Butterflies and Pavilions

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?

Butterfly Pavillion

Sources: Wikitionary, Reverso, bab.la

Mooie koopjes!

An interesting Dutch word I learnt recently is goedkoop [ɣutˈkoːp], which means cheap, inexpensive or affordable. It comes from goed (good) and koop (for sale, buy, purchase), so literally means “good buy/purchase” [source].

Incidentally, the English word cheap comes from the Old English cēap (cattle, purchase, sale, traffic, business, bargain), from the Proto-Germanic *kaupaz/*kaupô (inn-keeper, merchant), from *kaupōną/*kaupijaną (to buy, purchase), from the Latin caupō (tradesman, innkeeper), which is the same root as the Dutch koop, and related words in other Germanic languages, such as Kauf (sale, purchase, buy) in German, and köp (purchase) in Swedish [source]

The diminutive of koop is koopje, which means bargin, (a) steal or cheap, and in Belgium it means a sale.

Related words include:

  • kopen = to buy, acquire, purchase, take over
  • koopavond = late opening, late-night shopping
  • koophandel = commerce
  • koopjesperiode = seasonal sales
  • koopkracht = purchasing/buying power
  • kooplieden = dealers, merchants
  • koopman = merchant, businessman
  • koopmanschap = business, commerce, trade
  • koopwaar = merchandise, wares
  • koopwaardig = worthy to buy
  • uitverkoop = (a) sale, sell-off
  • verkopen = to sell
  • koopziek = shopping addiction, shopaholism
  • miskoop = a bad buy
  • een kat in de zak kopen = to buy a pig in a poke (“to buy a cat in a bag”)

Source: bab.la

I like all these Dutch words with double vowels, and there are plenty of them – they look and sound quite cute to me. The title of this post means “nice bargins”, by the way.

Mooie koopjes hiero!

Breath Forts

One of the words that came up this week in the French conversation group I’m part of was château gonflable or inflatable/bouncy castle.

Bouncy castle

The word gonflable means inflatable, and comes from gonfler (to blow up, inflate, pump up, swell, rise, bore), from the Latin cōnflāre, from cōnflō (I kindle (a fire); I forge, fuse, melt (metal); I refine / purify; I inflame (passions)), from con- (with) & flō (breathe, blow) [source].

From the same root we get the English word conflate (to mix together different elements; to fail to distinguish separate things).

Other expressions featuring gonflable include:

  • sac/coussin gonflable = airbag
  • bateau gonflable = inflatable boat
  • matelas gonflable = air bed/mattress
  • aire de jeux gonflables = soft play area

I call such things bouncy castles, but they have other names, such as inflatable castles, bouncing castle, bouncy houses, bounce houses, jumping castle, moon bounces, moonwalks or jumpers.

What do you call them?

Temporal Imprecision

The other day I saw an interesting usage in a discussion on Facebook in which someone wrote that they last did something back in “19 mumbly mumble”. It seems they didn’t want to be more precise about the year.

I’ve heard people doing this in speech before, mumbling the year they don’t want others to know, but I think this is the first time I’ve seen it used in writing like this.

Is there a linguistic name for temporal imprecision like this?

Does this happen in other languages? If so, how?

Springing into Action

I’m currently studying several languages from the same family – Danish, Swedish, Dutch and Faroese, and I’ve been noticing some interesting similarities and differences in their vocabulary.

In Dutch, for example, lopen [ˈloːpən] means to walk or run – apparently it usually means to walk in the Netherlands, and to run in Belgium, according to Wikitionary.

A cognate word in Danish is løbe [ˈløːb̥ə], which means to run, and the equivalent in Swedish, löpa [løːpa], means to hare, run or be in heat. Meanwhile in Faroese the equivalent word is leypa, which means to run or jump.

These words all come from the Proto-Germanic root hlaupaną [ˈxlɑu̯.pɑ.nɑ̃] (to jump forward, to leap) from the Proto-Indo-European *klewb- (to spring, stumble) [source].

The English words leap and lope (to travel at an easy pace with long strides) come from the same root, as does the German word laufen (to go, walk, run, work, move), and related words in other Germanic languages [source].

In Swedish one word for to run is springa, which is cognate with the English word spring, the Dutch springen [ˈsprɪŋə(n)] (to blow, jump, leap, burst), the German springen [ˈʃpʁɪŋən] (to go, bounce, skip, spring, leap), and the Danish springe [ˈsbʁɛŋə] (to jump, leap, spring).

These come from the Proto-Germanic root springaną [ˈspriŋ.ɡɑ.nɑ̃] (to spring, jump up, burst, explode) [source].

The word [ɡoː] means to go, walk or stoll in Swedish. In Danish the same word, pronounced [ɡɔː/ɡ̊ɔːˀ], means to go or walk, and in Norwegian, where it’s pronounced [ɡɒː/ɡoː], it means to walk, go work, function, or be alright. In Faroese the equivalent is ganga [ˈkɛŋka], which means to walk.

These come from the the Old Norse ganga [ˈɡɑ̃ŋɡɑ] (to go, walk), from the Proto-Germanic *ganganą [ˈɣɑŋ.ɡɑ.nɑ̃] (to go, walk, step), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰengʰ- (to walk, step), which is also the root of the word gang (to go, walk) in northern dialects of English, and in Scots [source].

The English word go comes from the Middle English gon, goon (to go), from the Old English gān (to go), from the Proto-Germanic *gāną (to go), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰeh₁- (to leave) [source]

Leap

Gallo

While browsing YouTube this morning I came across a video about Gallo, a Gallo-Romance language spoken in Brittany and Normandy in the northwest of France.

Gallo is one of the langues d’oïl, and is closely related to such languages as Norman and Picard. It is recognised as a minority language in France, and is taught at state schools in Upper Brittany, although few students choose to study it.

One of the comments on the video goes as follows:

De ce que j’en entends dans ce reportage, c’est plutôt une déformation paysanne du français et non une langue avec sa grammaire et son vocabulaire comme le breton.

Which means:

From what I hear in this report, it is rather a peasant distortion of French and not a language with its grammar and vocabulary like Breton.

This kind of thing seems to be quite common when minority and regional languages and dialects are discussed. Speakers of majority languages often belittle them, claim they are not proper languages, that they don’t have their own grammar, and/or that they are ‘just’ dialects, patois, or distorted / corrupted versions of a majority language, and so on.

I wonder why people feel the need to make such comments. Any ideas?