Nov. 10th, 2014 12:44 pm

Du rififi

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Yesterday's feature presentation was Rififi. As I suspected, it's suffered a bit from decades of imitation. One of the blurbs from the trailer called the suspense during the half-hour heist sequence "almost unbearable". Believe me, it's quite bearable--to the point of near boredom, some might say. For me, the tension only really ratchets up when the whole thing begins to unravel.

For me, the history of the picture was as interesting as the story on screen, if not moreso. For instance, I was tickled to find that the surname of the author of the original novel, Le Breton, is a nickname of the sort carried by several of the protagonists. But whereas Le Breton was actually born in Brittany, the actor playing "le Suédois" is Austrian, "le Stéphanois" is from Belgium rather than the south of France, and--to top it all--Césare "le Milanais" is played by the director himself, who despite bearing the uber-Gallic name of "Jules Dassin" is a native of Connecticut.

In the accompanying interview, Dassin tells an anecdote about how Le Breton pulled a gun on him when asking him of the screenplay "Where is my book?" Apparently the source material is considerably more lurid and Dassin focused on the heist in order to cut a lot of it out. What's interesting to me is that despite this, he keeps in an amount of violence toward women that is shocking to modern sensibilities. Early on, a woman is beaten with a leather strap--by the protagonist. Sure, he's an anti-hero, but how many directors today would bank on the audience summoning up the least sympathy for a character like that today?

It's amazing how good the cinematography is given the small budget. There's a panorama of crumbling low-rise buildings in what looks like Montmartre that I'd love to have framed. Amusingly, I recognised a locale from the slide cataloging project we just finished up. There was an image of a barricade on the Rue Castiglione during the Siege of Paris with a view looking north to the Place Vendôme; the jeweler's they rob in the film is located north of the plaza on the Rue de la Paix in what even today is a high-end shopping street.

Dassin stated that the argot in the novel was so impenetrable he had to ask the producer to come over and read the book to him. The name rififi itself is a slang alteration of rif "combat zone" from an earlier colloquialism for "fire", a word unfamiliar enough to a Francophone audience that the theme song contains an explanation of the meaning (along with more disturbing references to partner abuse). Otherwise, the slang seems to mostly of a very common sort, e.g. words like gosse and mec that they even teach in French class nowadays.
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)
I love words. I delight in learning new ones so much that I have a "no dictionaries in bed after 10 p.m." rule because otherwise I will sacrifice sleep just to keep perusing; it is more honoured in the breach. I also love sentences. I especially love those sentences which are so full of distinctive words that they are totally unintelligible to speakers of one variety of a language while being utterly quotidian to speakers of another. Sentences like, "Can I bum a smoke?" Every word of that is completely ordinary, most American English-speakers wouldn't raise an eyebrow upon hearing it, but I can imagine millions of other fluent English-speakers (let alone L2 learners) who would respond to such a request with a look of bafflement or panic.

I love finding sentences like these in languages I'm learning. Here's a beautiful Cajun French example:
Les lames des bateaux ont chicoté l'écore du bayou.
As I expected, speakers of European French were able to make ni queue ni tête of this despite the fact that every word of it can be found in the Trésor (and perhaps other comprehensive dictionaries as well, such as the Larousse or the Robert) and the grammar wouldn't offend even the strictest immortel.

Chicoter derives from chicot which has the basic meaning of "stump" (e.g. of a branch, a tree, a tooth). The more usual word in SF souche, which also shares the extended meaning of "stock; descent". In Louisiana, chicot also designates field stubble (SF chaume; in Vermilion this is specifically rice stubble). Chicoter was used by Dumas père among others to mean "crop in such a way as to leave a stump or stub" but is rare in contemporary SF. In LF, it has been extended to mean "eat away".

Écore is actually cognate with English "shore" (probably via Middle Dutch) but in SF has been corrupted to accore. It has also been narrowed in meaning to a particularly steep bank or shore, particularly one which presents a hazard for navigation. In LF, it is used more broadly, in contexts where SF speakers would prefer rive, côte, or banc. Bayou is a term which originated in Louisiana (from Choctaw bayuk "creek") but which is as widely recognised in Standard French as in Standard English.

Then there is lame, which is a homonym for both "blade" and "wave" in both varieties. The difference is, again, that SF prefers onde for the second meaning whereas this word is quite unknown to most Cajun speakers (another relic of the maritime origins of colonial French). As a result, whereas the interpretation "wave" would be clear enough in context, in a sentence like this it only adds to the confusion.

The sentiment expressed, that the wake from the boats has eaten away at the shores of the bayou, only adds to the incomprehensibility. Even after I "translated" the utterance into Standard French, one French learner had to look up both the SF term for "wake" (sillage) and the English equivalent. Again, an unremarkable situation to someone living in the swamps but as exotic to a Parisian as snow to a Tahitian.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Over the weekend I finished La Maison du Chat-qui-pelote and found it a bit disappointing. It ends up being merely a cautionary tale: Young ladies of the bourgeoisie, don't even think about trying to snag an aristocratic husband! Still, even Balzac on an off day is better than most writers at their best, so it was time well spent, even if I persist in thinking it shouldn't take me a couple weeks for a hundred pages of literary French. I also question whether my French is really to the stage that I benefit more from reading in the original than I would from reading a first-class translation. Of course, the only way to reach that stage read more literature in French. (Plus how do you tell if your translation is "first-class" anyway?)

I also lost interest in Albanian extraordinarily quickly, so I've laid aside the short story collection and picked up Lodge's Out of the shelter again. I'm what, 70 pages or so in, so it seems a shame not to finish it. So far it doesn't have the humour of his later works, but it seems very well-observed. The vignette of the mother running after a departing train to give her son a fruit pie he didn't really want in the first place was rather touching (and makes me ponder that I recall basically nothing at all of my own departure for Germany).

Meanwhile, I've been missing German, but I waited to see that my Asian kick was spent before turning back to it. Of the three Fontane novellas on my shelf, Mathilde Möhring seemed the most promising. It's a work so mature it's posthumous, which seemed a better place to start than with his first society novel. So far, some fun new words (notably Budiker) but nothing which has frustrated my ready resources--yet.
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: (Default)
Who knew Thanksgiving food was so hard to describe in other languages? The other day I found myself idly wondering how to say "pumpkin pie" in Cajun French. My first thought was carabasse, which turned out to be nothing more than a catalanisme of my own invention. Never in a million years would I have come up with either the actual word, giraumont (or--to give it a spelling reflective of its pronunciation in Vermilion Parish--juremont), or its equivalent in Standard French, citrouille.

I should know by now that food terminology is always going to be a morass, the more so the longer something has been cultivated. In SF, giraumon [sic] is the turban squash, also known as the potiron turban or bonnet turc. (Potiron is the SF cover term for varieties of the squash species Cucurbita maxima, which includes buttercup; in popular usage, however, it's synonymous with citrouille, even though pie and carving pumpkins are varieties of C. pepo.) The cognate to Catalan carabassa (and Spanish calabaza) is calebasse, and it's not a Cucurbita at all but a member of the related genus Lagenaria.

At least I have an answer to my original idle question: tarte au juremont. This prompted a small attempt to Cajunise the rest of the menu, starting with the dinde farcie (which actually means "roasted", not "stuffed", which is bourrée even thought "stuffing" is fars) and coming to a dead halt at "mincemeat pie".
muckefuck: (Default)
  • racahout This stumped not only [ profile] monshu but also my honkin big Harrap's and perhaps even Steegmuller as well, because he leaves it alone in his translation (yes, I am cheating). I finally found it in the Trésor and was amused to see that the example sentence was the very passage from Bovary where I'd stumbled across it. Only yesterday did I think to look in the Larousse Gastronomique, where it is defined as "a greyish powder, consisting of salep, cocoa, sweet acorns, potato flour, rice flour, sugar and vanilla". Mmm...where do I buy some?
  • ondoyer The intransitive sense of "undulate" is apparently unknown in Louisiana and what remains is the transitive meaning "baptize in extremis" (i.e. without all the bells and whistles of a proper church baptism). Two of my siblings were ondoyés and, as I told the Old Man, we may not have been taught CPR in elementary school, but, by Christ, we knew how to perform an emergency baptism if we had to!
  • Klöntür Looks like something out of Borges, doesn't it? Actually, this is the German for "Dutch door" and its weirdness can be laid at the foot of the Low Saxons. The first element is the stem of a Plattdeutsch word for "chat", klönen, so the meaning is something like "a door you can chat through". (Cue that classic image we all keep in our heads of Disney's Snow White klöning with the Evil Queen through a Dutch door and accepting her poisoned apple.)
Mar. 14th, 2012 02:49 pm


muckefuck: (Default)
Stumbled upon an awesome blog yesterday: As someone who's been fascinated with lines on a map for almost as long as I can remember, I find this right up my alley. (Speaking of alleys: Divided towns!) And footnotes! Often the best bits of any column are in the footnotes.

Still having trouble adjusting to CBT (Central Bogus Time). Last night I entertained myself with another dip into my Cajun French learning materials and came up with some more gems. One is jardinage for what speakers of Metropolitan French would call légumes. An even better one is benné for sésame. I haven't a clue where this might come from. I especially like it because it's a very near miss for bennêt, which appears to be a variant of benêt "foolish, half-wit". So J'sus bennêt pour le cadjin "I'm crazy for Cajun French" sounds like "I'm sesame for Cajun French." But the prize of all I think is galimatias, which to my surprise is current in Metro French for "gibberish, gobbledygook". In Cajun, it's the name of "a dish made of various meats and rice", but unfortunately I can't find out more about it than that--which is a damn shame because the description makes my mouth water.

Apparently there is at least one point where Mitt and I are in agreement: It's Missouri with an "ee", dammit! As the commentator points out, it's really the only choice. Faux-populists like Ashcroft can adopt the downstate pronunciation with sounding completely poseurish, but Romney? Good night!
muckefuck: (Default)
Seems like forever since I've had any linguistic content here and there's a charming macaronic German expression I'm dying to share. The Rabbi asked me how one would say "Chacun à son goût" in German and I--without a shred of sarcasm--said, "Chacun à son goût". But I knew I'd heard some native equivalent, so I went on the hunt and found "Jedem das Seine" ("To each his own" [lit. "the his"].)

Nuphy confirmed that this was a match, but I still went ahead and asked my Thuringian coworker all the same. And I'm glad I did, since the version she produced was "Jeder nach seinem chacun." This is a linguistic joke, a play on both the original expression and the literally German translation, "Jeder nach seinem Geschmack." Where the craziness comes in is in picking the most flagrantly wrong word to replace Geschmack--not goût, which has the same meaning ("taste") but chacun, which corresponds to jeder ("each").

Furthermore, this wasn't just the in-joke of an erudite elite but, according to her, the most common way of expressing this sentiment where she's from. I'm reminded of other petrified linguistic jokes like, "bass-ackwards" or ['sweɪ̯v] for suave. (She was greatly amused by the latter and declared her intention to start using both it and its stepsibling "debboner".)

I ran it past another, younger speaker from further east, however, and he didn't recognise it. But he did give me the valuable advice that "Jedem das Seine" is--like "Arbeit macht frei"--tainted by its abuse under National Socialism and, thus, must be deployed with care. Which only confirms my suspicion that this is something cosmopolitan modern Germans would prefer to express in French.
Jun. 22nd, 2011 04:43 pm


muckefuck: (Default)
All stressed nasal vowels that are followed by d or b in standard French lose that d or b in Evangeline [Parish, LA] and pronounce the corresponding nasal consonants which precedes. Thus we heard grande [grɑ̃n], bombe [bɔ̃m], memb(re) [mɑ̃m], and il gamb(le) [gɛ̃m] (a loan word from the English used extensively in Evangeline), etc. But humb(le) [œ̃b] has escaped this transition, probably because of its infrequent use. [Hosea Phillips, "Vowels of Louisiana 'Cajun' French"]
muckefuck: (Default)
Speaking of gardening, I just came across a flamboyant description in Gautier ("Quelle surprise!" I hear you all saying) of an English garden on the Avenue Gabriel. And whereas I've been pretty good so far at just chugging through and ignoring any descriptive terms I don't know (since, really, it's not going to improve my appreciation significantly to know exactly what kind of sumptuous garment is dripping from the Countess' ivory frame), I just can't stand to blip over plant names in quite the same way. Donc, voilà la liste:
myosotis forget-me-not
cactier raquette
asclépiade incarnate swamp milkweed
millepertuis St John's wort
cymbalaire toadflax
joubarbe Sempervivum (succulent genus which includes hens-and-chicks)
lychnis des Alpes Alpine catchfly
lierre d'Irlande Irish ivy
aristoloche birthwort
grenadille bleue blue passionflower
gypsophile baby's breath
glycine de Chine Chinese wisteria
périplocas de Grèce silk vine
vernis du Japon Japanese lacquer tree
tuyas du Canada American arborvitae
plane de Virginie American sycamore?
ray-grass = ryegrass?
Now that I've looked them up, I don't feel so bad about not recognising them. Many are species which I simply haven't come across here, and even some I know aren't known by these names any longer in French (e.g. I'm assuming Gautier's plane de Virginie is what is commonly called platane d'Occident, i.e. a tree I've known all my life as a "sycamore").
muckefuck: (Default)
Ce beau soleil si vanté lui avait semblé noir comme celui de la gravure d’Albert Dürer; la chauve-souris qui porte écrit dans son aile ce mot: melancholia, fouettait cet azur étincelant de ses membranes poussiéreuses et voletait entre la lumière et lui[.]
That's only the first page. A hundred more like that to go!

["That lovely sun so praised seemed to him black as that in the engraving by Albrecht Dürer; the bat who wore written on his wing this word: melancholia, whipped that sparkling blue from his dusty membranes and fluttered between the light and him."]
muckefuck: (Default)
On était au lit, tous nousaut'--moi, le Chenu et le Mistigris. Moi, j'étais après me sentir réellement foutaise, so je m'avais couché joliment de bonne heure. Le chat était élongi ent' nousaut' deux et il était après dormailler.

J'ai attendu quéque affaire qu'a sonné pareil comme ein coup de tonnarre et j'ai d'mandé [ profile] monshu si ça était après expecter ein ouragan. La réponse a v'nu comme ein grand roulement. Tout d'eine éscousse il était tout réveillé, nôt' minou, tout deboute au milieu du lit. J'ai assayer de lui dire que c'était pas rien qu'ein gros traîn, main il se lassait pas calmer.

Je m'ai levé pour m'allégir et quand je m'a viré de bord encore, il avait foutu le camp. J'ai gardé dans la closette main je l'ai vu pas. J'étais parti en haut pour aller chercher d'la médecine et quand j'ai r'venu, c'était tout fini, l'ouragan. Aussitôt que j'ai v'nu de rentrer dans le cham', Ti-Gris a sorti d'la closette comme si rien avait arrivé. Je me fais aucune idée éyoù il était après se coucher.
muckefuck: (Default)
Poor Nuphy hurried me off the phone so he could curl up with a Maigret mystery, but not before playing detective for me himself. As you may recall, my textbook for learning Cajun French is an idiosyncratic work by a high school teacher from Vermilion Parish. And one of its most curious features is the orthography, which is "based on English" in the same way as those kludgy respellings we had in a juvenile magazines at school. It's really quite valuable, as once you get used to its quirks, you have a very accurate record of the pronunciation of an actual Louisiana French dialect.

The downside is that it can take some ingenuity to decode the etymological roots of some of the words he gives. For instance, one that still has me puzzled is "shah ton̄ yā" (in IPA [ʃatɔ̃je]), which he glosses as "dandelion". The Standard French spelling would be something like chategner or chatogner, either which resembles a regional variants of châtaigner "chestnut". But the übercomprehensive Dictionary of Louisiana French has no such entry, and the only equivalent it gives for "dandelion" in the English-French section is pissenlit.

Reading the list of "Common Expressions" last weekend, I came up against this stumper: "Sahl o pree!" He glosses it as "Doggonit!" and it comes right between "Sah t'ahmuz?" (Ça t'amuse?) and "Saw sah tør gahrd paw" (Ça ça te regarde pas) so I naturally tried to read the first syllable as Ça. But where to go from there? "Pree" could represent pris, so [ profile] monshu and I wondered if the tail of the phrase was au pris. But then where's the verb? Nuphy, bless him, solved it immediately, "Oh, saloperie!" It never occurred to me to read it as a single word, but it makes perfect sense. And the DLF has three entries for this, the last of which is:
saloperie interj. son-of-a-gun, dog-gone it, oh shucks

Speaking of interjections, I'm kind of surprised to see foutre so weakened in Cajun usage. I know that it's not even as strong as "damn" to the Parisians any more, but I expected more conservatism from Americans. In the DLF, however, pas un foutre is glossed as "not at all, not one bit; nothing at all" and foutu merely as "ruined, beyond hope, done for". There's also the curious collocation foutre le camp, but that's for another time.
Apr. 6th, 2011 02:21 pm


muckefuck: (Default)
  • The other day I learned that the way I've always said août (namely [au]) is completely wrong for Standard French (where it is [u], more rarely [ut]), but usual for Louisiana French. You see, when it comes to Cajun French, I'm a natural!
  • All day I've been trying to remember the lyrics to the German version of "I Touch Myself" I used to sing to myself all the time a year ago. It's maddening! I can't even remember the first line.
muckefuck: (Default)
Actually saw this on a document at work. Googling to confirm the spelling, I also turned up "germano-luxembourgo-belgo-néerlandaise" and "belgo-franco-luxembourgo-israélo-palestinienne". But neither of these has the feature I find most intriguing in the original, namely the double inflection. That is, I would've expected *belgo-luxembourgo-néerlandaise, with pseudo-classical linking vowels after each of the first two elements.
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)
Thanks to a discussion of portmanteau words in [ profile] aadroma's journal, the scales have fallen from my eyes and I see that all this time I've had the wrong para in parasol and parapluie. I read the first word as "for (para) sun (sol)" and never thought too long on hard on why it should be para in French as well instead of pour as one would expect given the free forms of the prepositions.

In reality, this is a form of Latin parare "prepare" (which by mediaeval times has acquired the secondary meaning of "defend from"). So parasol is really "it protects from [the] sun". Why then the second a when the expected form in French would be *paresol? (Cf. pare-soleil "visor".) The OED suggests that, despite the fact that parasol is first attested in French, it may have been influenced by a pre-existing Italian or Latin formation. Once that and a few other parallel cases known to be borrowed from Italian (e.g. paravent, parapet) became established, then the element para- was extended to new compounds such as parapluie and parachute.

Given what a fan I am of these Romance verb-noun compounds, it cheers me to suddently discover so many more--and hidden in plain view to boot!


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