Some Links.

A few tidbits of interest:

1) Via Laudator Temporis Acti, W.S. Merwin describes a visit to Ezra Pound at St. Elizabeth’s:

He told me he imagined I was serious, and that if I was I should learn languages, “so as not to be at the mercy of translators.” And then I should translate, myself. “If you’re going to be a poet,” he said, “you have to work at it every day. You should write about seventy-five lines a day. But at your age you don’t have anything to write about. You may think you do, but you don’t. So get to work translating. The Provençal is the real source. The poets are closest to music. They hear it. They write to it. Try to learn the Provençal, at least some of it, if you can. Meanwhile, the others. Spanish is all right. The Romancero is what you want there. Get as close to the original as you can. It will make you use your English and find out what you can do with it.”

2) Paul Goble, Coronavirus has Radically Affected the Language Russians Speak, Basovskaya Says:

One measure of the seriousness of any development is how deeply it affects not only the behavior of the people but also the language they use to describe what is going on. By that measure, Yevgeny Basovskaya says, the coronavirus pandemic, which has had a “radical” impact on the language Russians speak, is an especially serious one.

The specialist on public speech at Moscow’s State University of the Humanities says that the impact begins with the word coronavirus, which includes the letter “a” in the middle of it in complete violation of Russian orthographic rules. It should by rights be an “o” but it isn’t and so feels alien for that reason alone […]

Then, there is the increasingly widespread use of the word pandemic. “Even the uneducated recognize this word,” but to recognize it is not to understand it. Basovskaya recalls than in 2008, people on the street told her that default meant there were no matches in the stores. Now, many Russians probably think that pandemic means there is no buckwheat.

The word “distancing” (udalyonka), of course, has been formed according to the same rules that lead Russians to speak about elektrichka for a local train or sotisalka [sotsialka] for public benefits. But it has also been given a popular connotation that puts it at a distance from government orders for “self-isolation” (samoizolyatsiya), a truly bureaucratic term.

“Radically” is silly, of course, but there are some interesting examples.

3) Jonah Mandel, Letter shows first dictionary editor thought ‘anti-Semite’ wouldn’t be used:

A short-lived term unlikely to have use in the future: that was how the first editor of the Oxford English Dictionary viewed “anti-Semite,” recently uncovered archival documents show. Celebrated British lexicographer James Murray, who with his team began working on the first OED in 1879, planned several dedicated entries of words beginning with the prefix “anti.” But when a prominent member of Britain’s Jewish community, Claude Montefiore, learnt that “anti-Semite” and its derivative terms would not have an entry, he wrote to Murray expressing concern.

Murray replied to Montefiore on July 5, 1900, as the original OED was being published in installments — a process that ran from 1884 to 1928. In Murray’s letter — recently uncovered by Israel National Library archivist Rachel Misrati — he noted that the term anti-Semite had only migrated from German to English in 1881 and did not look likely to take hold given its limited usefulness. […] “Hence they did not receive treatment in a separate article,” he added, arguing in the letter’s postscript that “the man in the street would have said Anti-Jewish.” […]

Murray’s letter reveals his evolution in thinking and said that by 1900 he had doubts that leaving anti-Semite out of the OED was the right decision. “Would that anti-Semitism had had no more than a fleeting interest!” he wrote. […] “It is unutterably saddening to one like myself who remembers ’48 and the high hopes we had in the fifties.”

“Probably if we had to do that post now, we should have to make Anti-Semite a main word,” Murray wrote.

(Thanks, Alon!)

4) Jay Serafino, The Russian Family That Cut Itself Off From Civilization for More Than 40 Years: “The Lykov family left Russian society under persecution in the 1930s and remained hidden until 1978.” A fascinating tale of Old Believers hiding out from persecution. (Thanks, jack!)


  1. Anti-Semite, anti-Semitic, and anti-Semitism were all listed, but under anti- rather than as headwords. So not quite the radium level of omission

  2. Now, of course, they’re all headwords, and my goodness, “anti-Semitic” goes back as far as 1851: T. Carlyle Life J. Sterling i. i. 6 “It was not as a ghastly phantasm, choked in Thirty-nine-article controversies, or miserable Semitic, Anti-Semitic street-riots..that this man appeared in life.” (Though they do add, in small type, “Quot. 1851 appears to show an isolated use with uncertain significance, and long precedes the continental European movement of the 1870s and later (compare etymology note at anti-Semitism n.).”

  3. Udalyonka (a word that existed for years before Covid-19) doesn’t mean distancing. It’s a reference to working, studying or running a server “remotely” – udalyonno – most commonly from home. Perhaps telecommuting would be a good parallel if a shorter form of the term were in wide use.

  4. Did something happen with a major default in Russia in 2008, or did Basovskaya mean 1998?

  5. Probably 1998. And I think there is a level of confusion not clear for a non-Russian speaker. “Defitzit” in Russian means shortage, a very high frequency word in Soviet Union and beyond. In 1998 people asked about unknown “default” might have thought that they are asked about “defitzit”.

  6. Ezra Pound sounds like German East Asian. Yuri Olesha had motto “no day without a line” and he didn’t mean poetry, he meant journalism.

  7. John Cowan says

    Semitic, Anti-Semitic street-riots

    I think that just means ‘riots between Jews and non-Jews’: the latter group may or may not be ‘antisemitic’ in the sense of ‘Jew-hating’.

    Antisemitism is yet another of those words that exist only in the negative: there is no philosophy called Semitism.

  8. Philosemitism

  9. Anyone knows how pandemic in Russian got a different stressed syllable than epidemic?

    “sotisalka” is just as pitiful as interpreting “udalyonka” as distancing.

  10. Re “no day without a line”: Stendhal’s motto was apparently “twenty lines a day, genius or not”. Which inspired an interesting-looking short book by Harry Mathews called 20 Lines A Day.

  11. In English, one thing the coronavirus seems to have done so far is to teach TV newsreaders that the seismological term “epicenter” means “center of something, you know, serious.” Of course earthquakes (which have real epicenters, located by latitude, longitude, and depth) are serious, but not stuck-in-the-house-with-Fox-News serious.

  12. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I thought an epicentre had no depth by definition?

  13. SFReader says

    The word is a source of a great Russian army joke.Goes like this:

    Civil defense course at the university taught by a retired military officer (they are usually considered not very bright). He starts lecture on nuclear weapons with immortal phrase:

    “Nuclear bomb always hits the epicenter”

  14. Rodger C says

    This story was told about the governor of a Panamanian province when I was there 1970-71:



  15. @John Cowan: The non-existence of “Semitism” is supposed to be the reason for writing “antisemitism” without a hyphen. (I say “supposed,” because I only know that claim from folklore.)

    @Jen in Edinburgh: Yes, for an earthquake, the epicenter is, by definition, at ground level. The location directly below where the quake is truly centered is the focus.

  16. David Marjanović says

    I wonder why a need for a hyphen is felt at all.

  17. SFReader says

    Any-Semitism – an ideology which maintains that any Semite is as good as another…

  18. I wonder why a need for a hyphen is felt at all.

    Some style guides call for a hyphen in anti- words, others don’t.

  19. Bathrobe says

    The article on the Lykov family looks interesting but my browsers tell me the site isn’t safe and I should go back.

  20. David Eddyshaw says

    Journalists can say “epicentre” as much as they like as far as I am concerned, if they will agree

    (a) never to say “the New Normal” ever again, and
    (b) [UK only] never again to apply the Homeric epithet “forensic” to Keir Starmer.

  21. Trond Engen says

    My employers chosen browser claims that both LanguageHat proper and John Cowan’s Commented-on are not secure. But it does let me enter, at least for now.

  22. John Cowan says

    Though in the phrase Iraqi anti-antimissiles (which turned out not to exist), the hyphen is pretty much mandatory.

  23. My own damn browser claims that LanguageHat isn’t secure. I just ignore the bastard.

  24. That said, if anyone knows an easy way to make browsers think better of it, I’m all ears. I’m not about to bother Songdog in the midst of this chaos (work-from-home, family, dog, he’s got it all).

  25. David Marjanović says

    “Not secure” just seems to mean “not https”.

  26. AJP "David Marjanović" Cowan says

    Indeed. But since here it is only an informal convention that keeps us from masquerading as each other, it makes absolutely no difference.

  27. John Cowan says

    Likewise, my pages are static in the technical sense (they are changed only by processes running at, so nobody can use them to pass around evil data from outside.

  28. AJP Crown says

    AJP “David Marjanović” Cowan says: Indeed.
    No he doesn’t. He’s got a bit of a thing about the word when it’s used for agreement (but realises that’s his problem and no one else’s).

    saddening to one like myself who remembers ’48 and the high hopes we had in the fifties.”
    I’m pretty ignorant except for having read that book The Professor & The Madman by Simon Winchester years ago. All I remember is that Murray taught at Mill Hill School where he lived in a hut. So it’s interesting to see a) something about Murray’s politics and b) that these years were known as ’48 and the fifties as years and decades were a century later.

    never again to apply the Homeric epithet “forensic” to Keir Starmer
    Well noticed. Googling I see it’s everywhere, even in Guardian headlines (Bombastic Boris meets his match in forensic Starmer at PMQs | John Crace, though Crace doesn’t use it himself).

  29. Lars Mathiesen says

    But have you seen the knives that medical examiners run around with?

  30. Jacobites talked about the ’15 and the ’45.

    Who was the last PM/Leader of the opposition to be a knight? I wonder if “Sir Keir” will be an asset to him come the election. (Obvs it won’t be come the revolution.)

  31. PlasticPaddy says

    When was Heath knighted? Was it before or after?

  32. AJP Crown says

    I’m guessing Sir Alec Douglas-Home, who at the start of his brief premiership in 1963ish carried on, for four days, as the Earl of Home. He was demoted so he could sit in the Commons and the knighthood was no big deal in the circs. I recently read that Home (mostly he was a Foreign Secretary) thought Saddam Hussein was a bit of a bounder, because he’d been photographed wearing what Home recognised as the purple & green Eton Ramblers (a cricket team) tie. Home was a very good cricketer.

    I wonder if “Sir Keir” will be an asset to him come the election.
    He barely uses it (that’s something that almost never happened when I was young), so I shouldn’t think so and I also think Tory swing voters vote with their pocketbooks, or whatever the British version of that phrase is, rather than for reasons of old-fashioned snobbery. He’s only a knight because it goes with some law post he held. More significant is that he’s a QC, and that really shows in the House of Commons; he’s way better in an argument than Johnson is.

  33. David Eddyshaw says

    My employers chosen browser claims that both LanguageHat proper and John Cowan’s Commented-on are not secure.

    Th’art looky. Mine informs me that the site does not comply with the organisation’s internet policy and that my attempt to access it has been logged. I expect it’s our Host’s notorious Anarchism. I’m grateful that my employers take such care to keep me safe. Grateful, I say. And I’ll tell them that when they can finally spare an operative to interrogate me about it.

  34. AJP Crown says

    I think Heath, Thatcher & Major got their prizes later. Thatcher awarded her husband a hereditary something, possibly a baronetcy. I think her son is now Sir Mark Thatcher.

  35. He was demoted so he could sit in the Commons

    Unlike the Duke of Earl, who stayed in the Lords till the end of his days.

  36. David Eddyshaw says

    Sir Anthony Wedgwood Benn
    Is one of the bravest of men.
    The worst in his life he can fear
    Is ending it as a peer.

  37. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    “Not secure” just seems to mean “not https”.

    I’m not sure my browser (Google Chrome) objects to http. What it seems to hate are sites that claim to be https but don’t provide certificates that Chrome considers valid. However, it seems a bit hit and miss. About once in three times (by no means always) it claims that Bibliovie (the CNRS system for accessing publications) is “unsafe”and won’t proceed until I say something equivalent to “yes, I really really want access Bibliovie and am prepared to risk that some chaps in Kazakhstan will be able to access my computer and read my private files.”

  38. David Eddyshaw says

    Various computers I use at work have been configured in such a way that they deny access to all https sites. You can’t be too careful … why are they using https if they’ve nothing to hide? Anarchists, the lot of ’em.

  39. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    Where can I find examples of Ezra Pound’s writing in Provençal? Searching on the web hasn’t produced anything. I’m curious to know if he used Frédéric Mistral’s orthography or what is claimed to be the “classic” orthography. As I encountered Mistralian Provençal first I think of it as the “right” way to write Provençal. The “classic” version seems to be designed to make Provençal look like badly written Catalan. Mistralian Provençal has two features that make it, I think, unique among Romance languages: (1) -o is the mark of the feminine, (2) nouns are invariant and don’t add -s in the plural. As there is no change in pronunciation between singular and plural (as in French, except when a following vowel requires a plural -s to be heard) there seems no obvious reason to pretend that the singular and plural are different. In Catalan a plural s is pronounced, so it makes sense to write it.

    Public inscriptions in Provençal are few and far between in Marseilles, but there is one on the steps up to Notre Dame de la Garde. That uses the Mistralian norm, but as it mentions Mistral and the Felibrige that is not to be wondered at.

  40. I assume that when Pound enthuses about Provençal, he had in mind the medieval troubadours, not modern Provençal. So I think it’s likely that he used some medieval-inspired orthography. But I’m guessing.

  41. PlasticPaddy says

    For Arnaut Daniel,

    Cites a text published in 1910 but it is not clear this is the text used by Pound. The author presents Pound’s translation side by side with a Provencal text, so I suppose he believes or knows that text is “authentic”.

  42. Where can I find examples of Ezra Pound’s writing in Provençal?

    He didn’t write in it, he translated from it, and as Hans says, he was only interested in the troubadours — he may not have known there were modern poets writing in the language.

  43. I recently read that Home (mostly he was a Foreign Secretary) thought Saddam Hussein was a bit of a bounder, because he’d been photographed wearing what Home recognised as the purple & green Eton Ramblers (a cricket team) tie.

    This seems like a missed opportunity. If Home had instructed the FO to send out a team of cricket coaches to Iran and get them to take up the game, a great deal of later misery and woe might have been avoided. Of course, Iran would now be regularly beating England in Test matches, but that’s a small price to pay.

  44. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    OK, I should have thought of that. Anyway,

    L’aura amara
    Fals bruoills brancutz // Clarzir //Quel doutz espaissa ab fuoills,
    Els letz//Becs//Dels auzels ramencs//Ten balps e mutz,//Pars
    E non-pars; // Per qu’eu m’esfortz // De far e dir // Plazers // A mains per liei
    Que m’a virat bas d’aut, // Don tem morir // Sils sfans no m’asoma.

    is clearly not Mistralian, but it doesn’t look “Classic” either (even with the “dels”). So it’s probably much older.

  45. AJP Crown says

    Alec thought Saddam had never been near a cricket pitch hence his bounderishness in wearing the tie. You’d have thought Gertrude Bell would have introduced cricket to Iraq while Home was still playing for I Zingari. It would have surrounded Iran with cricketing nations, including Pakistan whose former captain is its current prime minister. A bad mistake that, in retrospect.

  46. Lars Mathiesen says

    deny access to all https sites — this could also be your friendly firewall administrator knowing too little about TLS to make man-in-the-middle surveillance work. If they really did configure the computer you were using, it would not have been hard to do.

    The writing is on the wall, however, the general consensus is that friends don’t let friends use un-encrypted sites and soon your browser of choice will make you jump through several hoops to access plain HTTP. Trust can also be conveyed through signed DNS records, maybe, in the glorious future that is, in which case your browser will just thumb its virtual nose at your paranoid admin (and not let you access the site because they are spying on you).

  47. Well, to nitpick a bit, “udalyonka” is “remote work”, which is quite different from “distancing”. It’s never used with the latter meaning.

  48. “Social distancing” now encompasses 2 different things, one is not gathering with your normal social group (friends, relatives, concertgoers,…) and another one is trying to physically distance yourself from people with whom you happen to share a space (transport, stores, trail, etc.). If asked to guess in abstract, I would have said that only the first one is “social distancing” and another one is simply “distancing”.

  49. John Cowan says

    Anyway, that’s hard to believe. Google, for example, instantly redirects all HTTP requests to HTTPS, and what good Internet access without Google nowadays?

    Homeric epithet forensic

    Well, technically it’s his speeches that are forensic (in the positive as well as the neutral sense, I suppose, since the term is opposed to bombastic), but surely this is excusable metonymy? If someone says to me “You’re too loud”, it would not do to reply “No, it is my voice that is too loud.”

  50. @LH: “…he may not have known there were modern poets writing in the language.”

    Unlikely. Pound started studying Provençal in 1904 – the year when Mistral won the Nobel prize – under the tutorship of William Pierce Shepherd (also spelled Shepard – no idea why). Shepherd had studied at the university of Grenoble, at the Sorbonne and Heidelberg in the 1890s. He couldn’t have been ignorant of the Félibrige business.

  51. Jen in Edinburgh says

    He barely uses [his title] (that’s something that almost never happened when I was young)

    But is that not mostly that ‘Sir Keir’ is his formal name to be addressed by, the way ‘Mr Smith’ or ‘Mrs Jones’ might be for someone else, and that people just were addressed that way more often?

  52. SFReader says


    Ugly Bolshevik word.

    I hope it won’t survive beyond 2020.

  53. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    I fear that Sir Alec Douglas-Home would have characterized me as a bit of a bounder as well. Many years ago — probably in 1960 — I needed a tie for some function or other and the only one I had available was my navy blue school tie, which wasn’t really suitable. Someone lent me his Ski Club of Great Britain tie, and I thought I was safe that no one would know what it was. I was wrong: a remarkable number of people knew what it was. Fortunately Sir Alec Douglas-Home (14th Earl of Home, as he was then) wasn’t present.

    I can’t help giggling at Sir Alec’s opinion, because there are plenty of things one might dislike about Saddam Hussein, but I feel that wearing a tie he was not entitled to would be far down the list.

  54. David Eddyshaw says

    The only institutional tie I’ve ever possessed is one for the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, which is actually quite pretty in an alchemistic sort of way. It features the sun symbol from the college’s coat of arms:

  55. Stu Clayton says

    What is that pointy gadget at the upper right, just below the saw handle, in a novelty swivel-open case? Perhaps a stigma punch ?

  56. Unlikely. Pound started studying Provençal in 1904 – the year when Mistral won the Nobel prize – under the tutorship of William Pierce Shepherd (also spelled Shepard – no idea why). Shepherd had studied at the university of Grenoble, at the Sorbonne and Heidelberg in the 1890s. He couldn’t have been ignorant of the Félibrige business.

    You’re right, of course.

  57. David Eddyshaw says

    What is that pointy gadget

    Swiss army knife.

    (Sadly, the site mistranslates the College’s motto, which should of course be rendered “Away, Sanity!”)

  58. David Marjanović says

    the college’s coat of arms

    “The supporters are Aeculapius and ? ”

    Perhaps a stigma punch ?

    Or a drill for trepanation?

  59. AJP Crown says

    It would be a simple procedure for the Edinburgh Royal College to paste a woman’s head on to the left hand figure. In fact, it would be very little work to update the whole thing: outfits, equipment, dusty book. Suits of armour have no place in an operating theatre nowadays.

    “Away, Sanity!”
    There ain’t no sanity clause.

    ‘Sir Keir’ is his formal name to be addressed by, the way ‘Mr Smith’ or ‘Mrs Jones’ might be for someone else, and that people just were addressed that way more often
    I expect you’re right.

  60. David Eddyshaw says

    Suits of armour have no place in an operating theatre nowadays.

    Would that it were so …

  61. AJP Crown says

    The next Labour government should ban jousting.

    About the ties, I have an Eton Ramblers tie that I bought from an Italian shop on Madison Ave. Neither (I assume) the seller nor I knew that’s what it was – actually it’s less geometric and more stylish than the ones in the pictures – but the same colours and Lord Home would have had a fit if he’d been there. Not only that but once when I was rummaging through a dustbin off Shaftesbury Avenue I found an Old Harrovians tie, the one with the double silver stripe, that must have been thrown out by the theatre wardrobe at the end of a Terence Rattigan production.

  62. John Cowan says

    Parliament didn’t actually abolish trial by combat until 1819.

  63. David L says

    That coat of arms from Edinburgh foreshadows the American health care system. The hand reaching down from the clouds above the unfortunate patient signifies that money, or a promise of money, must be furnished before any procedure can begin. The gentleman at right is consulting the ICD to determine the correct billing code. The helmet represents the indifference of insurance companies to complaints about reimbursement. And the man on the left with the faraway look in his eyes is the health-care provider, waiting until all the paperwork has cleared before he can begin attending to the patient. “Away, sanity” is an excellent motto for the system as a whole.

    The Sun at the top is from the Teletubbies. I don’t know what it means in this context.

  64. I can’t help giggling at Sir Alec’s opinion, because there are plenty of things one might dislike about Saddam Hussein, but I feel that wearing a tie he was not entitled to would be far down the list.
    See, that’s where you go wrong. People start with wearing ties they’re not entitled to, then proceed to grabbing whole countries and treating them as their private property. Wehret den Anfängen!

  65. David Eddyshaw says

    A man who wears a tie he is not entitled to will stop at nothing. He has no moral compass.

    Parliament didn’t actually abolish trial by combat until 1819.

    It’s been abolished? There goes Plan A.
    I may have to settle for binding arbitration.

  66. AJP Crown says

    I’m not sure of the source of the quote – Anthony Powell or Agatha Christie perhaps – but I think it’s the ones who are entitled that you should watch out for. Johnson has Bullingdon, Balliol, Eton, Dad-of-the Year.

    Conservative MP Dominic Grieve … accused the PM of being a “pathological liar”.

    “He has no moral compass of any kind at all and it was quite deliberate what he was saying was, ‘you do what I say and you won’t be subject to death threats.’”

    Mr Grieve made a comparison between the “monstrous” PM and US President Donald Trump in how they have pushed populism within politics.

    Poor old Trump only wears red ties.

  67. David Eddyshaw says

    Sadly, only wearing ties to which you are entitled is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for moral compass ownership.

    We may well feel that the world would be a better place were it not so.

  68. John Cowan says

    Aye, and trial by ordeal too. No proving your innocence by drowning any more. Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!!!

    If it makes you feel better, 1819 was well after the Late Great Unpleasantness, and so a New York judge has conceded that trial by battle is still possible in the Empire State (although there weren’t going to be any such judicial duels on his watch, thankyouverymuch).

    If you read the linked article, note that in New York the Supreme Court is the trial court of unlimited jurisdiction; there are lesser trial courts, such as Criminal Court, which tries only misdemeanors (crimes punishable by fine or by no more than one year of imprisonment or both). But our highest appellate court is the Court of Appeals.

    This is at any rate less confusing than Massachusetts, where the General Court is in fact the state legislature, which no longer has any judicial powers at allses. Consequently, the highest court of the Bay State is the Supreme Judicial Court, founded in 1692. The General Court, I find, dates to 1629, and held its first meeting in London (more of a stockholders’ meeting than a legislature) before moving to the Commonwealth.

  69. David Marjanović says

    The only tie I wear (once every few years) has crocoducks on it. As a tetrapod phylogeneticist I’m definitely entitled to that.

    (Google crocoduck.)


    ObHat: Urteil “verdict”, erteilen “give abstract things like rights in an official way”.

    trial by battle is still possible in the Empire State

    Too bad the fellow in the video clearly had no idea what a warhammer is. It’s basically the same as a rock hammer (…which is another thing i’m entitled to carry…).

  70. John Cowan says

    Here, of course, it’s the bán-hamor ‘bone hammer’ that the Hat wields on the rare occasions he needs it, though the term is often misunderstood on the Internet due to folk etymology. In any event, it has also been referred to in the Hattrmaðussaga as the Svartr Iohannes.

  71. Urteil

    I automatically associate that word with Kafka.

  72. David Eddyshaw says

    I was thinking of Kafka the other day when people were talking about Land Surveyors. I should get out more.

    I like Das Schloss/Schloß, on the grounds particularly that K. is much less of a wuss/wuß than the protagonist of Der Process/Proceß/Prozess/Prozeß. Doesn’t do him any good, but still …

  73. The New York Supreme Court used to be the highest appeals court in the state, but it was demoted. In the midst of a highly politicized judicial corruption scandal, the legislature found that they lacked the supermajority needed to remove the miscreant judges, but with bare majorities they could just change the court’s jurisdiction, cycling it to the bottom of the judicial hierarchy.

  74. Stu Clayton says

    I automatically associate [Urteil] with Kafka.

    An automatic association with Kant would be more high-tone. One with Vorurteil would be more folksy. Urteil is a dirt-common word. Those who skirmish with the Law know it well.

    For buffs: note the semantic association between teil- in Urteil, and scheid- in Entscheidung (also scheißen). Divide, decide and conquer.

  75. Stu Clayton says

    I was thinking of Kafka the other day when people were talking about Land Surveyors. I should get out more.

    Well, I dunno. One rarely encounters a Land Surveyor in real life. It would be vermessen to claim otherwise.

  76. SFReader says

    the highest court of the Bay State is the Supreme Judicial Court, founded in 1692.

    Being founded to make verdict in Salem Witch Trial is not something to be proud…

  77. AJP Crown says

    My final tie comments: 1. I don’t wear them any more 2. There’s no architects’ tie as far as I know. Instead there’s the black turtleneck which serves the same purpose and has the same drawback of not suiting everyone. 3. “Wearing ties to which you are entitled is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for moral compass ownership.” – that depends on the compass: remember the (apocryphal) story of king Christian X of Denmark wearing a yellow star-of-David armband during the Nazi occupation. My own compass would allow me to wear a (fairly attractive) blue-striped tie if were in order to subvert some nitwit saying ‘Ha Ha, I went to Eton and you didn’t’. And though I say “compass”, the embarrassment of being taken for an establishment crawler would stop me from actually doing such a thing.

  78. David Marjanović says

    austeilen ~ deal out

    but with bare majorities they could just change the court’s jurisdiction, cycling it to the bottom of the judicial hierarchy.

    …That’s a neat trick. Can they rename it to Infime Court, though?

  79. Urteil is a dirt-common word.

    Well, duh. I was speaking only about my own personal associations; I don’t spend much time reading German, but I have read K.

  80. Stu Clayton says

    I see now, it was an instance of attachment behavior soon after hatching.

  81. PlasticPaddy says

    I was interested by the spreading of ur-, i.e., uralt and Urteil are already in althochdeutsch, so the prefix had a wide range and was applied to both nouns and adjectives even then. I thought that uralt might have come from a different augmentative or perfective prefix (ró- in Irish, meaning excessively, comes from *per, but the German reflex is different.).

  82. SFReader says

    Urdeutsch is pretty neat too.

    Usually translated as “very German”, “arch-German”, “quintessential German”, “ultimate German”.

    Also has connotations of “very old German” and “original German”.

    The Nazis were very fond of this word.

    “Urdeutsche Stadt Krakau” and all that.

  83. John Cowan says

    Of course it’s important not to confuse Urdeutsch with Undeutsch ‘Latvian’.

    English has a curious lexical gap: it has no word for Foreignia ‘everywhere but here’ to translate Ausland, uitland. We have outlandish, but this is no longer felt to have anything to do with out + land, and outland itself is just ‘outer land’, typically the land \ of a feudal manor surrounding the demesne land (the land farmed by the dominus and his family and direct serfs), and as such is archaic.

  84. David Eddyshaw says

    “Abroad” (in the UK, anyhow.)

  85. “Abroad” works for me.

  86. Stu Clayton says

    I was interested by the spreading of ur-

    The Ur was spread over Asia, Europe and North Africa.

  87. des Ures, Urs

    Make up Ur mind!

  88. David Marjanović says

    Make up Ur mind!

    The Ur is extinct in the wild, and the genitive promptly followed, so people don’t have native-speaker intuitions about it anymore and aren’t sure how to form it from rare words.

    On adjectives without associated nouns, however, ur- is limited to uralt, urplötzlich, urkomisch and urgemütlich, all but the first very rare. Viennese somehow took this and turned it into an independent word: das ist ur schön “this is so, so beautiful”, das macht er ur gern “he loves to do that”, das stinkt ur “that stinks a lot” (stress usually on the verb), das stimmt ur nicht “that’s so totally not true”, das ist der ur Blödsinn “this is complete and total nonsense” (yes, with the definite article despite the indefinite meaning). Das ist ur produktiv – aber ur! I also have a report from the early 1990s of prepausal das ist ur meaning “this situation is so extreme I’ve run out of words to describe it”, but I haven’t encountered that particular usage myself.

  89. It would be vermessen to claim otherwise.
    As the kids say, thread won.

  90. I have a nagging memory that back in that day I read that the Earl of Home pronounced the name ‘Hume’.

  91. David Eddyshaw says

    That is correct. So did we all. Still would, if the chap came up in conversation, which he seems not to, much. Lesser members of the clan actually do spell it Hume.

    I presume this is one of those son, come, some spellings where o was written for u because otherwise in mediaeval handwriting the word would just look like HIIIIIE.
    The clan name seems to be from the placename, but desultory googling hasn’t provided me with an origin for that.

  92. David L says

    So das ist ur means “I can’t even”?

  93. David Marjanović says

    Judging from the reported intonation, there was more awe in it.

  94. Rodger C says

    David Frost, long ago: “Lord Hume is in bed with flu. Or, if you prefer, Lord Home is in bed with Flo.”

  95. John Cowan says

    I remember as a kid speaking of David Hyoom to my father, and him telling me the man was pronounced David Home.

    Abroad is no problem for me either, but it’s an adverb, not a noun like *Foreigny (might as well keep it all-French). So “opinion here and abroad” is fine, but there is no way to fill the gap “opinion in the United States and …”. There is an OE hapax útlandum ‘to other countries’, and John de Mandeville speaks of the outlandes also, but both are definitely plural. The aggregation of all foreign countries into a single entity (also available in North Germanic, by the way) is missing. It seems like the English have never been able to lump the French, Dutch, Irish, etc. in this way.

  96. David Marjanović says

    The first German attempt to create such a word survives as Elend, “misery”.

  97. David Eddyshaw says

    “Opinion in the United States and abroad” is absolutely fine for me, though of course the parallelism is “in the United States” ~ “abroad.”

  98. David Marjanović says

    …and it just occurred to me that OHG elilenti must contain the otherwise lost cognate of alius.

  99. Trond Engen says

    *alja-landijaz “foreign lands, exile”

    I never thought of that.

  100. Trond Engen says

    Otherwise lost except in Scand. eller “or” < *alja-laikaz “other-wise”.

  101. Giacomo Ponzetto says

    John Cowan, I’m fairly confident that in all the Romance languages I speak (to some extent), the noun for “foreigndom” works in the same way as the English adverb abroad. It can refer to the world excluding your own country, or excluding the one country you’re talking about. If the sentence risks confusion between the two — or if you want to talk of the world minus those two countries — you need a periphrasis.

  102. David Eddyshaw says

    “Abroad” is pretty noun-y, at least in UK usage. I can happily pass the syntax, though not the sentiment of

    “Abroad is awful.”
    “I hate abroad” (NB not equivalent to “I hate [something/somebody] when in a foreign country.”)

    whereas I would not give my introspective Chomskyan nihil obstat to

    *”In the United States is awful.”

    Moreover, “abroad” can be modified by an adjective “the near abroad.” It seems to belong with locative words like “east”, “west.”

    I puzzled a lot over “adverbs” in Kusaal, eventually deciding that in that language they were not really systematically distinct from nouns syntactically; the differences seem to be matters of pragmatics at the end of the day, rather than syntax as such. It’s not quite like that in English, to be sure, but I think there is nevertheless quite an extensive fuzzy borderland.

  103. David Eddyshaw says

    CGEL, for example, analyses “yesterday”, “today”, “tonight”, “tomorrow” as “deictic temporal pronouns” (p429.) As ever, they’re quite prepared to justify their decision …

  104. Trond Engen says

    I like that. But I’m also a little disappointed, for I thought that tidspronomen and stedspronomen were my own idea. Obviously not.

  105. AJP Crown says

    Sir Alec Douglas-Home (aka Lord Home, Lord Dunglass etc. etc.) was related to David Hume, the spelling of whose name as a boy was changed from Home because his Scottish father knew that no one in England (America not having yet been invented to take the blame) would pronounce it right.

    On the noun. Home And Abroad is a live Style Council album. There was a BBC Home Service programme on the wireless years ago called At Home and Abroad*, and finally, for a different usage of abroad, my online dictionary gives me:

    there is a new buccaneering spirit abroad.

    * (I might have made this up).

  106. Bathrobe says

    There is still Aurochs….

  107. David Marjanović says

    Only fake ones from a Nazi “back-breeding” program.

  108. David Eddyshaw says


    And how can I have failed to mention the Stone of Scone?

  109. David Eddyshaw says

    Only fake ones from a Nazi “back-breeding” program.

    Which may (or may not) have something to do with the “longhorn breed” in

    It’s a bit Delphic.

  110. David Marjanović says
  111. I visited Edinburgh Castle last summer and discovered that the Stone of Scone, aka the Stoon of Scoon (and vice versa), has been renamed the Stone of Destiny.

  112. How wonderful to have your point-of-view spun around ninety degrees, then turned inside-out!

    Pays to learn how to think in three dimensions. My route was planetary exploration.

  113. PlasticPaddy says

    @david l
    I refuse to access the black propaganda link☺. Try
    The Lia Fáil is still at Tara. The Lia Albain was a “copy” but was stolen by (who else) agents of perfidious Albion.

  114. AJP Crown says

    Perfidious Albion is a possible football team. There’s bound to be a town called Perfidy; it’s most likely in Texas or Utah, though.

    We’ve had more than one Ur- thread before now. These things need cross-indexing.

    Pays to learn how to think in three dimensions.
    There are people here who laugh at a mere three.

    Scone the pastry is already a word with several pronunciations. Maybe destiny’s the answer. “Would you like your destiny with clotted cream and strawberry jam?”

  115. Bathrobe says

    These things need cross-indexing.

    That’s what John Cowan is here for.

  116. John Cowan says

    Sometimes. When I think of it.

    Stone of Scone

    I think you mean the Stane of Scuin. This ui vowel is very variable throughout Scotland. In Shaetlan (which is both the place and its dialect) and on parts of the Border it retains its historic value [ø], but elsewhere guid may be [gwid], [gɪd], [gjɪd]. Thed main difficulty with using this digraph for all such dialectally variable vowels is that it commits us to dui, tui for ‘do, to’, with the resulting bad appearance of duiing ‘doing’.

    Whether scone and Scone have the same etymology is unknown, but I can’t resist this verse:

    I asked the maid in dulcet tone
    To order me a buttered scone;
    The silly girl has been and gone
    And ordered me a buttered scone.

    WP says that the first pronunciation is dominant in the republic of Ireland, the U.S., the Midlands, and Cornwall, and the second pronunciation elsewhere (particularly in Scotland, of course, and Oopnorthia).

  117. David Eddyshaw says

    I think you mean the Stane of Scuin.

    Indeed I dui. That is of course the actual pronunciation underlying the orthography I favour for clarity for communication on the intertubes.

    The second pronunciation of the cake is the only correct one. Those who pronounce it the first way are unworthy to partake of one. Many of them are, not too put too fine a point on it, English.

  118. AJP Crown says

    No, it’s definitely the second pronunciation for me despite my English upbringing. Damned if I can get sconn to rhyme with gorn, though. GAWWWN for tea and scorns?

  119. There are all kinds of class-related complexities to the scone pronunciation question, on top of the geographical differences. I have probably mentioned before that my parents were from the north of England but I grew up in the south. I believe my parents were in the scone-like-gone camp, but I discovered later that, among southerners, scone-like-tone was a lower class thing, scone-like-gone was the sign of lower or middle class people straining to be above their station, while the true toffs went with scone-like-tone, except perhaps for some stratospheric types who were of the scone-like-gone persuasion.

    Caveat: I may have all this completely back-to-front, or rather upside-down. It’s been a long time.

    On AJP’s point: for me ‘gone’ has the same vowel as ‘long.’ The whole GAWWWN thing is another kettle of baked goods.

  120. John Cowan says

    Many of them are, not too put too fine a point on it, English.

    Most of them, not to put too coarse a point on it, are Yankees (lato sensu), who outnumber all the various tribes of Yankers put together. If we (always excepting Eastern New England) were to pronounce scone with LOT, it would come out with the PALM vowel. I leave it to you to figure out which is worse from the Scottish point of view, GOAT or PALM.

    The word gone is unique in a number of ways. For those[*] with a LOT-CLOTH split and consequent CLOTH=THOUGHT merger it belongs to CLOTH: as far as I know it is the only member of that lexical set where it is /n/ that follows the stressed vowel. Normally the following consonant is /s/ (cross), /f/ (soft), /θ/ (cloth), or (in the U.S. only) /g/, /ŋ/, /k/: I personally have hahg, lahg, frahg but dawg, lawng vel sim., but chahklit.

    In Ozland, the stressed vowel of gone is a one-word phoneme /ɔː/, neither LOT /ɔ/ nor THOUGHT /oː/; vowel length is phonemic down under, with minimal pairs like cup /kap/ and carp /kaːp/. As Nick Nicholas puts it, Australians just don’t care for low back vowels.

    [*] Like me and other U.S. Northeasterners, as well as whatever Conservative RP speakers are still left to be caricatured.

    David L: RP was originally (about 1850) the accent of the social-climbing middle classes: toffs didn’t need to climb, proles had no hope of doing so. Consequently, Toffese and Prolic often agree as against RP.

  121. Bathrobe says

    In Australia it’s /skɒn/ (so-called short ‘o’).

    But there is a town in the Hunter Valley called ‘Scone’. It’s pronounced /skoʊn/ (so-called long ‘o’).

  122. Bathrobe says

    In Ozland, the stressed vowel of gone is a one-word phoneme /ɔː/.

    I haven’t gone to sources to check how they have been phonemically analysed, but words like ‘strong’ and ‘long’ are pronounced with longish vowels similar to that in ‘gone’, although the quality is influenced by the following /ŋ/. ‘Strong’ and ‘long’ don’t rhyme with ‘tong’, ‘dong’, or ‘bong’ — at least not for me.

    (I see I agree with David L on this.)

  123. Curious — I’ve seen claims of a similar one-word phoneme in gone for AmEng varieties, coming out however somewhere in the /ɤ/ region.

  124. AJP Crown says

    I don’t actually say gorn. I might say garn* for gone sometimes but I don’t think I’d ever say scarn, it’s always sconn.

    *gahn, in American, which is maybe where I picked it up. Unless I got it from Cockney.

  125. John Cowan says

    AJP: I’m not saying that Americans actually do say scahn, I’m saying that it would be how we would pronounce “scone” if we tried to say it like the English and Scots, because of the father-bother merger. But instead we say it like the Irish: scone as in tone.

Speak Your Mind