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 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.
In this episode I talk about Dutch (Nederlands), a West Germanic language spoken mainly in the Netherlands and Belgium. I talk about the language itself and its history, about my attempts to learn it, and related stuff.
English words of Dutch origin include: Santa Claus, yacht, yankee, wildebeest, wagon, wiggle, waffle, stove, stoop, snack, skate, scone, rover, poppycock, pickle, plug, mannequin, maelstrom, luck, landscape, knapsack, jib, gin, furlough and many more [source].
In this episode I talk about Solresol, a musical language invented by François Sudre in the early 19th century. It is designed to be a simple language for international communication with just seven basic syllables based on the Western major musical scale (do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si).
Solresol was the first constructed language to be taken seriously as an international auxiliary language (IAL), and the only musical language that gained much of a following.
I look at the history of the language, and its structure, and will play with it to see how it works.
Here are the Solresol words and phrases I use during this episode:
Simi re domi dosolfala misol fa lalaresi refafa lasi la lamisolsi solresol lasolfado. Hello and welcome to episode five of the Omniglot podcast.
The appears to be no word for welcome in Solresol so I used domi dosolfala misol (you come well), and for Omniglot podcast I used lamisolsi solresol lasolfado (all language show).
There is no word for radio either, but maybe you could use resolrefa solfasimi fasidola resisido (“send sound far device”). I came up with lasirela sifamire lasi dofadofa (“international network of knowledge”) for internet. So another way of translating Radio Omniglot Podcast might be lamisolsi solresol lasolfado lare la lasirela sifamire lasi dofadofa (“All language show on the international network of knowledge”).
doredomi = body, physical
domilafa = rationality, reason, sense, reasonable
sofamisol = wisdom, wise, sage, wisely
dolasoldo = meat, steak, beef
redoredo = clothes, outfit, effects
remifala = home, house, hut, cottage, hotel
remisolla = room, lounge, dining room
residoso = family, kinship, relative
solremifa = to sing
sôlremifa = song
solrêmifa = singer
solremîfa = songlike
solremifâ = singingly
sôlremifa’ / sôlremifaa = songs
sôlremifa’a = female singer
dolmîfado = man; dolmîfadô = woman
sisol = Mr; sisôl = Mrs
dore = I, me, myself; dorê = we, us, ourselves
misol = well, good
solmi = wrong, evil
fala = good, tasty, delectable, exquisite, delicious
dore mimi domilado = I will speak, I will have spoken
dore fafa domilado = I will speak, I will have spoken
solsol domilado = Speak!
Sire misolredo doredore famido re misolla, re famisol dosila re refasi. Dofa midomido midodosi dofasifa re domilafa, re falado fasolfa miladomi midodosi simisila.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Dore lala domilado solresol re solremisol lasisol. Domi mifare? I am speaking Solresol with vocal punctuation. Do you like it?
Solsi mido dosollado re simi. Thanks for listening and good afternoon.
There appears to be no word for goodbye in Solresol so I used simi, which is a general greeting meaning hello, good morning, good afternoon.
In this episode I talk about Italian, and specifically about the Italian words used in Western classical music. I investigate why Italian is used, look at some of the words, and find out what they mean and how they are used in Italian.
Here are the words featured:
Words for musical compositions and parts of them
a drama set to music with singing and orchestral accompaniment
work, action, deed, piece of work
a work for one or more solo instruments accompanied by an orchestra
concert, performance, gig, show
a florid solo at the end of a performance
cadence, rhythm, intonation, frequency
an accompanied, elaborate melody sung by a single voice
air, look, manner
Words for tempo (time)
slowly, with care, gently; adage, saying; easy does it
This episode is about the Irish language, or Gaeilge, as it’s known in Irish. I talk about my own Irish learning journey and adventures. Then look at the history of the language and its current state, and talk a bit about the language itself, with examples to illustrate its structure.
It features some Irish tunes, played by me, on the tin whistle, mandolin, low whistle and harp, and one of my own compositions, played on the melodica. It is mostly in English, with some bits of Irish.
You can find music for Sackow’s / Tripping Up The Stairs, the jig I play on the whistle at the beginning of this episode, here.
The slow air I play on the low whistle, Amhrán na Leabhar (The Song of the Books), was written by Tomás Rua Ó Súilleabháín (1785-1848), a school teacher and poet who lost all his possessions, including his books, in a storm when they were being ferried between Derrynane Bay to Valentia Harbour. He wasn’t in the boat at the time, and wrote this song afterwards. It is also known as Cuan Bhéil Inse [source]. You can hear it, with words, at:
This episode is about Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig). I talk about the current state of the language, its history, how it is used, about my experiences of learning it, and share some observations I’ve collected from other Gaelic speakers and learners.
Last week I was at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, a college on the Isle of Skye where you can do courses in Scottish Gaelic languages, songs, traditional music, dance, drama, and other subjects. I have done quite a few courses in Scottish Gaelic songs since 2008.
You can hear some examples of spoken Gaelic here:
Here is a silly little video I made to practise my Scottish Gaelic: