THE BOOKSHELF: HTOED.

The excellent folk at OUP sent me their latest magnum opus, the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, and I’ve been marveling at it for the last month. Well, to be more specific, I spent some time circling warily around it, admiring its two dark blue volumes in their classy slipcase (the whole thing weighing almost 15 pounds); after a while I opened it at random and stared in awe at the many columns of small type (not small enough to require a magnifying glass, I hasten to add); finally I started actually figuring out how to use it, looking up words in Volume II, the index, and finding them in various sections of Volume I, the thesaurus proper. Eventually I got the hang of it, and I’m here to tell you about it.
Let’s say you look up squirrel in the OED and discover it entered English in the 14th century (Chaucer: “And of squyrels ful great plente”); it’s from Old French esquireul, from a diminutive form of a Latin borrowing of Greek skiouros ‘shadowtail.’ All very well, but then it occurs to you to wonder what they called the creature before they borrowed the French word. Until now, you would have had to ask a medievalist; now you look up squirrel and are directed to 01.02.06.20.05.08 (n.), Order Rodentia/rodent, where under subentry 03, family Sciuridae/squirrel, you discover that what they used to say was aquerne, from Old English acweorna.
And what if you want to know in general what words were available in a given period? OUPblog has a cute piece by Ammon Shea called “Rewriting The Gettysburg Address” in which he chooses four words from Lincoln’s speech and asks “What options would you have to replace these words with synonyms if you were using the HTOED, as opposed to if you were using an online thesaurus?” But aside from a stunt like that, any historical novelist who cares about linguistic accuracy must have struggled with this; if your novel is set in the 1820s, how can you be sure you’re using vocabulary appropriate to the time and not introducing anachronisms? Now you can find out.


And you never know what you’re going to find just browsing through it. Flipping through Volume II, my eye was caught by Loucheux. “What on earth is that?” I asked myself, and turned to Volume I to find out. It turned out to be under 01.02.07.07.48.08 (n.), Peoples of British Columbia/Alberta/Alaska, along with Carrier 1793-, Beaver 1891-, Slave/Slavey/Slavi 1801-, Takulli 1820-, and over a dozen other ethnonyms, ending with Snohomish 1910-. (The Loucheux were first mentioned in 1828.) And glancing around, I realized that the 01.02.07.07 section, “People,” was a thorough cataloguing, by region, of every ethnic group that had occurred in English texts, from “Nomads” and “Person of mythical race” (pygmy, Cimmerian, Yahoo, etc.) through general terms for persons of specified races (under “White person” are long knife, Pakeha, whitefellow, leucoderm, and jumble, among many others), to specific groups (the only other words ever used for Basques are Baskle 1330 and Euskarian 1864-1883). And that’s followed by 01.02.07.07 “Nation/nations,” which starts with general terms (“National of a country,” “Compatriot,” etc.) and proceeds to specific nations, from “British” and “English” (Angelcynn OE to Percy 1932 [US derog.]) to “South American.” And after that comes 01.02.08.01 “Food”…
I’ve only scratched the surface (there are more tidbits here—the word immediately has 265 synonyms!), and I’m sure I’ll be discovering more and quoting from it many times in the years to come, but I hope I’ve given some idea of what a valuable and enjoyable work this is. Yes, it costs $400 (though Amazon has it for a mere $316.00!), so most people will probably consult it at the library, but hey, it’s a lot less than the OED itself, and it did take 44 years to complete. Once again, Oxford UP has proved itself the leader in English lexicography, and it will be a long time before speakers of other languages have anything remotely similar to this arweorþlic/reverend/canonizable work of scholarship.

Comments

  1. John Emerson says:

    Acweorna? They called squirrels acorns?

  2. In Germany they still do.

  3. It really does sound rather tempting. At the very least, your enthusiastic review has me wish for the revival of arweorþlic – a self-descriptive word for sure.

  4. Progenetrix? Under father?? Either whoever used progenetrix to mean ‘father’ is an ignoramus nonpareil, or the HTOED people blundered most dreadfully. Why, the word doesn’t even appear in the OED!

  5. John Emerson says:

    In China squirrels are called songshu — “pine rats”.

  6. @John Cowan: A few sentences earlier, we read that “the HTOED differentiates between ancestors in general and female ancestors”; I assume that “progenitrix” (note the spelling, BTW) is in the latter group.

  7. in my language squirrels are kherem, it’s from kherekh (merekh) to gnaw
    why it’s the same sounding word kherem – wall(like in castles) i have no idea
    the Great Wall of China is Khyatadun tsagaan kherem – Chinese white wall
    Russian Kremlin is from our kherem

  8. The Pygmies of central Africa (or Bambenga, or whatever local ethnonym you like) might have been fantastically (or cruelly) mythologized, but surely they’re not mythic people (?).
    -
    Do the the Loucheux live up to their enviably ‘worldly’ name?
    -
    Interesting how much randomized pleasure there is in Brownian-moving through superbly written reference books.

  9. marie-lucie says:

    Do the the Loucheux live up to their enviably ‘worldly’ name?
    I suppose you are making a connection with the adjective louche which in French is not particularly worldly or enviable (unless perhaps you aspire to belong to the [social] underworld), as was discussed here some time ago. But even people in the underworld might use louche as a derogatory word.
    But Loucheux, the name of a Northern Canadian “tribe”, is not the same as the adjective louche. It is a dialectal derivative of the verb loucher which refers to the “act” or appearance of being cross-eyed. So loucheux means a cross-eyed person. To describe a loucheux you would say “Il louche”. Whether a person is a louche character is quite independent of this physical peculiarity.

  10. Russian Kremlin is from our kherem
    Although not offering a firm alternative, Vasmer calls that a Неприемлемо фонетически объяснение.

  11. Emms: They called squirrels acorns?
    In Norway it’s even closer than German, it’s ekorn. Still confuses the hell out of me to have acorns jumping from tree to tree.

  12. Greek skiouros ‘shadowtail.’ All very well, but …
    Pity they rush past the best bit – an animal named after its shadow! I suppose that sometimes the flitting shadows are easier to see than the animals themselves, when they’re in the trees.
    empty: The German Eichhörnchen or Eichhorn (in Goethe, among others) doesn’t mean acorn (Eichel), is not related to it and doesn’t even sound like it, apart from the apparently common element Eiche (oak). According to Eichhorn in Grimm, folks (das Volk) were responsible for the wrong idea that the Old High German eichorn (and its subsequent forms) has something to do with Eiche. The misspelling eichhorn lead to an additional spurious association with Horn. There are dialectal alternatives for squirrel built on these misunderstandings, such as Eichhermelin (oak ermine) and Eichkatze (oak cat).

  13. Hat, you have connections. Can you see to it that this discrepancy between lead/led and read/read is eliminated? It confuses the expats, see above where I should have written “led”.

  14. niederdeutsch Katteker says the German wiki. Sounds like squirrels clattering over a tin roof …

  15. Oh, those pesky squirrels again ..I mean, those <>s
    niederdeutsch Katteker says the German wiki. Sounds like squirrels clattering over a tin roof …

  16. Sounds like squirrels clattering over a tin roof
    That’s nice, they could be called clatterers in town and rustlers in the woods.

  17. I had a moment of doubt above about: “Eichhörnchen … is not related to it [Eichel] … apart from the apparently common element Eiche (oak)”. In checking the text before posting, I almost expanded to “is not etymologically related to it”, then dishonestly repressed that thought, because after all I’m relaying Grimm’s etymology, as regards eichorn and “popular misunderstanding”. Fact is, you can call it a popular misunderstanding all you want: that misunderstanding is part of the etymology.
    Perhaps, to be more precise, I should have written something like: “the Eich in Eichel is not related as a root form to the Eich in Eichhörnchen“. But that still feels like trying to wriggle out of the issue, because what is a root form? If das Volk understands Eich as a root form in eichorn, then that makes it a root form for all practical purposes.
    Can someone relieve me of these confusions? How is this matter dealt with professionally?

  18. The squirrels have decided to concentrate on gathering closing brackets today.

  19. One partial solution is not to talk about root forms: “the origin of Eich in Eichel is (slightly ??) different from that of Eich in Eichhörnchen“. But that shoves the cop-out into “slightly”. It would be useful to have different words for these different things. Maybe the Eich in Eichel is a root form, and the Eich in Eichhörnchen is a moot form.

  20. So folk etymology has been at work, nibbling at both acorn and Eichhörnchen and hiding their true seeds. I knew some of that, and the irony of this in relation to eggcorn has been pointed out elsewhere.
    dialectal alternatives for squirrel built on these misunderstandings, such as Eichhermelin (oak ermine) and Eichkatze (oak cat).
    I’ve heard of one of those. Many years ago my German then-father-in-law told me that if you want to make someone sound like he’s from down south where they say Eichkatze they should get him to say Eichkatzenschwanzen and listen to the vowels. (You’d think I’d have a better use for my brain than a fact like that.)

  21. empty, perhaps you mean Eichkatzenschwänze, the plural. That has one additional, different vowel ä for testing purposes. Sorry to be such a nag about German details. (JE, take note)
    Just for that, I’ll give you a little no-obligations prezzy. In the 70s, I found a book on a Ramschtisch (“unwanted stuff table”, where second-hand books or other cut-price things lie jumbled, waiting for their new owners) with two blindingly simple rules for pronouncing the German Umlaut vowels ö, ü reasonably correctly. They turned me into the cool pronunciation dude with the hardly noticeable American accent that I am today. (JE, avert eyes)
    The principle is: each vowel is a physical overlay of English-vowel-inside, and pursed-lips outside. So all you have to do is prolong a familiar English vowel, while simultaneously keeping your lips slightly pursed.
    1) ö uses EHHH (as in EHHHtiquette)
    2) ü uses EEEE (as in EEEEger)
    That gives a good approximation which you can then polish up over time. I can’t describe ä usefully. It’s not really hard, but I still sometimes flub up, from bad habits. (JE, take note)

  22. кремль из krе̌р-, крепкий – THAT’s like nepriemlemoe phoneticheski ob’yasnenie
    take kerem and combine it with mlya and you get your kreml’ very naturally
    and kerem is a more generic word, while Kremlin is in Moscow only, if it was their ‘iskonno russkoe slovo’ they would have used it in Kievan Rus too, can’t recall any kievan kremls
    we have a word for crossed eyes – solir, if it’s outwards, and it’s the same word phonetically with comet – solir, if inwards it’s dolir
    so crossed eyed people (me) like solir, not dolir (even if one looks inwards) b/c of that double meaning maybe
    but dolir has some light derogatory meaning, solir does not, maybe b/c the condition is easier to conceal

  23. Bademantel says:

    Stu, you have me confused. Are you saying that Eiche and Eichhorn are not etymologically related? Sounds reasonable. From my understanding, shade and shadow are also etymologically unrelated in English, although most speakers would probably assume they are.
    Of course, ‘oak’ and ‘acorn’ are related in English — aren’t they?

  24. Stu, you have me confused. Are you saying that Eiche and Eichhorn are not etymologically related?
    Bademantel, that’s just the problem. I’m confused too, so I hope someone will dispel our confusions. At this point, I’m not even sure I understand the notion of “etymology”.
    In one sense, as explained in Grimm, Eichhorn derives from Eiche, in the sense that folks thought the Old High German eichorn was a form of Eiche (Grimm also says ignorance about the significance of the ending -orn added to the confusion). That’s what I jokingly called a moot derivation.
    In another sense, Eichhorn derives from OHG eichorn, and not from an Eiche- compound. The other derivation is not a really-really derivation in this sense, but a popular misunderstanding.
    As to relationships between “oak” and “acorn” … I looked up acorn in the OED, and stopped reading after the initial dispiriting sentence “The formal history of this word has been much perverted by ‘popular etymology.’” The etymology section goes on and on, and the work “oak” appears in it, but I’d have to be a nut-case to grapple with that.

  25. Bademantel says:

    According to Online Etymological Dictionary, Spelling changed by folk etymology association with oak (O.E. ac) and corn (1). Similarly, Spiritus Temporis.com says: By degrees, popular etymology connected the word both with “corn” and “oak-horn”, and the spelling changed accordingly..

  26. Bademantel says:

    I checked out this page. According to the page, “This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project to make the world’s books discoverable online.”
    Unfortunately, our “carefully scanned” resource had this to say:
    AcwERN, the Anglo-Saxon name for the squirrel, which Bosworth and EtmiUler rank under the heading of derivatives from dc, in company with ac-bedm and others, as if it was tho animal that lives in the oaks (Ger. eichorn), is really nlcelandictAorrw*, and that, according to Cleasby, is a corruption of the Latin and Greek sciurus, ” me shadow-tail,” the diminutive of
    which, sciurulus, yields our squirrel, Cf. O.Eng. ocquerne
    .
    I am still trying to figure out how
    sciurus was corrupted into nlcelandictAorrw*

  27. Perhaps my difficulties are self-imposed. When I stop thinking I have to find a clear line between “really-really” and “folk etymology”, the world looks rosy again.
    But what do you call the other thing then, that is not folk etymology? Isn’t folk etymology still etymology? <* relapses *>

  28. Will no one rid me of this turbulent Germanist?

  29. Now I’ve got it. Folk etymology is a subtype of etymology, not something different and extraneous. When etymologists talk about “folk etymology”, they are referring to people who do what the etymologists do, but in ways that are frowned upon by the latter.
    The business of etymologists is thus quite naturally reflexive, even autopoietic. It feeds on itself (folk etymologies), as well as on other sources. It’s like this: a person needs fat to live, but sometimes wishes there were not so much of it.

  30. turbulent Germanist
    Regal ambitions, JE??

  31. From Anatoly Liberman’s Word Origins…and how we know them (probably a good place to start, Grumbly, though I can’t say for sure, as I’ve only read about a hundred pages):

    The oldest name for the squirrel was “eihhurno.” The first syllable either coincided with “eih” (oak) or is indeed “eih.” Even if the association with “oak” is secondary, it does not militate against common sense. But “-hurn-” coincided with the word for “horn” by chance. The result is Modern German “Eichhorn,” today usually “Eichhornchen” (with the diminutive suffix “-chen”). Thus did the squirrel turn into “a little oakhorn.” The absence of horned squirrels of whatever size has never bothered German speakers. People will pick up any weapon to defend themselves against a conventional linguistic sign: a squirrel looking like a unicorn is more acceptable to them than an arbitrary combination of sounds conveying an unpredictable meaning.

    In the fifteenth century, the English danced the moreys dance; “moreys” or “mores” means “Moorish”…The foreign word “mores” gave way to “Morris.” It mattered little that no individual named Morris invented the dance or participated in the entertainment. If there is a piece of furniture called “Morris Chair” (designed by William Morris), why shouldn’t there be “Morris Dance”?

    The verb “curry” means “to rub down (a horse) with a brush” and “to dress (tanned) leather.” Old French “fauvel” (a fallow or chestnut horse) may have been associated with “favelle” (flattery, falsehood), and an idiom appeared that yielded Middle Engl. “to curry favel.” The French said “estriller fauvel” and later “estriller fauveau.” Currying a chestnut horse became a symbol of duplicity and toadyism in Western Europe. A character in the fourteenth-century “Roman de Fauvel” is a classic hypocrite. The Germans had a similar expression. We polish apples, they rubbed down the chestnut horse of the person with whom they wanted to ingratiate themselves. It is only the choice of the color that remains unclear, unless the probable pun (“fauvel”: “favelle”) furnishes a clue to the riddle. The English “curry favel” was changed to “curry favor.” The horse disappeared from the idiom; “favor,” free from any equestrian allusions, suggested the right meaning better than any circumlocution. The questions about how “favor” can be curried and what “curry” means requires [sic] no answer: in the fairyland of horned squirrels and Morris dances, anything is possible.”

  32. Obviously related to Swedish ekorre and Icelandic íkorni.

  33. “In the fifteenth century, the English danced the moreys dance; “moreys” or “mores” means “Moorish”…The foreign word “mores” gave way to “Morris.” I thought that this Moorish explanation had been given the kybosh lately?

  34. Kremlin is in Moscow only
    No, it’s a generic term; you can see a list of dozens of Russian cities and sites with kremlins in the Wikipedia article, which begins, quite correctly:

    Kremlin (Russian: Кремль, Kreml Russian pronunciation: [krʲɛmlʲ]) is the Russian word for “fortress”, “citadel” or “castle” and refers to any major fortified central complex found in historic Russian cities. This word is often used to refer to the best-known one, the Moscow Kremlin, or metonymically to the government that is based there.

    The Russian word is related to кремень [kremen'] ‘flint’; the proposed derivation from Kipchak or Mongolian is, as Vasmer says, phonetically unsustainable.

  35. Thus did the squirrel turn into “a little oakhorn.” The absence of horned squirrels of whatever size has never bothered German speakers. People will pick up any weapon to defend themselves against a conventional linguistic sign: a squirrel looking like a unicorn is more acceptable to them than an arbitrary combination of sounds conveying an unpredictable meaning.
    Nicely put, jamessal. But I find it misleading, because there is no notion of “horned squirrel” in the mind of a German, not even when he’s doing a spot of etymological speculation. The way the writer is seeing things from the outside, Eichhörnchen would have to be “squirreled horn”, or “oaken croissant” (see below).
    For years I have been asking Germans about the “components” of certain words, such as Eich and Hörnchen. I rarely get answers of the type I’m expecting. Almost always, it turns out that people have rarely thought about word origins, or what word components “mean”. People just mean with words, without looking closely at components. Unless, of course, they make puns, or do what we’re doing here.
    So, I can safely assume that Eichhörnchen has the same everyday effect on me that it has on most Germans: you know what it is, you may sort of weakly flash on Eiche being a tree, but you don’t have any particular thoughts about Hörnchen – it just comes along as a familiar sound. Sure, a Hörnchen is also a kind of German croissant, but I don’t associate with that when I hear Eichhörnchen. There is absolutely no sense of *”little oakhorn” to an adult German, though perhaps to a child. It looks like *”little oakhorn” only from the outside, when you don’t speak German.
    But we have the same phenomenon in English, (some of) our mother tongue. Take “curry favor”. You don’t think of an Indian curry, unless you’re about to make a corny joke. You just take the phrase as it comes – maybe weakly flashing on “currying a horse” and on “favor”, but then you think “??” and get on with the next sentence. It’s not so much “arbitrary combinations of sounds conveying an unpredictable meaning” that need defending against, but just “arbitrary combinations of sounds” themselves, ie. unfamiliar combinations.

  36. So “curry favour” has something vaguely in common with 拍馬屁 pāi mǎpì ‘to pat a horse’s haunch’, which means ‘to toady’ in Chinese. Not sure of the etymology of 拍馬屁, though.

  37. Тэрлэг says:

    Perhaps the Mongols found the Great Wall of China (Хятадын цагаан хэрэм) not much more threatening than a white squirrel?

  38. Was patting the haunch of the honcho’s horse perhaps a conventional sign of submission, similar to forelock-tugging in England?

  39. there is no notion of “horned squirrel” in the mind of a German
    I’m surprised. I could see myself living for a long time with an unquestioned, inchoate, linguistically derived notion of squirrels having horns. But no matter. I think the point of Liberman’s progression is that the abundant folk etymologies that really are intuitively misleading (someone recently told me that we do things gingerly because ginger is so potent you have to use it gingerly) conditions us to accept without questioning even idioms whose meaning have nothing to do with the rest of the language. That is, I think he’s saying what you’re saying.

  40. Er, “condition,” “meanings.”

  41. Mairzy doats and dozey doaks and swerlzee takorns.
    I’m just reading about the Chinese walls prior to the Mongol invasion. The Khitan Liao dynasty, ethnically related to Mongols, built walls far out on the border of Mongolia, but their successors the Jurchen Jin, a formerly semi-nomadic Tungusic people, pulled the defense line in. But it was still farther out than the Ming Great Wall, which was built after the Mongols had leost control of China.
    The walls didn’t bother the Mongols much, but there were fortifications protecting the present Beijong which gave them trouble for awhile.

  42. Тэрлэг says:

    The Mongolian word Хятад (Khyatad) meaning ‘China’ apparently derives from the word ‘Khitan’. As does, I presume, the Russian name.

  43. It’s very common for peoples to be called by archaic, inaccurate names. Mongols were often called Turks or Tatars, even though the Tatars were their bitter enemy, and names derived from “Toba / Taugast / Tabgatch” circulated in Marco Polo’s time, about eight centuries after the end of the Toba Wei dynasty.
    In the case of Tatar / Tartar v. Mongol v. Turk, it’s a question of which was the generic form meaning “steppe nomad”. Ethnic and linguistic nuance was ignored; they could be called Huns or Scythians too. The Mongol-era Tatars were Mongols by our standards, enemies of the Mongol Mongols, but today’s Tatars in Russia are Turks.

  44. I thought that this Moorish explanation had been given the kybosh lately?
    My edition of the book came out in 2005, so I don’t know, but I’m curious.

  45. I took Liberman to be saying something like this: a word arose that seems to mean “oak horn”. “oak horn” seems to mean “horned squirrel”. Although people realized that there is no such thing, they used the word anyway.
    But I claim that no German speaker would ever have understood Eichhörnchen as “horned squirrel”. Maybe “oak horn”, but not “horned squirrel”. Nowhere in Eichhörnchen is there any notion of the squirrels’ having horns. At most, you might imagine that the squirrels are being described as horns, but that’s something different – little horns running around in oak trees. But anybody whose horns run around in oak trees should see an andrologist or marriage counselor, not an etymologist.
    As I understand the Eichhorn entry in Grimm to be saying, many Germans weren’t happy with the idea of horns running around. So they made up things like Eichkatze.
    It just occurs to me: maybe Liberman had something like “unicorn” or “rhinoceros” in mind, where part of the animal also designates the whole. But since Germans have surely always known squirrels, and consequently known that they had no horns, Liberman’s argument from metonymy is not applicable. I see him arguing at a great distance from native speaker skills, instead using rusty tools like “-chen is a diminutive ending”. I’m not saying it isn’t, but I wonder if Liberman knows of the Hörnchen that you can eat. If he did, he might have argued for “little oak croissant” and, by metonymy, “breakfast squirrels” instead of “horned squirrels”.

  46. in fact, squirrel brains and scrambled eggs was a traditional breakfast before people knew what prions were, and what they did. Don’t even think of it.

  47. The fourth picture down on the right at this link is a Hörnchen, so-called because it’s curved like a horn, not because it resembles a squirrel.

  48. Well, I (sometimes) know better than to argue fine points with a German. Especially about the language. Which I don’t speak. Point Grumbly.

  49. I thought a prion was a kind of bird.

  50. It evidently isn’t made of oak, so obviously it’s no squirrel.

  51. Mmmm…tasty. What was your point again?

  52. squirrel brains and scrambled eggs
    Oh my God. When as a kid I visited my grandparents in Jackson, I sometimes got scrambled eggs and brains for breakfast, with grits on the side. I didn’t ask where the brains came from. You don’t suppose … ??? John, is this what you have been trying to tell me, in a gingerly fashion?

  53. It sometimes takes decades. Do you often find yourself turning around in circles for no particular reasons?

  54. “Little oakhorn” is so obviously wrong. Etymologically, it should be “oak hornkin”.

  55. I intricate myself in circular arguments of uncertain import. I go round and round the same topics until the carpet frays. That kind of thing?
    Remember those cornfield circles? Maybe prions have gotten to the aliens as well – or they brought them to us.

  56. I’m just going to throw out the Italian word for squirrel – scoiattolo – because it’s simply a great word to say. No obvious connection to oak (quercia) whatsoever. (Or is there a connection between sciurus and quercus?)
    The Russian word for squirrel is disappointingly plain – byelka.

  57. scoiattolo
    Is the stress on the “a”? skoiA-tolo?

  58. Thanks for the tip, Emms. I’m giving up roadkill altogether.

  59. empty, perhaps you mean Eichkatzenschwänze, the plural. That has one additional, different vowel ä for testing purposes. Sorry to be such a nag about German details. (JE, take note)
    This does not qualify as being insufferable, Stu.
    I don’t know what he said exactly; who cares? I almost wrote the singular but then wasn’t sure how to end the word, singular or plural, so I guessed wrong — all the time nagged by doubt about why one would bother to make the poor guy say the third syllable if it had the same vowel as the second one …

  60. I knew somebody who swore that she went to college with somebody who called squirrels “squares”, even in writing.

  61. The “will no one rid me of…” meme is older than that. Speaking of the poetess Asma Bint Marwan, the prophet Mohammad is said to have exclaimed, “Will no one rid me of this daughter of Marwan!” The life of a poetess has not been easy in any era. Some report than when Asma’s death was reported the next morning the Prophet replied,
    “You have done a service to Allah and his Messenger, her life was not worth even two goats!” A rough life for goats as well.

  62. Prophetic ambitions, then.
    I see no reason to pity the goats (yet another persistent meme, it appears). They goat off scot-free. Why “rough life” though? I bet they were taken good care of, because people depended so much on them. Unlike poetesses, as the anecdote illustrates.

  63. if kremen’, it’s maybe that, better phonetically compatible, that theory that it’s from krepkii ( strong) is as plausible as our kerem (oirad pronounciation, old) then
    but the walls were in their times wooden, no?
    kremnevue stenu – flint walls seems not that plausible sounding to me too, why not just kamennue (stone) and call them kamels or something, though what i know about fortications

  64. In Dutch, squirrel is eikhoorn and acorn is eikel. So far, so cognate to Cherman. But in practice eikel is overwhelmingly used to mean “jerk”, since it is also slang for the glans of the penis.
    Personally I find the suggestion that etymologistes aren’t folk slightly disturbing.

  65. In Norway it’s even closer than German, it’s ekorn. Still confuses the hell out of me to have acorns jumping from tree to tree.
    Those are some pretty squirrely acorns you’ve got there in Norway, jumping around like that.
    In Danish, squirrel is “egern” and acorn is “agern.” Oak is “eg.”

  66. Personally I find the suggestion that etymologistes aren’t folk slightly disturbing
    The Counter-Enlightenment! You strike at the heart of how scientists have traditionally understood themselves. Namely, that behavioral patterns called scientific methods give them privileged access to knowledge, and that knowledge is available solely by these methods – everything else being arm-chair speculation, and everybody else folks.
    That was Grimm’s viewpoint, not mine. But the sciences, and scientific methods, have been subject to intense scientific scrutiny for over 100 years now. The current upshot: nobody has figured out what “knowledge” might be, no claim to privileged access can be scientifically justified, scientific disciplines contradict each other while vying for research money and truth, and within the disciplines you can always find experts to contradict each other (for the sake of fees and truth).
    So you needn’t be disturbed – about etymologistes not being folk, I mean.

  67. Oak is “eg.”
    In Norwegian, ‘eg’ is a dialect version of jeg.

  68. Chinese students are untroubled by irrational spelling — how could they be? — but many students good in other areas find inflections, plurals and articles a pointless nuisance. Which they are.
    As I’ve said before, a lot of the Roman alphabet has been adapted in Taiwan for abbreviations. The Taiwan post office wrote “5F” for “fifth floor” and it was pronounced “wulou”. “TAXI” means “taxi” and is pronounced like the Chinese word for taxi, which I’ve forgotten. “W5″ means “Friday” and is pronounced “xingqi wu.” Etc.
    The Chinese LOVE the arbitrariness of the sign. If you’ve already learned 4000 or so, 26 more is nothing, and easier to write.

  69. Is the stress on the “a”? skoiA-tolo?
    Genau. But be careful to draw out the double tt, which gives the word it’s charm. It’s also a linguistically interesting word – apparently no one is sure where the “atto” or “attolo” suffix came from – it’s completely unattested in Latin. At least last time I checked, which was years ago.
    There seem to be innumerable dialectical variants – sghiras (Parma), zacanedda (Calabria), scheu (Asti), goge (Liguria), sciornia (Genova), etc.

  70. Is the stress on the “a”? skoiA-tolo?
    Yes. It’s a diminutive of scoiatto, a shortened form of earlier scoriatto, representing a Late Latin *scuriatus from Latin sciurus. (Various Italian dialects have schirru, scurät, schiratt, etc.)
    On preview: Like vanya said.

  71. 150 Translations of “squirrel”
    “Because I can” is given as the reason for making the list.

  72. Can anyone read the Farsi?
    سنجاب؛ موش خرما )ج.ش.(؛ سنجاب يا خز موش

  73. So lemme get this straight.
    There are three families of words in this story. Each family is unrelated to the others, or was before folk etymology went to work:
    (1) Words for the tree: “oak”, “Eiche”, “eg”, …
    (2) Words for the nut thereof: “acorn”, “agern”, …
    (3) Words for the rodent: “Eichhorn”, “egern”, …
    English lacks (3) — we say “squirrel” — and the form of “acorn” has been influenced by a wrong idea that (1) and (2) are related.
    German lacks (2)* — they say “Eichel” — and the form of “Eichhorn” has been influenced by a wrong idea that (1) and (3) are related.
    And after folks have sorted out their (1-2) and (1-3) confusions, they still may be in for a little (2-3) confusion: you remind yourself that “horn” has nothing to do with “corn/kernel/grain”, but you get distracted by horn-related words that start “corn-”. I see a cornucopia filled with nuts and seeds.
    *Eichel really is related to Eiche, I suppose? I don’t think any comment so far has addressed this point, but I may have missed something. Or is “Eichel” related to “acorn” and “agern”?

  74. louche which in French is not particularly worldly or enviable
    It’d be a cross-eyed shame if, among French people, gracefulness in the demimonde were no longer envied, nor understood to be translatable into the wider world.

  75. In Norwegian, ‘eg’ is a dialect version of jeg.
    And both of them are pronounced with or without the “g” in Norsk?
    The Danish word for “oak” (eg) is pronounced [e:'(j)] according to Gyldendals Røde Ordbøger: Udtale, which seems to be using some transcription system neither Dania (from what I could learn of Dania, which was not much) nor IPA, but fairly close to IPA in most places. I will try to convert to IPA inasfar as I am able when I comment here, but I’m not actually going to be able to do that since I can’t easily access all the symbols I need.
    Anyway, “jeg” in Danish is pronounced [jai] or [jaj] if you prefer. That final sound regularly gets dropped in fast or colloquial speech. You see Danes spell this colloquial pronunciation phonetically like this: “Ja’ ka’ ik’ li’ marineret sild.” For “Jeg kan ikke lide marinaret sild.” Of course that’s not a sentence you’re actually likely to hear very often in Denmark. A friend of one of my host-fathers once joked to me about him (in his presence of course), “Sten isn’t a real Dane: he doesn’t like pickled herring.”
    You may not hear from me again tonight. My son wants me to play a text adventure together him, so I’m going to boot up the interpreter and get started within the next five minutes before my son dies of impatience. (Anyone remember playing Colossal Cave Adventure or Zork back in the day? There is a hobbyist community that is still writing games like those (only better in many ways). It’s generally known as Interactive Fiction, IF for short, these days.)

  76. oak horn
    That the squirrel’s tail is shaped like a horn (or they like it) seems a compelling indicator (albeit not exactly a demonstrator) of a German unity of ‘naming’ and ‘thinking’.
    -
    Is there an Old-German myth that has a homegrown (or Indo-European?) idea of cornucopia, a ‘horn of plenty’?
    Squirrels hoard in order later to use; maybe squirrels are oak horns in the manner of ‘setting a later table’: they make and so are themselves “horns of oak-plenty”. ??

  77. Trond Engen says:

    In Norwegian, ‘eg’ is a dialect version of jeg.
    And both of them are pronounced with or without the “g” in Norsk?
    The Danish word for “oak” (eg) is pronounced [e:'(j)]
    No, Danish ‘eg’ is Norwegian ‘eik’. This relationship is regular.
    - the inherited diphtong /ei/ preserved in Norwegian, monophtongized to /e:/ in Dansih.
    - the inherited stop preserved in Norwegian, lenited — twice, it seems — in Danish.
    Norwegian ‘eg’ is the Western/Northern form used in Nynorsk. In ON times Western Scandinavian had ek while Eastern had an innovative jak. The latter is found in Danish, Swedish and Eastern Norwegian (the border is roughly an arch from Risør on the southern coast, west of the population centres and joining the Swedish border near Røros. The former is found in Western Norwegian and the Insular languages. And in Jutland, the western half of Danmark (as /a/).

  78. My name is A. Elk, and I am about to tell you my theory, which is mine, of oaks, acorns, and squirrels.

  79. Please put plenty of grandiloquent horn in it, Uncle Elk. That’s my favorite. I know it’s not your thing, but maybe you could copy some.

  80. Can anyone read the Farsi?
    It’s clearly copied out of a dictionary with some formatting issues, but seems to say no more than سنجاب sinjāb, which is also the Arabic word for a gray squirrel; موش muš, which is the cognate word for ‘mouse’; and (I think) خز موش xaz muš ‘fur-mouse’.

  81. Is A. Elk an elk?
    Is an elk a moose?
    Moose and squirrel, hmm …

  82. What is called a elk in Europe is called a muš in the U.S. The American muš is called a red deer, or acorn, in Europe.
    And now for something completely different:
    In 1993, Douglas Squirrel sued then-police Chief Charles Moose after discovering that the Portland Police Bureau had gathered information on Squirrel and other political activists.

  83. The American ELK is called a red deer, or acorn, in Europe. It weighs between 10 ounces and 1000 lbs. and sometimes is seen chattering in trees, and other times crashing through the underbrush or attacking automobiles.

  84. That is a squirrelous falsehood.

  85. No, Danish ‘eg’ is Norwegian ‘eik’. This relationship is regular.
    - the inherited diphtong /ei/ preserved in Norwegian, monophtongized to /e:/ in Dansih.
    - the inherited stop preserved in Norwegian, lenited — twice, it seems — in Danish.
    So Danish went from [eik] –> [e:k] –> [e:g] –> [e:j]? and perhaps might be working toward [e:] (Or something more or less like that progression.)
    When you said that the stop apparently lenited twice in Danish, I assume you mean [k] –> [g] –> [j].
    What you said also implies that where I find a voiced stop in Danish and a voiceless stop in Norwegian, the voiceless stop was the original, before they weakened in Danish — possibly twice. (You know how weak Danish post-vocalic /d/ is today. I think it’s more of an approximate than a fricative, myself.)
    Do you have any idea what sort of time scale this is on? How long ago were those Danish voiced stops last voiceless?

  86. marie-lucie says:

    It’d be a cross-eyed shame if, among French people, gracefulness in the demimonde were no longer envied, nor understood to be translatable into the wider world.
    To a French person, louche does not evoke “gracefulness”, whether in the demimonde or elsewhere. And the “demimonde” hardly exists now – it was a creation of a time of rigid attitudes both in class consciousness and in gender roles – woman as virgin/wife/mother or as “fallen” seductress. The closest equivalent of louche that comes to my mind at this point is “shady” bordering on “corrupt”.

  87. marie-lucie says:

    louche: “fishy” is another term which might approximate the meaning in some cases.

  88. Douglas Squirrel was an associate of Bobby Seale, but was attacked by other Panthers and fell out with Seale over the latter’s book, Barbequing with Bobby.

  89. You see? They’re watching me. It seems my next assignment is in Sydney.

  90. There was much talk about the word louche on a thread several months ago. What I retain form it is a mishmash of various people’s fanciful word pictures, m-l’s patient explications, and lord knows what else. I see basement bars, dubious lighting, seedy (in the AmE sense) characters.
    I know that for me both lounge lizards and living fast and loose enter into it, whether I like it or not. Also an English ambivalence toward the relaxed morals of our Gallic neighbors — you know what I mean.

  91. I think that “louche” came into English via American authors slumming in Paris during the 20s. Itprobably has a different meaning in English.
    In somewhat the same way, young hipsters have patronaged dive bars out of existence. Dive bars used to be shabby places where you could expect to meet petty criminals, prostitutes, and various other marginal riffraff, but no longer. Just hipsters.

  92. I have always thought that Кремль-Cremlin is from the кром-кроме-окромя-укромный thread (exclude-except-secluded) meaning a place to hide, a place where one is protected. The Pskov Cremlin, one of the oldest and the most besieged in Russian history, is called Кром (as well as детинец – the birthplace).
    Russian wikipedia also suggests кремь, the word meaning strong building timber, as the origin of the name, which makes sense as Russian cities originally had wooden fortifications, much like frontiersmen built in American West. Wikipedists also suggest Greek kremnos meaning steep clif or bank and Dahl’s synonymic thread: кремлевник (cremlevnik) – corniferous forest, кремь – best, building grade part of a timber plantation.

  93. corniferous forest
    The squirrels around my house have both acorns and pine cones to eat, and they do, both.

  94. marie-lucie says:

    JE: Dive bars used to be shabby places where you could expect to meet petty criminals, prostitutes, and various other marginal riffraff,
    That would be the definition of un bar louche.

  95. Bookshelves says:

    I don’t like to have my bookshelves full of non-fiction books. I like to read novels or other fiction books, to put myself in the character’s shoes and live his adventures.

  96. to put myself in the character’s shoes and live his adventures
    I actually did that once. It’s a dodgy business when life attempts to follow art.
    To help paint a new apartment, I put on the shoes of someone who had helped but wasn’t there at the moment. As a result I got some kind of stinky fungus that took weeks to get rid of.
    So don’t put yourself in the characters’ shoes, just read the damn book and be thankful for acid-free paper.

  97. corniferous forest
    I’m saying that the squirrel ilk is both conivorous and acornivorous.

  98. Will someone please let the cornyvores off their leashes! The place is being overrun by punsters. I committed only three or so this week, so my gnosis clean.

  99. Can’t break the habit. Cry “habit” and let slip the dogs of word!

  100. Sashura: Thanks, those are plausible suggestions.

  101. plausible, not plausible, perhaps we’ll continue to believe that kremlin, arbat, baikal, yarmarka etc are from our language, Russians of course always deny that

  102. Read, perhaps I can comfort you. I am sitting here draped in my khalat and having a cup of morning chai thinking of my family, half of whom come from the Байкал region, and humming Okujava’s ‘Akh, Arbat, moy Arbat, ty moya religiya’. Most of us know and acknowledge that all these Russian words (except tea, perhaps) are of Turkic/Tatar origin.

  103. tsai is a Mongolian word, though perhaps it has Chinese origins
    i admit khalat is not our word, but others are all functional words in my language having direct meanings of what it means in Russian and i don’t see how you admitting its Turkic/Tatar origin which we always dispute too would console me, as if i needed any consolations though
    Turkic/Tatar etymologies of those words always sound then something ‘prityanutue za ushi’ circular explanations

  104. About tea, there’s a quite interesting explanation of the etymology, at Wikipedia. It says the origin is the Chinese character for tea 茶, but different dialectal pronunciations split this into tê or cha -related names in other languages. You can see the list by scrolling down to ‘etymology & cognates’ here. The only people (“perhaps”) who don’t follow this are in South America, according to Wiki, because they already had a similar herbal drink with its own name.
    ‘A cup of char’ was a name used in England all through my childhood, but I’m not sure if anyone still says it.

  105. or i meant rather in Russian those words don’t have a direct core meanings as they have in my language, yarmarka – yaarmag(a fair), yamshik is from ortoo yam (postal stations), Arbat is from arvat(ten, arbat is the old pronounciation), tumen – tumen(thousand), Baikal – baigal( nature), kherem i already told etc
    i think i wrote this before and got Turkic explanations in answer that i’ve found not very convincing satisfactory in my opinion, but you may have missed that, so i wrote it again

  106. I’ve just asked a few Anglo-Normans and was assured that ‘char’ is still a drink of choice in the North of England.
    Mentioning China reminded me of a favourite lingua-flip: China Clipper in Russian is Чайный клипер is, back into English, Tea clipper. China clipper races are ‘чайные гонки’ – tea races, which they were.

  107. read, this is absolutely fascinating.
    One word in particular – kherem. Do you think it has a connection to ‘kharam’ (is it Pustu? or Urdu?) and, further, to ‘harem’, all, in extended sense, meaning a secure place, where no one can hurt you?
    Wikipedia Russian and English articles (China – etymology) give lists of how China is called from East to West and North to South, linking Хятад to Китай to Cathay.

  108. marie-lucie says:

    Sashura: I’ve just asked a few Anglo-Normans …
    Anglo-Normans? Do you mean people from the Channel Islands? I am not even sure if they call themselves that, and those islands are closer to France than to England. What do you mean?
    … and was assured that ‘char’ is still a drink of choice in the North of England.
    Given the usual British pronunciation of r at the end of a word (basically there is no real r, but the vowel before it is different than before other consonants), I wonder if “char” might not be better written “chah” which might come from the “chai” alternate pronunciation of the word for ‘tea’.

  109. I’ve never understood why the -r spellings are used; they’re extremely misleading for rhotic speakers (“Pronounced Shar-day,” indeed), and -h would do just as well while misleading no one.

  110. Andrew Dunbar says:

    Unfortunately, our “carefully scanned” resource had this to say:
    ACWERN, the Ango-Saxon name for the squirrel, which Bosworth and Etmüller rank under the heading of derivatives from âc, in company with âc-beám and others, as if it was the animal that lives in the oaks (Ger. eichorn), is really==Icelandic íkorni, and that, according to Cleasby, is a corruption of the Latin and Greek sciurus, “the shadow-tail,” the diminutive of which, sciurulus, yields our squirrel. Cf. O. Eng. ocquerne, Lambeth Homilies, p. 181.
    It’s much easier to read at this link: http://www.archive.org/stream/folketymologyad00palmgoog#page/n34/mode/1up

  111. To recap, then:
    (1) There are the words for that tree in various Germanic languages. On this thread we have heard of
    E oak
    G Eiche
    N eg/jeg/eik
    D eg
    (2) There are the words for the fruit or nut of that tree.
    E acorn
    G Eichel
    D agern
    Du eikel
    Amazingly, these are not related to the words in (1) above. But people have imagined that they are, and that has affected the spelling and sound in some cases. An imagined relation with “corn” has also had an effect.
    (3) Then there are the words for squirrel:
    E (used to be) acwern
    G Eichhorn or Eichhörnchen
    N ekorn
    D egern
    Sw ekorre
    I ikorni
    Du eikhoorn
    Fr iikhoarn
    These are unrelated to the (1) words and also unrelated to the (2) words.
    That scanned source (Palmer) tells us one more thing: that someone says these squirrel words come from the same Latin source as “squirrel”. But it also tells us something we’re pretty sure is wrong: that Eich(h)orn does not belong in the (3)-unrelated-to-(1) list.
    By the way, the OED tells us that before the (2) words specifically meant the fruit of the oak tree they meant something more general: the layer of nuts on the forest floor, often used for swine fodder. Another word for this mast. It’s the same word as in “mast cell”.

  112. It’s always spelt ‘char’ in England, because it sounds exactly the same as the char in charcoal or charred.
    I will change my spelling to ‘chah’ (it wouldn’t have quite the same pronunciation for me as ‘char’, but never mind), if Language will burn an effigy of Noah Webster on his front lawn.

  113. I’d be interested to know how the Irish rhotically-challenged rascal leprechaun Molly Mooly spells it, but he’d never tell me.

  114. It’s not much said or spelled in Ireland, AJP Megkoronáz, though of course we get enough British TV that we’re familiar with it. I suspect also that Molly is a she, though I admit I haven’t checked the authenticity of the red leprechaun beard in person.

  115. On Wikipedia’s tea page it says they use the word in Dublin. Last time we tried to check on Molly she was a he, but she might have been o’faking it.

  116. ‘chah’ (it wouldn’t have quite the same pronunciation for me as ‘char’, but never mind)
    Oh, well, if it’s not the same, I withdraw my suggestion.
    *clutches copy of Webster tightly*

  117. Ah, looks like I haven’t been keeping up with my languagehat comment threads as faithfully as I should have been. And it also looks like I’m not a Dub, despite having lived here for years, which I suppose is reassuring.

  118. Tchah!
    By the way, I just learned that:
    The verb char meaning burn or partially burn is derived from the word charcoal and not the other way around.
    The char in charwoman is related to chore.

  119. marie-lucie says:

    AJP: ‘chah’ (it wouldn’t have quite the same pronunciation for me as ‘char’, but never mind)
    AJP, you have moved around some, but you are not British, are you? The pronunciation would be the same for a Brit, though not for most North Americans.
    I have been looking at word-lists for several Native American languages, compiled in the 19th century by various people, most of them untrained in phonetics. You can immediately tell the Europeans from the Americans, as the Europeans (used to British English) write ar and er where the Americans write ah and uh (for the same words, in the same language).

  120. One word in particular – kherem. Do you think it has a connection to ‘kharam’ (is it Pustu? or Urdu?) and, further, to ‘harem’, all, in extended sense, meaning a secure place, where no one can hurt you?
    i don’t know Urdu, but our kherem(kerem)has meaning of only wall, fortifications and nothing of ‘harem’ as ‘the secure place where no one can hurt you’
    and thinking of harem as of the secure place where no one can hurt you is reactionary, as if you tell me that b/c i’m a woman and should know my place
    though of course you didn’t mean that and it just sounds like that
    but historically we didn’t have harems as in the muslim countries and women enjoyed considerable freedoms
    a href=”http://www.woodrow.org/teachers/world-history/teaching/mongol/women.html” rel=”nofollow”>link
    even in the pre-revolutionary times, when the most freedoms were very limited the most the landlords were allowed to have were two wifes, ikh khatan, baga khatan (first – older and second – younger wives), so the notion of harems is pretty foreign to us
    though Chingis khaan is believed to have 300 wives and concubines, i doubt they were hoarded together in one harem, rather they each had different households, though again there were left no written sources to confirm that maybe

  121. I grew up in London, but my accent is variable, according to who I’m talking to, because of my years in New York. If I’m honest,’chah’ and ‘char’ probably sound the same from me, but I think of them as being slightly different.
    That’s great, that char came from charcoal. I’d forgotten about charladies. We don’t have servants in Norway [smugly].

  122. char/chah
    I think AJP grew up in England even if he lived in the U.S. for a while, his mother is British yes? That’s why he can explain the cow jokes that we don’t get on this side of the pond.
    In American English the vowel sound is changed somewhat when it is followed by r. Maybe in non-rhotic areas the vowel is still different?
    In my bedouin form of Arabic, tea is “shai”. I wonder if this is the same etymologically and if so, when and how the t part of the tshai/chai/char/чайные/茶 got lost.

  123. 10:22, M-L: This is extraordinary diligence to put into clarifying a blog-comments point!

  124. There are very many Mongol words in the languages once part of the Mongol empite, including the word “Urdu” itself (from “ordos”).
    Other subcontinental words derived from Mongol include Daroga “a minor official” (from darugachi, “a provincial governor”); bagatur, “a loudmouthed bully” (from bagatur, “hero”); Tomaun “a coin worth 10,000 [nominal] dinars” (from toman, “10,000″); nokar, “servant” (from noker, “sworn companion, retainer”). The word bagatur was used by William Makepeace Thackeray, who had Anglo-Indian family connections.
    This from Hobson-Jobson; more at my link.

  125. about Hazara people, it is believed that they are from Chingis khaan’s brother Hasar’s army people who were left there
    i did not know about the Persian word, but you are right, JE, myanga is thousand, tumen is ten thousands, i did a mistake above

  126. made a mistake

  127. marie-lucie says:

    JE: M-L: This is extraordinary diligence to put into clarifying a blog-comments point!
    JE, it would be if I had done it just for the purpose, but I confess that I have been studying those word-lists on and off for several years, and I have recently added a few more, so the information is fresh in my mind.

  128. If I’m honest,’chah’ and ‘char’ probably sound the same from me, but I think of them as being slightly different.
    Hah! I reinstate my suggestion, now that I need no longer fear for my Webster!

  129. and i’ve made a mistake b/c tum (tumen) bum (buman-a hundred thousands), jivaa (billion) are kinda became obsolete words and are not used in counting things anymore
    it became arvan myanga – ten thousand, zuun myanga – a hundred thousand, jivaa – billion (if used in the official statistics for example)
    tumen buman jivaa is still used in poetry for example and, of course, in the historical sources

  130. I should add that the Mongol words came to Inbdia via the Mughals, who were Turko-Persian Central Asians but regarded themselves as descendants of Genghis Khan, as did Tamerlane.

  131. Trond Engen says:

    Sorry, Isidora, I’ve been busy all weekend, so I’ve just been spot-reading. I missed this one:
    So Danish went from [eik] –> [e:k] –> [e:g] –> [e:j]? and perhaps might be working toward [e:] (Or something more or less like that progression.)
    Something like that, yes. You’ll have to throw in a stød (glottal stop) at some point, too.
    When you said that the stop apparently lenited twice in Danish, I assume you mean [k] –> [g] –> [j].
    What you said also implies that where I find a voiced stop in Danish and a voiceless stop in Norwegian, the voiceless stop was the original, before they weakened in Danish — possibly twice.
    Norwegian phonology is the more conservative. And I should’ve said “at least twice”. Some words have been lenited three or four, and that’s when I can’t see the governing rules anymore.
    It’s a complication that Norwegian borrowed Danish lenited words without the approximants.
    (You know how weak Danish post-vocalic /d/ is today. I think it’s more of an approximate than a fricative, myself.)
    If pronounced at all. But this is another area I can’t make sense of. With the dissolution of the traditional dialects there’s a lot of cross-dialect and cross-register levelling and hypercorrection going on, both in vowels and weak consonants.
    Do you have any idea what sort of time scale this is on? How long ago were those Danish voiced stops last voiceless?
    An idea, but unfortunately not a particularly strong one. The first lenition happened many centuries back — and was even shared with the southern tip of Norway and the southern and western coasts of Sweden. For the second lenition it’s a hint that the writing system still mostly reflects the phonology before it. I think I’ve heard that it took place in the 18th century. Other, partial, lenitions are later. But also reverse development: E.g. (I write “e.g.” to pretend I know more examples) “soft b” is (almost?) completely replaced by the reading pronunciation /b/.
    At some point Danish had at least four series of consonant phonemes in medial and final position: unvoiced, voiced, fricative and approximant. Or, perhaps rather: aspirated, unaspirated, voiced partly fricative and approximant.
    All this under the general disclaimer that Danish phonology is almost incomprehensible to me.

  132. I need no longer fear for my Webster!
    It’s your Webster. It’s up to you to decide.

  133. Some words have been lenited three or four, and that’s when I can’t see the governing rules anymore.

  134. David Marjanović says:

    empty, perhaps you mean Eichkatzenschwänze, the plural.

    No, the joke is about the singular, but in Bavarian. So, first replace the normal word for tail, Schwanz, with the poetic Schweif (especially applicable to bushy tails that become broader at the end). Then use the diminutive, Eichkätzchen. Then replace -chen with -l. And finally change the pronunciation: ä becomes [a], the Umlaut of [ɒ]-or-thereabouts; and ei* becomes [oɐ̯], just like it must have done in English (home, stone, loam, bone, groan, one [...with a really strange change in pronunciation], hot [with a less strange change in pronunciation], loan, and perhaps moan are all cognate to German and [often? always?] Old Norse and Nynorsk words with ei). So, Oachkatzlschwoaf (the usual spelling for this shibboleth). If you can’t pronounce this, you’re not Bavarian.
    * In Standard German, the Middle High German ei and long i merged. I’m not aware of any dialect where that happened. I’m talking about the MHG ei, which goes straight back to Proto-Germanic and IIRC to Proto-Indo-European.

    That has one additional, different vowel ä for testing purposes.

    That’s not another vowel. Short ä, as in Schwänze, is [ɛ]; long ä is [eː] except exactly in the region where Grumbly Stu lives – there it’s an almost English-sounding [æː] that totally throws me off track when I hear it, leaving me trying to reconstruct for five seconds what language that was.

    Perhaps the Mongols found the Great Wall of China (Хятадын цагаан хэрэм) not much more threatening than a white squirrel?

    LOL! Indeed, they just rode in through an open gate. Only now would China have enough people to actually guard the entire wall.

    yarmarka – yaarmag(a fair)

    And where did the second /r/ come from? I can tell you where it came from: the whole thing is German Jahrmarkt, “fair”, literally “year market”.

    [...] eikel is [...] slang for the glans of the penis.

    In German, that’s official.

    Maybe in non-rhotic areas the vowel is still different?

    Nope.

    In my bedouin form of Arabic, tea is “shai”. I wonder if this is the same etymologically and if so, when and how the t part of the tshai/chai/char/чай[...]/茶 got lost.

    Easy: Arabic has no “ch”, and Classical Arabic does not allow a word to begin with a consonant cluster.

  135. That’s it! Schweif !
    About Eichel, eikel and the tip of the penis: it appears also that the word glans and the word gland are derived from a Latin word for “acorn”.
    Now can someone just tell me — the suspense is killing me — are Dutch eikel and German Eichel related to oak or to acorn after all?

  136. jahr markt
    maa, everything is possible

  137. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma: In my bedouin form of Arabic, tea is “shai”. I wonder if this is the same etymologically and if so, when and how the t part of the tshai/chai/char/чай[...]/茶 got lost.
    DM: - Arabic has no “ch”, and Classical Arabic does not allow a word to begin with a consonant cluster.
    A change from “ch” (pronounced like “tsh”) to “sh” is very common in the history of languages. It is a from of simplification from a more complex to a simpler sound, parallel to “ts” becoming “s” or “pf” becoming “f”. This particular change explains why many English words starting with “ch”, such as chain and chimney, correspond to French words written with ch but pronounced with “sh”, like chaîne and cheminée: these words were borrowed from Old French into English, with their Old French pronunciation which they still have (at least as far as the “ch” is concerned), while along the way the sound of written “ch” became simplified to that of “sh” in French itself (without changing its spelling).

  138. marie-lucie says:

    And the change from the sound of “ch” to that of “sh” is also paralleled by that of “j” or “ge” from “dge” to its simple equivalent “zh”. This is seen in a word like judge which has both “j” and “dge” which are pronounced identically, as in Old French juge, still written the same in Modern French but pronounced with simpler consonants.
    Some English speakers encountering words like djinn, Djibouti or Abidjan are puzzled by them, not realizing that “dj” is the same as their “j” or “dge”, so they just ignore the “d”, pronouncing simply “zh”. This is a misunderstanding.

  139. Turko-Persian Central Asians
    John E., that sounds like at least two quite different peoples/languages. ?

  140. Turko-Persian is a culture, not a language. The Turks of various sorts and the Persians of various sorts have been interwoven in Central Asia for 1000+ years. Most Turklish literature, at least before 1900, was very heavily Persianized.

  141. Thanks, John E.
    So, as I see in the wikipedia “Mughal empire” article, the Mughals were basically Turkic speakers with a thick layer of Persian acculturization (including much language), who, when they militarily overran and partially converted ‘Hindustan’, then ‘grew’ their (now) Turko-Persian culture ‘into’ the cultures of the sub-continent.
    (I see that that base/upper layer metaphor is weak in that it doesn’t do justice to how the interaction of, in this case, ‘Mogul’ and Persian elements is mutually transformative to the point of producing a genuinely independent, third culture or ‘world’.)

  142. The Mughals may have been substantially or partially Mongol in descent, too. The Mongols in Russia became Turkified, probably because the bulk of their troops were Kipchaqs, Karluqs, and other Turks. The Mongols of Genghis Khan were a leadership group, but were not a large population.

  143. Digressing (briefly) to the subject of the original post “The Bookshelf : Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary”, and having just received an e-mail from O.U.P. informing me that their “Books of the Year” are currently at 25% off, I rushed to the O.U.P. web site to order my copy of the HTOED, only to discover that (a) it doesn’t appear to feature in their “Books of the Year”, and (b) that (quote) “[It] is currently reprinting.”
    Now that strikes me as a very odd usage indeed. “Is currently being re-printed” would make perfect sense, but “is currently reprinting” just doesn’t feel right to me.

  144. is currently reprinting
    I don’t like it either. Isn’t that an example of PR prose-bangers wanting to express things “positively” and “dynamically”, i.e. by avoiding the passive voice? Everything and everybody is out there hustling and doin’, and not wanting to be done.

  145. marie-lucie says:

    is currently reprinting
    This may be a testament to the antiquity of the OUP, as it is an old usage current until about the 18th century when is being reprinted, at first considered a horror, became common in writing.

  146. marie-lucie: why in the world was “is being reprinted” considered a horror, when it was first introduced? Was it the “is being” construct, in general, that caused offence, not particularly in connection with the verb/noun “print”?

  147. marie-lucie says:

    It was the is being …. ed, a recent development in speech, which was frowned upon, regardless of the verb. How could anything be being?

  148. I have the impression from Patrick O’Brien’s (in general painstakingly researched, I believe) historical novels, set in the early 19th century, that expressions of the form “… could not be attempted to be believed” were then current.

  149. (It’s not the same thing, but it shares the “be … be”, and I am guessing that it struck some contemporaries with horror.)

  150. How could anything be being?
    Also, how could anything do do…or not do do?
    “What do you do on the weekend?”
    “I don’t do homework on the weekend.”

  151. don’t say it

  152. David Marjanović says:

    The Turks of various sorts and the Persians of various sorts have been interwoven in Central Asia for 1000+ years. Most Turklish literature, at least before 1900, was very heavily Persianized.

    And so is the entire Uzbek language.
    (Well, the southern dialects anyway, on one of which the standard is based. The northern ones retain vowel harmony and I don’t know what else.)

    Kipchaqs, Karluqs,

    You’re being inconsistent. If you want q, it goes on both ends.
    /k/ and /g/ participate in the vowel harmony in most Turkic languages: they’re [k] and [g] with front vowels, and [q] and [ʁ] with back vowels. And that “i” isn’t one, it’s /ɯ/ (Turkish spelling: ı).
    (Most or all of those languages also contain enough loans now that all those consonants have become separate phonemes, but I digress.)

  153. David Marjanović says:

    Nijma: [ʁ] is the sound of غ.

  154. My understanding is that “the house is being built” was originally expressed in English as “the house is a-building”.

  155. marie-lucie says:

    Yes, bathrobe. “A-building” was old-fashioned or rural, “building” alone might have been ambiguous (active or passive?), so “being built” was the new and trendy passive expression, resisted by the old guard.

  156. There is a style “rule” against using continuous/progressive verbs in the passive voice.
    I tell students that this is one of the “rules” to keep in mind during tests (where the reading/grading tends to be conducted in the garish light of such “rules”), and to be relaxed about everywhere else.
    There just isn’t anything unintelligible, or grating (to me, anyway), about saying or hearing, “I was reading the ‘Arrivals’ board while my pocket was being picked.”
    (The naughty-kid/journalism trick of using the passive voice to conceal agency or to show one’s ignorance of agency- ok, that’s a different topic.)

  157. Anglo-Normans? What do you mean?
    No, not the Channel Islands (Iles Anglo-Normand), it’s my neologism to refer to les Anglais who moved to Normandy. Estimates vary from 9,000 households to 50,000 people living permanently and another 50,000 with second homes.

  158. Let one or two Anglo-Saxons in and the next thing you know they’re all “Anglo-Normans”, illegally barbecuing fish-fingers in their caravans. General de Gaulle was right.

  159. I was figuring out how to put as many possible auxiliaries onto a single main verb, and I came up with “would have been being taken care of”.
    “If Congress had only passed the appropriations bill last year, this problem would have been being being taken care by now.”

  160. That’s an ok illustration, John E., but if you say “by now”, you do risk implying a need for a perfect tense, rather than a continuous (imperfective) aspect of the verb: “The problem would have been, by now, taken care of.” (You also forgot to type that “of”; Phrasal Verbs Are Fun Damental.”
    Clearer might be a fuller illustration: “If we’d got on the stick earlier, the problem would have been being taken care of by now, so we’d now be more relaxed about things (in spite of the problem not yet having been completely solved).”

  161. I don’t think that the perfect is needed. “Would have been taken care of” would have been a different meeting. In other words, while the finishing of the job had not been achieved, the starting of the job had been achieved.

  162. marie-lucie says:

    JE, are you sure you want two “beings” one after the other?

  163. illegally barbecuing fish-fingers in their caravans
    Do you have a recipe? (Except I had Norman ancestors who moved the other direction across the channel, around 1066-ish or so.)
    Nijma: [ʁ] is the sound of غ.
    Thanks DM, I hate looking up IPA.

  164. illegally barbecuing fish-fingers in their caravans
    I couldn’t find the law, could you a give a reference? I live on barbecued fish-fingers.
    Out of fairness, I think it is worth mentioning that the Thesaurus was compiled by Glasgow University (Scotland, still UK). The project took 40 years to accomplish. An online version (I think it is not full yet) is here.
    I tried to search Cremlin and discovered that it is not there. But Kremlin is, explained as ‘the government of Russia’ which is fine with me, but on the same category page, 03.04.06.13.08. Government, I saw, with horror, a description of Big Brother as ‘a benevolent but omnipotent government’. Is it how it is understood in Oceania these days?
    What is also interesting, is that the HTOED wiki page says that it contains 600,000 words. Which puts it on a par with V.Dahl’s dictionary. Slovar’ Zhivago is still the biggest collection of Russian words. I have often heard claims, from my anglophone friends, that English is the richest language in the world with 1 to 1.5 mln words. Did we lose 400 to 900 thousand words somewhere?

  165. the house is a-building
    Philip Pullman’s ‘gyptians’ use this lovely form a lot. But interesting how some words resist modernisation: wait-awaiting, can’t say ‘was being waited’ to mean the same as awaiting?

  166. Yes, John E., the perfect isn’t needed. I was just trying to form an example that might more clearly indicate the meaning you’ve now explained.
    -
    sashura, “was being waited for” (without the “a-”, you need the “for”; “to await” = “to wait for”) breaks the ‘rule’ against passive voice in the continuous/progressive aspect. But native speakers (and some later-in-their-lives-fluent) can imagine lots of situations where following this ‘rule’ would be more trouble than it’s worth, like in John E.’s example.
    “The bus that crashed was being waited for by dozens of people on its route beyond the accident; the would-have-been passengers were all inconvenienced, but not as much as the accident victims.” This sentence breaks the rule, but there’s no problem understanding it, nor, in the pressure of a ghoulishly gossipy moment, would there be a problem with actually saying it.

  167. I live on barbecued fish-fingers.
    I doubt they will survive the winter, it’s worse than a house built on sand.

  168. marie-lucie says:

    Until now I had never heard of the “rule” against passive voice in the continuous/progressive aspect. Some of these stylistic restrictions (“avoid the passive; avoid adjectives”, etc) are taken as near-absolute rules, when it is their overuse which is objectionable, as in turning “I was waiting for the bus” (perhaps considered too simple) into “The bus was being waited for by me”, which is unnecessarily complex and inverts the relevance of “I/me” and “the bus” in the description of the situation, unlike for instance “The bus was being repaired”, which is perfectly OK (but the author of “The bus was being waited for by me” might have been told never to start a sentence with “I”).

  169. I have often heard claims, from my anglophone friends, that English is the richest language in the world with 1 to 1.5 mln words.
    That’s just silliness (on a par with the similar Greek claim, demolished by Ἡλληνιστεύκοντος). A shameless self-promoter has been claiming for years that English was just about to hit 1,000,000 words; Language Log has mocked him frequently (e.g., Feb. 2007, Jan. 2009). It all depends, of course, on how and what you count.

  170. “Taken care of” is a little confusing. So how about this buildup:
    he did it
    he has done it
    he is doing it
    he would have done it
    he would have been doing it
    it was done
    it has been done
    it is being done
    it would have been done
    it would have been being done
    “would have been being taken care of”.

  171. How about “would have been not been being taken care of”?
    Or is that just silly?
    “Suppose we’d done as you suggest and got on the stick earlier, this hotel is so hopeless that the problem would have been not been being taken care of even now. Our only hope of seeing our luggage again is to call in that private detective.”

  172. would have been not been being taken care of
    Are we at the heights or in the depths of English flexibility, with this example? Curiously, it was arrived at here by much learnèd construction and evolution. But I can well imagine it coming spontaneously out of some average Joe, who gets a bit tangled up in the syntax but successfully frees himself to reach the end of the sentence.

  173. A shameless self-promoter
    The media seem to love him. His site now says ‘global’ English has 1,002,117 words. Does he have an impact? OUP announced this week ‘the word of the year’ – unfriend, as the verb used on social networking sites. (Friend – френд – is now used in the Russian internet, with verbal forms – разфрендить, пофрендить etc.) So, isn’t there a pressure, even on reputable academic institutions, to apply gimicky approach to linguistic studies?
    I have argued with these claims on the same grounds as you suggest: how and what to count. Russian general purpose dictionaries, as you know, don’t include technical, professional and group slang, nor neologisms, but in English such words as ‘webinar’, ‘banalysis’ (internet), obamania, obamanomics (politics) are often proclaimed to be the new acquisitions. Dahl’s dictionary counts 200,000 words, but with affix variations the count goes up to 600,000.

  174. ‘the word of the year’ – unfriend
    I suppose “unfriend” is a verb here. I saw John Emerson use “friend” as a verb in a comment recently, and guessed from the context that it has something to do with Twitter or Facebook.
    In Germany an Unwort des Jahres (most ridiculous word of the year) is announced by some organization or other. The Un- prefix can be added to any noun X to get “not X” in the sense of “bad X”: “the opposite of what it should be, flying in the face of propriety” etc. You can build neologisms in this way. A standard word of this kind is Unsitte (a reprehensible moral practice).
    Seeing a tree twisted almost out of recognition by the weather, you could call it an Unbaum (but this would probably be meant jokingly).
    Prefixed to a past participle or adjective Y, the un- prefix just means “not Y”: unerwartet (unexpected), unschön (not particularly nice/suitable), ungeheuer (not familiar, unsettling) and as a noun Ungeheuer (monster).

  175. In English “un-” almost always means “not”, changing an adjective into another adjective. The German “un-” can function in just the same way, as Stu points out; but it can also do things to nouns, as he also points out.
    In English, words like “unwieldy” can be a bit startling, because they don’t conform to the pattern just mentioned. A naive reaction [or jocular response] to the word would be to imagine [or to pretend] that it means “not wieldy”. But my impression is that it is based neither on an adjective “wieldy” nor on a verb “unwield”. The combo of un- and -y is making a word that means “difficult to wield”, much as it makes “unruly” meaning something like “difficult to rule”.
    (Then there’s “unready”, which in poor misunderstood Ethelred’s case is not derived from our familiar adjective “ready”, at least not in its familiar sense, but which doesn’t mean “difficult to read” either!)
    Stu or David or anyone else: Would you explain unglücklich as “having Unglück“, or as “not glücklich? Or is this not a meaningful question?

  176. empty: unglücklich can mean both things. zu einem unglücklichen Zeitpunkt (at an unfortunate time), unglücklich in der Liebe (unhappy in love), unglücklich verliebt (unhappily in love)

  177. marie-lucie says:

    empty: unwieldy, etc
    I think that the use of un- with adjectives is much older than its use with verbs, as shown by the fact that the stems of some of the un- adjectives are not normally used without it, as in uncouth, unkempt, unwieldy, unyielding, while the un- verbs such as undo, unfold, untie are straightforwardly derived from existing verbs. To unfriend has to be derived from to friend (not from an unfriend) and both of them seem strange because they are so new, as well as restricted to the Facebook context.

  178. David Marjanović says:

    Ethelred the Redeless, der Ratlose, the one without any idea what to do (due to lack of counsel, etymologically at least).

  179. I wasn’t sure whether he lacked counsel or a council. Also, whichever he lacked, whether it was by his own choice.

  180. Also, you might know, or think you know, what to do, even if you are lacking in these things (unless “lacking in counsel” is taken to imply “not giving yourself needed counsel”.

  181. Anyone else besides me been to Happytown on the Elbe? That’s how the name Glückstadt was translated to me when I went there. Apparently it’s more “Luckytown”*, and there was gambling there when it was a free city, but I still have trouble deciding whether glück is “happy” or “lucky”. It’s a very pretty little place. There’s a (originally Sephardic) Jewish cemetery with 17th & 18th C. gravestones; got a bit messed about with in the 1940s, apparently.
    *Der Name Glückstadt und die Fortuna im Wappen standen sinnbildlich für diesen Plan „Dat schall glücken und dat mutt glücken, und denn schall se ok Glückstadt heten!“ (Christian IV).

  182. Good point, empty. This needs historical clarification. Are we talking about
    1) Ethelred the uncounsellable (understood no advice, because not given in his language)
    2) Ethelred the uncounselled (no advice provided to him, by special advisors or anyone else)
    3) Ethelred the counsel-refusing (advice provided by all and sundry, and understood, but rejected)
    4) Ethelred the uncouncilled (lack of special advisors)
    5) Ethelred the council-refusing (would not countenance any special advisors)
    6) Ethelred the clue-refusing (no external advice provided or accepted, perhaps had own clues, but didn’t act on them)
    7) Ethelred the clueless (no advice, no clue, hopeless)
    I was expecting a number of alternatives that is a power of 2. Where did I go wrong?

  183. I still have trouble deciding whether glück is “happy” or “lucky”
    Do you mean in the name Glückstadt, or in general? Note that luck brings happiness in its train. So, in accordance with the given derivation of the name, “Fortunetown” would be a suitable translation.

  184. Note that luck brings happiness in its train.
    “Happy” has a connection with luck or chance from way back. Haphazard, happenstance, mishap, happen, …

  185. No, I meant in general. I pick at random from gögle: Zum Geburtstag viel Glueck! What’s that, happiness or luck, or does one need more context to tell?

  186. No, I meant in general. I pick at random from gögle: Zum Geburtstag viel Glueck! What’s that, happiness or luck, or does one need more context to tell?

    Would you have a problem with “both”? When we say “Happy birthday” in English we don’t worry whether we mean “be content” or “be blissful”.

  187. whether we mean “be content” or “be blissful”
    I would say that “good fortune” and “happiness” are involved here. “contentment” and “blissfulness” miss out the “good fortune” connotation (in some contexts) of Glück.
    Consider the English expression “all the best on your birthday!”. When one hears this, one doesn’t think much about it, much less analyze it in detail. All the best what? Only on the birthday itself, and thereafter who cares? No. “On your birthday” is not a restrictive clause specifying the scope of the Glück being wished. That’s why zum Geburtstag viel Glück, just like “all the best on your birthday”, elicits the same net effect on the understanding as if one had said (rather burocratically) anläßlich Deines Geburtstags viel Glück [,auch in Zukunft] (“on the occasion of your birthday, I wish you all the best [,now and in times to come]“).
    It may help to think “good fortune / happiness” rather than “luck / happiness”, when you’re considering Glück as a semantic token at a great distance from actual use. Then, in particular contexts, you can narrow it down to “luck” or “happiness” or “good fortune” in English if necessary or appropriate.
    I think of luck as a sort of ad hoc success at one-off undertakings of uncertain outcome, like gambling of an evening, or playing the lottery. A birthday is not an undertaking of uncertain outcome. In translating zum Geburtstag viel Glück you could retain “good fortune” and add “happiness” to it: “on your birthday, I wish you happiness and good fortune”.
    When someone is about to undertake something difficult or risky, and so of not completely certain outcome, you can wish them viel Glück !. That, of course, is “good luck”, not “happiness”. Also, Glücksspiel is gambling, or a gambling game.
    The naked sentence Mein Glück währte nicht lange could occur in two different contexts, with a different meaning. Context 1): you’re relating that you’d been happily married for a few months, then found out your husband was cheating on you – “my happiness did not last long”. Context 2): you’re relating that you won at blackj*ck for an entire hour, then lost all of it – “my luck did not last long”.
    To pull all this together: think of “happiness” not as something to which you are entitled, a substance which you can clutch in your grubby little hands and nobody can take it away from you. Instead, think of it as something which can come and can go: Glück (good fortune).

  188. Thank you very much, both of you. The words “luck” and “fortune” can, but don’t necessarily, mean “good luck” or “good fortune” — “the luck of the Irish”, for example, is taken by some to mean “good” luck and by others to mean “bad” luck and by a third group to mean random luck — however, I get the impression there’s nothing negative about Glück.

  189. random luck
    I forgot to deal with that sufficiently, apart from Glücksspiel (gambling, game of chance). Das ist Glückssache” means “that’s a matter of chance”, but can have a slightly optimistic connotation, much as “that depends on your luck” can be taken to mean “that depends on your good luck”. But the standing expression Das ist reine Glückssache means “that’s a matter of pure chance”, i.e. random luck.
    No, there’s nothing negative about Glück. That’s why I suggested it might be better to associate it with “(good) fortune” rather than “luck”. Of course even fortune isn’t necessarily “good”, but it has that slight connotation, and also (for me) a sense of a fundamentally well-meaning person behind it. Even though one could say “Dame Fortune just beat the shit out of me with her rolling-pin”, without offense to traditional semantics.
    Doesn’t bad fortune shade over into fate? Even though I can imagine someone saying, with a smile of wistful remembrance, “Fata Domina just beat the shit out of me with her cat-o’-nine-tails”.
    These are deep waters, Crown. Don’t forget to take your Schwimmweste.

  190. Unglück can mean “accident” or “unhappiness”. I daresay Unglück usually means “accident”, in the sense that use statistics would show the word occurring more frequently with that meaning than with the “happiness” one. When I play toy soldiers in the world of words before my mind’s eye, I have the feeling that Unglück meaning “unhappiness” isn’t used by Germans with such abandon as the word “unhappiness” by the Americans and the British. If I’m right about that, it would probably be due to the fact that psychobabble is not so widespread in Germany, and not due to any inherent semantics of Unglück.
    The Americans and the British are forever nattering about “unhappiness” and “privacy”, for instance. However, there is not really any German noun that corresponds to “privacy” in terms of use frequency and preciseness of semantic correspondence. There’s Privatsphäre, of course, but that’s a bit technical – and anyway it means something like a viewable-from-the-outside realm of private things, an enclosed space where private things happen. This is subtly different from privacy conceived of as a state of being that is seen only from the inside.
    Germans of course talk about unhappiness and privacy (note the absence of quotes now), but not necessarily using nouns with the same use frequencies as “unhappiness” and “privacy” (note the quotes have returned). What I’m trying to say is: you can’t understand the spirit and sense of what is said in another language if you try to match up parts of speech – nouns for nouns, adjectives for adjectives etc.
    Want to know where I learned to see language-understanding in this way? From reading German translations of Latin, Greek and French passages, in German Latin textbooks and in the works of philosphers such as Sloterdijk and Bartuschat (Spinoza specialist in Germany). FREE THE WORLD FROM PARTS OF SPEECH!

  191. there’s nothing negative about Glück.
    The German word does seem to wear more of a habitual happy face than the English word “luck”. I recall that German has a whole other word “Pech” meaning bad luck.
    On the other hand “Glückspiel” suggests that the word can at least bear the neutral meaning “chance”.

  192. When the Founding Fathers of the USA wrote “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, I’ll bet what they had in mind was more the pursuit of good fortune, not so much the pursuit of a positive emotional state.
    -
    The figure of fortune on the municipal coat of arms of Happytown is not smiling.

  193. marie-lucie says:

    Grumbly: What I’m trying to say is: you can’t understand the spirit and sense of what is said in another language if you try to match up parts of speech – nouns for nouns, adjectives for adjectives etc.
    Why didn’t you say so earlier! I have been wondering all this time what the problem was. You mean that you object to literal, word-for-word translations where each “part of speech” in one language is to be matched by an equivalent one in the other language. That is a type of translation which has its place as does a crutch for a person who cannot walk on two feet, an artificial support to be discarded as soon as possible. It is useful in the beginning stages (up to a point) but not in fluent speaking or translating. Unfortunately, you have to understand the structure of a language (even if you do so subconsciously, without having learned any technical terms, as in your own native language) in order to manipulate it to say what you want to say and understand what others are saying, both literally and figuratively.

  194. Glücksspiel with two esses (although you may well have heard it pronounced Glück-spiel). Duden is inflexible on this. Think [des] Glücks Spiel as the origin (game of chance), with the genitiving Glücks…. Same applies to Glückssache with two esses, but here Duden reluctantly concedes: “less frequently Glücksache“.
    I myself had to check on Glückssache. Oh, the shame of it! Actually, it’s because around Cologne many people actually do say Glück-spiel and Glück-sache, as I do. Got to sharpen up the ol’ pronounce.

  195. Why didn’t you say so earlier!
    marie-lucie, that has been the burden of my song almost since I first started warbling at Hat’s blog. I too have employed the metaphor of using crutches at first, but of then needing to cast them aside, because otherwise you’ll never learn to walk.
    I just feel that too often in the comment threads, people crouch like vultures over texts, tearing out parts of speech in one language, swallowing them whole, then regurgitating them in another language.
    Grumbly sez (with apologies to the original author): rise up and walk! Now! Do it, Laz!

  196. Another way to put it: try to get along without the crutches from time to time, even from the very start – no matter what the doctor says.

  197. marie-lucie says:

    Grumbly, sorry if I did not reread the whole thing from the beginning, perhaps I misunderstood you earlier.
    I do try to get along mostly without crutches, but they come in handy once in a while, for a few steps before you set them aside again.

  198. marie-lucie says:

    p.s. I mean that I consider the “crutch” as something of last resort, for myself – it is different when you are teaching people who insist on very precise explanations, including other linguists.

  199. marie-lucie: I bet you’re not much going to like the philosophizing tone of the following, but your remarks reminded me of it.
    We can move past the notion of discarding crutches, in order to consider the fact that we alternate between waking and sleeping states, and to wonder whether these considerations suggest unexpected ways to think about understanding and learning foreign languages (for instance).
    I suspect most people, like myself, view wakefulness as “the important part” of human existence, while sleep is an adjunct, an unfortunate necessity, for physical repair. We do a bit of dreaming sometimes, but even those who insist on finding significance in dreams see them as processes of working things out, getting past the censor etc. etc. – refurbishing and repairing emotional things, in fact. We need to be awake to stay alive – find food to eat etc.
    But Sloterdijk brought up somewhere strange, unusual ideas about these matters, that I later found in a slightly different form in Morin (whom I found out about from Sloterdijk’s references). I can’t do more than sketch what I remember of these ideas, but they keep recurring in my mind.
    Suppose that human beings are not machines which are sometimes on, sometimes off. Could it be that they are machines which *cannot* be what they are if they remained switched on all the time? On the conventional view, it’s conceivable that the repair stage could be shortened, or done away with. After all, a ship can be repaired on the high seas – it’s difficult, but not impossible.
    In other words, suppose that there is no “important part”, more important than the other, but instead that human beings are essentially wanderers between worlds. Suppose that this very cycling through wakefulness and sleep is what we are, what makes us what we are?
    A (hasty) application of these (barely sketched-in) ideas to the goal of understanding and learning foreign languages suggests the following. It may be impossible to learn a language, or anything else, by scrutinizing it under klieg lights burning 24/7. Not because you would get tired, but because, while awake, you see only half of “it”. For “it” to move within your grasp, you must cycle in and out of forgetfulness with it, and stop trying to pin “it” down while awake. Control cannot be acquired or maintained from just one half of the cycle.

  200. David Marjanović says:

    „Dat schall glücken und dat mutt glücken, und denn schall se ok Glückstadt heten!“

    In case anyone’s wondering, that’s Low German.

    I get the impression there’s nothing negative about Glück.

    There hasn’t been for centuries; Middle High German did have guot gelücke and übel gelücke.
    Pech also has another meaning: “pitch” (as in “pitch-black”, the bituminous substance used to make wooden ships watertight). That’s probably where the other meaning comes from.

  201. Suppose that human beings are not machines which are sometimes on, sometimes off. Could it be that they are machines which *cannot* be what they are if they remained switched on all the time?
    I think this accords with the latest research on sleep (which helps explain why forced wakefulness is one of the worst tortures).
    I wish I remembered my dreams better; I own an interesting book by Aleksei Remizov that consists largely of him recounting his elaborate dreams (“I see Blok in a red Chinese bathrobe [and tell him]: ‘Alexander Alexandrovich, you should have women’s shoes…’”).

  202. …word-for-word translations where each “part of speech” in one language is to be matched by an equivalent one in the other language…is useful in the beginning stages…
    Yes, I frequently put an English sentence on the board with literal word by word Spanish translations above it so the students can see how the parts of speech are used and also just for basic comprehension. I suspect that dreaming does not have as much to do with language retention as repetition, possibly repetition on successive days (as some language tape methods assert), but someone who is more familiar with long- and short-term memory characteristics might be able to shed more light on that. But it doesn’t matter how many times you hear or dream it if you didn’t comprehend it in the first place.
    BTW, nice popcorn suggestions, but for anyone concerned with cholesterol or just plain calories, I would recommend an air popper. It also has the advantage of turning off by itself so you don’t have to watch it to keep it from burning. I’ve tried curry powder on popcorn, with lukewarm results, but these days just sprinkle a little salt from a package that says “Kuhinjska Paška Morska Sol Sitna Jodirana”. I suppose it’s sea salt (mor=mar?) and “Jodirana” must be “iodized”, but it sure does stick together when you try it in a shaker. Now I need one of those little salt boxes with the tiny wooden scoop the Danish kitchens all have above the stove.

  203. I wish I remembered my dreams better
    They say you can do this if you keep a notebook beside your pillow and write down your dreams as soon as you wake up. I tried this years ago and was rewarded with more and more vivid technicolor dreams, some with science fiction motifs. Unfortunately they had no plot and no context or I would be a famous novelist by now. But the Jordan dreams…

  204. Perhaps Remizov’s dreams weren’t real. With my inlaws, the old people had a way of saying things with dreams that they could not say up front. For example, one said she dreamed about children putting blue flowers on her casket. She died in the spring, about the time the bluetts came out.

  205. little salt boxes with the tiny wooden scoop
    Salt-cellars?

  206. Trond Engen says:

    That is a type of translation which has its place as does a crutch for a person who cannot walk on two feet, an artificial support to be discarded as soon as possible. It is useful in the beginning stages (up to a point) but not in fluent speaking or translating.
    I try to implant this in my children, with apparent success, but their efforts are making my wife an increasingly frustrated woman. My seven-year-old daughter, who’s barely started with English classes, now notices and tells on Hanna Montana when her dubbed Norwegian is unidiomatic. My ten-year-old son insists on translating rhymes and poems in his English homework so that they work in Norwegian, and that takes forever. This evening he told me how he home alone with the computer after school discovered that Google Translate didn’t understand Norwegian feminine possessives in their idiomatic position behind a definite noun, so he started feeding it with example sentences and correcting the translations. I won’t think of the harm he may have done to English spelling.
    Myself, I was notoriously lazy in school and tried to get away with not even looking at texts before being called to read them aloud in class. When I also tried to make my translations flow naturally in Norwegian, rather than following the original word by word, I inevitably got in trouble and had to work on overdrive patching up the grammar three or four or six words ahead, all while sounding smooth and effortless. I did it for sports, i.e. adolescent bragging, but I like to think that those self-inflicted exercises in crisis management were important.

  207. marie-lucie says:

    Grumbly: It may be impossible to learn a language, or anything else, by scrutinizing it under klieg lights burning 24/7. Not because you would get tired, but because, while awake, you see only half of “it”. For “it” to move within your grasp, you must cycle in and out of forgetfulness with it, and stop trying to pin “it” down while awake. Control cannot be acquired or maintained from just one half of the cycle.
    I wouldn’t go so far as to say one needs to “sleep on it”, but I agree that there is an element of the subconscious in learning a language. For a while I was working on learning and analyzing a certain language without a dictionary or grammar, and there were some constructions that I found very difficult to analyze: I understood what they meant, but not why they meant it, and I kept making mistakes when trying to produce them. My strategy in such cases became to leave off my attempts at analysis for a while and to work on some other parts of the language. Then some time later, after a few weeks or even months, a stubborn construction would suddenly become clear. It was as if I had been stuck in a long corridor with a closed door at the end, and after deciding to turn my back on it for a while, all of a sudden I found that it was open and I could walk through (only to find another closed door farther along, and the process would repeat itself).
    I think that small children progress that way too, although not consciously. Their progress in language is not continuous but like climbing a series of steps: all of a sudden they seem to speak much better, because they have caught on to something they kept stumbling on earlier.

  208. Salt-cellars?
    No, I think those are much smaller and more delicate, usually glass, and meant for the table as an individual place setting. I have seen some nice ones, maybe depression glass or cobalt, or with silver fittings, in antique shops around Cincinnati, where there was once a large glass industry.
    European style saltboxes and a typical salt scoop, to be kept on top of the lid.

  209. „Dat schall glücken und dat mutt glücken, und denn schall se ok Glückstadt heten!“
    In case anyone’s wondering, that’s Low German.
    Thanks, because I’d been thinking it must be some kind of ye olde dansk (“ok” = a version of both “og” & “auch”). It’s nice how easy it is to understand all these languages, but I wonder why Christian IV would have been speaking plattysk. Perhaps it was just a translation of what he said.

  210. Maybe it has something to do with “Middle Low German, an ancestor of modern Low German, spoken from about 1100 to 1500, was the lingua franca of the Hanseatic League.” (Wiki).

  211. Trond Engen says:

    That self-centered guy using my name at night, I don’t like him.
    Before he took over some time after midnight the reply was meant to be short and to the point:
    “From my own experience I’ve concluded that idiomatic translation gets too little attention in language education. More focus on idiomatic expression when translating from the second language into the first would also give awareness of such differences in the opposite direction.”

  212. Trond, I’m with you 100% on that clear, terse reformulation. I see now that I missed some of the message in the original version.

  213. There are texts for teaching idioms, but only used for advanced students. Even advanced students have a huge difficulty manipulating the phrases grammatically (past tense, negative, etc.). Many ESL students have a specific goal in mind, for instance GED or college entry, and have a long way to go before reaching those goals, so I would question how much time should be spent on idioms.

  214. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma: I would question how much time should be spent on idioms.
    I think that would depend on how common those idioms are, so how likely the students are to encounter them (and to make embarrassing mistakes of comprehension and/or production).

  215. Red Chinese Bathrobe says:

    word-for-word translations where each “part of speech” in one language is to be matched by an equivalent one in the other language.
    Is this is what is known as an “interlinear translation”?

  216. Nijma, what I understand Trond to be saying with regard to idiomatic expressions is something different. As he writes, he is speaking about idiomatic translation. When translating from the second language, the one being learned, students should be encouraged to use idiomatic expressions in their own language. Reflecting on their own idioms, and alternatives that might be available, the students are in a better position to appreciate that the second language is also a heap of idiomatic expressions. This is a more promising overall approach than regarding the foreign language as a puzzle requiring parts of speech to be fitted together.

  217. marie-lucie says:

    Peignoir chinois, it is not quite the same: a word-for-word translation does not have to be interlinear, but an interlinear translation has the original printed on one line, and translations of the individual words on a secondary line, just below the originals, usually in much smaller type. Some texts have up to three such extra lines for each line of text, each for a special purpose. This is done a lot for scholarly editions of texts in little-known languages, where the aim is to help other scholars decipher the text, rather than let the public enjoy the stories. Most of the time, there is also a freer (= not so literal) translation, which may or may not be entirely reliable (see my comment on “Dell Hymes, RIP” not too long ago)

  218. Trond Engen says:

    “ok” = a version of both “og” & “auch”
    The usual etymology takes this word to be a participle of the verb ‘øke’/'auchen’/et c. “increase”. Its function as conjunction must have originated in a use as sentence initial adverb. IOW, those of us who gladly start a sentence with ‘og’ have history on our side,
    I wonder why Christian IV would have been speaking plattysk
    In Denmark of Christian IV’s days priests and civil servants were educated at the Lutheran universities of Wittenberg, Rostock and (later) Göttingen, military officers were either German born or trained in German from an early age, artisans and merchants in every town were largely of Northern German descent, and there was even a substantial Low German speaking population in Grevskaberne, i.e. Schleswig-Holstein. For the nobility in general and the royal house in particular Low German was the working language.
    It was later to be replaced by High German, following the language change in polite society in Germany itself. The 18th century satirist Ludvig Holberg said that “the nobleman speaks French to his equal, German to his servant and Danish to his dog”.

  219. Trond Engen says:

    I wasn’t as concerned with idiomatic expressions as with expressing oneself idiomatically, i.e. following the syntax and grammatical quirks of the language one translates into, also when doing it for pedagogical reasons in school. As I remember it, too many never managed to get out of that simplistic phase and into translating on sentence or paragraph level. Some of them were even devoted students who did there very best to follow the original as closely as they could, never realizing that the teacher’s word-by-word example was never meant as an ideal but as an explanation of each word. We see and hear the result of this in translated newspaper stories and cartoons every day.
    When it comes to idiomatic expressions, I’m actually more in doubt. There are occasions when the literal translation of an idiomatic metaphor might carry over the whole worldview of the speaker or society described. And we’re pretty quick in detecting metaphors anyway.

  220. I wasn’t as concerned with idiomatic expressions as with expressing oneself idiomatically
    I didn’t try to distinguish the two. Remember, I’m assuming the language being translated into is the learner’s native language N. The learner learns a foreign language F by considering bits of it rendered by him, or the teacher, in(to) his native language.
    The learner, when he renders F using idiomatic expressions in his native language N, is expressing himself idiomatically. When he renders F idiomatically in N, he (necessarily) uses idiomatic expressions in N.
    In our present context, the advantage for the learner of using idiomatic expressions in his own language N is that he can deploy them without having to stop and think why they mean what they do. In fact they tend to be impervious to immediate analysis, particularly parts-of-speech analysis, which in general will be irrelevant to learning F.
    Sometimes there may be analogies between sentences of N and F (for instance, for an English-speaker learning German, a German proverb for which there is a structural analogy in English). It may help for the teacher to point out such analogies occasionally, but we all know that fluently spoken languages work in ways that are very different from each other. So, on my view, as a teacher it’s best to actively and deliberately keep such things to a minimum, instead of maximizing them (in order to be able to say “now, isn’t German cute? Just like English!”).
    The very point of translating idiomatically into one’s native language – instead of playing the game of mirror-the-parts-of-speech-so-the-teacher-can-tell-you’ve-understood-the-rules – should be to encourage the learner to view the foreign language F as just such an idiomatically managed thing as his native language is.
    Somehow, in actual teaching practice, the learn-the-parts-of-speech approach appears to seep into and overwhelm the learn-the-idiomatically-deployed-things approach, despite theoretical protestations to the contrary.
    Anyway, there’s something much more important than all this, that Nijma reminded us of: if you can’t get learners genuinely, actively interested in the life and times of the people(s) who speak F – i.e. if these learners have only a theoretical motivation for learning F – then the whole teaching exercise may ultimately be a waste of time for them. As regards the handful who can handle the Latin-based presentation, and are only theoretically motivated – they should be in a different classroom.

  221. Trond Engen says:

    ‘øke’/'auchen’/et c.
    I don’t like the guy using my name at daytime either. He’s a lousy factchecker. There’s no such word as ‘auchen’ anymore.
    Should have been, though. And an English verb ‘eak’.

  222. Can you direct me to the real Trond? Take me to your leader!

  223. Red Chinese Bathrobe says:

    Actually, the phenomenon that Grumbly refers to has often led to linguistic change. The ponderous translationese style that is used when Japanese learners translate English sentences into Japanese has left its mark on the Japanese language. So has the ponderous kanbun style that was used in reading Classical Chinese. The Japanese translation of the poem at the Volta thread has quite a bit of it, in the form of overtranslation of pronouns.
    (I realise that this is mixing up “language learning” and “translation”, but I suspect that the two are linked in intimate ways. Not many translators start out as “translators”; they first learn the language, and the habits of the language learner can often survive in the mature translator.)

  224. David Marjanović says:

    I suppose it’s sea salt (mor=mar?) and “Jodirana” must be “iodized”,

    Yes! And for the same reason as the correspondence of more with Latin mare you get sol corresponding with Latin sal.
    And kuhinjska is the adjective to “kitchen”, kuhinja, which in turn makes a lot of sense if you know about German Küche.

    Unfortunately they had no plot and no context

    Yeah. I’m always appalled at the utter nonsense I dream up.

    The usual etymology takes this word to be a participle of the verb [*]‘øke’/[*]‘auchen’/et c. “increase”.

    <lightbulb above head>
    Or rather “augment”. AugereAugustus… the also-est of them all!

    The 18th century satirist Ludvig Holberg said that “the nobleman speaks French to his equal, German to his servant and Danish to his dog”.

    …echoing a slightly exaggerated list about, I think, Charles V of the More Or Less Holy More Or Less Roman Empire: Spanish, Italian and French figure somewhere, then German to the servants and Slovene to the horses (from Lipica in Slovenia).

    As regards the handful who can handle the Latin-based presentation, and are only theoretically motivated – they should be in a different classroom.

    Money isn’t everything!
    But without money, everything is nothing!
    – Somewhere on the wall of Scrooge McDuck’s office in his money bin.

    And an English verb ‘eak’.

    To eke out a living…
    There’s also the extra name, the nickname, an eke name in Middle English.

  225. Red Chinese Bathrobe says:

    One of the usages that rather peeve me is the use of 彼 kare ‘he’ in history textbooks in Japan. In a section about, say, Napoleon, it’s very common to find Napoleon referred to as 彼. I personally believe that this mannerism is an importation from English. Japanese in its original form would normally have repeated the name. To my ears, 彼 sounds somehow offhand and familiar, as though the writer personally knows Napoleon. And more than anything, it sounds like ‘translationese’.

  226. David Marjanović says:

    more

    Actually morje in most kinds of Croatian and some kinds of Serbian. The two… three… four? standard languages don’t line up with any dialect boundaries at all whatsoever.

  227. Trond Engen says:

    To eke out a living…
    Pass me the lightbulb.

  228. marie-lucie says:

    The verb to eke is getting an amazing variety of definitions these days. You can see them not only in texts (such as newspapers or magazine articles) which use the word (usually, but not always, with out following), but also in crossword puzzles, since this short word with its two e’s is easy to place. From an early meaning “supplement” it has evolved into “earn, manage, scrape, scratch, squeeze”, and even others. These near-synonyms for the word arose from the earlier phrase to eke out a meager living (eg by hunting), understood as “to painfully earn a meager living” rather than “to supplement” it. But the metaphors of scraping, scratching, etc are getting a life of their own outside of the context of poverty: in one article I read, a girl was writing about “eking through” a narrow passage between houses, when she meant physically “squeezing through”.

  229. OT, but today we were doing expressions of time and the exercise was to put correct capitalization on a sentence that included the phrase “7:00 a. m.” A student suggested “A.M.” and that’s the way I was taught in school umpteen million years ago, but the answer key says “a.m.” I have also seen “AM” without the periods. What is going on here? First daylight savings time and now this.

  230. A lotta people just write 7a or 7p these days. It’s a crazy world!

  231. 7a or 7p=hospital notation

  232. Red Chinese Bathrobe says:

    Nijma, if you used a Mac you would be asked to choose your time and date conventions. For am/pm, you find that the American alternative given is AM/PM, as is the Australian. The British alternative used to be am/pm, now it seems to be 24 hour. There seems to be no rhyme or reason for all this. Just use what you like!

  233. Use what you like? I can’t just say that to the students! Otherwise how do I justify the humongous salary they pay me? :~)
    I haven’t figured out the date options yet on Windows. My desktop (Windows XP) says “PM”, and my netbook is stuck on some Arabic time format and I have no idea how to reset it, and the laptop with Vista, I don’t care. I guess the periods marking abbreviations for ante meridiem and post meridiem are history. If I like.

  234. Oh, wait, I see it now. It’s not under “date and time”, it’s under “regional and language options.” ~PM is favored by South Africa and the United States
    ~12 hour (7:55:41) is favored by Belize, Canada, the Carribean, Jamiaca, the Philipines, Trinidad, (some overlap there) and Zimbabwe
    ~24 hour (19:51:48) is favored by Australia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, (and PRC China)
    ~p.m. is favored by New Zealand

  235. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma, what do you see here next to your signature? From where I am (Atlantic Canada), I see “Sat 10:26 PM” in the top right corner of my screen.

  236. The verb to eke is getting an amazing variety of definitions these days.
    Yes. I had just about resigned myself to the loss of the supplement meaning when I, too, began noticing that the word was on the go again.
    I wonder if the mice in deadgod’s parable of the library in Omphalos were eking through the crack as they ran out and in.
    The built-in dictionary in my Mac gives three definitions for the verb eke. Not one of them is about supplementing.

  237. what do you see here next to your signature
    “PM”; I think the blog timestamp on each comment doesn’t change by location, though, it would be set by the blog software. Since Hat is in the U.S., his People would have it set for U.S. conventions. I really don’t see him as a Mac kinda guy either, but I could be wrong about that. The time format in the corner of the screen is one you can select, and does not vary from blog to blog.
    But why does Bill Gates get to choose the correct usage for time of day spelling? Windows and Mac conventions must be based on something, maybe one of the style guides? Or is the internet now so powerful it trumps all style guides?
    Here’s the wikipedia style guide, looks like the Kiwis have been into it:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style#Times
    While we’re at it, I notice I spelled U.S. with periods too, but I think some style manuals now spell that without periods as well (“US”). Must go, I’m expected at an early Thanksgiving celebration, will check back later, much later, from a library hotspot on the road to see if the mystery gets solved.

  238. Printed style is to use small caps for AM and PM, but small caps is one of those things we don’t get on our computer screens as far as I know (barring pdfs and Word documents).
    And no, I don’t own a Mac.

  239. Wait, I just realized you can use <small> with regular caps. But not in my comment section, where I’m pretty sure small doesn’t work.
    On preview: Yup, the tag gets stripped.

  240. marie-lucie says:

    USING SMALL WITH REGULAR CAPS
    It did not work.

  241. And no, I don’t own a Mac.
    Very strange. Have you ever noticed little children laughing at you behind your back?

  242. Ha! I laughed out loud when the penny dropped, Trond.

  243. There is a CSS style “font-variant:small-caps”, but style attributes are stripped, too.

  244. marie-lucie says:

    empty: The built-in dictionary in my Mac
    Where is that dictionary? I have a Mac laptop and I don’t think there is one on it.

  245. Where is that dictionary?
    It’s in the Applications folder. I wasn’t really looking for it when I found it. I typed “eke” in the Spotlight search thingy just to see what would happen. (This Spotlight appears as a magnifying glass in the upper right corner of the screen. I’ve never used it much, either.)
    There are probably many better dictionaries online.

  246. Ha! I laughed out loud
    I can’t see anything humorous about spending three times as much for an equivalent technology with a MAC label, when all you get is protection from having to interface with your hardware as discrete drives, memory etc.

  247. Ouch! Yeah, that’s us Mac users, laughing all the way to the poorhouse.
    No, Nij, you missed Trond’s joke. I’m sure you are not the only one. Let me try this again, with an augmented hint:
    LH: And no, I don’t own a Mac.
    TE: Very strange. Have you ever noticed little children laughing at you behind your back?
    Ø: Ha! I laughed out loud when the penny dropped, Trond. How long has the penny lain there?

  248. Trond Engen says:

    Ha! I laughed out loud when the penny dropped, Trond. How long has the penny lain there?
    Thanks, nøgne Ø. Now it’s in their ears and in their eyes.
    (And I’m embarassed for having let your elegant serve pass totally unnoticed.)

  249. I use my MacDictionary all the time, partly because it gives American/British variations not just in spelling, but in usage and meaning too. It’s called ‘Oxford American Dictionaries.’
    Marie-Lucie, if you drag the dictionary icon to the Dock you will have a short-cut to open it quickly.

  250. You mean that wasn’t just a bunch of rabid Mac users? I must missed it the first time because I was blogging from my car in a library parking lot in the pouring rain, very strange.

  251. Thanks, Sash. That’s much better. If you press “All” you can get the Wikipedia entry up with the dictionary definitions, so you can then presumably get a translation into the non-English Wikis.

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