Victor Mair has a Log post, “Carrot” in Persian, Urdu, Uyghur, Sinitic, Vietnamese, etc., that’s full of interesting stuff. He takes off from a question by David Brophy: “I’ve often wondered why the Uyghur word for carrot is sewze, etc., which comes from P. sabz ‘green’.” There’s discussion of the Persian word, including this contribution from John Mullan:

The most common Persian word for “carrot” is havīj (هویج). In eastern dialects, which preserve older phonological features, it’d be hawīj. Other words are gazar (another eastern word) and zardak, literally ‘yellow’ plus the diminutive ending.

This paragraph is from Ephraim Nissan’s “Etymothesis, Fallacy, and Ontologies: An Illustration from Phytonymy”:

Persian havīj (هویج) for ‘carrot’ appeared relatively late in the language, and is related to (and probably derived from) the Turkish name for ‘carrot’, havuç. The standard Persian name for ‘wild carrot’, havīj-e waḥšī, is a compound formed with the adjective for ‘wild’, itself from Arabic. Also the Persian compound for ‘wild carrot’ havīj-e ṣaḥrā’ī is formed with an adjective that comes from Arabic, and literally means ‘of the desert’ (but in Persian, the compound is literally understood as ‘carrot of the field’, i.e., ‘of the wilderness’). By contrast, the third Persian compound for ‘wild carrot’ is entirely Persian etymologically: havīj-e kūhī (but it literally means ‘mountain carrot’).

Sinitic has luóbo 蘿蔔, whose etymology is unknown:

This word has been attested in various forms since early Old Chinese, and is the source of many of the terms for “radish, turnip” in other languages in modern China. The basic form seems to be *rabuk.

There’s no discussion of the English word; the OED entry (from 1888), like Wiktionary, derives it from Greek καρῶτον, but Wikipedia adds (without a citation) that that is “originally from the Indo-European root *ker- (horn), due to its horn-like shape.” I also learn from that Wikipedia article that the carrot only arrived in Europe in medieval times, and Alan Davidson says it didn’t make its way to England until the 15th century, which explains that when I checked the OED’s Historical Thesaurus for earlier terms I found only the rare terms tank (“origin obscure”) “The wild carrot; according to Gerarde, the wild parsnip” (a1400–50 Stockh. Med. MS. 181 Bryddys neste or tanke: daucus asininus) and clapwype “A carrot or ? parsnip” (c1425 in T. Wright & R. P. Wülcker Anglo-Saxon & Old Eng. Vocab. (1884) I. 644 Hic daucus, clapwype).

It’s a shame that MMcM of Polyglot Vegetarian never got around to carrots; he would have done a great job!


  1. John Cowan says:

    I missed this. What happened?

  2. You missed what?

  3. AHDIER confirms WIKI: “ker-1: … V. Extended zero-grade form …. 1. CHARIVARI; CHEER, from Greek karē, karā, head. 2. CAROTID, from Greek karoun, to stupefy, be stupefied (< “to feel heavy-headed”). 3. CARROT, CAROTENE, from Greek karōton, carrot (from its hornlike shape)."

  4. Reminds me of my favorite poem by Ibsen:

    Kjaere, babygulrot
    Lever I gulrotens skygge

    Dear baby carrot
    Baby carrot
    Lives in the carrot’s shadow
    Baby carrot.


    Georgian also borrowed from Greek, but were too busy debating monophysitism to decide if it looked like a horn or not and so borrowed the term directly σταφυλῖνος > სტაფილო (st’apilo).

  5. David Eddyshaw says:

    Kusaal has karɔt, a word whose origins are likewise shrouded in mystery.

    (It is transparently a compound ka-dɔt, “millet huts.” The origin of the metaphor is, however, unclear at this point. Western Oti-Volta ethnobiology is – as yet – sadly understudied,)

  6. This comments thread makes more sense if you assume Cowan’s is meant to fall after Eddyshaw’s.

  7. I assumed John Cowan was asking what happened to MMcM.

  8. In an entry unrevised since 1990, the Encyclopaedia Iranica offers this etymology of Persian havīj:

    The current name havīj is a rather late designation. Dehḵodā (Loḡat-nāma, s.v. ḥavīj) and, repeating him, Moʿīn (Farhang-e-fārsī, s.vv. ḥavīj and ḥavīj) believe that havīj is a corrupt spelling for ḥavīj, itself originally from the Arabic phrase ḥawāʾej al-qedr (in Jalāl-al-Dīn Rūmī, quoted by Dehḵodā, ḥavīj-e dīg), lit. “the necessaries of the cooking pot” (i.e., kitchen provisions), the meaning of which has later narrowed so much as to designate one of those ḥawāʾej, namely the carrot (cf. Dozy, I, pp. 333-34, who records, from Arabic sources, ḥawāʾej as also meaning “the provisions intended for the kitchen and table of the prince,” and ḥawāʾej-ḵāna as the store where the provisions were kept)

    This is the Arabic word in question. Andreas Tietze (Tarihi ve Etimolojik Türkiye Türkçesi Lugatı) just says the Turkish word havuç is from Arabic ḥawj “need, lack, want”, from the same… root. Ba dum tss.

  9. This raises a deeply philosophical question of whether it is possible to miss something that was never there. In a sense, yes. Suppose you read a textbook on English grammar and skip (you think) a chapter on irrealis. But for some reason it was not in the book. Then you miss the fact that it was not there. It’s even possible that you’ve meant to read the chapter on irrealis, which should have been there, but wasn’t and anyway you skipped it. More difficult question is whether it is possible to miss something that never even meant to be there. Is it possible to miss a chapter on mating habits of fish in a book about cosmology?

    Which brings me to the following joke: Rabbi is pacing around his study deeply in thought. A pupil asks him “Rabbi, what are you thinking about?” – “I want to know why the word bread needs letter u” – “But there is no u in bread” – “And what if I put it in there?” – “But, why?” – “That’s what I am thinking about”.

  10. There was a u in Germanic *brauda- ! And it’s still there in Icelandic brauð

    And ברויט has a vav so that’s good enough.

  11. Trond Engen says:

    pc: Reminds me of my favorite poem by Ibsen:

    Kjaere, babygulrot
    Lever I gulrotens skygge

    I had never encountered the poem before. And I even live in Ibsen’s town of birth, in the middle of what I believe is Norway’s largest carrot-producing district.

    With the danger of ruining a long-running literate in-joke, let me say clearly that this is not Ibsen. I see some other attributions to the year 1945, long after Ibsen’s death, but those can’t be right either. The construction with “baby” for small versions of anything is much too recent. It came with Chinese restaurants for maize, and I didn’t encounter it for carrots until snack carrots were introduced around the millennium.

  12. AJP Crown says:

    Like John I missed what happened to MMcM.

  13. David Marjanović says:

    He has been… absent lately, but I tend to be very slow in noticing such things.

  14. The construction with “baby” for small versions of anything is much too recent.

    I was suspicious about that, and I don’t even know Norwegian. Bad attribution! Bad!

  15. Charles says:

    How is “ lives” pronounced in the translation of the carrot poem?

  16. AJP Crown says:


  17. @Trond, who is to say that that the misattribution is not part of the poem?

  18. Trond Engen says:

    Good point.

  19. The actual author is Pierre Menard.

  20. David Marjanović says:

    Interesting. Perhaps a word from the agricultural substrate that started with [b], which was variously borrowed as *bʰ and *m by IE languages.

  21. Now I know the origin of hawaij.

  22. January First-of-May says:

    My favorite linguistic fact about carrots is their color: when some guy in 17th century Netherlands managed to breed orange carrots, they instantly caught on, because orange was the national color of the Netherlands. Previously carrots were purple or white (like beets, which I just found out aren’t actually very closely related).

    You might be asking where the linguistics comes in. Well, the reason that orange was the national color of the Netherlands is that the Netherlands were (at the time) ruled by the Orange dynasty. It turns out that the name of the color is ultimately of Dravidian origin, while the name of the dynasty is ultimately of Celtic origin; they just happened to converge to the same word.

  23. Now I know the origin of hawaij.

    A similar semantic development from abstract to concrete can be seen in masala and indeed in spice itself.

  24. @January First-of-May: The name for the fruit, orange, come from the Persian, probably mediated through Arabic and Aragonese naranja. (The Arabs brought oranges to Sicily, from whence they spread throughout Medditerranean Europe.) This name was assimilated to be the same as the place in (southern!) France and the Dutch dynasty named after it.

    The color is named after the fruit, and it is the newest addition to the major spectrum of color words in English. The fruit vary enough in appearance* that there is no universal cardinal value for the color orange, the way there are for red, yellow, green, and blue. Despite the similarity in names being a coincidence, the Netherlands and the House or Orange (although the current royal house of the Netherlands is only distantly related to William the Silent) have embraced the color as a national symbol. The emergence of carrots as major vegetable crops in Europe probably coincided with the period in which the Dutch Republic was one of the great European powers, and the wide variety of colors available in wild carrots led people to breed particularly orange-colored ones. The orange color comes from vitamin A and related compounds. In contrast to the anthocyanins that produce purple colors in carrots, beans, and other vegetables, the orange pigments are relatively stable and maintain their coloration when cooked. Besides the association with the House of Orange-Nassau, this color stability was probably another reason that orange carrots eventually won out over white and purple varieties.

    * In This Time of Darkness, H. M. Hoover described oranges as having brown skins.

  25. David Marjanović says:

    the newest addition to the major spectrum of color words in English

    When did brown become a color word? (I’m having this in mind.)

    described oranges as having brown skins


  26. John Cowan says:

    Hat: That was indeed what I meant: why are you speaking of MMcM in the past tense?

  27. What’s the origin of green and orange for Irish Catholics/Protestans? I’m too lazy to do the research.

  28. why are you speaking of MMcM in the past tense?

    Not him, his blog.

  29. According to OED brown as a color is first found in 1607; orange as color is first given under 1557:
    in Great Brit. Statutes at Large VI. 100 Coloured cloth of any other colour or colours..hereafter mentioned, that is to say, scarlet, red, crimson, morrey, violet, pewke, brown, blue, black, green, yellow, blue, orange, [etc.].
    I would like to know what that [etc.] contains, more interesting colors, perchance? Anyway, notice that brown is in that list. What’s up with that, OED? As a fruit, orange first appears under a1400.
    Pink appears first in 1464–5 as pink-yellow in M. Rissanen et al. Hist. Englishes (1992) 767 Item pro j lagena de pynke yelow..ijs viijd. And the first citation without “yellow” is given only under year 1676.

  30. I would like to know what that [etc.] contains, more interesting colors, perchance?

    Here you go:

    […] tawney, russet, marble grey, sad new colour, azure, watchet, sheeps colour, lion colour, motly, iron grey, friers grey, crane colour, purple, and old medley colour.

  31. pewke ~ puke, OED:

    1. Textiles. A superior kind of woollen cloth used for making gowns, hose, and other garments. 2. More fully puke colour. A colour formerly used for woollen goods, produced by galls and copperas and hence probably a very deep bluish black or dark brown colour, although variously described (see the quots.).

    This sense is apparently not connected in any way with later puce adj., puce n., or their etymon French puce, although these terms were applied to a similar colour range

    1538 T. Elyot Dict. Pullus, ..russette, sometyme blacke, but rather puke color, betwene russet & black.
    1598 J. Florio Worlde of Wordes at Pauonaccio cupo A deepe darke purple or puke colour.
    1688 R. Holme Acad. Armory ii. ix. 178/2 Their [sc. Bactrian camels’] colour is brown, or puke.

    (Checking for a friend.)

  32. Aha, thanks! Of course, “sad new colour” is not something to let go without further research. This page has more fun colors with dates, but without an attribution…

  33. Yes, “sad new colour” struck me too.

  34. David Eddyshaw says:
  35. David Eddyshaw says:

    Incidentally, Wikipedia correctly describes King Billy as “the last person to successfully invade England by force of arms.” Few of the English would answer this pub quiz question correctly (more Scots would …)

    History is written by the victors (one of those sayings which floats free, and is thus attributed to Winston Churchill, as it sounds implausible on the lips of Albert Einstein or Charles Darwin. It seems quite probably to have originated with Hermann Göring, who may have had an axe to grind.)

  36. It’s interesting that the association of green as a colour of Catholicism is an Anglophone thing. In parts of Europe adjoining the old Ottoman empire, green is very much associated with Islam, with Catholics preferring red (presumably from the colours of Venice / Poland or the old war banner of the Holy Roman Empire).

    Of course, in India, orange (or saffron of you will) is a Hindu colour, while in Sri Lanka, and SE Asia, a Buddhist colour – at least on flags.

  37. To my inexperienced eyes the orange and green of the Indian flag look quite close to the two Irish colors.

  38. @DE Thanks for the links. It’s still not clear why the color green came up when it did, supplanting the blue.

  39. David Marjanović says:

    History is written by the victors

    Except, as someone recently noted, the history of the US Civil War.

    the association of green as a colour of Catholicism

    Never heard of that, only the association with Ireland in particular.

    Catholics preferring red

    Never heard of that either. The flag of the Vatican is yellow and white.

    It’s still not clear why the color green came up when it did, supplanting the blue.

    Maybe just misdyed somehow? The Italian flag is that under which Napoleon entered Italy…

  40. The flag of Vatican is indeed yellow and white. That is a special dispensation from the rules of heraldry, where two metals are placed together. The flag of Vatican and the coat of arms of the Crusader kingdom of Jerusalem are yellow and white – or rather gold and silver. However, the Kingdom of Jerusalem was extinguished long before the Ottomans appeared in Europe, and Vatican only became an independent state in 1929.

    Of course, the Vatican flag was based on one of the flags of the Papal States. Other flags used by the Papal States were red. Indeed, the coat of arms of the Vatican City, and the Papal states beforehand, is red.

    The war banner of the Holy Roman Empire was red with a white cross – a very old symbol, and possibly the origin of the Danish, Swiss and Savoyard flags. Red was also used in the banners of the Venetian Republic, and (with white) in Polish and Hungarian flags.

    So I’m not saying that red was exclusively used by Catholics, just that it was commonly used. Of course there were other colours too:
    – Black and Gold of the Habsburgs
    – White of the Habsburg armies – uniforms were predominantly white in the 18th and 19th centuries
    – Blue – traditionally associated with the Virgin Mary,

  41. Owlmirror says:

    I have a very faint memory of reading about a young girl who wore an orange ribbon in her hair to her Irish Catholic school getting in trouble for it, back when the Catholic-Protestant conflict in Northern Ireland was more current. I don’t even remember if the trouble came from her teachers, or just from her fellow students.

  42. Owlmirror says:

    The above anecdote, I should add, was in reference to a school in the USA, not in NI. The teachers and much of the ethnically Irish student body might have known about the colour symbolism, but not everyone who goes to an Irish Catholic school in the US is necessarily Irish.

    I see, per WikiP, that the Orange Order still holds marches in NI on the 12th of July.

  43. John Cowan says:

    the last person to successfully invade England by force of arms

    I think that’s a stretch. William landed in England with armed men all right, but he fought no battles and met no resistance. James fled the country, the throne was declared vacant (suppressing the claims of the warming-pan baby), and that was that, as the Stuarts had absolutely no constituency left in England. (Scotland and then Ireland were another matter.) J. R. Tanner tells the story beautifully in English Constitutional Conflicts of the Seventeeth Century (1971):

    The invitation to William of Orange was the result of a coalition of all parties against James, and it was signed by seven statesmen who were in a very special sense representative men. Admiral Russell and Henry Sidney represented the humiliated Whigs, and they were related to Lord Russell and Algernon Sidney — leaders and victims of the movement in favour of Exclusion. The Earl of Shrewsbury and Lord Lumley were themselves converts from Rome, and stood for that tendency which had been felt ever since the Reformation for the Church of England, as a great symbol of national unity, to “draw all men unto it”. Compton, the suspended Bishop of London, represented the Church itself, now converted from the doctrine of non-resistance [to monarchy]; while the presence of the two more famous names of Danby and Devonshire was evidence that the great party quarrel had come to an end for a time, for Danby was one of the founders of the Tory party while Devonshire was one of the oldest and most celebrated Whigs.

    On rumours of the impending Dutch invasion, James tried to retrace his steps, but found that it was too late. The country gentlemen whom he had removed refused to take office again, and Sir John Bramston remarked to the lord-lieutenant of his county, who was trying to induce him to accept a commission in the militia, that “he would find gentlemen not forward to take commands; some would think one kick of the breech enough for a gentleman”. Soon after he wrote, “I am weary of mentioning the particular persons that go over to the Prince of Orange”.

    And so James fell, in spite of the fact that he “anticipated modern Liberalism in proclaiming the inalienable rights of conscience and in announcing the abandonment of all penal laws”. His fate was due, in a sense, to the incapacity of his Jesuit advisers, educated in a sort of cosmopolitanism, to understand the character and prejudices of the English people. He fell a victim, partly to his own complete want of that political tact and sensitiveness with which his brother Charles had been so richly endowed, but partly also to [his adviser and confessor] Father Petre’s fatal breadth of view.

    The Convention Parliament of the Revolution, met on January 22, 1689, to deal with the technical and constitutional difficulties which a change of kingship involved. The Tories were in a majority in both Houses, but the party was split into three sections, each of which had its own solution of the situation. The Whigs also had their solution, but they were unanimous, and this enabled them to outvote any of the Tory sections, although tney were weaker than the Tories combined.

    One of the Tory groups desired that negotiations should be opened with James, and that he should be invited to return, subject to such conditions as would effectually secure the civil and ecclesiastical constitution of the kingdom. This solution had two weak points, for it brought James back again, and this the nation was not prepared to endure; and (2) it could easilv be shewn that such an arrangement was not really compatible with, the Tory doctrine of non-resistance. If resistance was unlawful, then the Tories had no business to be imposing conditions upon an anointed King. The position that it was lawful to exclude James until he gave satisfactory guarantees involved the further position that, failing such guarantees, he might be excluded for ever. Moreover, it was not easv to see what fresh guarantees James had to offer. Thus this solution was felt to be illogical, and was dropped at an early stage.

    Another plan, attributed to Archbishop Sancroft. had the merit of getting rid of James, while saving to all appearance the doctrine of non-resistance, and for a time it held the field. Sancroft’s view was that the perverseness of the King entitled Parliament to treat him as if he were insane.

    “The political capacity or authority of the King and his name in the government”, he said, in the pompous language which philosophers affected in his day, “are perfect, and cannot fail, hut his person being human and mortal, and not otherwise privileged than the rest of mankind, is subject to all the defects and failings of it. He may therefore be incapable of directing the Government. . . either by infancy, by lunacy, deliracy, or apathy — whether by nature or casual infirmity — or, lastly, by some invincible prejudices of mind, contracted and fixed by education and habit, with unalterable resolutions superinduced, in matters wholly inconsistent and incompatible with the laws, religion, peace, and true policy of the kingdom”.

    The proper solution of the constitutional problem was therefore to appoint a Regent. The plausibility of this argument, combined with the Archbishop’s great personal influence, obtained for it prolonged and careful consideration, but it contained at least three important defects: (1) Although it disposed of James it did not dispose of his son, who on Tory principles would still retain an irtdefeasible hereditary right to succeed him; (2) Its harmony with the doctrine of non-resistance was much more apparent than real, for it was only by a fiction that James could be regarded as insane, and if it was once conceded that “a king who is merely bad may be treated as though he were mad”, the position was practically surrendered to the advocates of resistance; (3) It was at any rate quite novel in theory and very inconvenient in practice to establish a Regency in the name of a hostile sovereign who was always plotting beyond sea to overthrow an authority which was nominally his own. This would be to reduce the distinction between the King de facto and the King de jure to an absurdity.

    A small but very influential section of the Tories, headed by Danby, maintained that by leaving the country James had abdicated, and since the throne of England could not in law be vacant, the Crown had already devolved upon the next heir. But, since there was reason to suppose that the so-called Prince of Wales was a suppositious child, and since — owing to the King’s withdrawal — further enquiry into the circumstances of its birth was impossible, the next heir was Mary of Orange, James II’s elder daughter, whom it only remained to proclaim. This view would have been sound enough if it had not entirely depended upon the wholly untenable proposition that the Prince of Wales was a suppositious child. [Tanner’s footnote: Professor Gwatkin, who was no friend to James II, says, rather unkindly, that the suggestion that this son was a changeling did his father an injustice, for “the characteristic stupidity of the Pretender in later years is good evidence of his parentage.”]

    The various attempts to make the Tory doctrine fit the actual facts were scarcely more than plausible; and very gradually and reluctantly the Lower House began to realise that the only possible solution was that put forward by the Whigs. They maintained that James II having, by a gross abuse of his power, broken the mutual contract between king and people — expressed on the one side by the coronation oath, and on the other by the oath of allegiance — had forfeited the Crown; that the throne was thereby vacant; and that it was the right of the nation to elect a new king, and to impose upon him such conditions as would ensure the country against misgovernment in the future. This’ view, by openly asserting the right of resistance upon which the Revolution was really based, expressed far more precisely than any of the others the actual condition of affairs. The Tories could not by any device, however ingenious, evade the fact that on their principles James was still their king; but the Whigs, never having adopted these principles, were able, while admitting the unimpeachable hereditary claim of James, boldly to assert the right of the nation to expel a bad king.

    The ultimate victory of the Whig view at the Revolution is a striking illustration of the value of public debate in Parliament. As soon as the other solutions were subjected to criticism, their inadequacy stood clearly revealed, and it became evident that common sense was destined to triumph over sentiment and an exaggerated respect for technicalities. The two famous Resolutions which embodied the Whig position were passed in the House of Commons on January 28 and 29, 1689, after less than a week’s debate:

    (1) “That King James II, having endeavoured to subvert the constitution of his kingdom by breaking the original contract between king and people, and, by the advice of Jesuits and other wicked persons, having violated the fundamental laws; and having withdrawn himself out of the kingdom, has abdicated the Government; and that the throne is thereby vacant”; and (2) “That it hath been found by experience to be inconsistent with the safety and welfare of this Protestant kingdom to be governed by a Popish Prince”.

    These Resolutions were carried against the extreme Tories by a coalition of the moderate Tories with the Whigs.

    But when the Resolutions came before the House of Lords, it became evident that a different view was in the ascendency there. The Lords accepted the second Resolution without hesitation, for James had no party there any more than in the Commons; but for the first Resolution it was proposed to substitute a declaration in favour of a Regency. This was only just rejected by fifty-one to forty-nine — a result entirely due to the fact that the Tory Danby and his supporters voted with the Whigs. Somewhat the same majority — fifty-three to forty-six — voted that there was an original contract between king and people; the House agreed without a division that James had broken it; and an unimportant change was made by the substitution of the word “deserted” for the word “abdicated”. But the really important controversy was over the phrase, “that the throne is thereby vacant”. The forty-nine peers who had voted for a Regency were now supported by Danby and his party, for it was their contention that Mary of Orange had already succeeded to the throne. It was therefore decided by fifty-five to forty-one that these words should be omitted. The Commons disagreed with the Lords’ amendments, and a deadlock between the two Houses was the result.

    But meanwhile the question was being settled out of court. Up to the date of the last division in the Peers, William had maintained an impenetrable silence, although the astute Halifax had made the remark: “I can only guess at his Highness’s mind. If you wish to know what I guess, I guess that he would not like to be his wife’s gentleman usher”. Such a result of the Revolution would be indeed intolerable. William of Orange had not come to England as William the Conqueror came — to obtain for himself a better inheritance, but to occupy one of the vital strategic positions in the area of the European conflict. His chief preoccupation all along had been to appropriate the resources and fleet of England for the benefit of the coalition against France, and it was impossible for him to allow the constitutional power of controlling these resources thus to slip from his grasp. He therefore decided to intervene, and by a few sentences addressed to the chief political leaders he settled the controversy finally in favour of the Whigs.

    “No man”, he said, “could esteem a woman more than he did the Princess; but he was so made that he could not think of holding anything by apron-strings, nor could he think it reasonable to have any share in the government, unless it be put in his person, and that for term of life. If they did think it fit to settle it otherwise, he would not oppose them in it, but he would go back to Holland and meddle no more in their affairs”.

    After this declaration, only one course was open to English statesmen, for the action of William would determine that of his wife, and Mary was indispensable to the Tories, as the next heir on their reading of hereditary right. The Lords gave way as a matter of course, and the Resolutions of the Commons were passed in their original form. It was then agreed without a division that the Prince and Princess of Orange should be declared King and Queen of England.

    Thus, without bloodshed, without proscriptions, even without any important breach of public order, the Revolution of 1688 was carried through by the action of Parliament. Nor, although it is called a revolution, did it involve any interruption of historical continuity. We might almost say that the expulsion of James II is the counterpart in the seventeenth century of an episode of the sixteenth — the execution of his great-grandmother in Fotheringay Castle a hundred years before, because she was a Roman Catholic heiress to the throne of Elizabeth.

  44. John Cowan says:

    sad new colour

    Sad, per the OED, means ‘deep, dark, saturated’ when applied to colors. The usual sense is apparently unique to English. German satt means ‘satisfied’ or even ‘fed up’, a sense taken over in English by derivatives of the Latin satis ‘enough’ and satur ‘sated, replete’, both true cognates.

    The sense development is apparently ‘serious > grave > sad [in appearance] > sad [in feeling]’. The phrase sadder and wiser most likely meant ‘more serious and with better judgement [than before]’, but when this sense of sad was lost, and was replaced by but. The OED says sad soil ‘stiff, hard, difficult-to-work soil’ is still current (2002) as a technical term, and Gale’s mother used to refer to a sad cake, one which had failed to rise before baking or had fallen during baking and was therefore very dense. (Gale didn’t like this expression, but she did like the cake, so she renamed it happy cake.)

    New is more mysterious, but I found some weaksauce evidence that it refers to the paint shade new blue. My attempts to find out what that is were swamped by reports of the discovery in 2009 of a genuinely new blue pigment, a solid solution of yttrium indium trioxide and yttrium manganese trioxide roasted in a furnace at 1200 C. It is the first new inorganic blue pigment since cobalt blue, discovered exactly 200 years before, it can be applied either in oil or in water, and it is chemically stable, resistant to weather and sunlight, and non-toxic (unlike its predecessor), The depth of blue can be varied by altering the In:Mn ratio.

  45. J. R. Tanner tells the story beautifully in English Constitutional Conflicts of the Seventeeth Century (1971)

    That’s an absurdly antiquated account (the book is from 1928, not 1971, and Tanner’s dates are 1860 – 1931); to quote Wikipedia, which while it is of course Wikipedia at least favors more recent sources:

    It is difficult to classify the entire proceedings of 1687–1689 but it can be seen that the events occurred in three phases: conspiracy, invasion by Dutch forces, and “Glorious Revolution”. It has been argued that the invasion aspect had been downplayed as a result of a combination of British pride and successful Dutch propaganda, trying to depict the course of events as a largely internal English affair.

  46. David Marjanović says:

    “Imagine there’s a war and nobody comes.”

  47. David Eddyshaw says:

    “Our Island Story” (that nice man David Cameron’s favourite childhood book, he says) has an account which will surely lay all doubt to rest in the heart of any true Englishman:

    Any one could see that the people were everywhere ready for rebellion. The King alone would not see it and went on in his own way. He was angry and sullen, but very obstinate. “I will not give way,” he said, “my father lost his head by giving way,” and he resolved to punish the people.

    But James had gone too far. The people were weary of a Popish tyrant, and they made up their minds to have a Protestant King. So they asked William, Prince of Orange, to come to rule over them, the Prince against whom Charles II. had fought in the Dutch wars. William had some claim to the throne. I will explain how […]

    So when the British saw that James meant to rule as a tyrant and that there was no hope of any freedom or happiness for them as long as he was King, they sent messages to Holland begging William to come to take the crown. William consented to come, and began to gather his ships and men. And one day a letter reached James telling him what the Prince of Orange was doing. As James read, he turned pale and the letter dropped from his hand. He had thought that he might ill-treat the people as he liked. Now he discovered his mistake and tried to undo the evil he had done. It was too late. His people had forsaken him.

    William was ready to sail, but for some days he was prevented because of the wind which blew from the west. At last it changed, and what was known for many years after as the “Protestant East Wind” began to blow. It blew the Prince and his great fleet to the shores of Britain. More than six hundred ships swept over the water, led by William in his vessel called the Brill. From the mast-head floated his standard, with the arms of Nassau and of Britain upon it, and in great shining letters the words, “I will maintain the liberties of England, and the Protestant religion.” By night the dark sea glittered for miles with lights. By day the white sails glimmered in the wintry sun.

    Once before in our story a great conqueror called William had sailed to these shores with mighty ships and men. This was no conqueror, but a deliverer.

    On the 5th of November 1688 A.D., William landed at Torbay, in Devonshire. There the stone upon which he first placed his foot is still to be seen. Although now it is a town, then it was a little lonely village, and the Prince had to sleep the first night in a tiny thatched cottage. But over it, as proudly as over any castle, fluttered the great banner with its promise, “I will maintain the liberties of England and the Protestant religion.”

    Through rain and wintry weather, over roads knee-deep in mud, the Prince and his army marched northward. Worn, wet, and muddy as they were, the people crowded everywhere along the way to cheer them. The Prince rode upon a beautiful white horse, a white feather was in his hat, and armor glittered upon his breast. His face was grave and stern, his eyes keen and watchful. He looked a soldier and a King.

    As he rode along an old woman pushed her way through the crowd, and afraid neither of the prancing horses nor the drawn swords of the soldiers, darted to the side of the Prince. She seized his hand, and, looking up into his face with eyes full of tears, cried, “I am happy now, I am happy now.” And the grave and stern William smiled gently as he looked down upon her. The Deliverer had come.


    At Westminster a Parliament was called, which arranged that William and Mary should be King and Queen together. For although Mary had the better right to the throne she did not wish to reign without her husband, nor did he wish to accept a lower rank than that of his wife.

    So ended the “Glorious Revolution.” It had been brought about with hardly any fighting at all, and the war between the King and Parliament was at an end, for William and Mary received the throne by the will of Parliament.

  48. As he rode along an old woman pushed her way through the crowd, and afraid neither of the prancing horses nor the drawn swords of the soldiers, darted to the side of the Great Leader. She seized his hand, and, looking up into his face with eyes full of tears, cried, “I am happy now, I am happy now.” And the grave and stern Stalin smiled gently as he looked down upon her.

    Sycophantic history is the same the world over!

  49. Owlmirror says:

    (sad new colour, &c)

    The Distribution of the Cloth Industry in 1561-2 breaks cloth down by county, and it looks like Kent and Suffolk were the only places producing “sad new colour” cloth; Kent had, in addition, “new colour” (no additional description), and “ruddy new colour”.

    Kent was also making a “rat’s colour” (“light or iron-grey, sheep’s or rat’s colour”).

    The list of cloth also has: kersey, dozens, plunkett, and peniston (hur hur hur hur)

  50. John Cowan says:

    Sorry about the date error; please fix. That was of course the date of my edition. But “absurdly antiquated” is itself absurdly overstated. The very act of landing with armed men is a threat of violence, but of actual violence there was little or none. It would be absurd to say that the landing of Charles II at Dover was an invasion, though he undoubtedly arrived with soldiers, and it would be “an exaggerated respect for technicalities” to point out that Charles had already been proclaimed king, whereas William had not. Resistance did not so much collapse as fail to materialize, and James may well have decided to leave before William left the Netherlands.

    Note also that your quotation from WP comes from the section called “‘Dutch Invasion’ hypothesis”, where it is described as the view of “several researchers”, which is how WP describes a minority view that is not outright crackpot.

  51. @David Marjanović: H. M. Hoover was a woman, so it is rather unlikely she was colorblind. (Her first name was Helen.) Moreover, typical American oranges are unlikely to be mistaken for brown even by someone with red-green colorblindness.* (Brazillian oranges** are quite a bit darker though and some might plausibly be called brown.) Hoover actually used a fair amount of color imagery in the two novels of hers that I read when I was a child, This Time of Darkness (which is not a very descriptive name for the book, really) and Return to Earth. So the oddity of the brown oranges is something that stuck in my mind.

    It is, of course, well known that female authors of children’s novels are often advised to use their initials—for fear of driving off young male readers. That’s probably especially true for writers of science fiction, traditionally viewed as a genre for boys and men. I did notice, however, the the two Hoover novels I read both had female main characters—although in each case, the heroine is joined by a more knowledgeable male character. In This Time of Darkness, the two protagonists are both preteens, whereas in Return to Earth, the main character is about eighteen, but she gets help and advice from a middle-aged male friend; yet in both books, it is the young woman who is the one who steps up to take action when it’s needed, even if she would not know what to do without her companion.

    * There is actually a fair amount of variation in how severe red-green colorblindness is, and that is not actually due to genetics. I have significantly better color vision than my maternal grandfather (from whom I inherited my colorblindness) did. I generally only have trouble distinguishing very unsaturated or muddy shades of orange from green, but Grandpa Frank could hardly distinguish a red rose from its leaves. Another indication of significant environmental influence in the manifestation of red-green colorblindness is that my color vision is actually measurably different between my two eyes. It’s a small difference, but some shades of brown look redder to me through one eye than the other.

    ** It’s a standard piece of advice in America that when shopping for orange juice, you should avoid the cheaper brands that include Brazilian oranges. Oranges from Florida and California are supposed to be better. I have never been a big drinker of orange juice, so I didn’t pay a ton of attention of that advice, but for a long time, I had a hard time believing that Brazilian oranges could really be that different. However, when I visited Brazil and got to eat Brazilian oranges fresh, I discovered that they are not good at all. They are actually sourer than oranges from the Northern hemisphere and also somewhat bitter.

  52. David Marjanović says:

    That’s interesting about Brazilian oranges.

    rather unlikely she was colorblind

    Not impossible, though – if her father was colorblind and her mother was a carrier, the chances of her turning out colorblind would be 50 : 50.

    But maybe the brown orange had just dried up?

    different between my two eyes

    Everything looks bluer through my upper eye and more yellow through my lower eye. I mean that quite literally: when they’re at the same height, there’s no difference, but when I lie in bed with my head to a side, or if I just tilt my head far enough, the difference appears quickly, and whichever eye happens to be higher up sees bluer. I have no idea what sense that makes.

  53. AJP Crown says:

    I remember nothing of the oranges but I’ve drunk enough caipirinhas there to know there’s nothing wrong with any other Brazilian citrus fruit, not that you said there was. Also there’s nothing remarkable about the quality of oranges from Florida or California; it’s merely the same story as when my father-in-law insisted there are no strawberries like Norwegian strawberries, local food – preferably from your own garden – tastes best (my wife’s growing Norwegian oranges at the moment).

  54. I am, indeed, still around.

    I have been quite busy with other projects, but you never know. I do actually have a few notes for posts I’d like to do.

  55. I think Florida’s and California’s cold spells in the winters are supposed to make better citrus than what you’d get in a tropical climate. Unless they’ve developed good tropical-adapted citruses.

    It’s also a question of comparing not top-shelf Brazilian and U.S. citruses, but standard everyday available anywhere fruit. Maybe good Brazilian oranges are available but they are expensive. Or maybe now Brazil imports their oranges from Chile, making the whole issue moot.

    (Insert some clever comment about comparing oranges to oranges.)

    Add: Brazil and the U’S. aere the world’s biggest citrus producers, and São Paulo state, says WP, produces half the world’s OJ. Still, it’s fun to speculate without researching the facts.

  56. @David Marjanović: Of course, colorblindness in women is not impossible, but since the rate of red-green defective X chromosomes is about 8%, the phenotypic rate for women is the square of that. In any case, Hoover seemed to like vivid color imagery, including contrasting reds and greens in the outfits of the villains in Return to Earth, so I doubt she had a bad case of colorblindness.

    However, I don’t think the oranges in This Time of Darkness were supposed to be shriveled either. When she encounters the oranges, the main character Amy has finally escaped from the decaying underground city in which she has lived her whole life, eating synthetic carbohydrate-protein mush most of the time. The oranges are among an exciting selection of fresh foods that she has never seen before (and does not know what to make of; I just remembered that she initially tries to eat the orange without knowing to peel it first). The whole last part of the book features her acclimation to life outside as a major theme; the other thing I really remember is her discovering that flying insects outside can sound almost musical, and they are much easier to squish that the cockroaches she is used to from the city.

    Separately: I suppose, based on what I know about the way cone cells develop and diversify in the retina, it should not be surprising that the sensitivity to different colors can sometimes have significant inhomogeneities across the field of view. There are less than ten million cone cells in a human eye, which is a small enough number that fluctuations in the densities of the three types could be apparent. (Another indication that there just aren’t all them many cone cells is that in people with really good vision, the limiting factor in their visual acuity is not—like it is for most people—the quality of the optics, but rather the density of cones in the fovea centralis.)

  57. I do actually have a few notes for posts I’d like to do.


  58. Note also that your quotation from WP comes from the section called “‘Dutch Invasion’ hypothesis”, where it is described as the view of “several researchers”, which is how WP describes a minority view that is not outright crackpot.

    WP is of course conservative, and rightly so, but the specialist articles and reviews I’ve read in recent years have emphasized the revolutionary quality of the change — it is, as I say, absurd to suggest it involves no “interruption of historical continuity.” To read Tanner as one’s main source on the subject is like reading Gibbon to learn about the fall of Rome. Enjoy the style if you like.

  59. J.W. Brewer says:

    I am pleased to learn from MMcM that rumors of one apparent implicature from hat’s earlier post were greatly exaggerated.

  60. Sorry about the inadvertent implicature; reading it over, it still seems to me to mean exactly what I intended it to mean, but I guess everyone’s a little twitchy these days.

  61. I am now wondering whether more people were killed in the Restoration of 1660– or in initial phase of the Glorious Revolution of 1688–1689. However, once the later fighting in Scotland from 1690 onward is included, the deaths under William dwarf the relatively small number of reprisals under Charles.

  62. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Strawberries: It’s an accepted fact here that the berries are sweeter if picked after a cool night — the plants use sugar from the berries for metabolism when the sun is down, and they are normally picked in the morning. And as with many sorts of fruit, the imported ones have been picked when not quite ripe.

    I had some of the best strawberries ever from a roadside seller on the south side of Trondheim Fjord in mid-August many years ago. (That’s about a month after the season ends in Denmark). They probably put the E6 in a tunnel since then.

  63. Owlmirror says:

    kersey, dozens, plunkett, and peniston (hur hur hur hur)


    kersey: [ Etymology: Possibly named from the village of Kersey in Suffolk, (compare Kendal, Worsted, etc., as names of fabrics); though evidence actually connecting the original manufacture of the cloth with that place has not been found. ] A kind of coarse narrow cloth, woven from long wool and usually ribbed.

    dozens: A kind of kersey or coarse woollen cloth: : see quot. 1552. [1552 Act 5 & 6 Edw. VI c. 6. §13 All Devonshire Kersies called Dozens..shall contain in Length at the Water between twelve and thirteen Yards.]

    plunkett: [Etymology: Apparently < Anglo-Norman plunket, plonkett (adjective) lead-coloured, grey (1351 or earlier), (noun) dark cloth (1367 or earlier), alteration (with suffix substitution: see -et -et suffix1 and compare note below) of Middle French plonquié , ploncquié , plonkié (adjective) lead-coloured, grey (1254 in Old French), (noun) kind of grey cloth (1380), use as adjective and noun of past participle of plonquier , regional (Walloon and Picardy) variant of plongier to cover with lead (late 12th cent.: see plunge v.). Compare post-classical Latin plunkettum (c1378, 1414 in British sources), plonkettum (1399 in a British source). ]
      A adj: Of a light greyish-blue colour; light blue; (also) made of wool of this colour.
      B n 1: A type of woollen fabric, usually of a grey or light blue colour

    peniston: [Forms: 15 penestone, 15 pennestone, 15 penniestone, 15–16 penyston, 15–17 pennystone, 15– penistone, 15– pennistone, 16–17 penniston, 16–17 19– peniston; also Scottish pre-17 pennestane, pre-17 pennistone, pre-17 pennystane. Etymon: proper name Penistone.
    Etymology: < Penistone, the name of a small town in South Yorkshire, where the cloth was made. ]
      A kind of coarse woollen cloth used for garments, linings, etc.

    I have to wonder why the city decided to go with "Penistone", when there were plenty of examples of doubled "n"s and "y" or "e" instead of an "i". Eh, maybe they decided to give the world the finger, as it were.

  64. >Sycophantic history is the same the world over!

    One way of interpreting this comment is that you’re calling the historian sycophantic, but it’s hard to see what interest would have driven her to curry favor in 1905 by praising an ancient representative of a monarchy that had long since disavowed interest in political power.

    So I have to assume you mean that the sycophants are those currying favor with William in 1688.

    But it’s contradictory to reemphasize the “invasion aspect” and simultaneously accuse those who choose a side of being sycophants. If the outcome is still in question as William marches north, then they’re bravely casting their lot.

    If the outcome is not in question, then the invasion is mere formality. Indeed, 14,000 troops seems a bit light if the 35,000 English troops already mustered had any will to fight, and it should have been possible to call out many more, if any significant political faction wanted to keep William out. To me the explanation that emphasizes the near unanimity of English public and elite opinion is more compelling than the idea he won his kingship by force of arms never unholstered.

  65. Penistone has been spelled with a single n since the 13th century.

  66. Owlmirror says:

    Penistone has been spelled with a single n since the 13th century.

    Spelled by whom? The OED evidence to the contrary strongly implies not everyone.

  67. Owlmirror says:

    Again, “sad new colour”:

    I was thinking about the list of Fabric Colors in the Renaissance linked to above, especially the last section titled “Mysteries”. I wondered if some dyer had the soul of a poet, or a madman, or a mad poet, and needed to express himself with these bizarre colour names. Or maybe some apprentice, just before ragequitting, made a mad mixup of all the dye tubs, and the owners/masters decided to make the best of this confusion by coining some wild names for the mixed-up colours.

    But I had an idea that is perhaps less useless: during the time period in question, sumptuary laws were still in effect. What if some of the odder colour names were simply codes to avoid being caught out by those charged with enforcing those laws?

    “I assure you, these are not the colours Coleur de Roy and Ruby which are restricted to those titled Duke or higher, but rather the colours Dying Monkey and New Colour, which are, I swear, completely and utterly different. Look, they are printed right here on the receipts.”

    Alas, this beautiful theory may be slain by an ugly fact: Where are the lists of forbidden colours?

  68. David Marjanović says:

    I have to wonder why the city decided to go with “Penistone”, when there were plenty of examples of doubled “n”s and “y” or “e” instead of an “i”. Eh, maybe they decided to give the world the finger, as it were.

    Or to save ink and paper. That’s why Graz has this decidedly dialectal form and isn’t a standardized Grätz anymore.

  69. AJP Crown says:

    If all I wanted was sweeter strawberries, I’d add sugar. There are different flavours and different varieties (I have five or six), the most extreme being so-called wild strawberries (which also vary; I’ve transplanted some large ones with a flavour I like).

    Israeli, Italian & Spanish oranges that Europeans import are as good as or better than any I remember eating in the US, as were my uncle’s in Australia. The US was one of the first places to have squeezed juice available in shops & restaurants (and no ice, unlike le citron pressé) so it gets points for that.

    I’m relieved MMcM isn’t dead. I hope one day he’ll show pictures of the Kunstkammer and (some of) the 12,000 books.

  70. Owlmirror says:

    * In This Time of Darkness, H. M. Hoover described oranges as having brown skins.

    I’m wondering if the author had in mind blood oranges, or alternatively, oranges with rust, canker, scab, melanose, or other diseases, infections, or blights.

    Or, maybe — given the title — viewed in dim or otherwise altered light.

  71. AJP Crown says:

    Incidentally a less dated, less tendentious and thoroughly less irritating book than the awful old Our Island Story is Gombrich’s A Little History of the World, written when he was twenty-six before he moved to England. Like all the best children’s books it’s just as good reading matter for grown ups.

  72. Neal Stephenson, in one of his Baroque Cycle books, has an exchange between a Prussian and an English Protestant –

    “And in 1688, when William took England -”
    Daniel corrects him. “We prefer to say that England took William.”

    Fictional, of course, but rather well put.

  73. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    I hadn’t realised that William was a grandson of Charles I by his eldest daughter – in an earlier century he would probably simply have made a claim in his own right, on the grounds that a king through a female line was more useful than a queen from the male line.

    (It randomly occurs to me – I’ve been reading Cadfael – that a lot of trouble might have been saved if Stephen of Blois had married his cousin Matilda instead of *her* cousin Matilda!)

    By arms or not, it doesn’t seem to have made any particular difference to the succession, which went straight back to the Stuarts, not into the House of Orange.

  74. One way of interpreting this comment is that you’re calling the historian sycophantic, but it’s hard to see what interest would have driven her to curry favor in 1905 by praising an ancient representative of a monarchy that had long since disavowed interest in political power.

    You’re overthinking it; it was a joke. I was just reminded by the phrasing of the many similarly effusive stories about Stalin.

  75. Rodger C says:

    The phrase sadder and wiser most likely meant ‘more serious and with better judgement [than before]’, but when this sense of sad was lost, and was replaced by but.

    Did Coleridge originate the phrase or just pick it up?

  76. >You’re overthinking it;

    Yep. Sorry.

  77. One way of interpreting this comment is that you’re calling the historian sycophantic, but it’s hard to see what interest would have driven her to curry favor in 1905 by praising an ancient representative of a monarchy that had long since disavowed interest in political power.
    Notwithstanding Hat’s explanation that his remarks were meant as a joke, I have seen sycophancy for centuries-dead monarchs by historians, not in order to curry favour with the dead monarchs, but with their current successors, who regard them as their biological or spiritual ancestors, or with a nationalistic culture surrounding the historians. There were times up to only two-three generations ago where being critical of Frederick the Great of Prussia would mark you as a “bad German”.

  78. Good point.

  79. Sure. But that was my point about a monarchy that had long since abjured any genuine political power. By 1905, there was basically nothing to be gained, unless you mean sycophancy to the English people and their contemporary self-conception. I’m not sure sycophancy is the best word for this. Political correctness avant la lettre, maybe?

  80. Sycophancy to the national heroes as part of confirming your belonging to the nation. That’s what I mean. Writing a kind of national history that has been simplified to a narrative with heroes and villains, where the heroes are painted bright white and the villains dark black.

  81. Exactly. Virtually all English history used to be written with sycophancy to the English people and their self-conception, just as American history used to be written with sycophancy to the American people and their self-conception.

  82. Notice that it’s virtually impossible to write history with any objectivity in many countries even today.

  83. Owlmirror and other non-tropical readers, the balls of dried cellulose on sale in your supermarket are oranges only by courtesy and artificial coloring. I’ve tried to post a link to a picture of the real things on their tree, but the comment box rejects it. In text, though, those real things are mottled green and, yes, brown, and newcomers to Hawaii shun them (“Ew! They’re ugly!”). Once somebody slips them a taste, though, it’s time to delight in juice and poetry with Wallace Stevens, author of “Farewell to Florida.”

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