Oak Knowers

To me the word druid makes me think of Getafix, the druid in the Asterix comics – an old man with a long white beard who brews magic potions in a big cauldron. He has other names, such as Panoramix in many other European languages, and Kensawthetrix (“knows all the tricks”) in Scots [More details].

IMGR6414-ed

According to TheFreeDictionary, a druid is:

  1. a member of an ancient order of priests in Gaul, Britain, and Ireland in the pre-Christian era
  2. a member of any of several modern movements attempting to revive druidism

It comes from the French druide (druid), from the Old French druide (druid), from the Latin Druidae (the Druids), from the Gaulish *druwits (druid), from the Proto-Celtic *druwits (druid), from *daru (oak) amd *wid/*windeti (to know, to see), so a druid is an “oak knower/seer”, from the Proto-Indo-European *dóru (tree) and *weyd- (to see) [Source].

In Proto-Brythonic a druid or seer was a *drüw, which became dryw [drɨu̯/drɪu̯] (druid, seer) and derwydd (prophet, wise man, druid) in Welsh, drewydh (druid) in Cornish and drouiz (druid) in Breton [source]. It was also borrowed into Old English as drȳ (sorcerer, magician), which became drī(mann)/driʒ(mann) (sorcerer, magician) in Middle English [source]. A few modern druids use the word drymann, or something similiar, to refer to themselves.

Here’s a traditional Welsh folk tune called Y Derwydd (The Druid):

There is sheet music for several versions of this tune on The Session.

Playing Around

In English then word play has a variety of meanings. You can play a role in a play or drama, play a game or sport, play an instrument, play with toys or other things, or just play in general.

Playing

In Portuguese, however, there are several different words that can be translated as to play, such as:

  • jogar – to play (a game, a sport), gamble, throw, drop
  • brincar – to play (with toys), to joke
  • representar – to play (a role), to represent, put on, act, make a complaint
  • pregar (uma peça em alguém) – to play (a trick on sb)
  • bancar (o idiota) – to play (the fool)

According to Carlos Carrion, who sent me this information, these words are translated as to play or the equivalent in most of the languages in Google Translate.

There are several ways to translate to play in Welsh, including:

  • chwarae = to play (a game, sport, instrument), amuse oneself, compete, frolic
  • canu = to play (piano, harp, organ), to sing, intone, chant
  • seinio = to play (a musical instrument), make noise/sound, ring
  • piltran = to play at (doing something), potter about, fiddle
  • actio / perfformio = to play (a role), to act, perform

Are there different words for different kinds of play in other languages?

Sources: ReversoDictionary, Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, Geiriadur yr Academi

Jargon

When I come across an unfamiliar word, I usually find it interesting and intriguing, and try to find out what it means and where it comes from. I also do this when I hear words being used in ways that are unfamiliar to me.

For example, the builder who is currently working on the new studio in my garden often shares building jargon with me. I find this interesting as I can see examples of what he means. The latest term was snots, which refers to drops of cement that fall off while it’s being applied to walls. [More details].

Jargon image

Sometimes, though, I find new words annoying, especially when a lot of them appear together. For example, I often receive emails from companies who are keen to advertise on Omniglot, who want to managing the ads on my site, or who want to redesign the site. These emails include lots of specialist vocabulary and abbreviations that I only partially understand. If I think they have something to offer that might benefit the site, I will try to decipher the jargon. Otherwise I don’t bother.

According to Dictionary.com, jargon [ˈdʒɑː.ɡən/ˈdʒɑɹ.ɡən] is:

  • the language, especially the vocabulary, peculiar to a particular trade, profession, or group: medical jargon.
  • unintelligible or meaningless talk or writing; gibberish.
  • any talk or writing that one does not understand.
  • pidgin.
  • language that is characterized by uncommon or pretentious vocabulary and convoluted syntax and is often vague in meaning.

It comes from the Middle English jargo(u)n (the sound of conversation, talking), from the Old French jargon (talk, chatter, conversation, talking), a variant of gargon/gargun (chatter, talk, language) [source].

When people mention things like header bidding, operational yield management, proprietary stacks, display inventory, RPMs and CPMs (all from one email), I tend to switch off. Perhaps it would be useful and lucrative for me to know about such things, but I’d rather not. I might also find myself becoming a little initated with the people who use such terms, and wondering why they can’t just use more transparent language.

How do you feel about jargon and other unfamiliar forms of language?

Resolutions

Do you make New Year’s resolutions?

Resolution

If you have made any this year, are any of them related to languages?

I don’t tend to make New Year’s resolutions, and when I do, I rarely keep them. Sometimes I do manage to stick at things, at least for a while. Today, for example, my current streak on Duolingo reached 1,628 days. I’m learning Japanese and Spanish there, and keeping my Danish and Swedish ticking over. I’m also learning Dutch on Memrise, although I do miss occasional days. I don’t plan to learn any new languages for now, but who knows what could happen.

Meanwhile on Omniglot, I will carry on adding new material and improving the existing pages.

I’m taking a break from the monthly Radio Omniglot podcasts after reaching episode 50 in December, but will keep making the weekly Adventures in Etymology series and Omniglot News podcasts and videos. I also plan to add a new series – Celtic Routes – which will explore links within the Celtic language family, and between Celtic languages and other European languages. This will be based on my Celtiadur blog.

In other news, I’ve finally found a way to reduce some of the clutter of ads at the bottom of the pages on Omniglot.com using a PHP script that displays a different banner each time you refresh the page. Ideally there wouldn’t be any banners or other ads, but I do sort of need to make a living, and the ads help with that.

Old Long Since

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and if you’re celebrating it with others, you might just sing the song Auld Land Syne. So I thought I’d look into the history of the song and the meanings and origins of some of the words.

Auld Lang Syne

Auld Land Syne was based on a Scottish folk song with parts of it written by Robert Burns. It acquired the traditional tune in 1799. Burns sent a copy the original song to the Scots Musical Museum in 1788 claiming that it had never been written down before, and that he got it from an old man. The first verse and chorus have a lot in common with the ballad “Old Long Syne”, which was published by James Watson in 1711.

Here is Burn’s version of the song:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

Chorus
For auld lang syne, my jo, (For old times, my dear)
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet, (And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet)
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup! (And surely you’ll buy your pint-pot)
and surely I’ll be mine! (and surely I’ll buy mine)
And we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes, (We two have run about the hills)
and pou’d the gowans fine; (and picked the daisies fine)
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit, (But we’ve wandered many a weary foot)
sin’ auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn, (We two have paddled in the stream)
frae morning sun till dine; (from morning sun till dinner time)
But seas between us braid hae roar’d (But seas between us broad have roared)
sin’ auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere! (And there’s a hand my trusty friend)
and gie’s a hand o’ thine! (And give me a hand o’ thine)
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught, (And we’ll take a right good-will draught)
for auld lang syne.

This is what it sounds like in the original Scots:

For auld lang syne [fər o̜ːld lɑŋ səin] means literally “for old long since”, and can be translated as “for old times”, “for days gone by” or “for the sake of old times”.

pint-stoup [pəint.stʌup] means pint-pot, that is a tankard or drinking vessel containing a Scots pint (3 imperial pints / 1.696 L) [source].

brae [breː] = the brow of a hill, a hill, hillside or the high ground adjoining a river bank. From the Middle English bro/bra (bank of a stream, raised edge of a ditch or pit), from the Old Norse brá (eyebrow, eyelash) [source].

pou [puː] (also pul and pow) = to pull, to pluck (fruit, flowers, etc), or to gather produce of any kind. From the Middle English pullen, from Old English pullian (to pull, draw, tug, pluck off) [source].

gowan [ɡʌu.ən] = common daisy (Bellis perennis). From the old northern English dialect word golland. Possibly from the Old Norse gull/goll (gold) [source].

fiere [fiːr] = a companion, comrade, spouse, contemporary or equal. From the (Northumbrian) Old English fǣra, for ġefēra (companion, comrade), from ġe- (co-) and fēra (traveller) [source].

waught [wɑːxt] = to quaff, drink deeply, take large draughts (of); a draught of liquid, a long pull, swig or gulp of any drink. Of unknown origin.

Sources: Wikipedia, Dictionary.com, DSL – Dictionaries of the Scots Language / Dictionars o the Scots Leid, Wiktionary