muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Despite the low participation of international bears at Bear Pride (we did meet a Belgian and a Frenchman in line at Sidetrack, a Berliner inside, and heard rumours of a Hamburger), I do have one linguistic anecdote to report. As I've complained to several people already, Sidetrack on Monday made me aware of just how uniform bear fashion has become. 90%+ of the men there had a full bear and a buzzed or shaved head and were wearing baggy shorts with a printed t-shirt of some sort or another--all in fairly muted colours. Some of the t-shirts were amusing, and at least one had katakana. The one that I stumbled into a discussion of, however, said this on the back:
кабачок одинокая
Сан Франциско
I've come across this a couple times before. It's merch from the Lone Star Saloon in San Francisco. So I knew immediately what it said. Now, normally, I'd jump right in and explain this to everyone. But as I told [ profile] monshu, I'm trying hard these days not to be That Guy, so instead I just mentioned this knowledge in passing to the one guy I was actually trying to impress.

Apparently, the reason for the discussion was that someone had come by earlier and told the wearer of the shirt (the boyfriend of the guy I was talking to--rats!) that it meant "zucchini". "Sounds like he was pulling his leg," I joked. But he wasn't. The first word, кабачок, corresponds to "saloon" in the English and is, in origin, a diminutive of кабак "tavern, pub". (A bit ironic if you've ever seen the size of the Lone Star.) But there's another кабачок which translates as "marrow/squash" or "courgette/zucchini".

Near as I can tell, this is also a diminutive from another кабак, a borrowing of the Turkic kapak which in modern Anatolian Turkish means "bald" or "baldy" as well as "courgette/zucchini". Kap has many meanings in Turkic, among them "pot" or "vessel". So it's possible that the two meanings are ultimately related. The metonymic use of "drinking vessel" or "pouring vessel" for "wineshop" or "tavern" can also be found in dialectal German Krug (cf. Dutch kroeg "pub"). And the resemblance between certain marrows/squashes and pots or other vessels is motive enough to explain that semantic extension. Sadly, though, all the good etymological dictionaries here are inaccessible at the moment, so for now this remains a hunch.

In any case, it was a good reminder that, when it comes to most things, I really only know enough to know how little I really know.
Apr. 15th, 2014 11:19 am

Just ducky

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
A colleague and I were discussing the French word for "poodle" the other day, caniche. Given the resemblance to Latin canis, I assumed this was a borrowing from some Romance variety without the palatalisation of velars which characterises French, Franco-Provençal, Romansh, and other adjacent varieties. I didn't for a moment imagine that it had anything to do with ducks.

But that's what the TLF claims. I was previously ignorant of the word cane, the feminine of canard "duck; drake". (Whether cane is the root word or whether it was derived from canard by back-formation seems to be a cause for dispute among historical linguists.) This, in turn, is supposedly derived from the same Germanic root as German Kahn and Dutch kaan, a kind of small open boat or barge.

Poodles, of course, were originally bred as water dogs and retrievers. (The English name derives from Low Saxon pudeln "splash about".) So caniche could be a reference to their swimming ability--gliding through the water like a female duck. Or perhaps this is a metonymic designation referring to their preferred prey. -iche seems to be a kind of all-purpose noun suffix, so it doesn't clarify matters any.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Two words than I never would've identified as cognates: joist and gîte. Both go back to giste, feminine past participle of Old French gesir (from Latin iacēre "to lie down") and thus can be glossed respectively as "a thing laid down" and "a place of lying down". The change of vowel in Middle English has never been explained, but is shared by the words hoist and foist. The other thing I learned from researching the etymology is that the form joice goes back much further than I suspected. Far from being a recent innovation, it's attested already in the 15th century.

The reason I'm thinking about joists again is that I'm reading Balzac and he begins his novella La Maison du chat-qui-pelote with a description of the eponymous house that includes an enumeration of many of its architectural elements, solives or "joists" prominent among them. My Cajun French materials actually list two terms for joists: soliveau for "ceiling joice" [sic] and lamboune for "floor joice". The latter is a variant of SF lambourde with basically the same meaning, i.e. a horizontal piece of wood meant to support a floor. Larousse gives the additional translations of "wall plate" and "backing strip", i.e. a piece of wood placed atop a joist in order to support timber framing.

This is why reading anything nineteenth century is apt to take me a while. So much unfamiliar vocabulary, and looking for English equivalents ends up becoming a mini research project. I try to ignore as much as I can so as not to get bogged down, but what am I reading these works for if not the colourtext?
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
With the clearance of the lot at Broadway and Devon, the prospect of a Starbucks within easy walking distance has come one step closer. Naturally, the GWO welcomes it, although he is curious to see the effect on the local café ecology. The Dunkin' Donuts at Loyola is safe, he reckons, because "the world is divided into those who prefer Starbucks and those who prefer Dunkin'." But his money says that at least one of the three other coffeehouses within range is not going to make it.

I repeated my usual complaint about their stores never having anything I want to buy, even in the food case. "Why don't they ever have anything savoury?" "They do," he told me, and proceeded to describe their new concept, "La Boulange". Apparently, a Bay Area bakery (oh, the irony) is partnering with them to expand their selection. So I will finally be able to pop in and get a goddamn ham-and-cheese croissant for those days when a breakfast bar just ain't gonna cut it.

He was curious about the word "boulange", and in particular whether this was kosher French or another of their inventions. After failing to find it in le Wiktionnaire, I was inclined to call it the latter, but I told him that to be sure I needed to first check the Trésor to ascertain whether it was some obscure-ass backformation that's been used like once a century ago. Essentially: yep. Here's their definition: "Fam. Fabrication par le boulanger, et accessoirement commerce du pain." So essentially, something like "the bakery trade". First attested 1830 with the meaning "produit de la mouture du blé transformé par la meule en son, gruau, farine".

I also spent some time looking up translations for "zipper", because Reißverschluss is one of the very few unfamiliar words I've come across in Özdamar. (I mentioned to the Old Man that it just goes to show how much more time I spend reading non-contemporary literature in the language.) The French translation is, to my surprise, fermeture éclair or "lightning closure". Even more surprising is seeing this calqued in Yiddish blitsshlesl. Spanish/Catalan cremallera was also a mystery until I discovered that this is a calque of French crémaillère "trammel" (i.e. a traverse bar with rings for handing pots over a cooking fire, fermature à crémaillère being a less current synonym of fermeture éclair).
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
During our lazy weekend (a non-trivial part of which was spent lounging on the back porch in pyjama pants), I wondered aloud to [ profile] monshu what the noun form corresponding to louche would be. That is, is the quality of being louche louchité, louchesse, loucherie?

As it turns out, loucherie is the only one to be found in dictionaries, but it doesn't mean what you might expect. Louche is a descendent of Latin luscus "one-eyed", and although this sense is archaic in regard to the adjective, it's still very much alive in the derived verb loucher. Thus, loucherie is actually a synonym for strabisme.

I did find a few (i.e. two dozen) instances of louchité online with more-or-less the meaning I was looking for so I assume this would be understood in conversation in more-or-less the same way as, say, "assholity" would be in English
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
When I first looked for mevsufsunuz in my Turkish dictionary, I couldn't find it. It didn't help at all that I was hearing a /t/ in it that wasn't there. But even if I'd had the spelling correct, I would still have been SOL because it seems this particular form has become obsolete. I know what you're thinking--Topkapi isn't even half a century old. But that's the impact of the "catastrophic" pace of language renewal documented so well by Geoffrey Lewis.

In the context of the film, mevsufsunuz is translated as "You are under arrest". So I attacked it from the other direction, by looking up "to arrest" in the English-Turkish section. There I found the phrasal verb tevkif etmek. Etmek is a light verb, frequently used to give verbal force to borrowed nouns (e.g. mat etmek "to checkmate"). Tevkif wears its Arabic origins like a turban and Hans Wehr gives "arrest" among the meanings of توقيف tawqīf, a deverbal from the root w-q-f "stop". From this, it's simple enough to work forward and derive a passive participle of the form mafʻūl, i.e. mawqūf "arrested" (or--in Turkish clothing--mevkuf; -sunuz is simply a vowel-harmonised form of the second-person plural/polite present tense auxiliary ending).

But you'll look in vain for mevkuf in the little violet Redhouse I keep on the bedside table. As we've just seen, adjectives like mevkuf require some familiarity with Arabic morphology to relate to other derivatives of the same stem, and hence have fallen out of currency in a culture where Arabic grammar is no longer commonly studied. Moreover, tevkif etmek itself competes with the native calque tutuklamak (from tutmak "to stop" by means of a derived noun tutuk to which the verb-forming ending -lAmAk has been added).

So there's every chance that if Topkapi were being filmed today, what our hapless hustler would've heard shouted at him would be "Tutuklusunuz!" (Tutuk with the "adjectival" ending -lI plus the suffixed auxiliary mentioned above). That's how much difference a generation or two can make in a land which makes a fetish of linguistic purism.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Quoygrew (Westray, Orkney, UK)

Quoygrew is a Viking Age archaeological site that was continuously inhabited up until 1937. According to what I can find online (i.e. this PDF in Norwegian) the local pronunciation is /ˈkwaigroː/. The first element descends from Old Norse kví "[cattle] enclosure" and is found in other placenames such as Quoyloo and Cumlaquoy. The second element is more obscure, representing either ON grjót "rubble" or grǫf "grave".
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
I came across an interesting doublet a few days ago when I confused an Irish-speaker by my use of the word lionn dubh to mean "stout" (lit. "black ale"). To him, this means "depression"; his word for stout is leann dubh. Now I recognise leann as a dialectal variant of lionn. It's a backformation stemming from the fact that this word is declined irregularly and has leanna as its genitive singular form. (Such regularisations seem particularly common in Connemara dialects where, for instance, second declension nouns tend to be slender throughout rather than alternating.) But it came as news to me that there were varieties of the language which preserved both forms with a distinction of meaning

Still, what's the connexion (apart from the obvious one) between dark beer and depression? Humour. Specifically, the four humours of Hippocratic medicine. Lionn, it turns out, once had a much broader meaning. The Middle Irish etymon is used to cover all manner of liquids, not just intoxicating ones, including lymph and phlegm. This made it a natural choice when a calque was needed for Latin ātra bīlis. But clearly medical jargon belongs to a different register from orders for ordinary intoxicants. Once lionn (bzw. leann) became current in the sense of "ale", adding dubh to describe darker brews would've been a natural development, independent of any reference to mediaeval humoralism. And when the standard was modified to better reflect the vernaculars of the West of Ireland, it was natural that leann was adopted as the popular word "ale" while lionn was retained for more recondite senses

In case you're curious about the rest of the humorous spectrum, lionn fionn and lionn geal are both literally "white humour", but the first is lymph and the second ichor. What we call "yellow bile" the Irish saw as ruddy and named lionn rua. Not to be confused, of course, with leann rua, which would be "red ale"--at least in Standard Irish. The phlegmnatic speakers of Munster dialect simply use lionn throughout and apparently resign themselves to the resulting ambiguity (or perhaps seize the opportunity for punnery).
muckefuck: (Default)
  1. der Waschbär
  2. de wasbeer
  3. el mapache
  4. l'ós rentador
  5. le chaoui, le raton laveur
  6. y racŵn
  7. an racún
  8. szop
  9. 아메리카너구리
  10. 浣熊 huànxióng
  11. アライグマ (洗熊) araiguma
Notes: The breakdown according to etymology:
  • Borrowings from American languages:
    • Powhatan ärähkun: 0, 6, 7. (Clearly the the Celtic languages borrowed this through English.)
    • Nahuatl mapachitli: 3.
    • Choctaw shawi: 5 (Cajun only).
  • Calques and native coinages:
    • "wash(ing) bear": 1, 2, 4, 10, 11. (The model is the obsolete Linnaean name Ursus lotor. Cf. Arm. ջրարջ "water-bear".)
    • "washing rat": 5 (Europe, Canada).
    • "American raccoon dog": 9.
The most interesting of the lot is Polish szop, which apparently represents a borrowing of obsolete German Schupp. This, in turn, is an abbreviation of Schuppenfell, where the element Fell ("pelt") has been added as an elucidating element to the Russian borrowing шуба šupa, of roughly the same meaning.

Got that?

It looks like a Russian word for "fur coat (of an animal)" was borrowed into German, compounded with a native German word for clarity, narrowed in meaning to raccoon pelts, metonymically applied to the animal they came from, shortened, and then borrowed into Polish. The Russian name, however, is енот, which represents a repurposing of a word for "genet" (a species of feliform carnivores related to the civet). So perhaps the first Schuppenfelle were genet hides, and only with the rise of the North American trade did they come to designate coonskins.
muckefuck: (Default)
Gleann Glasaich--Glasach "ley-land, lea field" < glas "green"

Eadar Dhà Dhobhar "between two waters"

?Gleann Geòidhean--Geòidhean (dial. gen. pl. of gèadh "goose")

Lag a' Mhuilinn "hollow of the mill"
muckefuck: (Default)
Earlier in the week, my Thuringian coworker let me know that the shambolic attempt at a presentation by one of our colleagues was "unter aller Kanone". Literally, this means "under all cannon [sic]" and represents a German idiom that I wasn't previously familiar with. She mentioned that there was also a pseudo-Latinisation, sub omni canone.

Surprise! The "pseudo-Latin" is actually the original. According to Wikipedia, sub omni canone (more mellifluous in the plural, sub omnibus canonibus) is a consecrated phrase with which doctoral dissertations are rejected (back when they still used to do that regularly). Canon is used here with the sense of "standard" (metaphorically derived from its original meaning of "staff" or "measuring line"). Kanone is probably ultimately of the same origin (cf. Gk. κάννα "reed"), but comes into German through a different route.
muckefuck: (Default)
Recently I've been doing a little research into the place names of Scotland and North West England. (This site in particular is hoovering up oodles of my time.) In the process I discovered that the Pennines owe their name to an 18th-century literary forgery. The various ranges of hills and peaks simply didn't have a unified designation until a minor English writer living in Denmark made one up out of whole cloth. (Obviously, though, it owes something to the British placename element pen(n)- "head, summit", not to mention the Apennines of Italy.) Someone stuck it on an Ordinance Survey map and it was never taken off.

It's fascinating to me the number of Romantic literary forgeries are out there and how influential they've been. I've known about a few of them for ages (like Ossian or Iolo Morganwg's "Old Welsh" poetry), but it seems like whenever I go poking about I come across more. Some have become the basis for entire religions, so a toponym or two would seem to be par for the course. And it's not surprising it should be a mountain range, since it was the Romantic movement that led to a revalorisation of these as places of great natural beauty and tourist sites.
muckefuck: (Default)
  1. das Gerüst
  2. de steiger
  3. el andamio
  4. la bastida
  5. l'échafaudage
  6. y sgaffaldiau
  7. an scafalra
  8. rusztowanie
  9. 비계 (飛階)
  10. 腳手架 jiǎoshǒujià
Notes: The etymology of scaffold and its relatives is quite complex, a mashup of Lombardic and Old Italian that got filtered to us through Late Latin and French. Catalfalque has the same origin and the second element in both these words is the root of balcony, which should give you some notion of the phonetic changes involved.

The Sino-Korean word is literally "flying steps". By comparison, the contemporary Chinese is the prosaic "foot-hand-framework". With typical terseness, the DRAE describes andamio as a compound of andar "walk" and -amio, and I needed to go to Corominas to determine what the source of this suffix was. (He considers it a variant of -amo, found in only one other current word: aramio "field plowed and left fallow".)
muckefuck: (Default)
A conversation with [ profile] zompist always raises more questions than it answers. Questions like, Why don't French comics do better in the US market? and Why aren't conlangers more interested in syntax? and Which cuisines are most likely to be made by people actually from the country in question? Unlike questions about scientific names or historical events, these aren't the kind you can easily answer with a smartphone.

One of those questions was Why is the word for "cat" more stable than the word for "dog" in the Indo-European languages? Have a look at the respective entries in Wiktionary. Roughly 80% of the Indo-European languages listed have as their primary term a cognate of English cat (a word ultimately derived from Ancient Egyptian). The next most popular, each with about 10% of the entries, are a South Slavic stem based on *mac- (also found in Albanian) and an Indic stem represented by Sanskrit biḍāla.

With "dog", the situation is considerably more eclectic. Reflexes of PIE *ḱwṓ constitute only about half of the sample. Again, one Slavic (Proto-Slavic *pьsъ) and one Indic (Skrt kukkurah) etymon each constitute about 10% of the remainder. Among the remaining examples we find Occitan-Catalan gos (an onomatopoeia?), Spanish perro, East Slavic sobaka (Iranian or Turkic), and Modern Greek σκύλος.

Why the discrepancy? What was different about our historical relationship between these two domestic animals which would make one term significantly more amenable to replacement than the other. Did our ancestors feel more affectionate toward their dogs and, thus, create more pet names for them? Cats do have much darker folkloric associations (there's even a Breton tradition that they were created by Satan rather than God), but fear tends to spawn euphemisms (cf. the situation with "bear", where reflexes of PIE *h₂ŕ̥tḱos have largely been ousted by taboo replacements). It used to be thought that cats were domesticated much later than dogs and in Egypt and that the name for them was a Wanderwort that spread out of there alongside their adoption. But now the thinking is that they were domesticated in the Fertile Crescent millennia earlier and spread alongside cereal crops (which they helped protect by preying on rodents), making them present in Europe before the Indo-Europeans stumbled onto the scene.

Clearly it's a question which can never have a definitive answer, but it's always fun to speculate.
Jan. 7th, 2012 12:15 am

WotD: empty

muckefuck: (Default)
  1. leer
  2. leeg
  3. vacío
  4. buit
  5. vide
  6. gwag
  7. folamh
  8. pusty
  9. 비다
  10. kōng
Notes: I swear, the more languages I study, the stupider I become. Why such a common word? Because walking home from Loyola, I realised that I couldn't think of the Spanish equivalent. Catalan, no problem; I asked myself if there was any chance it might be buido, but this simply rang false. (As it turns out, this word does exist--as a Catalanism!--but with the sense of "sharpened" or "grooved", meanings absent from buit.) Then I tried to recall the French and found myself completely stumped.

Perhaps surprisingly, these terms--and the Welsh to boot--all have their origins in Latin vacuus. The development of Welsh gwag is quite regular. Spanish vacío comes from the near-synonym vacīvus with unexpected lose of the second v. Vacīvus had a variant with o, from which we surmise that vacuus did, too, even though it isn't attested. Somewhere this acquired the second conjugation participial ending -itus; the development of *vocitus to Catalan buit is quite regular except for the initial b (which is more than merely orthographic since it exists even in those dialects which still distinguish /b/ from /v/). In Old French, *vocitus surfaces as voyde from which we get our void; Modern French vide probably derives from a variant with ui.

What about empty, though, which doesn't resemble any equivalent in either Germanic or Romance? My sources consider it a descendant of ǽmetig, a derived adjective from ǽmetta "leisure". This looks like a dead ringer for OHG emezzīg "persistent", the root of modern emsig "diligent", except that the meanings are hard to reconcile. (Leer, incidentally, is thought to be related to lesen in its sense of "glean"; a field ready for gleaning would be an "empty" one which had already been reaped.) Earlier English also had the utterly charming toom, cognate to Swedish tom, ultimate origin uncertain.
muckefuck: (Default)
No German lesson this week--the Rabbi got too busy. In addition to pouncing on his ngs last week, I also had a couple of opportunities to remind him, "Das hier ist kein Jiddisch!" But to take the sting away, I followed up by asking him if he'd ever heard of Rotwelsch, the German thieves' cant. As you might expect, there's quite a bit of Yiddish in it. In fact, the language itself can even go under the name of Ganovensprache (albeit rarely).

And just as in English, yesterday's cant has a knack for finding its way into today's slang and even general colloquial usage. I told him that of three common slang words I know for "money"--Kohle, Kies, and Moos--two of them are actually Yiddish in origin (and all of them have been folketymologised to look German). Hebrew, in fact: the first (if my sources are to be believed) derives from a word for "bag" and the second is from Hebrew מעות ma`oth "money" [like Spanish dinero, from the name of an ancient coin]. Both have been modified over time to appear identical to common German words (i.e. Kies "gravel", Moos "moss".) As a result, probably not one in a hundred speakers could tell you they're of foreign origin; certainly I didn't know that when I learned them.

Reading Fontane yesterday, I came across another beautiful example--this one not in the least disguised by folk etymology: ausbaldoweren. Paul glossed this as auskundschaften, also a word I didn't know, but it apparently means "keep a lookout". The root is Yiddish baldover from Hebrew ba`al dabhar "word master". The range of Yiddish meanings is somewhat quirky, from "person in question" through "accused" to "culprit". How exactly we get from this last to "lookout" I couldn't say, but it's interesting to note that Fontane, writing in the 1890s, puts this word not in the mouth of a criminal but of a young maid-of-all-work from a respectable Christian family.
muckefuck: (Default)
Finished with Tóibín, moved on to Bowen. Just read a passage where the maid informed the young lady of the household that the mistress has been snooping in her room while she was out. "She said to me this morning, did I not find it difficult dusting with all that mess about. Your bears' party, she meant[.]" For a few glorious pages, I thought I'd stumbled across a delightful late-Victorian idiom for "shambles", but sadly the collection of carved bears in her bedroom is very literal.

Both the Tóibín novels were rather similar, being set in and around Wexford, particularly the seaside town of Cush (where Tóibín's family apparently had a holiday cottage). One can't help but be struck by the frequency of placenames terminating in -low--Tullow, Carlow, Arklow, Wicklow. (Also, with slightly different spelling, Curracloe.) Makes one wonder if we aren't looking at a common formant.

The area is known for its long history of Germanic settlement (both Viking and "Old English") so I thought at first this might be the same element one sees in such names as Gütersloh, Oslo, and Waterloo, a cognate of English lea. But that is true for only one of the cases, Wicklow (i.e. Wykinglo "Viking lea"). Arklow is also a Germanic name, but the second element is apparently lág "low [place]". The other toponyms seem to owe their forms to a local Leinster pronunciation of -ach. Carlow is an anglicisation of Ceatharlach (from ceathra "cattle"), Tullow of Tulach ("mound"). And Curracloe is off on its own (Currach Cló "marsh of the impression").

In contrast, the Viking towns have completely unrelated names in Irish. Wicklow is Cill Mhantáin "church of Mantán ['toothless']", which has spawned a charming story about one of St Patrick's followers losing a tooth in a brawl with pagans there and then returning to found a church. And Arklow An tInbhear Mór "The Big Estuary", historically anglicised as "Invermore". Similarly, the town of Wexford (Veisafjǫrðr "Mudflatsfirth") carries the more romantic name of Loch Garman, supposedly in memory of a young man drowned on the flats by an enchantress. Maybe he was looking for his teeth?
muckefuck: (Default)
For a while now I've been wondering about the existence of [h] in Cajun French. Not h, mind you--all varieties of French have that. (Except creoles, I suppose.) No, an honest-to-goodness h sound like what we have in English. In some cases, it could've been borrowed from English. Even a "native" word like halle could've been reshaped to [hal] under English influence. But what to make of it in words like hache and--particularly--haut?

Then last week, in a discussion of shallow vs. deep orthographies, I came across this extraordinary claim:
in French...the "h" is no longer an aspirated H as in "la haine" which is mostly pronounced "la aine"; 20 years ago you could heard it pronounced "haine" with an aspirated H by a few educated old people and 40/50 years ago "Haine" was spoken quite often by everyone.
It's been quite some time now since I've done any reading on the phonological history of French, but my recollection was that /h/ had been lost from the standard language quite a long time ago--certainly before living memory. A bit of online research turned up this passage from description of Missouri French published in 1941:
So-called Aspirate H

As early as the sixteenth century Scaglier considered [h] inelegant because many people gave it, he said, too harsh a pronunciation. [h] disappeared from Standard French some time at the end of the seventeenth century. To-day in France it is heard only on the edge of the Germanic domain and along a part of the Norman coast. In America, it has survived in the province of Quebec, the Maritime provinces, Missouri, and Louisiana, where it is commonly heard in words such as hache [haʃ], haut [ho], haine [hɛn], hetre [hɛːtr], haïr [haiːr]. In Missouri, a parasitic [h] is often prefixed to the pronoun elle and the adverb ensemble, which are then pronounced [hɛl] and [hɑ̃sɑː̃b].
I'm not sure where in France the author of the claim above is from, but when I posted this to a discussion in another linguistics forum, a poster from Brittany confirmed that he had friends in their 30s with [h] in these and other words.

This still left one little mystery: the [h] in haut. After all, this is a descendant of Latin altus. A spelling pronunciation is, I think, out of the question, since the populations which preserve it are--historically speaking--notoriously undereducated. Another "parasitic [h]" like in the Missouri French words? No, according to French lexicographers, this peculiarity goes back to the earliest days of French. Quoth the Robert: "du latin altus, croisé avec le francique hôh, mot germanique à l'origine de l'allemand hoch et de l'anglais high." So there you have it: It's a little bastard, just like the French language in general!
muckefuck: (Default)
I'll have to look again to confirm, but I believe somewhere in Lewis' The Turkish language reform : a catastrophic success (highly recommended!) he mentions something about Turkish iskemle "chair" being taken from "French". I found this curious, since I can't think of any piece of furniture with a French name remotely close to iskemle. Turning it over in my head, however, I was struck by the resemblance to German Schemel "stool"; could both stem from the same source?

In fact they do, but French was not involved. German Schemel is the outcome of a West Germanic borrowing of Latin scamellum, a diminutive of scamnum "bench". Advanced students will recognise in this the source of our own "shambles" (through a much-commented-upon semantic shift of "benches" > "tables for the display of goods, esp. meat" > "slaughtering benches" > "slaughterhouse" > "scene of ruin; mess").

But the Teutons weren't the only ones to find the lure of the word irresistible. Liddell and Scott show that the Latin scamnus was borrowed into Greek as σκάμνος, which they equate in meaning to σκίμπους "small couch; hammock". The regular neuter diminutive would be σκαμνίον, which survives into Modern Greek as σκαμνί "stool". And this--to come full circle--seems to be where the Turks loaned iskemle from. (The phonetics match up well once you allow for a shift of /a/ > /e/--either due to i-umlaut or a need to show the non-uvular quality of the /k/--and dissimilation of /n/ to /l/ after /m/ [cf. informal English "chim(b)ley" for "chimney"].)

The meaning of iskemle, incidentally, seems to be drifting a bit in Modern Turkish. The online dictionary I use defines it as "1. chair (without arms); stool. 2. small coffee table; end table." An image search still brings up mostly chairs (some with arms, the definition be damned), but a more eclectic and experimentally artsy selection than sandalye, the more common term. At least, I assume it's more common based on the fact that this is the title of the entry in the Turkish Wikipedia corresponding to "Chair", and iskemle does not redirect to it.

(And the etymology of sandalye? Wiktionary says "Arapça" [i.e. Arabic], but the only similar term in the Wehr dictionary is sandāl "anvil".)
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I had an Aha-Erlebnis last night while reading the etymological dictionary in bed to fall asleep (y'all always suspected as much, I know), connecting many to Menge for the first time. (At least, I think it was the first time--I have a bad habit these days of relearning things I once knew and have long since forgotten. It's one of the reasons why I'm making a note of this one.) Reading further (in both Chamber's and Kluge), I found that the same root also yields among and (Irish) go minic "often". But my hypothesis of a connexion to monger was not borne out. Instead, this seem to derive ultimately from the curious Greek word μάγγανον, which also underlies mangonel and the wonderfully obscure mangonism "the craft of pampering, trimming or setting out saleable things".


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