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 16 – Book

Today we are looking at the word book [bʊk].

Library

Definition
– a handwritten or printed work of fiction or nonfiction, usually on sheets of paper fastened or bound together within covers
– a work of fiction or nonfiction in an electronic format [source]

It comes from the Middle English word booke [boːk] (book), from the Old English bōc [boːk] (book, writing. document), from the Proto-Germanic *bōks [bɔːks] (letter, written message, inscriptions carved into a flat object pressed together) [source].

In Middle English another word for book was livret, from the Old French livret (book, booklet) from livre (book), from the Latin liber (book, the inner bark of a tree, paper, parchment), from the PIE *lewbʰ- (to peel, cut off, harm).

English words from the same root include leaf, lobby, lodge, libel, library, which in Middle and Old English was bōchūs [ˈboːkˌhuːs] or “bookhouse” [source] or bōchord (“bookhoard”) [source]. Incidentally, there’s a post on the Omniglot blog about words for library in various languages.

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 15 – Sky

Today we are looking at the word sky [skaɪ].

Clouds

Definition:
– the region of the clouds or the upper air; the upper atmosphere of the earth
– the heavens or firmament, appearing as a great arch or vault
– the supernal or celestial heaven

It comes from the Middle English word sky [skiː] (sky, cloud, mist), from the Old Norse ský [ˈskyː] (cloud), from the Proto-Germanic *skiwją [ˈskiw.jɑ̃] (cloud, sky), from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)kewH- (to cover, hide, cloud) [source].

In Old English the word for sky (and heaven) was heofon [ˈhe͜o.von], from the Proto-West Germanic *hebn (sky, heaven), which became heaven in modern English [source].

Related words in other languages include sky [ˈskyˀ] (cloud) in Danish, sky [ʂyː] (cloud) in Norwegian, sky [ɧyː] (sky, cloud) in Swedish, ský [sciː] (cloud) in Icelandic,and skýggj [skʊt͡ʃː] (cloud) in Faroese. A more common word for sky in Swedish is himmel, and cloud is moln [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 on the Omniglot Blog. There are more details about words for sky in the post When is the sky not the sky?.

Episode 44 – Emoticons

In this episode I talk about emoticons or “pictorial representation of a facial expression using punctuation or other keyboard characters”. Emoticon is short for “emotion icon” and first appeared in 1994 [source].

Earlier sightings of possible emoticons in the wild include a possibly smiley face in 1648 in To Fortune, a poem by Robert Herrick, an English poet, that appears in The Hesperides & Noble Numbers, a collection of his poems. This appears in only one of the online editions of his work though:

Tumble me down, and I will sit / Upon my ruins, (smiling yet:)

In a transcription of a speech by Abraham Lincoln published in The New York Times on 7th August 1862, a possible wink emoticon appears: (applause and laughter ;), although it is debated whether this was an emoticon or just punctuation.

In 1881 the satirical magazine Puck published examples of typographical art using puncutation marks to express joy, melancholy, indifference or astonishment.

Examples of early emoticons by Scott Fahlman

In 1912 Ambrose Bierce, an American writer and journalist, suggested uses a bracket ‿ to represent a smile, and called it the snigger point or note of cachination [kakɪˈneɪʃ(ə)n] (loud, convulsive laughter).

Other writers proposed ways to use punctuation marks to represent faces, including Alan Gregg, who wrote in a 1936 article in the Harvard Lampoon that (-) could represent a smile, (—) a laughing smile, (#) a frown and (*) a wink.

First smiley emoticons created by Scott Fahlman, Professor Emeritus at Carnegie Mellon University’s Language Technologies Institute and Computer Science Department, in 19th September 1982:

Examples of early emoticons by Scott Fahlman

In Japan, for example, a type of emoticon known as kaomoji (顔文字) or ‘face characters’ developed in the 1980s combining punctuation marks and Japanese katakana glyphs to make horizontal faces, such ass (*_*), (^.^), {^_^} (T_T) & (^ム^).

In Korean combinations of hangeul letters (jamo) and punctuation marks are used: ㅇㅅㅇ, ㅇㅂㅇ, ㅇㅁㅇ, ^오^.

More information about punctuation
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emoticon
http://scihi.org/scott-fahlman-emoticons/

Music featured in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this tune.

The Whirlwind / Y Troellwynt

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.

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Adventures in Etymology 14 – Exclamation!

Today we are looking at the word exclamation [ˌɛk skləˈmeɪ ʃən], a interjectory word that cries out and calls loudly, that expresses outcry or emphasis.

Exclamation marks in various alphabets

It comes from the Middle French word exclamation (exclamation), from the Latin exclāmātiō (exclamation), from ex- (out) and clāmāre, from clāmō (I cry out, clamor, shout, yell, exclaim), from the Proto-Italic *klāmāō, from the Proto-Indo-European *kelh₁- (to call, cry, summon) [source].

Some English words from the same root include: acclaim, claim, clamour, council, declaim, proclaim and reclaim [source].

Here’s a video I made of this information:

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

Adventures in Etymology 13 – Connect

Today we are looking at the word connect [ˌkəˈnɛkt], a word that joins, links, unites, binds and fastens together.

knot

It comes from the Latin word connectere (to fasten together), from cōnectō (I connect, link, fasten together), from con- (together) and nectō (I bind), from the PIE *gned-/*gnod- (to bind).

Words from the same root include: knot, knit, node in English, knot [knɔt] (knot, (hair) bun, skein) in Dutch, Knoten [ˈknoːtən] (knot, interchange) in German, and knude [knuːðə] (knot, node) in Danish.

I chose this word because I think that learning languages is a way to make connections. Connections with other places and people and cultures and ideas.

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Adventures in Etymology 12 – Paraphernalia

Today we are looking at the word paraphernalia [ˌpæɹəfəˈneɪli.ə/ˌpɛɹəfɚˈneɪli.ə].

My musical menagerie
Some of my musical and juggling paraphernalia

According to Dictionary.com, it refers to “equipment, apparatus, or furnishing used in or necessary for a particular activity”, “personal belongings”, or “the personal articles, apart from dower, reserved by law to a married woman.”

It comes from the Ancient Greek word παράφερνα (parápherna), meaning “goods which a wife brings over and above her dowry”, from παρά (pará – beside) and φερνή (phernḗ – dowry). Apparently when dowries were paid, they became the husband’s property, and anything else the wife brought to the marriage (her paraphernalia) remained in her possession [source].

Synonyms include apparatus, accouterments, effects, equipment, furnishings, gear, possessions, stuff, tackle, things and trappings.

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.

Adventures in Etymology 11 – Acme

Today we are looking at the word acme [ˈæk.mi], which is today’s word of the day on Dictionary.com.

ACME

Dictionary.com defines it as “the highest point, summit or peak”, and Lexico.com defines it as “the point at which someone or something is best, perfect or most successful”.

It comes from the Ancient Greek word ἀκμή [akˈmi] (point, edge; the highest or culminating point of something, bloom, flower, prime, zenith, especially of a person’s age; the best or most fitting time), from the Proto-Indo-European *h₂eḱ- (sharp) [source].

English words from the same PIE root include: acid, acronym, acute, edge, oxygen and vinegar [source].

To me, acme reminds me of the Roadrunner cartoons, in which Wile E Coyote tries to catch the roadrunner using all sorts of material and equipment from the Acme corporation, none of which seems to work very well.

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.

Adventures in Etymology 10 – Enigmatic

Today we are looking at the word enigmatic [ˌen.ɪɡˈmæt.ɪk/ˌɛnɪɡˈmætɪk], a mysterious, puzzling, perplexing and inscrutable word that defies description.

Definition: “mysterious and impossible to understand completely” [source]. Or,“resembling an enigma, or a puzzling occurrence, situation, statement, person, etc.; perplexing; mysterious” [source].

enigmatic ayam

It comes from enigma (riddle; sth/sb puzzling, mysterious or inexplicable), from the Latin aenigma [ae̯ˈniɡ.ma] (riddle, allegory), from the Ancient Greek αἴνιγμα [ˈɛ.niɣ.ma] (riddle, taunt, ambush) from αἶνος [ˈɛ.nos] (story, fable, praise) [source], which is posibly the root of the name Αἰνείας / Aenēās, the trojan hero of the Aeneid, and legendary ancestor of Romans [source].

In Modern Greek αίνιγμα [ˈɛniɣma] means a riddle, puzzle or enigma, αινιγματικός [ɛniɣmatiˈkɔs] means enigmatic, mysterious, inscrutable, and αινιγματικότητα (ainigmatikótita) means obscurity.

Greek recordings made with: https://ttsfree.com/

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.

Episode 43 – Punctuation

In this episode I talk about punctuation, focusing particularly on the history and development of punctuation, and some of the people involved.

Here is Victor Borge demonstrating his Phonetic Punctuation:

Music featured in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this tune.

Frolicing Ferrets / Ffuredau sy’n Prancio

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.

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