Are the words tent and tenant related? Let’s find out.
A tent is a portable shelter made of fabric or other material stretched over a supporting framework of poles and usually stabilized or secured to the ground with cords and stakes [source].
It comes from the Middle English tente (tent, abode, dwelling place, pavilion) [source, from the Old French tente (tent, temporary hut or other similar building), from Vulgar Latin *tenta (tent), from tentus (stretched, extended, distended), from tendō (to stretch, distend, extend), from Proto-Italic *tendō (I stretch), from the Proto-Indo-European *ten- (to stretch, extend) [source].
A tenant is one that pays rent to use or occupy land, a building, or other property owned by another; a dweller in a place; an occupant [source].
It comes from the Middle English tenaunt (tenant – one who holds real property from another by feudal obligation or payment of rent) [source], from Anglo-Norman tenaunt (tenant), from Old French tenant (holder, possessor [of land or property], tenant, owner), from tenir (to hold), from Latin teneō (I hold, have, grasp), from Proto-Italic *tenēō (I hold), from the Proto-Indo-European *ten- (to stretch, extend) [source].
So they do come from the same PIE root, via different routes. Other words from the same PIE root include tenor, tone, tonic, tune, sustain and content [source].
Incidentally, in Old English the word for tent was teld, from the Proto-Germanic *teldą (tent, drape), which became teld (tent, castle, fort, hut) in Middle English, and teld (tent, to lodge in a tent, to pitch a tent), and tilt (a canvas covering for carts, boats, etc, tent) in Modern English, although these words are no longer used [source].
Tilt, which means to slope or incline (smth), to slant, to be at an angle, to charge (at sb) with a lance, to joust, etc, comes from different roots. Apparently it came to be associated with jousting as the cloth barrier that separated combantants in a joust is called a tilt [source].
The words pen and pencil appear to be related, but are they? Let’s find out.
The word pen, as in a writing implement, comes from Middle English penne (pen, quill, wing, feather), from the Anglo-Norman penne, from Latin penna (wing, feather, quill pen), from Proto-Italic petnā (feather, wing), from Proto-Indo-European *péth₂r̥/pth₂én- (feather, wing), from *peth₂- (to spread out, to fly) [source].
Words from the same roots include petal, petulant, petition, plume, plumage, fathom, feather and helicopter in English, adar (birds) and adain (wing) in Welsh, and Faden (yarn, thread, fathom, suture) in German [source].
The word pen, as in an enclosure for animals, comes from Middle English pen(ne) (enclosure for animals), from Old English penn (enclosure, pen, fold), from Proto-Germanic *pennō/*pannijō (pin, bolt, nail, tack), from Proto-Indo-European *bend- (pointed peg, nail, edge).
The English word pin comes from the same PIE root, as does the Dutch word pin (peg, pin), the German word Pinne (pin, pivot, tiller), and the Swedish word pinne (stick, peg, pin) [source].
The word pencil comes from Anglo-Norman, from the Old French pincel (paintbrush), from the Vulgar Latin *penicellum, from the Latin pēnicillum (a painter’s brush, (style of) painting), a diminutive of pēniculus (brush, sponge), a diminutive of pēnis (tail, penis), from the Proto-Italic *pesnis, from the Proto-Indo-European *pes-ni-s, from *pes- (penis) [source].
Words from the same roots include penicillin in English and other languages, pincel (paintbrush) in Spanish and Portuguese, pinceau (paintbrush) in French and Pinsel (paintbrush) in German [source]. Penicillin and penicillium are apparently so named because the spore of the fungi resemble brushes [source].
Incidentally, the French idiom s’emmêler les pinceaux means to get one’s wires crossed to get things all mixed up, to get in a muddle or to misstep. Literally it means “to get tangled in the paintbrushes” [source].
What links the words desk, dais, disc, disco, dish and discus?
My desk in my office/studio
The answer is, they share the same roots: the Latin word discus (a discus, quoit, dish-shaped object, disc of a sundial), but arrived in English via different routes [source].
Desk comes from the Middle English deske (a reading desk or lecturn), from the Medieval Latin desca, from the Latin discus [source].
Dais (a raised platform in a room for a high table, a seat of honour, a throne, or other dignified occupancy) comes from the Middle English deis (podium, dais, high table), from the Anglo-Norman deis (dais, high seat/table, table of honour), from the Old French deis/dois, from the Latin discum, the accusative singular of discus [source].
Disc (a thin, flat, circular plate or similar object; a gramophone record) comes from the French disque (disc, discus, record, disk), from the Latin discus [source].
Disco, is an abbreviation of discoteque, which was borrowed from the French discothèque (discotheque, nightclub), from disque (disc, record) and bibliothèque, (library). It originally it meant “a library of discs/records”. Disque comes from the Latin discus [source].
Dish comes from the Middle English disch (dish, plate, bowl, discus), from the Old English disċ (plate, dish), from the Proto-West Germanic *disk (dish) from the Latin discus [source].
Discus comes directly from the Latin discus, from the Ancient Greek δίσκος (dískos – disc, dish, round mirror), the origins of which are uncertain [source].
Disk is used interchangeably with disc, and means more or less the same things. However, it comes straight from the Ancient Greek δίσκος [source].
The expression “What the deuce‽” can be used to express surprise, shock or bafflement. It’s an example of a minced oath in which deuce is used in place of devil [source].
If you run like the deuce, you are running very quickly and wildly, or like the devil, or maybe like you’re being pursued by the devil.
Apparently deuce was first used in the 17th century exclamations and was associated with bad luck or mischief, because when playing dice, deuce (two) is the lowest and most unlucky throw. The connection with the devil developed later [source].
Deuce also appears in the phrase there will be the deuce to pay (there will be a huge amount of trouble).
In card games deuce refers to a card with two pips. In baseball a deuce is a curveball. In tennis it refers to a tied game where either player can win by scoring two consecutive points, and in Canadian slang it refers to a two-year prison sentence.
It comes from the Middle English dewes (two), via Anglo-Norman from the Old French deus (two), from the Latin duo, from the Proto-Italic *duō (two), from the Proto-Indo-European *dwóh₁ (two) [source].
Deuce might also be linked to or come from the Late Latin dusius (phantom, specter), which comes from the Gaulish *dusios (incubus, monster), probably from Proto-Indo-European *dʰeus- (spirit) [source].
Alternatively it might be linked to the Old French deus (God), from the Latin deus (god, deity), from the Old Latin deivos, from the Proto-Italic *deiwos, from Proto-Indo-European *deywós, from *dyew- (sky, heaven) [source].
Other Anglo-Norman numbers that are/were used in cards, dice and other games include ace (one), trey (three), cater (four), cinque (five), sice (six) [source].
One of the words that came up in the French Conversation Group last night was faillir [fa.jiʁ], which means to almost do something or to fail.
Whether you almost do something or fail to do it is really a matter of perspective – the end result is the same. Yesterday, for example, I almost made another episode of the Radio Omniglot podcast. I recorded about 15-20 minutes of it several times, decided it wasn’t good enough, then got distracted with other things, as often happens. I can talk about language-related topics at the drop of a hat until the cows come home, but actually making my ramblings into a reasonably coherent podcast is a different kettle of fish. The editing always takes quite a while, and I usually find something else to do instead.
Today I told myself that I would make the podcast first thing, before checking emails, or getting distracted by other things. Several hours later I still haven’t produced the podcast, but I have learnt some more Swedish and Danish, answered some emails and written this.
Anyway, back to faillir – appears in expressions like:
faillir faire = to almost/nearly do
J’ai failli tomber = I almost/nearly fell
J’ai failli lui dire = I almost/nearly told him
J’ai failli l’oublier = I almost forgot about it
faillir à qch = to fall short of sth
faillir à sa tâche = to fall short of one’s tsak
faillir à son devoir = to fall short of one’s duty
Il ne faut pas faillir à notre devoir = We must not falter in our duty now
J’ai un plan astucieux qui ne peut faillir = I have a cunning plan that cannot fail
avoir failli faire qch = to narrowly miss doing sth
Related words include:
failli(e) = bankrupt, insolvent
la faillite = bankruptcy, collapse (political)
une entreprise en faillite = a bankrupt business
être en faillite = to be bankrupt
faire en faillite = to go bankrupt, fail, go broke, go bust
la ferme a failli faire en faillite = the farm almost went bankrupt
il faut qu’il faille faire en faillite = he must almost go bankrupt
faille = flaw, loophole, weak spot, fault
faille fiscale = tax loophole
faille spatio-temporelle = time warp
Faillir comes from the Middle French faillir (to fail), from the Old French falir, from the Vulgar Latin *fallīre, from the Latin fallere (to deceive, disappoint, cheat), from the Proto-Indo-European *bʰāl- (to lie, deceive). The English word fail comes from the same root, via the Middle English failen, and the Anglo-Norman faillir (to fail).
Another way to say that you almost did something is J’ai presque fait qch, for example, Il est presque tombé and Il a failli tomber both mean ‘He almost fell’. In the case of the latter, the impression I get is that he was expected to fall, but didn’t, while in the case of the former, there seems to be no expectation that he would fall. Is that right?
In the UK there are many different regional words for types of bread, particularly for bread rolls, and people tend to be quite attached to their version, believing it to be the one true name for such things. Not all of them refer to exactly the same type of bread product though.
Whatever you call them, they are small, usually round loaves of bread, and were apparently invented in the south east of England in 1581 [source], although similar small loaves were probably made in other places long before that.
Here are some of the words for bread rolls used in the UK:
The word roll comes from the Middle English rolle (role), from the Old French rolle / role / roule (roll, scroll), from the Medieval Latin rotulus (a roll, list, catalogue, schedule, record, a paper or parchment rolled up) [source].
The word bun (a small bread roll, often sweetened or spiced), comes from the Middle English bunne (wheat cake, bun), from the Anglo-Norman bugne (bump on the head; fritter), from the Old French bugne, from Frankish *bungjo (little clump), a diminutive of *bungu (lump, clump) [source].
The origins of the word bap, as in a soft bread roll, originally from Scotland, are unknown [source].
A cob is a round, often crusty, roll or loaf of bread, especially in the Midlands of England, is of uncertain origin [source].
A barm (cake) is a small, flat, round individual loaf or roll of bread, and possibly comes from the Irish bairín breac (“speckled loaf” or barmbrack – yeasted bread with sultanas and raisins) [source]. The cake in barm cake was historically used to refer to small types of bread to distinguish them from larger loaves [source].
A batch, or bread roll, comes from the Middle English ba(c)che, from the Old English bæċ(ċ)e (baking; something baked), from the Proto-Germanic *bakiz (baking), [source].
A stottie (cake) / stotty is a round flat loaf of bread, traditionally pan-fried and popular in Tyneside in the north east of England. The word comes from stot(t) (to bounce), from the Middle Dutch stoten (to push), from the Proto-Germanic *stautaną (to push, jolt, bump) [source].
They are known as oven bottoms or oven bottom bread, as they used to be baked on the bottom of ovens, and typically eaten filled with ham, pease pudding, bacon, eggs and/or sausage. A smaller version, known as a tufty bun, can be found in bakeries in the North East of England [source]
A scuffler is a triangular bread cake originating in the Castleford region of Yorkshire, and the name is thought to come from a local dialect word [source].
A nudger is a long soft bread roll common in Liverpool [source].
A buttery is a type of bread roll from Aberdeen in Scotland, also known as a roll, rowie, rollie, cookie or Aberdeen roll [source].
A teacake is a type of round bread roll found mainly in parts of Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cumbria. Elsewhere a teacake is a light, sweet, yeast-based bun containing dried fruits, often eaten toasted [source].
In Welsh, bread rolls are known as rholyn bara, rhôl fara, rôl / rol / rowl, bab, wicsan, cwgen, cnap or cnepyn [source]. There may be other regional words as well.
Rhôl/rôl/rol were borrowed from English, and rholyn is a diminutive. Bara (bread) comes from the Proto-Celtic *bargos / *barginā (cake, bread) [source]. Cnap was borrowed from the Old Norse knappr (knob, lump) and cnepyn is a diminutive [source]. Cwgen is a diminutive of cwc, cŵc, cwg (cook), which was borrowed from English.
In Cornish, bread rolls are bara byghan (“small bread”) [source].
In Scottish Gaelic, a bread roll is a bonnach arain – bonnach is a bannock or (savoury) cake, and comes from the French beignet (a fritter filled with fruit), from the Frankish *bungjo (lump, bump, swelling), from the Proto-Germanic *bungô / *bunkô (lump, heap, crowd), from the Proto-Indo-European bʰenǵʰ- (thick, dense, fat) [source], which is also the root of the English words bunch and bunion.
Aran (bread, loaf, livelihood, sustenance), comes from the Old Irish arán (bread, loaf), from Proto-Celtic *ar(-akno)- (bread) [source].
Well, back in about 1300 a litter was a bed. Later on it came to mean a bed-like vehicle carried on the shoulders. By the the 15th it also referred to straw used for bedding, particularly for animals, and then the offspring of an animal born at the same time.
By the 18th century litter could also be “scattered oddments” or “disorderly debris”, and by the 19th century litter was straw bedding for animals and the animal waste in it.
The verb to litter originally meant to provide with bedding, and later came to mean to give birth to, to strew with objects, and to scatter in a disorderly way.
Litter comes from the Anglo-Norman litere (portable bed), from the Old French litiere (litter, stretcher, bier, straw, bedding), from the Medieval Latin lectaria (litter), from the Latin lectus (bed, lounge, sofa, dining-couch), from the Proto-Indo-European *legh- (to lie down, lay).
From the same PIE root we also get such words as the English lie, lay, low, law and lair, the Irish luigh (to lie down) and luí (bed), and the Welsh gwely (bed) and lle (place, location).
What is the connection between pavilions and butterflies?
Well, the word pavilion comes from the Anglo-Norman pavilloun, from the Latin pāpiliōnem, from pāpiliō (butterfly, moth), probably because a pavilion looks a bit like a butterfly’s wings.
In French the word for butterfly is papillon [pa.pi.jɔ̃], which comes from the same root as pavilion, which is also a French word.
The word papillon also means a ticket, parking ticket; a wing nut or butterfly nut; someone brilliant, versatile and inconstant, or a flyer or tag.
A papillon de nuit (“night butterfly”) is a moth, a nœud papillon (“butterfly knot/bow”) is a bow tie and brasse papillon is butterfly stroke, a style of swimming that seems unnecessarily effortful to me.
A papillon adhésif is a sticky note / Post-it note, papillonnage means flitting about or flitting from one relationship to the next, and papillonner means to flit (about/incessantly).
Are there any interesting butterfly-related expressions in other languages?
In Swedish, I learned this week, there are two words for mushroom: svamp [svamp] (fungus, mushroom, toadstool, sponge) and champinjon [ɧampɪnˈjuːn] (mushroom) [source].
Svamp comes from the Old Swedish svamper (fungus, mushroom), from Old Norse svampr / svǫppr (sponge, mushroom, ball), from the Proto-Germanic *swammaz / swambaz (sponge, mushroom, fungus, swamp), which is also the root of the English word swamp [source].
The Old English word swamm (mushroom, fungus, sponge), and the Middle English swam (swamp, muddy pool, bog, marsh; fungus, mushroom), come from the same root as well [source].
Mushroom was borrowed from the Anglo-Norman musherum / moscheron (mushroom), from the Old French moisseron (mushroom), possibly from the Old French mosse / moise (moss), from the Frankish *mosa (moss) [source]
Champinjon was borrowed from the French champignon (mushroom, fungus, accelerator), from the Vulgar Latin *campāniolus (grows in the field), from the Late Latin campāneus (pertaining to fields), from Latin campānia (level country), which is also the root of the words campaign and champagne.
Apparently champinjon is used to refer to mushrooms used as food, and was borrowed into Swedish in 1690 [source], while svamp refers to mushrooms and fungi in general.
For various reasons, I thought I would investigate a few disease-related words to find out where they come from.
Let’s start with virus, which comes from the Latin vīrus (poison, slime, venom), from the Proto-Italic *weisos, from Proto-Indo-European *wisós (fluidity, slime, poison). Virus used to mean venom as well, apparently [source].
Disease comes from the Anglo-Norman desese / disaise, from the Old French desaise (disease, deformity, melancholy), from des- (apart, reversal, removal) and aise (ease – lack of anxiety) [source].
In Middle English words for disease included adle, which comes from the Old English ādl (disease, sickness); and co(a)the, from the Old English coþu (disease). The latter continued to be used in some English dialects as coath (sickness, disease, pestilence) [source]
Pandemic comes from the Ancient Greek πάνδημος (pándēmos – of/belonging to all the people, public) and -ic (of/pertaining to) [source].
Epidemic comes from the French épidémique (epidemic), from the Latin epidemia (epidemic), from Ancient Greek ἐπιδήμιος (epidḗmios), from ἐπί (epí – upon) and δῆμος (dêmos – people) [source].
Isolation comes from the French isolation, from isolé (isolated, placed on an island) [source].
Hope you’re okay and coping with self-isolation, or whatever restrictions are in force / suggested where you are.