Solar Lamp.

One of the characters in Veltman’s Salomea is an elderly gentleman named Platon Turutsky, who after a lifetime of bachelor living according to the good old ways has fallen in love with Salomea and decided to rebuild his house according to the modern fashion (which he despises, but realizes is indispensable if he wants to attract a young wife). Among the features he insists on is illumination by солнечные лампы [‘solar lamps’], which were apparently the latest thing. If you google the phrase, you get images of solar panels, but that is obviously not what was meant in the 1840s, so I did a little research which I will share with you in case anyone is interested in obsolete and forgotten lighting technologies.

First I used Google Books in Russian, restricting it to the 19th century, and found this description in the Zhurnal gorodskoĭ i sel’skoĭ stroitel’, mekhanik i tekhnolog for 1857, pp. 16-17:

Такъ называемая солнечная лампа. Она всѣхъ проще и состоитъ изъ циркулярной свѣтильни погружаемой прямо въ масло которое поднимается по ней волоснымъ дѣйствіемъ; въ этомъ отношеніи она близко подходитъ къ древнимъ лампамъ, но существенно разнится отъ нихъ тѣмъ, что имѣетъ теченіе воздуха: внутреннее теченіе, проходящее внутри свѣтильни, и внѣшнее теченіе — между пламенемъ и поверхностью стекла. Эти лампы хорошо освѣщаютъ, нагрѣваютъ и сожигаютъ отъ 60 до 75 граммъ масла въ часъ.

The so-called solar lamp. It is the simplest of all and consists of a circular wick immersed directly in the oil, which rises via capillary action; in this respect, it comes close to the lamps of antiquity, but is significantly different from them in having a current of air: an internal current passing inside the wick, and an external current between the flame and the surface of the glass. These lamps illuminate and heat well and burn 60 to 75 grams of oil per hour.

Of course I wondered what they were called in English; I tried “solar lamp” and that turned out to be correct. Google Books turned up “On the comparative expense of light derived from different sources, and on the use of chlorine as an indication of the illuminating power of coal gas” by Andrew Fyfe, M.D., F.R.S.E., F.R.S.S.A., in The Mechanic’s Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal and Gazette, Vol. 37 (1842), which on pp. 504-06 said:

The next trial was made with the lamp lately introduced under the name of solar lamp. In this a cylinder surrounds that containing the wick, with the upper part bent inwards, so that the aperture being contracted, the current of air that passes up between the one cylinder and the other, striking against the horizontal part of the outer one, causes a contraction and lengthening of the flame; a longer and narrower glass chimney is at the same time required. The advantages said to attend the use of this construction of burner, are, that an oil of inferior quality may be used, while at the same time the light is greatly increased.

So far, so good, but why solar? I turned to the OED, and found (s.v. solar, published 1913):

solar lamp n. (a) an argand lamp; (b) a grade of electric lamp.
1841 Mechanics’ Mag. 16 Jan. 34 The invention of the ‘Solar Lamp’ is due to Mr. Jeremiah Bynner, of Birmingham, by whom it was patented in 1837.

Which provides interesting historical information, but doesn’t explain the “solar,” so I solicit suggestions from all and sundry.


  1. Trond Engen says

    It’s essentially a kerosene lamp like these, isn’t it? The double metal cylinder holding the wick, and the outer glass cylinder narrowing in above the wick and extending into a long, slim chimney.

  2. A little ferreting suggests that as the “solar” oil lamp (of a Mr Robert Cornelius) competed with and shared design features with a lamp called the “astra” it could well be that the name is no more than a trade name.

  3. I read through a summary of a challenge to Bynner’s patent on the grounds that it wasn’t novel enough: the jury agreed, but I don’t know the final disposition of the case. It seems clear that “Solar Lamp” was a trade name, meant to imply that Bynner’s lamp was, compared to other similar lamps, as bright as the sun.

  4. Ah, that makes sense. I keep forgetting how far back the culture of meaningless commercial names goes.

  5. Googling images of solar lamps shows that they had globular chimneys—that’s probably where the name came from. Here‘s a discussion from the Old Home Journal that discusses the steps in the improvement of mid-19th century lamps.

  6. A very useful and interesting link, with great illustrations — thanks for finding it!

  7. That remind me the word “windmill” used to name a device to generate electricity.

  8. It is possible that the solar lamp was the name given to a variation of the Argand lamp that used something called solar oil which is described in 19th century books as a “distillate of petroleum having a specific gravity of not more than 0.88, a flashpoint of 80-100 deg. C. (180–212 deg. F.) and a lower calorific value of at least 10,000 cals per kg.”

  9. solar oil

    The common name in Israel for diesel fuel is סולר solar. Klein defines the term as “solar oil,” as does Alcalay. Neither provides a source.

  10. I’ve just read that in a book about Petrochemistry written by N. N. Lebedev (MIR Publishers) in English: “The residue left from atmospheric distillation (fuel oil) is then subjected to vacuum distillation to produce lubricating oils with varying volatility and viscosity (solar oil, spindle oil and transformer oil, tec.).”

  11. Trond Engen says

    From a Norwegian source I see that ‘solarolje’ was formerly used for a grade of diesel fuel for ship engines. I wonder if the term might have had a wider usage, let’s say for clean-burning low-aromatic distilled oils in general.

  12. Interesting, it’s solyarka (a diminutive form of “solar”) in Russian vernacular, although officially it’s just diesel fuel and all the solar- words for it are considered obsolete (but still in use especially by older people). I never questioned the etymology of this word, what does it have to be with the Sun, but I now see references that “Соляровое масло … изначально использовалось для светильников, так как горело ярче, чем существующие аналоги на тот момент” (solar oil was originally used for lamps because it provided brighter flames than its contemporary analogs)

    It’s indeed attested in Russian dictionaries since the beginning of the XX c. as being used for lighting. The antecedent is probably German solaröl, known from the 1860s, and apparently post-dating the invention (or trademarking) of solar lamps which originally used vegetable oils:

    Nach 1860 verdrängten mineralische Öle das Rüböl. Bei der Destillation des Braunkohlenteers gewann man das sogenannte Solaröl (Sonnenöl). Es ist nichts anderes als Petroleum, aber es hatte natürlich eine wesentlich höhere Leuchtkraft als Rüböl, daher der exotische Name

  13. OED, solar oil:

    1864 Intell. Obs. IV. 91 The more volatile [portion] being set apart as photogen, and the less as solar oil.
    1868 H. Watts Dict. Chem. Solar Oil, a name applied in commerce chiefly to the heavier portions of petroleum and shale-oil.

  14. Trond Engen says

    And German Petroleum is English kerosene. Distilled kerosene for lamps is traded in Norway as lampeolje.

  15. Trond Engen says

    Fotogen is kerosene in Swedish.

  16. >Dmitry Pruss (aka MOCKBA)
    So the name of oil came from the good light provided by that lamp using it, didn’t it?
    Nowadays, the name of the brightest compact fluorescent lamp is daylight.

  17. Some Google Books links suggest that the lamp might have originally been called the “Solar Oil Lamp”. Perhaps solar lamp is a shortened version. And with the Russian connection in mind, it seems that Russian solar oil might have had better qualities for turning into gas for lighting. Russian solar oil is said to be free from sulphur and water and producing no solid residue upon gasification.

  18. >Mahmud
    So, why “solar”? If I translate solar oil to Spanish I’ll think about sun creams.

  19. Mahmud, I think before there was [mineral] “solar oil”, there was “solar oil lamp” burning vegetable oil. These lamps were often retrofitted to burn mineral oil decades later (beautiful pictures of the antique lamp there, btw).

    Jesús – that’s one possibility (that “oil for solar lamps” has become “solar oil”). But another possibility is that all marketing minds thought alike, “to market any bright indoor light source / lamp / fuel, just compare it with the Sun”.

  20. >Dmitry Pruss (aka MOCKBA)
    It`s funny to me the text: “…were converted to kerosene as it became cheaper [than other oils]”. In the 60’s, and even in the 70’s, I’ve known people using only oil lamps of olive oil because they produced that kind of oil. The light was dim.

  21. “The so-called solar lamp. It is the simplest of all and consists of a circular wick immersed directly in the oil […]”

    A circular wick or a cylindrical one?

    I have two pretty impressive kerosene lamps (late 19th century) and their wicks are rather massive, being cylindrical (sock-like). So essentially the wicks are hollow which presumably allows for more air circulation and a brighter flame (and faster oil consumption?).

    Was the cylindrical wick a mid-19th century innovation?

  22. “A circular wick” brings to mind a loop. Which doesn’t quite make sense.

  23. Neither the Davis translation of Kluge’s Etymological Dictionary of the German Language (1891) nor the Oxford Duden German Dictionary (1990) has an entry for solar.

  24. Neither the Davis translation of Kluge’s Etymological Dictionary of the German Language (1891) nor the Oxford Duden German Dictionary (1990) has an entry for solar

    Ngram for Solaröl shows a huge spike after 1854.

    Drilling down to book searches, Dinglers polytechnisches journal, Volume 79 (198), 1953 mentions petroleum-derived Photogen and Solaröl. But wait, under 1828, “Ligroin (Pettoleumäther), Baselinschmiere (für Maschinen und Leder), Vaselinöl, Solaröl” are listed in Provinciaal blad van Gelderland, a regional magazine in the Central-Eastern Netherlands. If so, then perhaps solar oil is at least as old as solar lamp?

    Looking in English books then, in 1842 there is an economic study in “Iron: An Illustrated Weekly Journal” Volume 37 comparing light output and costs of whale and mineral (solar and naphta) oils in argand and solar lamps, as wells as candles and coal gas (reprinted from Trans Royal Scott Soc Arts, and then widely reprinted in numerous publications later in the 1840s). Nothing is found earlier, and the 1828 German use can’t be beat.

  25. To add to the solar-doesn’t-equal-sun corpus, in Egypt ‘solaar’ سولار is diesel gas. The orthography (with two long vowels written) suggests a borrowing – French?

  26. @AThRd The flame is circular, but the wick is more properly cylindrical as you say — a woven cotton sleeve. (It may be that it is just the holder that is circular — in paraffin / kerosene lamps you tend to use flat wicks even when the flame is circular, the mechanics are much simpler that way).

  27. Let’s add Mongolian to the growing list of languages which use this word.

    Soliark is the common Mongolian name for diesel fuel. I assumed it was borrowing from Russian, but never suspected that its etymology derives from solar lamp.

  28. >GeorgeW
    What is “diesel gas”? As far as I know, diesel is liquid.

  29. “What is “diesel gas”? As far as I know, diesel is liquid.”

    Sorry, delete “gas.” However, commonly in my dialect, we get “gas” at a “filling station.”

  30. >GeorgeW
    Ok. Then, “diesel fuel”.

  31. The cylindrical wick was invented about 1780 by A. Argand, whose lamps used vegetable oils (or whale oil). The originals had a straight chimney, and I can imagine that various “patent lamps” relied on tweaking the shape of this. Mineral lamp oils came mid-19th century, kerosene (another trademark) being one of them. In distilling petroleum, the lightest and most flammable part was usually discarded to keep the next heavier part from being explosive when burned in a lamp — at least until this most flammable part started to be used in combustion engines, being called (US usage) gasoline, which is probably another trademark term. Lamp oil, aka kerosene, was cheaper and became the fuel of choice in Diesel engines (which actually will run on just about anything). So, conjecturally, in many languages lamp oil was called solar oil, and the term was taken over as the name for the usual Diesel fuel (just like kerosene in English). There seems to be a real jungle of commercial names involved here.

  32. >DCA
    There is not only a jungle of commercial names but different products with the same name in “each” country. In Spain, for example, kerosene (the fraction with boiling points between gasoline and diesel fuel) is the fuel used, above all, in planes.

  33. DCA: Thanks for your extremely helpful comment!

  34. It seems that in the 19th century there was something called the Solar Oil Company (Limited). Standard Oil grabbed up some of their assets. There is also a Solar Oil Company in India today. I wonder if this might have been part of some international company that marketed petroleum products under the Solar brand and that’s how Solar oil ended up in so many places.

  35. marie-lucie says

    in Egypt ‘solaar’ سولار is diesel gas. The orthography (with two long vowels written) suggests a borrowing – French?

    Not French, where aa does not normally occur except in borrowings and would be pronounced “a-a”, as in Isaac (i-za-ak). There is an adjective solaire corresponding to English “solar” ‘relating to the sun’, but it is not used in the context of lamps or combustible materials. I agree with Jesus: for me huile solaire refers to “suntan oil”, a skin care product typically used at the beach in the summer.

    The French term for a mineral oil lamp with a wick, glass chimney, etc is une lampe à pétrole. I had learned that the English word for le pétrole in this general context was “kerosene”, and having acquired such a lamp I bought kerosene, which produced a toxic-smelling smoke. I later had better luck with “lamp oil”.

  36. Kerosene in BritEng is paraffin, which elsewhere is a wax, I believe.

  37. >Paul
    Definitely, our different terminology is a gas (I mean chaos). : -)

  38. “Not French, where aa does not normally occur except in borrowings and would be pronounced “a-a”, as in Isaac (i-za-ak).”

    Both vowels in Egyptian ‘solaar’ are written as long vowels which is common for borrowings. Presumably, the reader wouldn’t know what vowel to use, so it is written long (rather than marked with diacritics which are rarely used).

    An example that has amused me is the sign on a hair salon in al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia which I often drove by – and smiled. ‘Salon’ was written سالون. And since the second vowel was written as a /uu/, it was then transliterated back into English ‘saloon.’ So, the sign said “Saloon” which, of course, has an entirely different meaning and would be absolutely prohibited in the Kingdom. As far as I know, they never got busted. (Sorry for the digression)

  39. >GeorgeW
    Wow! A saloon in the Far East.

  40. Well, historically they’re the same word (saloon is borrowed from French salon); I’m not sure when they got differentiated, but each has a variety of meanings.

  41. “Iron: An Illustrated Weekly Journal”—I want a subscription for my birthday.

  42. Trond Engen says

    Hat: DCA: Thanks for your extremely helpful comment!

    Indeed. It’s what I was trying to hone in on, just with coherence and clarity.

    Parafin is the Norwegian word too. Somebody should make a map.

    marie-lucie: having acquired such a lamp I bought kerosene, which produced a toxic-smelling smoke

    Yes, lamp oil is kerosene without the aromatic and soot-producing bits. Kerosene may burn fairly cleanly, but it takes some fine-tuning of the wick (or the airflow, if that’s an option), and it will still leave a fine film of soot in the room over the years. Kerosene is what I use on my camping stove. Or did when I was younger. When I got my own money I soon switched to lamp oil. And now I mostly use a gas cartridge stove.

  43. And nowadays we have macaron as well as macaroon.

    Also dragon and dragoon. Carton and cartoon is similar but has some Italian interference.

  44. I’m not sure when they got differentiated

    The first use of the spelling saloon is in 1728, but it still meant ‘large room to receive guests’. It isn’t until 1841 that the sense ‘place where intoxicating liquors are sold and consumed’ first appears.

  45. Jet engine fuel is highly-filtered kerosene.

    If in Israel ‘solar’ is used to mean diesel fuel, and in neighboring Egypt ‘solaar’ is used to mean diesel fuel, one wonders if there’s a British influence under the bonnet.

    I checked a few more German dictionaries, ranging from Rabe’s 1927 Deutsch-englisches Satzlexikon through a basic 1959 Random House pocket dictionary, as well as the 1927 Deutsch-Hebräisches Wörterbuch of Laser and Torczyner. Not one has an entry for solar.

  46. I wonder when ‘saloon’ came to mean ‘sedan’ in British automotive usage.

  47. The earliest mention of Hebrew soler I could find is in a customs schedule from 1924, at the handy Historical Jewish Press archive, as shemen soler ‘soler oil’. From the common pronunciation /soler/, the date, and the typical appearance in this compound, I think Paul is right, and this word came in with the British.

  48. 1908 is the first OED quotation in that sense. It’s derived from saloon car/carriage on trains (1850), which is in turn derived from the use of saloon to mean the common room on a passenger ship (1835).

  49. “I think Paul is right, and this word came in with the British.”

    That is likely the case of Egyptian Arabic as well.

  50. GW—Do Egyptian Arabic loans from Mandate English usually reflect /æ/ as /a/?

  51. Of course, both Egyptian Arabic and Hebrew could be simply borrowings from Russian where soliarka or soliara has exactly this meaning.

    In 1950-70s, Egypt was full of Russian military and technical advisors. And a third of Israel’s population is descended from immigrants from the Russian empire and Soviet Union.

  52. – hair salon

    For some reason, most hair salons in Mongolia have signs in English – usually written as “Hair salon”, presumably to attract tourists or simply to boast their sophistication.

    The problem is that “hair” means love in Mongolian, so I wonder what non-English speaking Mongolians think this establishment is really is…

  53. All saloons in Bangladesh are hair saloons, aka barber shops. Hotels do refer to hotels but in many cases, hotels mean restaurant. Many places will make sure you know what they are and include in their names: “Hotel and Restaurant.” You’re not likely to find lodging there.

  54. SFReader, I doubt it. Egypt would have had diesel and picked up a name for it before the Soviet advisor era. In Hebrew, Russian /soliara/ wouldn’t have come out as /soler/. On the other hand, Hebrew /mazut/ ‘heavy oil’ could be from Russian.

  55. I meant the English /ə/, of /soʊlər/, not /æ/.

  56. I checked a few more German dictionaries, ranging from Rabe’s 1927 Deutsch-englisches Satzlexikon through a basic 1959 Random House pocket dictionary, as well as the 1927 Deutsch-Hebräisches Wörterbuch of Laser and Torczyner. Not one has an entry for solar.

    if you google “Solaröl”, you’ll find several entries from specialist dictionaries and encyclopedias, e.g. this site referring to entries in works from 1863 to the earky 1900s . That said, although I knew Russian солярка, I’d never encountered “Solaröl” before this dicussion; in German nowadays, “lamp oil” is either Lampenöl or Petroleum (not much in use today, but my parents had two Petroleumlampen at home that we lighted every now and then, because my father liked antique stuff.)

  57. Mazut gets about 400K Ghits, and has a Wiki entry in 18 languages — though a few lead to an entry for ‘fuel oil’. The English entry gives no information on the word’s origin; the German says the word comes via Russian from ‘turkotatarisch’.

    I only know the term from its use in Israel, and my understanding is that it refers to the heavy oil used in generating stations and to power ship motors (for which I also recall the term ‘Bunker C’). The English Wiki entry for Mazut says it’s produced mostly in Russia and some other FSU countries. The Wiki entry for fuel oil makes a similar statement.

    For those with money to burn, so to speak, an “Etymologisches Wörterbuch Turko-Tatarisch Sprachen 1878” is offered on eBay for 245 euros. Fortunately a digitized version is available at no charge, but unfortunately it not only doesn’t list mazut, it contains no other entries with initial M either.

  58. “GW—Do Egyptian Arabic loans from Mandate English usually reflect /æ/ as /a/? . . . I meant the English /ə/, of /soʊlər/, not /æ/.”

    In the case of ‘solaar’ the second syllable is stressed and with a long vowel. Other English loans? Hmm, I will have to think about that a bit.

    “In 1950-70s, Egypt was full of Russian military and technical advisors.”

    My Egyptian-American wife, who grew up in Egypt during that time, has very unfond memories of the awful Soviet food imports (she won’t eat pickles to this day). She has also said that most Egyptians had very little contact with the Russian advisors. In recent times, the Egyptian beach resorts are flooded with Russian tourists. But, they don’t seem to venture away from the beaches. I don’t recall ever seeing any in Cairo.

  59. [< Russian mazut fuel oil, perhaps < an Azerbaijani Turkish derivative ultimately of Arabic zayt oil (plural zuyūt); probably unrelated to Russian regional mazutina oily stain (Tver´ region, 1897), Russian mazat´ to oil, to smear. Compare French mazoute (1895), mazou (a1900), mazout (1902).
    The Russian word originated in the oil-producing region of Baku in Azerbaijan; if the derivative suggested above is correct, the Turkish etymon is or was probably derived from Arabic via Persian.]

    As mentioned by languagehat in a post in 2008.

  60. “derivative ultimately of Arabic zayt oil (plural zuyūt)”

    FWIW, I don’t think ‘zayt’ is used anymore for petroleum products. It is commonly used for edible oils. More common words today for fuel, most of which are borrowings: ‘banziin,’ ‘bitrool,’ ‘solaar,’ ‘ghaz,’ ‘botagaz,”waquud, ‘naft,’ . . . . and probably some more that don’t come to mind.

  61. As mentioned by languagehat in a post in 2008.

    Well found! Here‘s a link to my comment.

  62. Y: On the other hand, Hebrew /mazut/ ‘heavy oil’ could be from Russian.

    Or from French mazout for heating oil. Diesel in rural filling stations is also called gasoil (pron.gaz-wal), sometimes written in hand on the “Diesel” pump for the benefit of the locals, for whom gasoil is still the normal term.

  63. Macaron, macaroon, macaroni is a nice etymological triplet, all from southern Italian maccarone, Standard Italian maccherone ‘food made from paste’.

  64. – naft

    Borrowing from Old Persian (in English naphta, via Greek, of same origin), ultimately from Akkadian naptu(m) “naphtha”

    This is probably the oldest word for petroleum still used essentially unchanged and with the same meaning.

  65. Iirc, “paraffin” originally meant “aliphatic hydrocarbon” (i.e. one with no double bonds, which would therefore burn without smoke). British paraffin and American paraffin would therefore just be different fractions of this. The equally obsolete word for an aromatic hydrocarbon is “olefin.”

  66. >Rodger C

    The historical and common name used to alkanes is paraffins*, that are, as you say, aliphatic hydrocarbons with only single bonds. Olefins** are also aliphatic hydrocarbons but they are double bonds; their correct name in Chemistry is alkenes. “Aliphatic” means they don’t have aromatic rings, although there are cyclic alkanes and cyclic alkenes as well.
    * It came from Latin words “parum” and “affinis” (without affinity) due to limited reactivity.
    ** Also it came from Latin words “oleum” (oil) and “affinis”.

  67. From the French Wiki entry for ‘fioul’:



    Le nom masculin « fioul », surtout utilisé en France, et recommandé en France par la DGLFLF, est issu de la francisation du mot anglais fuel, lequel désigne tout combustible (bois, « bois énergie », charbon, etc.) ou carburant. Le mot anglais fuel provient du franco-normand fouaille (ce qui alimente le feu), lui-même dérivé du latin fagus (le hêtre, bois réputé pour ses propriétés calorifères). Le terme anglais désignant le « fioul » est fuel oil (qu’on pourrait traduire mot-à-mot par « huile combustible »).

    En Belgique, au Canada, en Suisse, dans le monde arabe (particulièrement en Algérie et au Maroc) et dans certaines régions de France, le produit est connu aussi sous le nom de « mazout », mot dérivé du russe мазут. Au Canada et en Suisse, le mazout est également nommé « huile de chauffage » ou simplement « huile ».

    Le fioul domestique en France, au Canada, en Belgique, ou en Suisse, est un combustible vendu pour les usages domestiques (chauffage) ou divers engins. On parle également de FOD (fioul oil domestique) ou mazout.


    Quebec’s Office de la langue française in 2002 approved the use of mazout to designate a type of fuel oil:

    mazout n. m.
    normalisé par l’Office de la langue française
    Combustible liquide utilisé pour le chauffage domestique et industriel.
    Note(s) : Le mazout est improprement désigné au Québec par les expressions huile à ou de chauffage ou huile à ou de fournaise.

  68. >Paul Odgen
    Nowadays in Spain we don’t use fuel oil for heating; the fuel is gas oil but it has a different tax that the other gas oils (for agricultural and car uses). I imagine it’s the same in France.

  69. @Jesús: Thanks. It’s been a while.

  70. David Marjanović says

    And German Petroleum is English kerosene.

    Not when used in airplanes, though; then it’s Kerosin.

  71. In which case, anglophones call it jet fuel.

  72. marie-lucie says

    mazout, fioul

    In my youth in France, heating oil was le mazout (the final t is sounded), but I only learned le fioul much later, when visiting my family after several years in North America. It sounds like the adoption of mazout in Québec occurred when the term was on its way out in France. I don’t know why mazout was found unsatisfactory.

    Before my family moved to a different house for which they bought an oil furnace (une chaudière à mazout), we (like most others) had a coal furnace (une chaudière à charbon), both heating water which circulated in pipes and radiators. Canadians use une fournaise for the type of furnace’ used for heating a house, while that word in France refers to a very large container for extremely hot substances such as molten metal, as used chiefly in some industries. The word is also found in the Bible (I forget which Biblical hero came out unscathed from la fournaise) and can also refer to, for instance, the hot ambient air which hits the traveller from the North stepping out of an airplane in a Southern desert location.

  73. can also refer to, for instance, the hot ambient air which hits the traveller from the North stepping out of an airplane in a Southern desert location.

    I still vividly remember the sensation of stepping out of an air-conditioned plane into the incredible heat of Bangkok when I was seven (my father had just been sent to Thailand as agricultural attaché); I’ve always described it as “like stepping into a furnace”!

  74. I must say, since spending several years in Thailand I’ve never been much bothered by hot spells in the places I’ve lived since.

  75. both heating water which circulated in pipes and radiators

    Are you sure it was a hot-water system rather than a steam system? At that time I would expect steam.

  76. Fuel and fioul. So French ‘frenchifies’ an English word, which English had originally borrowed from French. Not the first time, the warden said guardedly.

    Sez AHD:

    [Middle English feuel, from Old French fouaille, feuaile, from Vulgar Latin *focālia, neuter pl. of *focālis, of the hearth or fireplace, from Latin focus, hearth, fireplace.]

  77. >Marie-lucie
    For example : « Et ces trois personnages, Sadrac, Mésac, et Habed-négo, tombèrent tous liés au milieu de la fournaise de feu ardent. » (Daniel 3 :23).

  78. marie-lucie says

    Gracias Jesús! This is the part I only vaguely remembered. I knew it had something to do with Daniel, although Daniel’s story had to do with him among lions.

  79. marie-lucie says

    JC: hot water or steam: It seems to me that it was hot water, but I could be mistaken.

  80. I’d go with Dimitry’s explanantion. Solyarka (prescriptive Ozhegov has it as ‘solyar’ m. or ‘solyara’ f.) is indeed widely known in Russia. However, why wasn’t the lamp called solyarnaya lampa or solyarovaya lampa, if the oil quickly became known as solyarovoye maslo – solyarka? We’re talking late 1840-s (Salomea was published 46-48) when English started competing with French in Russian and all things technical began to be associated with England more than with France, arguably.
    So it just might be possible that two names, one for the lamp and one for the oil, came in through different routes.
    BTW Russian wikipedia says the name solyarovoye maslo comes from the colour of the oil fraction, bright as the Sun.

  81. Daniel 3:23, traduit par André Chouraqui:

    Et ces trois hommes, Shadrakh, Méishakh et `Aḇéd-Nego,
    tombent au milieu de la fournaise de feu ardent
    alors quils son attachés.

  82. >John Cowan, Marie-lucie
    Obviously I don’t know but I imagine it was (and it is) hot water. That system is less dangerous than a steam one.

  83. The fiery furnace story comes before the lion’s den story.

  84. marie-lucie says

    Thanks for the fournaise story.

    I don’t quite remember the names of the three men, but Abednégo was one. I see that the quotations are from different editions with different spellings.

  85. It’s thought that Abednego is a frozen typo for Abednebo, a written dissimilation. Nebo (Akkadian Nabu) was the Babylonian god of wisdom and writing, so Ab(e)d-Nebo would be ‘servant/slave of Nebo’. Jews in Babylonia had local names as well as Hebrew names, and sometimes those names mentioned pagan gods. Similarly, the king’s name Nebuchadnezzar is also a typo for Nebuchadrezzar (in some parts of the Bible it appears in this form) < Akkadian Nabu-kudurri-uṣur ‘(May) Nebo defend the first-born son’. The word kudurru can also mean ‘boundary stone’, but the interpretation ‘first-born’ is now thought to be correct in the context of kings’ names. It’s not clear whether the king’s son is referred to, or the king himself as son of the god.

  86. Lars Mathiesen says

    This came up on Random Posts a few days too late, but JC neglected to tell us this again. (Also I’m sure kerosene lamps had another thread recently, and solar oil was sadly not recalled).

    (I don’t think the Lars of seven years ago was me, I only found the Hattery later. But it could be).

  87. And now I wonder how it is that anbaric light has never once come up on Languagehat. Now it does.

  88. I listened to “His Dark Materials” as an audiobook, and somehow I managed to hear “anbaric” as “amberic” throughout. I never thought to look at the etymology of “amber”.

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