Episode 46 – Surnames

The word surname, as in a family name, comes from the Late Latin supernōmen/suprānōmen (surname), from super- (over, above, beyond) and nōmen (name) [source].

The most common surnames in England are: Smith, Jones, Taylor, Brown, Williams, Wilson, Johnson, Davies, Robinson and Wright [source].

Types of surname:

  • Occupational; Smith, Taylor, Wright
  • Patronimics; Jones, Williams, Wilson, Johnson, Davies, Robinson
  • Based on appearance: Brown

Smith is the most common surname in the English-speaking world, as are equivalents in many other languages, including Schmidt in German, Ferraro / Ferrari in Italian, Herrero in Spanish, Kovač in Serbian, Croatian, Slovak and Slovenian, and Mac Gabhann (McGowan) in Irish. It comes from the Old English word smitan (to smite, strike).

A smith is someone who works with metal, and has been used as an occupational surname since Anglo-Saxon times. There are various kinds of smith, and their names are or were used as surnames, including Blacksmith (works mainly with iron); Brownsmith and Redsmith (work with copper); Goldsmith (works mainly with gold); Shoesmith (makes horseshoes); Sixsmith (makes scythes and sickles – a version of Scythesmith or Sicklesmith), and Whitesmith (works with tin) [source].

The surname Taylor came to Britian with the Normans, and was first used in 1182. It comes from the Old French word tailleur (cutter). It is also common in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA [source].

The surname Wright comes from the Old English word wryhta/wyrhta (worker, shaper of wood). It is also common in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. There are quite a few surname that include wright, such as: Arkwright (a maker of wooden chests), Boatwright (a maker of boats), Cartwright (a maker of carts), Plowright (a maker of ploughs), Wainwright (a maker of wagons) [source].

Other occupational surnames include: Faulkner / Falconer (falcon trainer), Fletcher (arrow maker), Hayward (hedge warden), Parker (keeper of the park) and Walker (a fuller of cloth) [source].

Jones is the most common surname is Wales, and is also common in England and the USA. It’s based on Welsh patronimics meaning “son of John”, such as Mab Ioan or ap Siôn. These were commonly used until the mid 16th century, when Welsh people started using surnames, and many Welsh names were Anglicised, as all official documents had to be in English. Davies and Williams have similar origins [source]. More on Welsh surnames.

The surname Brown was originally a nickname for someone with brown hair or clothing. It’s common in England, Scotland, Canada, Australia and the USA. It was first used in England in 1066 in the form of Brun [source].

Other colour-based surnames include Black (dark-haired, or short for blacksmith), White (possibly referred to pale complexioned Vikings), Green (one who lives by the village green or is from a place called Green), Blue (someone with blue eyes / blue clothes), Red (red haired, ruddy complexion), Orange (associated with the Dutch House of Orange) and Pink (nickname for a bright, chirpy person) [source].

Other sourses
https://www.behindthename.com/name/geoffrey
https://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Ager
https://www.familyeducation.com/baby-names/name-meaning/ager


If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Blubrry podcast hosting

Adventures in Etymology 18 – Parnips

Today we are looking at the word parsnip [ˈpɑː.snɪp/ˈpɑɹ.snɪp].

Parsnips

Definition:

  • A plant (Pastinaca sativa) in the parsley family, native to Eurasia, cultivated for its long, white, edible, fleshy root.
  • The root of this plant.

It comes from the Middle English word passenep a version of the Old French word pasnaie, with influence from the Middle English word nepe [neːp] (turnip), from the Latin pastināca [pas.tiˈnaː.ka] (parsnip, carrot, stringray) from pastinum [ˈpas.ti.num] (two-pronged fork/dibble), which is of unknown orgin [source].

Words for parsnip are similiar in quite a few other languages, including pastinaca in Italian, pastinaak in Dutch and panais in French.

One exception is Spanish, in which parsnip is chirivía [t͡ʃi.ɾiˈβ̞i.a], from alcaravea [al.ka.ɾaˈβ̞e.a] (caraway), from the Arabic كَرَاوِيَا‎ (karāwiyā, caraway) [source].

This adventure was inspired by a friend who sent me a collection of ‘useful’ phrases from the Welsh course on Duolingo concerning Owen and his parsnips.

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly – an easy-to-use animated video creator [affiliate link].

I also write about etymology, and other language-related topics, on the Omniglot Blog.

Adventures in Etymology 17 – Balance

Today we are endeavouring to maintain a state of equilibrium by looking at the word balance [ˈbæləns].

The scales of justice

Definition:
– a state in which opposing forces harmonise; equilibrium.
– something of equal weight used to provide equilibrium; counterweight
– awareness of both viewpoints or matters; neutrality; rationality; objectivity.

It comes from the Middle English word balaunce [baˈlantsə] (a set of scales), from the Middle French balance (scales), from the Latin Latin *bilancia from the Latin *bilanx [ˈbɪɫ̪äŋks̠] ((of a balance) having two scales) from bi- (twice) and lanx [ɫ̪äŋks̠] (dish, plate, scalepan) [source].

In Latin the word for a pair of scales or balance was libra, which was also a unit of measure equal to twelve ounces or a pound (lb). This is the root of words for weight and currency in various languages, including livre (pound) in French, lira in Italian, and libra (pound) in Portuguese and Spanish [source].

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly – an easy-to-use animated video creator [affiliate link].

I also write about etymology, and other language-related topics, on the Omniglot Blog.

Adventures in Etymology 7 – Session

On today’s adventure we are looking at the origins of the word session, because this afternoon I took part in a music session in a friend’s garden, and I thought I’d find out where the word comes from.

Music session / Sesiwn cerddoriaeth

Session comes from the Old French session (sitting, (court) session), from the Latin sessiō (a sitting, a seat, loitering), from sedeō (I sit), from the Proto-Indo-European *sed- (to sit) [source].

Words for to sit in Romance languages, such as sentar in Spanish and Portuguese, asseoir in French, come from the same Latin root [source], and from same the Proto-Indo-European root we get English like assess, dissident, insidious, obsess, possess, reside, seat, sedentary, sedate, sit and siege [source].

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Adventures in Etymology 1 – Shanty

Adventures in Etymology is a new series on Radio Omniglot that I started in March 2021. Each week I explore the origins of a word and find out which other words it’s related to. I make a short video each Sunday, and thought I’d post the audio and the script here.

On the Waterfront - Zebu

On today’s adventure we are following the word shanty down the etymological rabbit hole. Sea shanties seem to be quite popular at the moment, and the word shanty, as in a rhythmical work song original sung by sailors, comes from the French word chantez (sing), the imperative form of the verb chanter (to sing), from the Old French chanter (to pray, sing, retell or recount), from the Latin cantāre (to enchant, bewitch, forwarn, play (music, roles), recite, sing), from canō (I crow, foretell, play, sing, celebrate, chant), from the Proto-Italic *kanō (to sing), from the Proto-Indo-European *keh₂n- (to sing).

Words in many European languages for to sing come from the same root, including cantar (to sing) in Spanish and Portuguese, cantare (to sing) in Italian, canu (to sing) in Welsh and canadh (to sing) in Irish, and such English words as accent, chant, enchant, incantation, recant.

Etymology from: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/shanty

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly​ – an easy-to-use animated video creator [affiliate link].

I also write about etymology on the Omniglot Blog.

Here are a couple of shanty-like songs I wrote, and a shanty like tune:

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM or podtail.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Blubrry podcast hosting

Episode 36 – The Easiest Languages

In this episode I discuss which languages are easiest to learn for native speakers of English, and what factors make languages easy or difficult to learn, including grammar, spelling, pronunciation, vocabulary, the availablity of resources, and so on.

Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this tune.

The Happy Hedgehog / Y Draenog Hapus

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM, podtail and or via this RSS feed.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Blubrry podcast hosting

Episode 33 – Giving Up

In this episode I talk about reasons why we stop learning learning langauges. Why we give up on them and quit. This is based on a poll I posted on the Omniglot Fan Club on Facebook.

Top reasons for giving up on a language include losing interest, not having enough time, getting distracted, another language seemed more interesting, and it being too hard.

Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this tune.

Lifting the Lid / Codi’r Caead – a tune I wrote on the cavaquinho in 2020.

See the score of this tune

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Blubrry podcast hosting

Epsiode 30 – Gibberish

In this episode I talk about, and in, Gibberish – what it is, where it comes from, how I learnt it, and possible reasons why some people find it difficult to learn.

How to speak Gibberish:

Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this tune.

Dancing on Custard / Dawnsio ar Gwstard – a tune I wrote on the harp in 2016.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Blubrry podcast hosting

Episode 24 – Volapük

Johann Martin Schleyer playing the harp in 1888 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Johann_Martin_Schleyer?uselang=de

In this episode I talk about Volapük, an international auxilliary language created in the late 19th century by Johann Martin Schleyer, a German priest. I look at the history of the language and its structure and vocabulary, and also talk a bit about Schleyer himself.

Volapük was the first international auxillary language, or indeed constructed language, to attract a significant number of adherents. At its peak there were an estimated 283 clubs, 25 periodicals in or about Volapük, and 316 textbooks in 25 languages.

Not long after that, however, the Volapük movement began collapse and by the early 20th century few people were interested in Volapük. Many former Volapükists switched their attentions to Esperanto, which was published in 1887. Or tried to improve the language, and create new versions, none of which had much success.

The photo above is of Johann Martin Schleyer and comes from: Wikipedia

Information about Volapük

https://www.omniglot.com/writing/volapuk.htm
http://volapük.com
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volapük
https://wikisource.org/wiki/Gramat_Volapüka/Lafab_Volapükik

Examples of spoken Volapük

Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch (played on the guitar)

See the score for this piece

The Swallow / Y Wennol


See the score for this piece

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Episode 20 – Language Families

In this episode I talk about language families – what they are, and how they develop, and I introduce some major and minor language families.

According to Wikipedia, a language family is “a group of languages related through descent from a common ancestral language or parental language, called the proto-language of that family”.

According to Ethnologue there are currently 142 different language families and 7,111 living languages. The ten largest languages families account for about 88% of the world’s population, and 74% of the world’s languages.

[table id=1 /]

Here’s an illustration a the family tree of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Elvish languages:

Elvish language family

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvish_languages_(Middle-earth)

More information about language families
https://www.omniglot.com/writing/langfam.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_family
https://www.ethnologue.com/statistics/family
https://www.mustgo.com/worldlanguages/language-families/

The tune featured in this episode

Dancing Donkeys / Asynnod sy’n Dawnsio

See the score for this tune

Costa Pacifica

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.