The Good Year.

For as long as I’ve studied Russian I’ve been bothered by the cognates год ‘year’ and годиться ‘to suit; to be fit (for), to be of use.’ I knew they were related, but I could never remember how the semantics worked. The first is from Proto-Slavic *godъ ‘suitable/right time; holiday, feast; time, term; year’ and the second from Proto-Slavic *godìti ‘to please,’ which suggests the basic idea, but I’m going to quote the extended discussion on pp. 142-43 of Louis Jay Herman’s Dictionary of Slavic Word Families (incidentally, Herman was one of those hyperpolyglots we’ve been hearing so much about — see this 2010 post):

From a semantic standpoint, the derivatives [of *god ‘good, suitable’] can be divided into three broad groups:

(1) The basic meaning is apparent in a wide variety of words expressing such notions as suitability, worthiness, convenience, advantage, pleasure and agreement (the last of these giving rise to the meanings “to hire,” “to negotiate” and “to decide”) or, with the addition of a negative prefix, such ideas as misfortune, displeasure and disagreement.

(2) The widespread secondary meaning “time” reflects a semantic shift from the notion of “suitable time” (still apparent in “festival, holiday,” “feast,” “opportunity”) to that of “time in general” (> “time, era,” “year,” “hour,” “occasion,” “to wait,” “to postpone,” “until”); it is implicit in the meanings “to happen,” “event” and “chance, accident.” (A similar progression in meaning is discussed in the note on Pol.-Cz.-S-C doba.)

(3) The verbal derivatives. in a reversal of the normal process of semantic development from the concrete to the abstract, have undergone successive changes in meaning from “to be suitable, pleasing” to “to aim,” “to throw” and, finally, “to hit” (whence, further, “to get (into)” and “to guess”).

Non-Slavic cognates include Eng. good and (reflecting the original Indo-European meaning of the root, “fitting, belonging together”) gather, together.

(I’ve replaced his underlines by italics, which he presumably would have used if the typography hadn’t been so primitive.) Among the words with a negative prefix he mentions is Russian негодование [negodovania] ‘indignation,’ which is extremely common in 19th-century literature and which, as it happens, was the spark that inspired this post.)

Comments

  1. The Year of Good Weather

    Russian погода (weather) is from the same *god source, but I am at a loss how that could have happened. Maybe through the season meaning. Like when we say that some day was “unseasonably warm”… Or maybe it was just “good” in some “good weather” compound and then the “weather” part got lost…

  2. Yes, Herman says “orig. ‘good weather’” and compares Polish pogoda ‘weather; good weather; cheerful mood’ and Czech pohoda ‘good weather; cheerful mood.’

  3. David Marjanović says:

    French temps “time, weather”…

  4. marie-lucie says:

    French people talking about the weather don’t usually mention the noun: it is quite enough to say il fait beau or Il fait mauvais : the word temps can follow but is usually considered superfluous, even pedantic. (In spite of the ambiguity of “time/weather”, it is rare that the context does not make the meaning clear).

  5. I wonder how it’s related to God

  6. French obviously does have a specific word for weather (météo), but it’s uses, I understand, are much more limited than in English and Russian. For what it’s worth, Google n-grams give weather/rain ~ 1:1, погода/дождь ~ 4:10 météo/pluie ~ 8:100 with pretty sharp rise in the latter over last several decades.

  7. marie-lucie says:

    D.O.; La météo is short for le bulletin météorologique “the weather report”, a radio or TV service that announces the outdoor temperature and other weather conditions, present and for the near future. It does not actually mean ‘weather’, which is why you find its uses limited.

    Among other weather-related expressions, here is one I like: faire la pluie et le beau temps, a metaphor for ‘to run the show’ or something similar (about a person who is not the boss but has such personal influence that they seem to run the company or other organization, not always in a positive way).

  8. marie-lucie says:

    SFR: I wonder how it’s related to God

    Only because of D.O. earlier comment: maybe it was just “good” in some “good weather” compound and then the “weather” part got lost…

    Just like temps was omitted (or at least ‘omittable’) from beau/mauvais (temps).

  9. Marie-Lucie, got it, merci.

  10. temps “time, weather”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kairos

  11. Lars (the original one) says:

    I wonder how it’s related to God — seemingly not at all, according to etymonline at least. The older Germanic languages, as still German and Scandinavian, agree that the vowels are different, and there are possible cognates in other IE languages that point at different roots.

  12. Also, “wether” for castrated male sheep, because it originally meant not castrated but a “yearling”.

  13. it is quite enough to say il fait beau or Il fait mauvais : the word temps can follow but is usually considered superfluous, even pedantic.

    An omission bemoaned at length by noted French pedant Marcel Proust in A la recherche du temps perdu.

  14. faire la pluie et le beau temps, a metaphor for ‘to run the show’ or something similar (about a person who is not the boss but has such personal influence that they seem to run the company or other organization, not always in a positive way).

    cf. the AmE phrase “rainmaker” which has a similar but not identical meaning; the rainmaker might not be the boss, but they’re the person who brings in the big contracts that the firm depends on.

  15. January First-of-May says:

    Somewhat infamously, in Russian, chas means “hour” and godina means “time”, while in Ukrainian, the same two words mean exactly the opposite things.

    Much more surprisingly, the Russian cognate of Ukrainian rik “year” is rok… which means “fate”.

    In an entirely unrelated coincidence, the -heur element in French bonheur “good fortune, happiness” and malheur “bad fortune, unhappiness” (>malheuresement “unfortunately, sadly”) actually has nothing to do with (though had apparently been folk-etymologically conflated with) the word heure “hour”.

  16. Yes, the –heur is from Latin augurium (and thus a doublet of augure).

  17. Sentence First post on time/weather conflation in Irish and Hiberno-English. Be sure to read the comments.

    (Note the typographical conflation of titles and references to words in the previous paragraph.)

  18. Itals for blog names looks very odd to me, I don’t recall seeing it before. Is that something you do?

  19. An omission bemoaned at length by noted French pedant Marcel Proust in A la recherche du temps perdu.

    He shouldn’t have. Otherwise the title of his chef-d’œuvre could have been translated “Complaining about last years weather” or, in modern times, been appropriated for combating climate change.

  20. David Marjanović says:

    Also, “wether” for castrated male sheep, because it originally meant not castrated but a “yearling”.

    The German cognate, Widder, of course means “uncastrated male sheep”.

  21. A blog is a serial publication, like a newspaper or magazine, so its title should be ital just like theirs. In point of fact, you can get an ISSN for one:

    To be identified by an ISSN, your ongoing integrating resource must:

    • present editorial content (written text),
    • mention the editorial responsibility, comprised generally of more than one person (name of the editor or publisher) and, as a minimum, the country of publication,
    • have a title that can be easily identified and doesn’t change when updated,
    • have a valid URL address,
    • cover a precise subject or address a specific target audience.

    Sounbds to me like Languagehat (which I will continue to write Languagehat or Language Hat or whatever) qualifies. Application form. Unlike ISBNs, there is no charge for them. Go for it!

  22. A blog is a serial publication, like a newspaper or magazine, so its title should be ital just like theirs.

    Your logic may be impeccable, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done (except by you, apparently as a one-off).

  23. marie-lucie says:

    ajay: rainmaker : I have sometimes seen this word in writing but did not quite understand the meaning. Perhaps it has to do with “rainmaking” ceremonies among some tribes, where one person is especially renowned for being able to bring rain.

    January, LH: heur : Thanks for the etymology. I must confess I had no idea it was from augurium not hora. The initial h must have been added at a time when ‘etymologizing’ spelling was considered desirable. This word is sometimes used singly (not just in bonheur/malheur) but I can’t think of an example right now (although I think there is a very literary phrase l’heur du temps). The TLFI must know!

  24. “god” and its derivatives are fertile ground for a lot of false friends in Slavic languages.

    Here are some Croatian meanings:

    gȏd [1] day of celebration, or anniversary; [2] growth ring in trees, used for dating.
    -god (as a suffix) can be translated by -ever in English: tkogod = whoever; štogod = whatever; kakavgod = whichever; gdjegod = wherever.
    gȍdina [1] year; [2] any 12 month period; [3] (in plural) age of a person; [4] rain (archaic); [5] storm (archaic).
    gòditi [1] to be pleasant, to like something; [2] to agree on a price, to haggle.

    Incidentally, there is a view that the Slavic godъ is cognate to the Old High German guot “good”.

  25. I’m surprised that we didn’t yet mention “svyatye ugodniki” on this site so partial to cursing (since the Holy Saints were so indispensable to Old Russian sacrilegious mat )

  26. I have sometimes seen this word in writing but did not quite understand the meaning. Perhaps it has to do with “rainmaking” ceremonies among some tribes, where one person is especially renowned for being able to bring rain.

    Exactly right; the rainmaker does his rain dance in times of drought, the rain makes the crops grow, and so everyone benefits.

    Note that the French version brings the rain and the good weather; in the more arid US (the term is apparently originally a native American one from the south-western US), rain is something to be desired rather than something to be dreaded…

  27. David Marjanović says:

    Incidentally, there is a view that the Slavic godъ is cognate to the Old High German guot “good”.

    But why is the vowel long in Germanic but not in Slavic (where a long one would have become a)?

    …Actually, there is a word gad with meanings somewhere around “serpent”, elevated to “reptile” in official Polish… but that’s like lucus a non lucendo.

  28. David Marjanović says: why is the vowel long in Germanic but not in Slavic

    gȏd has a long vowel, but gȍdina doesn’t.

    On the other hand, “gad” which has a short vowel, has the meaning of “disgusting or evil person” in Croatian. Apparently the etymology of “gad” is from Slavic gadъ meaning lizard or snake, and ultimately from PIE *gwoh1dh- (the w should be a superscript and 1 should be a subscript).

  29. David Marjanović says:

    I mean prehistorically long, before the Slavic Great Vowel Shift (*a > o, > a – regardless of pitch accent, which apparently began to manifest in part as length only later. And indeed PIE *oh₁ gives Proto-Balto-Slavic , Proto-Slavic and attested Slavic a.

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