or one who is mean or ungenerous in small or trifling things, you might have petty grievances, which are of little importance or consequence, and maybe a petty mind, or narrow ideas and/or interests, and you might like to take petty revenge. Maybe you are in charge of the petty cash (a cash fund for paying small charges), and you might be a a petty officer (a minor officer on a merchant ship, or a noncommissioned officer in the US Navy) [source].