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Archive for the ‘etymology’ Category

I can hardly believe I’m writing this, because I am generally very conservative (literally) about words.  I try not to change them.  In my opinion, this aids in communication, and communication is much more important to me than words – even though words are beautiful and exciting treasure-maps… I digress. 

About a year ago, I discovered Baked French Toast.  That stuff is good, and it is so much easier than frying bread a few slices at a time.  It isn’t French Toast.  It probably shouldn’t even say “French Toast” in the name, since it isn’t fried in butter, and that’s an important distinction. 

Then in the spring I was researching recipes for my friends’ annual potluck St. Patrick’s Day party, and I ran across a recipe for bread pudding that sounded a whole lot like Baked French Toast.  So I did some research.  Yep.  Same thing.  Also, if you don’t use cream and you make it more savory, it’s the same thing as “dressing” (or, if you put it inside a bird you’re roasting, “stuffing”) at Thanskgiving and Christmas.  It is even basically  identical to Monkey Bread. 

If you get really broad, maybe even what we call “casseroles” could be in the same category.  A starch is chopped up, mixed with other sweet or savory fillings, soaked in a sauce, and baked. 

One of my friends long ago persuaded me that “casserole” is a yucky word.  This was at the same time that I was first considering eating them.  The best alternative term we could come up with was “hot dish”, that some small sections of our country use for the same thing.  But it sounds so pedantic. 

Enter “bramble bake”.  Today.  I saw a recipe on Pinterest for a “Blueberry Bramble Bake”, which, it turned out, was a bread pudding with blueberries and cream cheese.  But the name, as the Dread Pirate Roberts and Anne of Green Gables would agree, is the important thing, and “bramble bake” rang in my ears.  I hoped that it simply already was the elusive term I’d been waiting for.  Maybe it was, except that none of the rest of the world realized. 

Back in history – and history about words matters to me – it seems that it meant something baked out of the fruit of a thorny shrub, like blackberries are.  “Bramble” is a word for such a plant, and it conjures images of tangled branches, blends of depth and shadow, sprinkled with a surprise of sweetness or other sharp point here and there.  And after people grew tired of only using the phrase for actual bramble pastries, it came to be applied to things baked with other berries. 

Here’s where we enter the scene.  Because “bramble” is a lovely metaphor for the collection of flavors and textures jumbled together and baked, I am inviting you to join me in using “bramble bake” to describe all of the things in this blog: baked French toasts, bread puddings, dressings and stuffings, casseroles and hot dishes. 

What are your favorite bramble bakes? 

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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I confess to being annoyed that I have to use a w when I write “answer”.  I don’t have to use one when I pronounce it!  I feel the same way about that r in “February” and the entire spelling versus pronunciation of “Wednesday” is ridiculous, especially in light of it being the day named for the Norse god Marvel and Anthony Hopkins delivered to us as Odin (I guess he’s known as Wodan in some regions).  Saying “wensday” massacres the word, but it is just the sort of thing speakers of our language have been doing for centuries.  It is too much work to move our tongues and teeth quickly around the various syllables, so we change them.  But, in these cases, the laziness arrived well before you or I could be found responsible.

 

The pronunciation arrived after the printing presses immortalized the letters we don’t use when talking.  I suppose I am not too unhappy, after all, that the letters are still there, as these inconsistencies between pronunciation and spelling are just the sort of hint about history and meaning that makes etymology so intriguing.

 

In case you are wondering, “answer” comes from two roots.  The first part is “and-“, and means “against” or “in the face of”.  The second part is the same root as “swear”, and as you have likely deduced, similarly means “affirmation” or “statement”.  “Swear” conveniently retained its w in both spelling and pronunciation.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I was writing the word “stationary” the other day, and wondering like always whether I was spelling the correct word. Then I had a brilliant idea: look up its etymology. I made a guess at the etymology of the

paper kind, that its root is “stationer” and that it came from the note paper, schedule books, tickets that train station clerks used. I tried to think whether “-ary” can be a suffix that means “pertaining to this thing”: “glossary”, “granary”, “planetary” – I can see it.

So. Research results trump speculation:

stationery (n.) 1727, from stationery wares (c. 1680) “articles sold by a stationer,” from stationer “seller of books and paper” (q.v.) + -y (1).

stationer (n.) “book-dealer, seller of books and paper,” early 14c. (late 13c. as a surname), from Medieval Latin stationarius “tradesman who sells from a station or shop,” noun use of Latin stationarius (see stationary). Roving peddlers were the norm in the Middle Ages; sellers with a fixed location often were bookshops licensed by universities; hence the word acquired a more specific sense than its etymological one.

compared to

stationary (adj.) late 14c., “having no apparent motion” (in reference to planets), from Middle French stationnaire “motionless” and directly from Latin stationarius, from the stem of statio “a standing, post, job, position” (see station (n.)). Meaning “unmovable” is from 1620s. In classical Latin, stationarius is recorded only in the sense “of a military station;” the word for “stationary, steady” being statarius.

-ary (adjective and noun word-forming element) in most cases from Latin -arius, -aria, -arium “connected with, pertaining to; the man engaged in,” from PIE relational adjective suffix *-yo- “of or belonging to.” The neuter of the adjectives in Latin also were often used as nouns (solarium “sundial,” vivarium, honorarium, etc.). It appears in words borrowed from Latin in Middle English. In later borrowings from Latin to French, it became -aire and passed into Middle English as -arie, subsequently -ary.

I don’t think I’ll ever again forget the proper spelling for each.

All etymologies found and copied from www.EtymOnline.com

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Donkey – Who hasn’t heard of Mary riding into Bethlehem on a donkey?  Well, before the late 1700’s, no one had.  This word entered our language as slang (ironic since it replaced the word ass, which has come to have quite the list of its own slang definitions since).  Donkey is perhaps a diminutive (smaller or junior version) term for a dun, a small horse. The word dun is an old color word meaning “dull grey-brown”.

 

Ass – Is one of the few words classified as cussing, swearing, profane, or generally “bad” that I will speak, as it is found in the Old King James Bible, and also in “What Child is This?”  Etymologists seem to agree that this name for the animal comes from the Middle East.  Whether the name comes from the word meaning “strong” and a sense of stubbornness or docile patience, or if that word derived from the beast’s behavior, I can’t tell, but they do seem to be related.

 

Oxen – Beside the ass in “What Child Is This?” we find an ox kneeling at the Lord’s manger.  Our language’s history is replete with plurals formed by adding –en, but according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, this is the only true continuous survival of such a plural into Modern English.  As best I can tell, the early origins of this animal name refer to the male, and mean “to sprinkle”, referring to their fertility.  In some religions, the gods of fertile fields are pictured as bulls or oxen, for this reason. I think the Proto-Indo-European root, *uks-en-, and the Sanskrit attestation, uksa, sound like yak, but no one else has seemed to notice, except the Edenics researchers, who cite Sanskrit gayal; Hebrew ‘agol, “calf”, from a sense of “round” or “going around”; and Hebrew aqqow, translated “wild goat” in KJV, and from a root meaning “to groan” – which I will note is indicative of hard work, which oxen and yaks are more wont to do than goats.

 

Sheep – The animals actually appearing in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth are sheep.  While Scandinavian languages use a word like faar for “sheep”, and Gothic languages use relatives of lamb, and other Indo-European words are similar to ewe, our word sheep has been in the Germanic family for a while.  Wiktionary hints that sheep may be from the same root as shave – referring to the importance of the animal’s sheered wool?  We use the same word for one sheep or many, but in Old Northumbrian, the plural is scipo.

 

Lamb – After consulting multiple etymology dictionaries, and none of them having any insight into the sense of the word lamb, I checked the Edenics sites.  Edenics is somewhat appealing to me in that it credits meaning to sound and spelling, and does a good job compiling words with similar spellings and intriguing analogies in meanings.  They don’t do such a good job tracing transitional words through history in literature, leaving them in a different category from traditional etymologists.  So.  Lekhem is, in Hebrew, “bread, food, flesh” – possibly from a root meaning “to make war”.  It may be a stretch, but by Ezra’s time, Aramaic had ‘immar for “lamb”, the root maybe indicating “something that is called or brought forth, progeny”.  Because L’s and R’s can shift in pronunciations, it is even possible that this and the Hebrew word for wool, tsemer (think Merino) could be related to lamb: swap out the R for the L and reverse the order.  Arabic lahm means “meat”.  Dutch lichaam is “body”.  Finnish has a word for an animal (a sheep?), lammas.  Is this the source of llama, or is it related to our next Christmas animal, the camel?

 

Camel – Traditionally, three wise men arrive in the Christmas story with their caravan of camels bearing gifts to the star-heralded King.  Camel comes from Hebrew gamal (which is even the name of one of their letters), and might be related to Arabic jamala, “to bear”.  Some Edenics writers think that llamas, as the primary beast of burden in South America, may trace their name from a similar source.

 

Besides the animals appearing in the Christian story of the Incarnation, our traditions have come to include several other animals in the seasonal festivities.

 

Reindeer – In some languages, rein or its equivalents stand alone as the word for this animal.  It seems to have to do with the impressive growth of horns on their heads.  The suggested root is PIE base *ker- which would associate it with the Greek for ram, krios.

 

Deer – Before the 1400’s, this word just meant “animal”, a word distinguishing creatures from humans, usually applied only to wild animals.  Its origins are from words that have to do with breathing, thus separating this class of creation out from life which has no breath (a rather biblical concept).  This same thought-pattern is said to have given us the word animal from Latin animus (“breath”).

 

Polar bearPole is from Latin polus, Greek polos, “pivot, axis of a sphere”.  Some say it is from a root meaning “turn round” and having to do with concepts of turning, rolling, and wheels.  An etymology I find less likely suggests a root meaning “stake”, “to nail or fasten”.

 

Bear is one of the most interesting etymologies.  Most etymologists say that it is named for the color brown, which makes it kind of funny that we apply it to so many similar creatures – by class like polar bears, or appearance like koalas and pandas – that have different colors!  Beaver is also said to derive its name from the same color root, *bher-.  And a Greek cognate, phrynos, meaning “brown animal”, applies to toads!

 

An alternative etymology for bear is one that relates it to words meaning “wild”, like Latin ferus.  The Proto-Indo-European root would then be *ǵʰwer-.  If you follow Edenics, you might be interested in their similar etymology of bear (and boar) to roots B-R, F-R, and P-R all associated with wilderness and lawlessness – the outskirts of civilization.

 

Bears are classically associated with the poles (which are also on the outskirts of civilization, unless you heed the rumors about an elvish toy workshop), especially the north, because of the constellation Ursa Major.  Ursa is from the Latin for bear.  The Greek for bear is arktos, from whence we get our word arctic.
Boar – There is a carol introduced to me by Archibald Asparagus from Veggie Tales, called “The Boar’s Head Carol”.  Apparently it is also on Josh Garrels’ new Christmas album.  It’s the only reason I know to connect boars with Christmas, and it is probably more accurately derived from Yule traditions, but I can’t have mere boring things like sheep and donkeys in my list!  The origin of this word is unclear, probably because, like most animal names, for a very long time it has just referred to the creature we know by this name.  All sorts of Germanic peoples have basically called it the same thing.  One not-well established hypothesis associates this word with Lithuanian baĩsas , “terrible apparition” and Old Church Slavonic běsŭ, “demon”.  As I mentioned above, it might actually come from a word meaning “wild”.  Demons are also rebels, exiles from the holy forces of God, and capable of appearing as “terrible apparitions”.  Boars, apart from any spiritual creepiness, are pretty terrifying themselves.  I think of the kid from Old Yeller hiding in a tree while ravenous wild pigs bite at his leg.

 

Goose – In the old days, goose was a favorite Christmas entrée.  Before goose, it was gos, like gosling, and before that it was gans, like gander.  The theory is that gans and similar words for geese and swans in other languages are imitative of the honking these birds make.

 

Puppy – Finally, puppies have begun to appear under Christmas trees with big red bows around their necks, calculated to bless the hearts of small children. The word came into our language in the late 15th Century, applied to a woman’s small pet dog, instead of the larger and fiercer breeds kept by men for shepherding or hunting.  In the Middle French, whence we get the word, it was a toy or a doll, sharing its ancestry with puppet.  Original root words had to do with children and smallness.

 

Credits to

The Online Etymology Dictionary

Wiktionary

Edenics

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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One afternoon, years ago, I was watching an old Cary Grant movie.  His name was Noah.  People kept saying it.  I listened, and it kept striking me as such an odd name.  No-uh?  What is that name?  (Sometimes my brain doesn’t work right.)  After an hour or so, it struck me that Noah is not only one of the most famous men in history (he built an ark), but also the name of one of my cousins.

But, you know, sometimes things just strike you in a way they never have before, and they feel all new and mysterious.  That’s part of what I love about etymology: discovering hidden depths in words and phrases I’ve known all my life.  The latest phrase to catch my fancy was “by and large”, spoken innocently in a radio interview, and arousing my curiosity.

Of course I know what it means.  I perfectly understood the man on the radio.  We use it to mean “generally” or “in most cases”.  But while I could get kind of a picture of either “by” or “large” used for that sense – we do use “largely” to mean almost the same thing – I couldn’t see why they were together.  To the internet!
Online, I discovered a most interesting history for the phrase.  A more vivid rendering of this metaphor would be “against and with the wind, still able to move forward”.  The idiom is a sailing term, from the fact that, by shifting the angles of your (triangular) sails to almost-parallel (by) and then your (square-rigged) sails almost-perpendicular (large) to the wind, a ship can progress even when the wind is blowing opposite of the direction they want to go.  According to the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, “By the early 1700s the term had been broadened to mean ‘in one direction and another,’ whence its present meaning of ‘in general.’ “
This is not a very technical description of the 17th-century nautical techniques, but it is beautiful.  When I hear “large” in this context now, I picture a big sheet puffed full with a breeze.  And “by” makes me think of a hand to a rudder or wheel, playing a dance with the wind to keep it just barely pushing them forward, maybe a bit off course, but soon to be balanced by a little shift a bit to the other side of straight.
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Why does “vacuum” have two u’s, IN A ROW?  It’s a weird word.  But, looking at another double-u word might help our understanding: “continuum”.  This totally makes me think of the bad guy we love to hate, and his immortal omnipotent (sort of) race in Star Trek, the Q.  Not to be confused with the “collective”, which is Borg.  Anyway.  We actually use a recognizable root of “continuum”, so it is easier to see that the last “um” is a suffix to indicate something about word forms.  To quote Matthew Lancey on Quora.com, “Double U was/is fairly common in Latin because of its complex system of word endings to indicate case, gender and so on.”

So.  “Continue” (back in Latin spelled “continuare“) becomes “continuum” when the verb becomes a noun*, and “vacare” or something like it becomes “vacuus” (adjective?) and “vacuum” (noun?) in Latin.  Etymology Online says that the word is probably a loan-translation from the Greek “kenon” which only slightly resembles “vacare“, “vain”, or “vacuus” – all of which are attested words in the family tree of “vacuum”.  We had the great idea back in the 17th century English speaking world of spelling “vacuus” as “vacuous”, which is clearer on the pronunciation and only slightly less obviously Latin.

A lot of sources online (really reliable ones like Yahoo Answers) say that there are two u’s because how else would you know to pronounce two different vowel sounds there?  But, um, I don’t really think that’s how words work.  These people are either gullible, or bluffing the Internet looking for the gullible.

What I really want to know is why there is only one “c”.  If there are ever seemingly pointless double consonants in words, it tempts me to double other lletterrs also. (“Embarrass”, anyone? There are two doubles, and I spell it wrong the first time, every time.) Just saying.  Though I must say that if the “c” were a “k” like it should be, for some reason I wouldn’t feel the need to double it in the same way.  But then, the vowel’s pronunciation would bother me.  And if we insist on leaving only one “c” in our English transliteration, could we pronounce the “a” as a long “a” like in “bacon”?  Or maybe we could try “bacoon”, “baakon”, “bakun”, “bacconn”?

*In my life, I am much more tempted to turn nouns into verbs.  I imagine this is historically predominant, also.  Therefore, when I am keeping my tone intentionally casual, I say things like “churching”, “small-group-ing”, “dishes-ing”.  Verbs are a lot more fun, if they have a description built into them.  My preschool-teacher-friend also says that kids initially think much more in pictures than in words, so it is good if we can keep our speech so vividly picturey.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I was thinking the other day about the word found, and how it can mean “discovered” and also “begin, lay the base”.  So I decided to search the etymologies, primarily using www.EtymOnline.com and supplementing with other dictionaries available online such as the Webster’s 1828.

Found, as in “lay the base” is from the Latin for “bottom”.  It shares a root with fund, which entered English meaning “bottom, foundation, groundwork” and quickly came to mean “stock of available money” by the 1690’s.  It is theorized that the PIE root, *bhudh- is also the source of Old English botm – and maybe even the Hebrew for “build”, banahBuild, in English, is supposed to come through the Germanic for “home, building” from a PIE root, *bhu- “to dwell,” from root *bheue- “to be, exist, grow”.

In Old English, the word timbran was preferred to communicate “to build”, but it died out and primarily remained in our word timber from PIE *deme- “to build,” possibly from root *dem- “house, household” (source of Greek domos, Latin domus; and of our words: domestic and domain and don).

The derivative verb, founder, is less encouraging that the verb found – the latter meaning “to establish” but the former meaning “to collapse” or “to sink to the bottom”.

Another sense of found, as in foundry, means to “cast metal”, originally “to mix, mingle” from the Latin fundere “melt, cast, pour out” from the PIE *gheu- “to pour”, cognate with guts “bowels, entrails”, gutter, gush, and geyser.

The noun fountain comes from the Old French fontaine, “natural spring” from the Latin fontanus “of a spring” and fons “spring (of water)”.  The proposed PIE is *dhen- (1) “to run, flow”.

Find, my original curiosity for the day, is from the Proto-Germanic *finthan “to come upon, discover”.  Before that, it comes, we think, from PIE *pent- “to tread, go” as in pedestrian and path and pontoon.  Isn’t that lovely imagery?

But isn’t it curious how these such similar words are thought to have independent etymologies?  It makes me wonder how well-attested the published etymologies are, or could there be alternatives that are more united?

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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