100 years!

The other day I was wishing a friend a happy birthday on Facebook, and as they live in Poland, I decided to do so in Polish, as you do.

So off I went to the birthday page on Omniglot and found that in Polish birthday greetings include:

  • Wszystkiego najlepszego!
  • Wszystkiego najlepszego z okazji urodzin!
  • Sto lat!

The first two look quite formal (and very difficult to pronounce): wszystkiego najlepszego means “all the best”, and wszystkiego najlepszego z okazji urodzin means “all the best on your birthday.

I chose Sto lat. Which got me thinking about what it means, and that there’s a town in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books called Sto Lat, and another called Sto Helit. Whenever these names come up, I wonder if they mean something in any round world languages.

After pondering this, I guessed that sto lat means a hundred years – I don’t speak Polish, but my knowledge of other Slavic languages (mainly Czech and Russian) helped. Sto Helit doesn’t mean anything, as far as I can discover.

Sto lat does indeed mean a hundred years and comes from a Polish song that’s sung at birthdays, wedding and anniversaries.

Sto lat, sto lat
Niech żyje, żyje nam.
Sto lat, sto lat,
Niech żyje, żyje nam,
Jeszcze raz, jeszcze raz,
Niech żyje, żyje nam,
Niech żyje nam!

This means:

100 years, 100 years,
May they live!
100 years, 100 years,
May they live!
Once again, once again,
May they live!
May they live!

You can hear it here:

And there’s another version here:

Extra Horses

In Dutch one word for horse is paard [paːrt]. It also means a knight in chess, a pommel horse or an ugly woman. When I learnt this recently, I starting wondering where it comes from, as you do.

Paard

At first I thought, it’s completely different to words for horse in other Germanic languages – hest in Danish and Norwegian, häst in Swedish, and hestur in Icelandic and Faroese.

While this is true, paard is in fact cognate with the German word for horse Pferd [pfeːrt], and also with the Afrikaans perd, the Luxembourgish Päerd, the Yiddish פֿערד (ferd), the English palfrey* and the French palefroi.

* palfrey = “a small horse with a smooth, ambling gait, popular in the Middle Ages with nobles and women” [source].

These words paard, Pferd, etc come from the Latin Latin paraverēdus, “an extra horse; post horse or courier’s horse for outlying or out of the way places” [source], from para- (beside, next to, near), from the Ancient Greek παρά (from, by, near), and verēdus (a fast or light breed of horse, a courier’s horse, a hunter), from the Gaulish *werēdos, from Proto-Celtic *uɸorēdos (horse) [source].

The Proto-Celtic word *uɸorēdos is also the root of the Welsh word gorwydd (steed, horse) and the Spanish word vereda (path, lane, sidewalk) [source].

The word horse itself comes from the Old English hors (horse), from the Proto-Germanic *hrussą (horse), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱr̥sos (horse), from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱers- (to run) [source]. This is also the root of the Proto-Celtic *karros (wagon) and the Latin currus (chariot, wagon) [source].

Others words that come from the Proto-Germanic *hrussą include the North Frisian hors (horse), the West Frisian hoars (horse), the Dutch ros (horse, steed), the German Ross (horse, thoroughbred, steed, charger, fool), and the Icelandic hross (horse).

From the Proto-Celtic *karros we get the Gaulish *karros (wagon), the Old Irish carr (cart, wagon), the Welsh car (vehicle, car, sled, dray), and karr (car, vehicle) in Cornish and Breton [source].

From the Latin currus, which was borrowed from Gaulish, we get the word carro (cart, wagon, truck, car, train car, etc) in Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Galician, Catalan and Occitan, and the English words car, cart and chariot [source].

The North Germanic words for horse come the Old Norse hestr (horse, stallion), from the Proto-Germanic *hangistaz (horse, stallion), from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱanḱest-/kankest- (horse) [source].

I’ve written before about words for horse in Indo-European languages, and you can find more about Celtic words for horse on my Celtiadur blog.

Writing up and down

One of the phrases that came up in the Swedish lessons I did yesterday on Duolingo was about writing things down, which in Swedish was skriva upp (“write up”). This seemed a bit upside down, or downside up, so I thought I’d invesigate.

Skriva upp means to book, charge, enter, note, put down, set down, take, stick, sign up or sign in [source], so in this context it’s being used to mean ‘put/set down’. A related expression is skriva upp på lista (“write up on list”), or to list.

Other expressions featuring skriva include:

  • skriva ut (“write out”) = to print, draw, check, make out, discharge
  • skriva över (“write over”) = to overwrite, replace,
  • skriva under (“write under”) = to sign, endorse, approve, subscribe
  • skriva på (“write on”) = to subscribe, commit, sign in
  • skriva om (“write about”) = to profile, rewrite
  • skriva ner (“write down”) = to dash off, record, write down
  • skriva ned (“write down”) = to bang out, set down, trace, write down. For example, skulle du kunna skriva ned det åt mig? (Could you write it down for me?)
  • skriva in (“write in”) = to key, register, book in, inscribe, pencil in, sign in
  • skriva ihop (“write together”) = to scribble, compile
  • skriva av (“write of”) = to duplicate, extract, transcribe, cancel, write off

Source: bab.la

While writing this, I realised that subscribe literally means “underwrite”, from the Latin sub- (under) and‎ scribo (write) – also the root of skrifa. However, underwrite means something different: to assume financial responsibility for something, and guarantee it against failure, or to lend support to something [source].

In English when you might write up notes you wrote down during an interview, making them more complete and detailed, or write up your diary, bringing it up-to-date. Maybe you’ll write off or write in to a newspaper and ask for your write-up be published. Maybe your debts will be written off (cancelled), and hopefully your car will not be a write-off (damaged beyond repair).

Can you think of other interesting expressions featuring write?

Butter Goose Table

smörgåsbord

One of the Dutch words I learnt this week is boterham [ˈboːtərˌɦɑm], which means sandwich. The boter part means butter, but it’s not certain where the ham part comes from – possibly *ramme / remme (thick slice of bread), or from ham (chunk). Or it might be an abbreviation of boterenbroot (buttered bread) [source].

In Swedish one word for sandwich is smörgås, from smör (butter) and gås (goose). It originally referred to small pieces of butter which float to the surface of the milk as it is churned, and which were spread on bread, and came to mean bread, butter plus toppings, or an open sandwich [source].

A smörgåsbord [ˈsmœrɡɔsˌbuːrd] (“butter-goose-table”) is a buffet made up of many cold dishes, and the slices of meat, cheese and other toppings on the smörgåsar are known as smör­gås­pålägg.

Other Swedish words for sandwich include macka (open sandwich), sandvikare (sandwich), snitt (dainty sandwich, cut, fashion) and sandwich.

The sandwich is named after the 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, who is reputed to have invented it as a convenient way to eat while playing cards. He didn’t come up with the idea of putting meat or filling between two slices of bread, but he certainly popularised it and gave it his title [source].

Sandwiches are also known as sarnies, sangers or butties, at least in the UK. Are there other words for them in other English-speaking places?

Are there interesting words for sandwiches in other languages?

Street Festivals at Dawn

будет и на моей улице праздник

An interesting idiom that came up in my Russian lessons this week is будет и на моей улице праздник (budet i na moey ulitse prazdnik), which is translated as “it’s always darkest just before the dawn”, and means literally “There will be a festival / celebration even on my street”.

The origins of this idiom are apparently related to the fact that many streets in Russia used to have their own churches, and they would hold celebrations in the street for the local saint. So no matter how bad things might get or seem, you could look forward to such fesitivities [source].

Some examples of how this Russian idiom is used:

  • Ну ничего, будет и на моей улице праздник
    Well I would see the feast at an end
  • Будет и на моей улице праздник
    I’ll have my day in the sun
  • Будет и на моей улице праздник
    The question is, will you?
  • Ничего, будет и на моей улице праздник!
    One of these days

Source: Reverso

The English version means “there is hope, even in the worst of circumstances”, and first appeared in writing in 1650 as “It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth”, in A Pisgah-Sight Of Palestine And The Confines Thereof, a book by the English theologian and historian Thomas Fuller. It is not known if Fuller coined it, or if he was recording a piece of folk wisdom.

In 1859 Samuel Lover wrote in his book Songs and Ballads that this idiom was popular among the Irish peasantry, who said “Remember that the darkest hour of all. is the hour before day” [source]

Are there equivalents of this idiom in other languages?

Mind and Memory

In Russian the word for memory is память [ˈpamʲɪtʲ], which comes from the Proto-Slavic *pamętь (memory), from the prefix *pōˀ and *mintis (though, mind), from the Proto-Indo-European *méntis (thought) [source].

Related words include:

  • памятник [ˈpamʲɪtʲnʲɪk] = memorial, monument
  • памятный [ˈpamʲɪtnɨj] = commemorative, memorable, memorial
  • памятливый [ˈpamʲɪtlʲɪvɨj] = having a retentive memory, retentive
  • памятка [ˈpamʲɪtkə] = memo, memorandum
  • запамятовать [zɐˈpamʲɪtəvətʲ] = to forget (dated / colloquial)
  • злопамятный [zlɐˈpamʲɪtnɨj] = vindictive, rancorous, unforgiving, likely to hold a grudge
  • помнить [ˈpomnʲɪtʲ] = to remember

*méntis is also the root of such English words as dementia, mendacious, mental, mind, monitor and premonition.

Memory

Life Writing

In Russian, a painting or picture is a живопись [ʐɨvəpʲɪsʲ]. This comes from живой [ʐɨˈvoj] (alive, living, live, lively) and писать [pʲɪˈsatʲ] (to write). So you could say that a Russian painter is “writing life” and that their paintings are “life writing” [source].

An English word with a similar literal meaning, but a different actual meaning, is biography.

Another Russian word for picture, and also image or scene, is a картина [kɐrˈtʲinə], which comes from the Italian cartina (fine paper, map), from carta (paper, map, menu, card), from the Latin charta (papyrus, paper, poem), from the Ancient Greek χάρτης (khártēs – papyrus, paper), from χαράσσω (kharássō – I scratch, inscribe), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰer- (to scratch) [source].

If languages were logical and consistant, you might expect that Russian words for art, artist, painter, picture and to paint might be related to живопись. Most of them aren’t:

Art is искусство [ɪˈskustvə], which also means skill, craftsmanship, craft. It comes from the Old Church Slavonic искусьство (iskusĭstvo), from искоусъ (iskusŭ – test, experiment), probably from the Proto-Germanic *kustiz (choice, trail), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵews- (to taste, try), which is also the root of the English words choice, cost and gusto [source].

An artist or painter is a художник [xʊˈdoʐnʲɪk]. It comes from the Old East Slavic художьникъ (xudožĭnikŭ – artist, painter, master), from худогъ (xudogŭ – skillful, experienced, lucky), from the Proto-Slavic *xǫdogъ, from the Proto-Germanic *handugaz (handy, skilful, dextrous), which is also the root of the English word handy [source].

There are several Russian words for to paint:

  • рисовать [rʲɪsɐˈvatʲ] means to draw, paint, depict, and comes from the Polish rysować (to draw, sketch), from the Middle High German rīzen, from the Old High German rīzan (to scratch) [source].
  • красить [ˈkrasʲɪtʲ] means to paint, dye or adorn. It is related to the word краска (paint, dye, ink, colours), which comes from the Old Church Slavoic краса (krasa – decoration) [source].
  • писать [pʲɪˈsatʲ] means to write or paint (a painting). It comes from the Old East Slavic писати (pisati – to write, paint), from the Proto-Slavic *pisati (to draw depict, write), from the Proto-Indo-European *peyḱ- (to hew, cut out; stitch, embroider, sting; paint, mark, colour), which is also the root of the English words paint and picture [source].

mouse cat

An example of calligraphic art by Margaret Shepherd. More examples

Blazing a trail

Have you ever wonder why we talk about ‘blazing trails’?

Well, according to Dent’s Modern Tribes – The Secret Languages of Britain by Susie Dent, one of the books I got for my birthday last week, one of the original meanings of the word blaze was a white spot on a horse’s or cow’s forehead. It came to mean any light coloured mark or spot.

In the 18th century in North America, trails, paths and boundaries could be indicated by stripping a piece of bark off a tree and making a white mark on it. Thus to blaze a trail meant to mark trees along the trail in this way.

The word blaze, in this context, is thought to have come via northern English dialects, from the Old Norse blesi (white spot on a horse’s face), from the Proto-Germanic *blas- (shining, white), from the Proto-Indo-European *bʰel- (to shine, flash, burn) [source], which is also the root of the English word flame, and related words in other languages.

If I hadn’t known this, I would have guessed that blazing a trail originally involved literally blazing a trail with fire.

Blazed Horse

Holding Up

When faced with long words in languages like Russian, one thing that helps me remember them is to break them down into their constistuent parts and find out what each part means.

For example, a Russian word that came up in my lessons recently was поддерживать (podderživát’) [pɐˈdʲːerʐɨvətʲ], which means to support, keep up or maintain [source].

It comes from поддержать (podderžát’) – to support, help up, & -ивать (-ivat’) – a verb suffix.

поддержать comes from под- (pod-) – under, by, near, & держать (deržát’) – to keep, to hold. So you could see that you’re ‘underholding’ something or someone when you support them in Russian [source].

Related words include:

  • поддержка = support (financial, etc)
  • поддержание = maintenance, sustenance
  • поддерживаться = to be supported / maintained
  • поддерживающий = backer, supporting, supportive

There are many more words that have the prefix под-.

How do you remember words in languages you’re learning?

Longitudinal Cohorts

50 years ago this week a longitudinal cohort study known as the 1970 British Cohort Study or BCS70 started. The aim was to follow the lives of as many as possible of the 17,287 people born in England, Wales and Scotland during that week (5-11 April). Similar studies were started before then, and have been started since.

BCS70 has collected information on health, physical, educational and social development, and economic circumstances, and so on. It has become a vital source of evidence on key policy areas such as social mobility, education, training and employment, and economic insecurity [source].

1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70) illustration

More information about BCS70:
https://cls.ucl.ac.uk/cls-studies/1970-british-cohort-study/
https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/35/4/836/686544
https://www.youtube.com/user/CLScohort/videos

See some of the participants in BCS70:

Why am I telling you this?

Well, I am one of those 17,287 people, and today is my 50th birthday.

Previously I knew only one other person who shared a birthday with me, and one with a birthday the day before. Recently the people at BCS70 set up a Facebook group for participants in the survery, and I found there are quite a few people with the same birthday as me.

It’s interesting to get to know them, and to share memories and stories. For example, it snowed on the day I was born, and quite a few other people in the group have said that there was snow on their birthdays as well. Today, by contrast, it started as a warm, sunny day, and is starting to cloud over as I write this.

Another interesting thing I’ve noticed in the group is that people are using their day of birth to refer to themselves. Today, for example, we 9ers are all wishing each other a happy birthday, yesterday it was the 8ers, and tomorrow will be the 10ers.

On this day in 1970 Paul McCartney apparently accounced the official break-up of the Beatles [source]. Other sources say it happened on 10th April. I had nothing to do with it.

The word cohort in this context means “A demographic grouping of people, especially those in a defined age group, or having a common characteristic” [source].

It comes from the Old French cohorte (cohort, a division of the Roman legion), from the Latin cohors (court; farmyard or enclosure; retinue; circle, crowd; tenth part of a legion; ship’s crew; bodyguard; military unit of 500 men), from co- (with) and hortus (garden) [source]

The word longitudinal in this context means “sampling data over time rather than merely once” [source]

It comes from the Latin longitūdō (length, longitude), from longus (far, long) and -tūdō (-ness: suffix for forming nouns) [source]