Procastination

Procrastinate Now! (or tomorrow, or whenever you feel like it)

Procrastination – “the act of postponing, delaying or putting off, especially habitually or intentionally.” From the Middle French procrastination, from the Latin prōcrāstinātiō (a putting off until tomorrow), from prōcrāstinō (procrastinate), from prō (of) + crāstinus (tomorrow), from crās (tomorrow) [source].

Crās comes from the Proto-Italic *krās, and is probably from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱerh₂- (head, top), which is the root of words for head, horn, cow and others in various Indo-European languages
[source].

Crās became crai in Italian, crás in Portuguese and cras in Sardinian. These all mean tomorrow, but only the Sardinian one is still used. Tomorrow is domani in Italian – from the Late Latin dē māne (of the early morning), amanhã in Portuguese – from Vulgar Latin *ad maneana (at morning). The French demain (tomorrow), and the Romanian dimineață (morning), come from the same root as the Italian domani.

The antonym of procrastination is precrastination / pre-crastination, or “the completion of a task too quickly or too early, when taking more time would result in a better outcome” [source]. It was coined by David Rosenbaum in an article he wrote in 2014: Pre-crastination: hastening subgoal completion at the expense of extra physical effort. [More information].

I have a tendency to procrastinate, and often put off things that don’t seem important or urgent. For example, there’s a pile of papers on my desk that could do with filing, and I might just get round to it one of these days. It’s not the end of the world if I don’t though.

Sometimes, when I’m in a getting-things-done-mood, I go round doing all the things I’ve been putting off for days/week/months/years. Or at least as many of them as I can before I get distracted by something more interesting.

Some things I put off and do something easier instead – writing this blog post, for example, rather than recording the next episode of my podcast, or doing some language lessons rather than practising one of my instruments.

I precrastinate as well, but wasn’t aware of it. Or at least I didn’t have a word for this practice until now.

Are you a procrastinator, and/or a precrastinator?

What task / jobs / activities do you tend to put off?

What things to you prefer to do instead?

Random Flowing Slumps

One of the random Swedish words I learnt recently that I rather like is slumpmässig, which means random, arbitary or haphazard, and isn’t just en slumpmässig radda bokstäver (a random jumble of letters).

Some other examples of how it’s used include:

  • Jag skall nämna några saker i slumpmässig ordningsföljd
    I would like to list a few issues in no particular order
  • Denna utveckling är inte slumpmässig
    This has not happened by chance

Related words include:

  • slump = accident, chance, coincidence, happenstance, hazard
  • slumpa = to randomize
  • slumpartad = casual, coincidental, fortuitous, serendipitous
  • slumpartat möte = chance encounter
  • slumpmässigt = random, haphazardly

Source: bab.la dictionary

The English word slump is possibly related to the Danish and Norwegian word slumpe (to happen on by chance), which comes from the Middle Low German slumpen, and may be onomatopoeic in origin [source].

Incidentally, the English word random comes from the Middle English randoun / raundon (force, magnitude, haste, intensity), from the Old French randon, from randir (to run, gallop), from the Frankish *rant / *rand (run), from the Proto-Germanic *randijō, from *rinnaną (to run), from the Proto-Indo-European *(H)r ̊-nw- (to flow, move, run) [source].

Which is all a bit random, is it not?

Where Three Roads Meet

Trivia - where three roads meet

I learned the other day that the word trivia (insignificant trifles of little importance), comes from the Latin trivia, the plural of trivium – crossroads, public space, or literally “a place where three roads meet”. From trēs (three) and via (road, street, way, journey, march, passage, way method).

Apparently this term came to be used for anything commonplace. Also, beginners courses in universities used to be called trivium, and the word came be used to refer to things that are basic, simple or trivial [source].

The Latin word via comes from the Proto-Indo-European *weǵʰ- (to bring, to transport), which is the root of such English words as way, wagon, wain (as in hay wain), weigh, wag, vehicle, vector, voyage, obvious and devious [source].

Atchoo!

Bless you!

When someone sneezes, you might say Bless you!, at least in English.

In Spanish, I discovered the other day, you say ¡Jesús!. A Welsh friend told me this, and another friend thought it sounded like the Welsh phrase Ga i sws? (May I have a kiss?).

In Welsh you might say Rhad arnat ti!/arnoch chi! (Bless you!), Bendith y Tad! (Blessing of the Father!) or Bendith y mamau! (Blessing of the mothers!).

In French you say À tes/vos souhaits ! (As you wish!).

In German you Gesundheit! (Health!)

What about in other languages?

Knives and Cutlasses

Canif

Yesterday I discovered that the French word for penknife is canif [ka.nif], which was borrowed from the Middle English knif / knyf [kniːf] (knife, dagger) [source]. The English word knife comes from the same root.

Knif comes from the Old English cnīf [kniːf] (knife), which was possibly borrowed or influenced by the Old Norse knífr (knife), which comes from the Proto-Germanic *knībaz [ˈkniː.βɑz] (pincers, shears, knife), from the Proto-Indo-European *gneybʰ- (to pinch, nip), from *gen- (to pinch, squeeze, bend, press) [source].

Cnīf was first used in writing in the 11th century. Before then, seax [sæɑ̯ks] was the word for a knife or dagger, which is related to the word Saxon [source].

The French word for knife is couteau [ku.to], which comes from the Old French coutel, from the Latin cultellus (small knife, dagger), a diminutive of culter [ˈkul.ter] (knife, razor) [source], which is also the root of words for knife in Romance languages, the English words cutlass and cutlery, and the Welsh word cyllell [ˈkəɬɛɬ].

Buoys & Oxen

What is the connection between buoys and oxen?

Buoy

Well, the word buoy comes from the Middle Dutch boeye (float, buoy), from the Old French buie (fetter, chain), probably from Frankish *baukan (sign, signal), the root of the English word beacon, or from the Latin boia (a (leather) collar, band, fetter), from the Ancient Greek βόεος (bóeos – of ox-hide), from βοῦς (boûs – ox), from the Proto-Indo-European *gʷow- (cow) [source].

Traditional Ox & cart

How do you pronounce buoy, by the way?

I pronounce it [ˈbɔɪ], as in boy, but I understand that some pronounce it [ˈbuːiː] or [ˈbui], like bwee.

Cheese, Juice and Porridge

In North Germanic languages such as Swedish, the word for cheese is ost, or something similar. Since I learnt this, I’ve been wondering where it comes from, so I decided to investige.

Ost comes from the Old Norse ostr (cheese), from the Proto-Germanic *justaz (cheese), from the Proto-Indo-European *yewH-s- (sap, juice, broth), from *yewH- (to blend, mix (food), knead).

From the same root we get the Latin word iūs (gravy, broth, soup, sauce, juice), from which we get the English juice, the French jus (juice), and the Welsh uwd [ɨ̞u̯d / ɪu̯d] (porridge, oatmeal).

Words for cheese in Finnic and Samic languages are also related: juusto in Finnish, juust in Estonian, and vuostá in Northern Sami.

Brunost

Hopes and Dreams

I learnt this week that there are two words in Russian for dream – сон [son] and мечта (mɛtʃˈt̪a). The former refers to the dreams you have when asleep, while the latter refers to dreams as in hopes, wishes or visions.

If you’re asleep and dreaming, in Russian you ‘see dreams’, or видеть сны [ˈvʲidʲɪtʲ snɨ]. If you’re dreaming of becoming rich or famous, then you use the verb мечтать [mʲɪt͡ɕˈtatʲ]. If you have a bad dream or nightmare though, it’s a кошмар [koʃˈmar], from the French cauchemar (nightmare)

Сон means sleep or dream, and comes from the Proto-Slavic *sъnъ (sleep, dream), from the Proto-Balto-Slavic *supnas (sleep), from Proto-Indo-European *súpnos (dream). This is also the root of words for sleep in North Germanic languages such as Danish (søvn), Icelandic (svefn) and Swedish (sömn), and the archaic English word sweven (a dream, vision) [source].

Мечта comes from the Proto-Slavic *mьčьta (dream), possibly from Proto-Indo-European *meyk- (to shimmer), [source].

Some examples of how they’re used:

  • День и ночь меня преследует один и тот же сон = The same dream haunts me day and night
  • С тех пор, как ты уехал, мне снится один и тот же сон = I keep having this dream since you left
  • У меня есть мечта = I have a dream
  • Быть художником – это последняя мечта, которая у Джимми осталась = Being an artist is the last dream Jimmy has
  • Даже находиться в этом офисе – это та мечта, ставшая реальностью = Just being in this office is a dream come true

Source: Reverso

Do other languages make this distinction between different kinds of dreams?

Trolling Carols

One of the songs we started to learn last night at Bangor Community Choir is a version of the Christmas carol Deck the Halls (With Boughs of Holly). It contains the line “Troll the ancient Yule-tide carol”, which got me thinking that maybe the word troll had a different meaning when this carol was written.

The melody of Deck the Halls comes from a 16th century Welsh tune, Nos Galan (New Year’s Eve). The English words were written by Thomas Oliphant, and were first published in 1862 in Welsh Melodies (Volume 2) by John Thomas. The line in question was “Troul the ancient Christmas carol” in the original version.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, troll can mean:

  1. a dwarf or giant in Scandinavian folklore inhabiting caves or hills
  2. to antagonize (others) online by deliberately posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content
  3. to cause to move round and round
  4. to sing the parts of (something, such as a round or catch) in succession; to sing loudly; to celebrate in song
  5. to fish by trailing a lure or baited hook from a moving boat

According to Wiktionary, other meanings of troll include:

  • an ugly person
  • optical ejections from the top of the electrically active core regions of thunderstorms that are red in color that seem to occur after tendrils of vigorous sprites extend downward toward the cloud tops.
  • to saunter
  • to trundle, to roll from side to side
  • to draw someone or something out, to entice, to lure as if with trailing bait.

I think troll in the carol most likely refers to singing, rather any of the other definitions.

The noun troll comes from the Old Norse trǫll (witch, mage, conjurer), from the Proto-Germanic *truzlą (a supernatural being, demon, fiend, giant, monster), which is also the root of the English word droll (oddly humorous, whimsical), and the French drôle (funny, amusing, strange, wierd, bizarre), as well as words for troll in Germanic languages.

Trolling

The verb troll comes from the Middle English troll (to go about, stroll, roll from side to side), from the Old French troller (to quest, to wander), from the Proto-Germanic *truzlōną (to lumber).

Source: Wiktionary

To me a troll is a mythical beast that appears in folklore and stories like The Hobbit, and in Terry Practchett’s Discworld series, or an internet troll.

What do you think of when you hear or read the word troll?

Fields and Warriors

The expression “it takes two to tango” means that two people are needed for certain activities, or that both people involved in a particular activity or situation share equal responsiblity for it.

It apparently comes from the 1952 song Takes Two to Tango by Al Hoffman and Dick Manning [source].

In Russian an equivalent idiom is один в поле не воин (odin v pole ne boin), or “one in the field is not a warrior”. Perhaps this comes from the idea that a warrior with nobody to fight againt on a battle field is not really a warrior. Does anybody know the origins of this phrase?

This idiom is also translated as “one man is an island”, “safety in numbers”, “you don’t have to do this alone” or “you never get far on your own”. Some examples of how it’s used include:

Один в поле не воин, как бы кому-то этого не хотелось.
No man is an island however much they want to be.

Мне они тоже не нравятся, но один в поле не воин.
I don’t like them either, but this war is bigger than us.

Но ты же прекрасно понимаешь, что один в поле не воин.
But right about now, my army-of-one situation is not cutting it.

Source: Reverso.

Are there interesting equivalent idioms in other languages?