Some Words.

1) I happened to look up Catalan lluny ‘far’ in Wiktionary and realized that it was, of course, identical to French loin, but why couldn’t I think of a Spanish cognate? It turns out that the Spanish equivalent, lueñe, is so obsolete it’s not in any of my dictionaries (though it is in the RAE’s Diccionario de la lengua española), having been replaced by lejos (from Latin laxius ‘wider’); these forms are all from the Latin adverb longē, and there is a slightly less obsolete Spanish luengo from the adjective longus. It would certainly be interesting to have a look at Yakov Malkiel’s “The Decline of Spanish luengo ‘long’; the Disappearance of Old Spanish lueñ(e) ‘far’” in J. M. D’Heur and Nicoletta Cherubini (eds.), Etudes de philologie romane et d’histoire littéraire offertes à Jules Horrent (Liège: [publisher unknown], 1981: pp. 267–73), but I have no access to that volume.

2) The Northampton Education Foundation’s 21st annual Adult Spelling Bee was won on the word jelerang, unknown to me and most dictionaries (including the OED) but present in the Big Merriam-Webster, which says, disappointingly, “origin unknown.” You can see one on p. 154 of Wood’s Popular Natural History, which also has a pleasingly Victorian description (“The Jelerang is rather common in the countries which it inhabits, and as it is very retiring in its habits, and dreads the proximity of mankind, it is not so mischievous a neighbour as is the case with the greater number of the Squirrels”).

3) I’ve been reading Nabokov’s early (1920s) Russian stories and (not surprisingly) running into some very unusual vocabulary; in his (excellent) Путеводитель по Берлину (translated as “A Guide to Berlin”) he uses one so rare it is not in any dictionaries at all, the last word in the phrase “четверо рабочих поочередно бьют молотами по котырге,” translated as “four workmen are pounding an iron stake with mallets” (bold added). Mikhail Meilakh, in “Commentariuncula nabokoviana” (from his Поэзия и миф. Избранные статьи, another book I’d like to get hold of), writes:

Выразительное слово котырга практически неизвестно и в форме «катыргá» или «каты́рга» зафиксировано лишь в малоподходящих значениях, таких, как «инструмент в виде ножа с зубцами для скобления кожи» (СРГП: 115; СРНГ 13: 136), а также в ономастике как имя собственное (фамилия). По-видимому, родственно словам кочерга, кочка, либо представляет собой заимствование из тюркских языков.

I wonder where the hell VVN picked it up?

4) Junot Díaz is always a lively writer, and in his latest New Yorker story, “The Ghosts of Gloria Lara” (archived), he has a sentence “A couple of years earlier, some of Renato’s comrades had attempted to overthrow Balaguer and got themselves massacred, and ever since the old lich had turned up the heat.” The word “lich” was new to me, but when I googled it and read the Wikipedia article I realized from this paragraph that many of my readers would be familiar with it:

Various works of fantasy fiction, such as Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Empire of the Necromancers” (1932), had used lich as a general term for any corpse, animated or inanimate, before the term’s specific use in fantasy role-playing games. The more recent use of the term lich for a specific type of undead creature originates from the 1976 Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game booklet Greyhawk, written by Gary Gygax and Rob Kuntz.

It’s from Old English līċ ‘corpse.’

Addendum. A very kind reader sent me a scan of the Malkiel article mentioned in the first paragraph; it begins:

Not all Western languages use the same words to convey the related notions of length in space and length in time; Russian, e.g., contrasts for this purpose dlin- and dolg-. Neither do all of these languages press into service adjectives and adverbs pertaining to the same lexical families: G. lang(e) performs some of these parallel functions, except that weit or fern stands for ‘far’, but in Latin spatial and figurative LONGĒ clashed with strictly temporal DIU […]

Measured by this yardstick, Lat. LONGUS flanked by LONGĒ was exceptionally well entrenched in the lexicon. […] Thus, it comes all the more as a surprise to learn that Spanish, steering a separate course, has almost completely replaced its once entirely healthy adj. luengo by largo (orig. ‘wide, broad’ < LARGU ‘abundant, plentiful, spatious, ample’, fig. ‘generous’), after having allowed the adv. lexos […] to supersede the original reflex of LONGĒ, namely lueñ(e).

After mentioning some other languages, he continues:

Upon cursory examination one notices that the adv. lueñ(e) was more vulnerable to attrition, by virtue of its peculiar configuration, than was the corresponding adj. luengo. Assuming, on the strength of sueño ‘dream’ < SOMNIU, that ancestral Ŏ, before ñ, was indeed subject to diphthongization to ue and that, as a consequence, lueñ(e) is an unimpeachably regular product of LONGĒ, one recalls at once the instability of -e in Old Spanish, within the framework of a now intensified now relaxed tendency toward apocope. Depending on the sound involved and on historical vicissitudes, one expects lueñ to flank lueñe, much as noch “night’ did noche and as the imported derivational suffix -ax /aš/, sporadically, did -age. […]

In the meantime, largo still stands in the wings, as it were, ready to head for the center of the stage. Fundamentally, it has kept its traditional meaning ‘abundant, filled out, abounding in’ (E, 16156) and thus remains semantically reconcilable with its cognates in Latin, Italian, French, and even English. Particularly characteristic is the adv. largamente ‘generously’ (N, 637b). Nominalized largo ‘length’ (1035d) is also on record; so is the phrase a la larga ‘slowly, interminably, with much delay’ (N, 441c). The new meaning, alluding to length, makes its appearance most neatly in the alargar ‘to lengthen, prolong’ […]

There is very little doubt, then that the attrition, or erosion, of the lueñ-/
/lueng- family began in its adverbial rather than its adjectival branch. But
what hindered the far-flung speech community from discarding lueñ(e), while
retaining, for its own sake, a word as neatly profiled as was luengo? After all, the well-being of fern, in German, or of far, in English, does not hinge on the status of lang or long, respectively. We are thus forced to assume that lueñ(e) and its close rival lexos were intimately associated, by more than a scattering of speakers, with luengo — so much so that in the end the decline of lueñ(e) spelled the doom of luengo (and its satellites, i.e., the diminutive, the abstracts, the verb, as well as the secondary adverb derived from the adjective). But how can this intimate association here suspected be independently demonstrated, under strict exclusion of any circularity? […]

The study undertaken here ties in with other inquiries into the disappearance of words to which Gilliéron’s classic assumptions bearing on the agency of homonymic conflicts clearly do not apply. The disintegration of FĪDŪCIA ‘faith, confidence’, I repeat, at its late medieval stage into many shreds, as it were (fiuzia, fiuza, fuzia > hucia, plus the corresponding verbs ushered in by the prefixes a- and desa-), temporarily produced a chaos, out of which speakers in the end extricated themselves by switching to homogeneous confiança. The vernacular reflexes of DULCE ‘sweet’ displayed such bewildering variety (doz, duz, doce, duce, etc.) that speakers and writers, probably tired of seeing themselves constantly misunderstood, corrected, or ridiculed, opted for the adoption of an unassailably proper form, namely the straight Latinism dulce, as against Ptg. doce, It. dolce, etc. […]

The second peculiarity worth watching is the reverberation of the agony of lueñ(e) at the level of the corresponding adjective. […] Despite this delicately zigzagging line, the basic movement was irreversibly toward the elimination of luengo, as if in fulfillment of the earlier and far more richly justified abandonment of lueñ(e). The close cohesion, among Hispanophones, of ‘far’ and ‘long’ manifested itself for the last-but-one time when, at the stage where lueñ(e) had started to decline but luengo was still hanging on, the bizarre substitute word chosen for the former, namely lexos, began with the same consonant and showed a stressed-vowel alternation familiar to some speakers from fruente ~ frente ‘forehead’. And though lexos was, genetically, related to lexar ‘to let leave’ < LAXĀRE, It was not allowed to accompany that verb in its sweeping evolution to dexar: The newly-acquired ties of lexos to luengo inherited from the previous relationship of lueñ(e) to luengo, thus proved to be stronger than the etymological connection with lexar. When luengo, in turn, began to wither, the therapeutic replacement was so carried out as to preserve, once more, the characteristic opening consonant: Admittedly, lejos and largo do not resemble one another very closely, neither have they completely drifted away from each other, maintaining a sort of loose, ill-defined, non-recurrent relationship, on the order of much and many, was and were in English.

Obviously I’ve left out much of his argument, but you get the general idea.


  1. David Eddyshaw says

    “Lich” is familiar from lichgate, though I expect there are people who know what that is but don’t know where the word comes from.

  2. Perhaps more common as part of lychgate. (I see David beat me to it.)

    Also the “Lyke-Wake Dirge”.

  3. Link is non-link!

  4. Is lich pronounced as in ditch or loch? Wiki for lychgate didn’t say.

    Trying to find the pronunciation led me to lich fowl, another name for goatsucker, er, rather nightjar. Nighthawks have such wonderful associations attached to them. We’d bring very different ideas to the Edward Hopper painting if he’d titled it Lichfowl.

  5. Henri Jacob Victor Sody (1892–1959): His Life and Work: a Biographical and Bibliographical Study (here) gives, for Ratufa bicolor (this cutie) the following local terms: Indonesian jelarang; Sundanese jaralang, jelarang; and Javanese jlarang, jelarang, jalarang, jaralang.

    The etymology is a story for which the world is not yet prepared.

  6. J.W. Brewer says

    It’s been many decades since I was any sort of regular reader of fantasy pulp paperbacks or D&D-related ephemera, so my Sprachgefühl may be rusty. But that strikes me as an unidiomatic usage of “lich,” one of those “should have stayed away from the thesaurus” authorial glitches. I at first thought the most likely reading was a typo for “old lech,” although I have no idea if Balaguer actually had a reputation for lechery.

  7. Link is non-link!

    It’s linked from the article on lychgate. The name persists in Lyke wake walk across North Yorkshire — which is indeed bleak and lonely.

    Is lich pronounced as in ditch or loch?

    I say to rhyme with ‘ditch’. wiktionary has /lɪtʃ/ (UK), but Scotland /laɪx/. (And curiously wikti claims the spelling ‘lych’ is obsolete, prefer ‘lich’. I think I usually see ‘lychgate’, so would follow @maidhc above.)

    OTOH ‘Lyke wake’ I say like ‘like’. (wikti doesn’t offer a pronunciation.)

  8. Keith Ivey says

    It’s not surprising that Díaz would use a word from D&D, and it seems perfectly cromulent if Balaguer is being viewed as a powerful person who has prolonged his existence past the normal point. I see from the Wikipedia article that he was still running for president in his 90s.

  9. Yeah, that appearance of lich* seems fine to me, but usage of lich is always going to be a bit dicey. As noted, the word first came to prominence in fantasy principally through the writing of Clark Ashton Smith, but while Smith was fond of the term, it seemed like one of those obscure words that he himself only learned by reading reference books, rather than through usage. Smith dropped out of school after—I think—eighth grade and educated himself thereafter be reading encyclopedias, unabridged dictionaries, and other works (including a lot of fiction, obviously). I think he first used lich in print to describe the last of “The Abominations of Yondo” (1926):**

    But on its heels ere the sunset faded, there came a second apparition, striding with incredible strides and halting when it loomed almost upon me in the red twilight—the monstrous mummy of some ancient king still crowned with untarnished gold but turning to my gaze a visage that more than time or the worm had wasted. Broken swathings flapped about the skeleton legs, and above the crown that was set with sapphires and orange rubies, a black something swayed and nodded horribly; but, for an instant, I did not dream what it was. Then, in its middle, two oblique and scarlet eyes opened and glowed like hellish coals, and two ophidian fangs glittered in an ape-like mouth. A squat, furless, shapeless head on a neck of disproportionate extent leaned unspeakably down and whispered in the mummy ‘s ear. Then, with one stride, the titanic lich took half the distance between us, and from out the folds of the tattered sere-cloth a gaunt arm arose, and fleshless, taloned fingers laden with glowering gems, reached out and fumbled for my throat . . .

    * I actually prefer the spelling “lyche.”

    ** One of his shortest and best stories.

  10. John Cowan says

    Clearly lich vs. lyke is a Southern vs. Northern contrast (the “Lyke-wake Dirge” is in Yorkshire dialect), and therefore the modern pronunciation is going to be /lɪtʃ/ vs. /laɪk/ ~ /laɪx/; cf. watch vs. wake, or for that matter church vs. kirk. (The OED agrees on all of these.)

    However, tich vs. tyke, which looks similar, is not a case of this: the former is from Little Tich, the stage name of Harry Relph, a comedian with a supposed resemblance to the Tichborne claimant, whereas the latter is from ON tík ‘bitch’.

  11. Re kotyrga: also only has katyrga “инструмент в виде ножа с зубцами для скобления кожи”, from a dictionary of toponyms of Amur Oblast.

  12. cf lichen

  13. Liches are also common in (presumably D&D influenced) games like Warcraft. I never made the connection to Dutch lijk over 20 years ago, as I might’ve with something more in the direction of like or lic(k).

    I think I’d never heard of a lychgate until now though. 🙂

  14. J.W. Brewer says

    Separately, wiktionary has “jelerang” but marks it as “archaic.” Taking M-W’s identification of it with Ratufa bicolor at face value, I note that the wiki article on the species doesn’t mention it as an alternative popular name, although the Bahasia Indonesia wiki article is (modulo a one-letter spelling difference) otherwise: I don’t know enough about more high-end spelling-bee cultural norms to know where the boundaries of the fair-game lexicon are supposed to be, but this seems like it might be questionable.

  15. Webster’s Third is the generally accepted resource for high-end spelling bees.

  16. And there are always complaints that some especially obscure winning word is too obscure to be used, but what are they supposed to do, go by random personal impressions? If it’s in the Big Dic, it’s fair game, and all the contestants know that.

  17. J.W. Brewer says

    Back to “lich”: Perhaps I should just defer to Keith and Brett, who may have a better stylistic feel for the current genres in which the lexeme tends to occur than I do. But let me expand a little on why even after further reflection it strikes me odd:

    First, it does seem like genre is relevant. Brett’s Clark Ashton Smith block quote shows a distinctively turgid/florid prose style that I suppose we could politely call a register. Diaz’ story is written in an entirely different style and register. Using a synonym or near-synonym of the obvious-in-context word that is marked for register outside the register in which it is typically found is a classic symptom of thesaurusitis. And let’s say the first-person narrator of this story walked past a 19th-century church in New Jersey that had been built with such medievalist-revival ambitions as to possess its own lich-gate (not impossible – there’s an example in Manhattan). Would we expect this particular first-person narrator in his internal dialogue to describe the thing with that word, given that it’s unlikely to be a lexeme the character would know? (You could finesse that with “what the weird old lady down the block had told me was called a ‘lich-gate'” or something like that, of course.)

    Second, “old lich” seems a bit off-key. A post-Gygax lich is sort of old (eldritchly so) by definition. So why would you add that, if you weren’t otherwise working (as Diaz does not appear to be) in a sort of pseudo-poetic register where you said “the red apple” instead of “the apple” not to add information but just ’cause it sounded more resonant? I did check google books and found two comparatively recent instances of “old lich” for the fantasy/D&D sense of lich, but frankly those were both in contexts where the prose seemed extremely ESLish. Diaz’ first-person narrator is supposed to be an L1 Hispanophone, but it’s also clear that he came to the U.S. at a young enough age (like Diaz himself, although I’m taking at face value that this is a “fiction” rather than a “memoir”) that his English narrative voice is not ESLish, although it mixes in Spanish lexemes when appropriate.

  18. Diaz does not cling to one register, and his protagonist, being an unsocial teenager in New Jersey in the ’80s, would almost certainly have been familiar with D&D. Not sure why you’re so stubborn about this. As for “old lich,” ordinary spoken language does not strive for maximum efficiency and concision. Why do we say “old geezer” rather than just “geezer,” since “geezer” implies “old”?

  19. I suppose it was from Klarkash-Ton that E’ch-Pi-El got the word, cf. “bullet-ridden lich” in “The Thing on the Doorstep.”

    Beck Chapel on the Indiana U campus has a pretty lychgate.

  20. J.W. Brewer says

    @hat: I took it from your earlier statements that “jelerang” was *not* in Webster’s 3d? “If it’s in the ‘big dic’ it’s fair game” requires clarity on what “big dic” is being arbitrarily treated as definitive, although I guess a particular bee could pre-announce that they’re using something different.

    As to “old lich” v. “old geezer,” idiomaticity is not always consistent – that’s why I did a little google books digging to see if my snap reaction was contradicted by what seemed to be idiomatic use by fluent Anglophones, and (at first glance at least) it wasn’t.

    I suppose all I’m left with is the notion that I grew up with plenty of unsocial D&D-addled teenagers reasonably close in age to Diaz’ protagonist and one state away from New Jersey, and … I would have found it unexpected and noteworthy if any of them had referred to let’s say Ronald Reagan (Balaguer not being a common topic of conversation in our high school cafeteria) as an “old lich.” At least without some specific context where people had already been riffing for a while on weird D&D metaphors for current events.

    I suppose one complication is that Diaz’ narrator is maybe not narrating in his “teenager” voice but as an adult recalling all of this some years later. But if anything it is a less forgivable word for an adult than for a D&D-addled teenager.

  21. I took it from your earlier statements that “jelerang” was *not* in Webster’s 3d?

    Yes, it is; that’s why I said “present in the Big Merriam-Webster.” What did you think I was referring to?

  22. I haven’t read the latest Díaz story yet, but calling somebody “the old lich” is absolutely something that Oscar Wao would do.

  23. Roger C: He presumably picked up the word from the Atlantean sage, although a quick search suggests that Lovecraft only used the word that once in print, and “The Thing on the Doorstep” was pretty late (written in 1933 but not published until shortly before the author’s death in 1937; Lovecraft had come up with a rough idea for the story all the way back in 1928, but he may not have felt he could get the backstory right until he had written “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”). However, Frank Belknap Long had used (having also probably picked it up from Smith) it in the title of “The Desert Lich” all the way back in 1924, which Lovecraft must have read when it appeared in Weird Tales, although it is not an especially good yarn. And yet, given that Long was one of the younger friends that Edward Pickman Derby (the lich in question) was based on, and Long’s story shares some major thematic elements with “The Thing on the Doorstep,” Lovecraft’s usage might have been a direct homage.

  24. @JWB: My Italian spouse has never set foot in New Jersey and has spent very little time in any English-speaking country. I showed him the word jotted on a piece of paper and asked him if he knew what it meant in English. Reply: “anyone who’s ever played Dungeons & Dragons knows what a lich is.” There are also some explicit references to D&D later in the story, so it seems appropriate enough to me.

  25. David Marjanović says

    …and D&D is all over teh intarwebz, so even I know what a lich is: a person whose soul resides not in their body, but in a phylactery*, so it doesn’t matter how far the body rots.

    German Leiche “corpse”.

    * Circular definition of phylactery: an object, apparently often a little box, in which a lich’s soul resides.

  26. John Cowan says

    Why do we say “old geezer” rather than just “geezer,” since “geezer” implies “old”?

    It doesn’t in BrE. When The Streets sing “Geezers need excitement / If their lives don’t provide them this, they incite violence / Simple common sense”, they don’t mean thee and me. Indeed, the first hit in Wikt is Wodehouse (1922), “silly young geezer”. So old geezer probably became a set phrase in Canada and the U.S. and was then clipped to geezer. The etymology is guiser ‘someone in disguise; mummer’.

  27. “geezer” implies “old”

    My electronic copy of the OED says “usu. but not necessarily elderly”. Jah Wobble published his Memoirs of a Geezer in 2009, when he was in his early 50s, definitely not old. And I first encountered the word in the 1970s when a journalist (in the NME I think) described Pete Townshend around 1970 as “a geezer in a jump suit”. Townshend was in his mid-20s at the time.

  28. Trond Engen says

    My wife reports that ‘geezer’ shows up all the time in English subtexts on K-dramas, apparently as the canonical translation of words for “old man”. The intended meaning can be neutral or even respectful, and the situation seemingly calling for a high and formal register.

  29. Trond Engen says

    Subtitles. The subtext is less clear.

  30. J.W. Brewer says

    Black Sabbath’s bassist Geezer Butler, more formally known as Terence Michael Joseph Butler, was already known by that by-name socially and professionally as a teenager, which tends to confirm that in BrEng it is or at least was not age-marked the way it typically is in AmEng. In one interview he seemed to indicate that it was not a particular common lexeme in Birmingham dialect when he was growing up there in the Fifties/Sixties but he picked it up from older brothers whose “national service” (as I believe military conscription was called in the U.K. back then) had exposed them to speakers of other BrEng regional varieties.

  31. Yeah, a geezer’s just a ‘bloke’. You always have to add ‘old’ if you want to allude to his age, at least whenever I’ve heard it -which is a lot, being British.
    One can also be ‘a bit of a geezer’, which can range from being cool to something of a wide boy.

  32. Anyone interested in the lueñe/luengo issue should now see the Addendum, with excerpts of the Malkiel article.

  33. Stu Clayton says

    a wide boy

    Heh, I learned that expression just last week from one of Joanna Trollope’s novels.

    Also, from her Sense and Sensibility, “amazeballs”. [warning: 2012 British teenager slang on Facebook]

  34. Corominas’s etymological dictionary subsumes lueñe under its entry for luengo. It notes, for lueñe, “hoy todavía conservado en Asturias, lloñi en Colunga, llonxi y tsuenxi en el Oeste de esta región (Vigón), que a su vez se dan la mano con el port. longe, gall. lonxe“.

  35. The etymology is guiser ‘someone in disguise; mummer’.

    this makes a certain kind of accidental sense of the Bread & Puppet Theater’s use of “geezer” to mean, more or less, company alum / puppeteer emeritx. it’s very much a new-englandism in that context, with a strong but not overwhelming association with age. if memory serves, it started being used (i vaguely remember “old puppeteers” as an earlier overlapping term) when the youngest of the former company members it was applied to were not quite forty. i’ve counted in some ways as a geezer there since my thirties, and there are folks younger than me with clearer claims to the title.

  36. Stu Clayton says

    que a su vez se dan la mano con

    The German sie geben sich nichts has exactly the same meaning, although at first glance it might seem to mean the opposite.

    The difference is syntactic: in the German the two things A and B being “identified with each other” must be referred to together in the subject, here with sie. No preposition-of-comparison is involved.

    In the Spanish, there is “A se da(n) la mano con B” (and maybe also “A y B se dan la mano”, I dunno).

  37. David Marjanović says

    sie geben sich nichts

    That means “they’re the same”? Never encountered it before.

  38. Keith Ivey says

    Wodehouse (1922), “silly young geezer”

    In Wodehouse, geezer and bimbo are more or less synonyms, though they don’t overlap at all in modern US English.

  39. Stu Clayton says

    Never encountered it before.

    That’s because I shouldn’t be watching Onimasha while writing comments. I meant to write sie nehmen sich nichts, since that is the expression. Somehow darse mutated into geben. Or sump’n.

    Vgl. sie nehmen sich nicht viel.

    We now resume our splatter-jap program.

  40. I’m a geezer is a catchphrase of Chris Jackson, the Cockney wide boy in The Fast Show in the 1990s.

    Diamond geezer is a Cockney collocation and faux Cockney fixed expression

  41. I grew up in the 1970s and still own a set of the original Gygax and Kuntz D&D books. „Old lich“ sounds perfectly cromulent to me. Maybe I‘ll start referring to Trump that way.

  42. Italian still has „lungi“ alongside „lontano“, although „lungi“ seems limited to the figurative sense in modern Italian.

  43. PlasticPaddy says

    I had not come across this word. Treccani has:
    1. Lontano, discosto, con valore locale e più raramente temporale: il lido era poco l.; Il dì s’appressa, e non pote esser lunge (Petrarca). Più spesso per indicare moto da luogo, ed è in tal caso preceduto dalla prep. da, meno com. di, ant. dalla o a: E poi vidi venir da lungi Amore (Dante); Son giunti da lunge, per aspri sentier (Manzoni); Mirava il ciel sereno, Le vie dorate e gli orti, E quinci il mar da lungi, e quindi il monte (Leopardi); costoro dalla lungi cominciarono a ridere di questo fatto (Boccaccio). 2. Con funzione prepositiva, lungi, e anticam. di lungi, seguito o preceduto da complemento con la prep. da (anticam., davanti a un infinito, anche a): Non molto lungi al percuoter de l’onde (Dante); la notte obscura il sopraprese di lungi dal castello presso a un miglio (Boccaccio); Perì d’Itaca lunge il suo padrone (Pindemonte). Con questa funzione, è di uso abbastanza comune soprattutto in espressioni fig.: sono ancora l. dall’esser a buon punto, ci manca molto; è l. dall’esser vero; esser l. dal dire, dal fare, dal pensare una cosa, esserne alieno, non averne neppure l’intenzione; spesso scherz.: sono l. dal fare obiezioni; l. da me una simile idea! ◆ La parola è inoltre usata come primo elemento di voci composte: lungimirante, lungisaettante, ecc.


  44. Brett: Thanks for the interesting Weird Fiction scholarship, and also for not pointing out that I typed “bullet-ridden” for what should obviously be “bullet-riddled.”

    IU’s Lilly Library has a public exhibit on weird fiction this month. Check it out if you’re in the vicinity.

  45. By one unreliable measure, “bullet ridden” was almost as common as “bullet riddled” in the latter half of the 20th century, but in a rare triumph over Those Who Would Ruin The Language, it is now only half as common.

  46. I tried to find the origin of the surname Gygax/Gigax, which comes from Bern. Two proposed etymologies are problematic. If it’s a Greek calque of Riese, why the -x? And ‘stutterer’ < supposed gax looks a lot like a bad folk etymology (Swiss stammerers notwithstanding).

  47. If it’s a Greek calque of Riese, why the -x?

    Misguided analogy to Aiax ~ Aias?

  48. David Marjanović says

    I meant to write sie nehmen sich nichts, since that is the expression.

    Is it… I don’t know it either (except in the literal sense).

  49. Stu Clayton says

    I’ve heard it in various forms in Cologne. Not sure if I’ve seen it written.

    Another one of those electron-hole expressions. In the west you see where something is, in the east you see where it isn’t. And vice versa.

    sich nichts nehmen

  50. David Marjanović says

    Interesting. The examples make sense as “these two alternatives don’t take anything away from each other”.

  51. Stu Clayton says

    sie [unter]scheiden sich in nichts. Their parts add up to the same thing.

  52. The variant I know is das tut sich nichts, which can be used for courses of action, but not for objects.

  53. Aand, prompted by Y’s comment, I google it, and by George, “bullet-ridden” is in fact what Lovecraft wrote. I should trust instinct more.

  54. “n the Spanish, there is “A se da(n) la mano con B” (and maybe also “A y B se dan la mano”, I dunno).”

    darse la mano ‘shake hands’ is used both for ‘A with B’ and for ‘A and B’, as in “di la mano con el presidente” (I shook the president’s hand) and “los dos se dieron la mano” (‘the two shook hands [with each other]’).

  55. I’m a bit surprised that S. T. Joshi didn’t annotate lich in his edition of HPL’s stories for Penguin Classics.

  56. A correction of what I said above:

    dar la mano con ‘shake hands with’ is used to express ‘A with B’ (as in “di la mano con el presidente” ‘I shook the president’s hand’) and darse la mano is used to express ‘A and B’ (as in “los dos se dieron la mano” ‘the two of them shook hands [with each other]’).

  57. Jan Freeman blogged on bullet-riddled vs. bullet-ridden, in response to a reader’s query on whether “bullet-ridden body” (in a news story) was correct:

    I had no idea bullet-ridden was in circulation. And he’s right: It’s quite common to find bullet-ridden when bullet-riddled is (I think) intended. Ridden, after all, means “burdened, oppressed, harassed by”: debt-ridden, hag-ridden, conscience-ridden. A riddle is a sieve, so riddled is the word for something (or someone) full of holes; “I was to be made a riddle of if I attempted to escape,” says the OED’s 1843 citation.

    … But whether it’s an accident or a misapprehension, bullet-ridden has been around for a long time. Google Books instantly gave me a sampling of 19th-century examples like “the old, tattered flags, under whose bullet-ridden folds dear comrades fell” (1868).

    I like to think that in my editing days, I would have noticed a goof like bullet-ridden. But after looking at its history, I’m not feeling so confident. An awful lot of people have read the word, and the dearth of recorded peeving suggests that most of them — or us — didn’t see anything wrong.

    It’s true about the dearth of recorded peeving: nothing in MWDEU, nothing in Garner, no usage note in AHD.

  58. David Marjanović says

    A riddle is a sieve

    *lightbulb moment*

    Durchsiebt has remained transparent in German.

  59. don’t forget about Lichfield, England and Litchfield, Connecticut!

  60. Jelarang, jalarang, etc., gives the impression of a word whose derivational history we can uncover. I hope to ask around among speakers of Javanese, Malay and Sundanese to learn if they can suggest a morphological breakdown or etymological account.

    Some spadework I just did preparing for this enquiry, if anyone is curious about this question, too: One difficulty is determining the originating language—Javanese, Malay, Sundanese? I was interested by the entry in Wilkinson’s dictionary of Malay for jělar ‘extended, of a long bodied animal’—note the length of the tail of R. bicolor in this video, for instance. Wilkinson also gives cross-references among this and julor ‘projection or emergence of a long body’ and jalar ‘creeping motion’. These words jělar and julor appear to be in a relation (ě-a beside u-o) similar to those typical of Javanese krama (high-register Javanese characterized by various phonological alterations, among other things). But a brief web search for an appropriate nominal suffix -ang in Javanese, Sundanese, and the more westerly varieties of Malay turned up nothing. There is also the apparent possibility of a formation with the infix -ěl- (as here), but I couldn’t immediately find a suitable base jarang, jěrang, etc., in Javanese or Malay.

  61. Thanks for the interim report! I figured if anyone could get this even partially sorted, it would be you.

  62. Also, it may be that the r-l form and not the l-r one is the original one.

  63. J.W. Brewer says

    The “bullet-ridden” does seem a sheer mistake to me, but OTOH a bullet-riddled body can be very plausibly characterized as “burdened, oppressed, harassed by” bullets …

  64. Stu Clayton says

    Do you think it plausible to say that someone who has been shot, and now has a bullet in the belly, has been “harassed by” a bullet ? I would say that only an animal can harass.

  65. “bullet-bedeviled”.

  66. J.W. Brewer says

    It might be more precise to say harassed by whoever fired the bullet into the person’s belly, but, you know, synecdoche or something. You might speak of a politician or celebrity being harassed by hostile stories in the press even though the stories themselves (considered in isolation from their writers/editors/publishers) are as brainless and inanimate (ink on paper, or pixels on a screen) as bullets.

  67. Stu Clayton says

    a politician or celebrity being harassed by hostile stories in the press

    Such as #metoo stories. It’s called herassment.

  68. I am swotting up Tagalog before visiting my brother’s wife’s family soon, and some infixational morphology reminded me of this post…

    On the etymology of Javanese jlarang ꦗ꧀ꦭꦫꦁ ‘jelarang (Ratufa bicolor)’, note also the words that follow the entry for Javanese jlarang ‘a certain large squirrel’ in Stuart Robson and ‎Singgih Wibisono (2013) Javanese English Dictionary:

    jlarang a certain large squirrel.

    jlarat, njlarat reg[ional] handsome, good-looking.

    jlarèh streak, stripe;

    njlarèh having or forming a streak;
    jlorah-jlarèh striped, full of streaks.

    jlaret var of jlareh.

    jlarit thin line, narrow strip;

    njlarit forming a slim line, slender crescent.

    Perhaps the squirrel owes its name to its contrasting bands of color, as seen in the video here. Compare Malay جالر jalor ‘a broad stripe of color; broad stripes of the same colour separated by narrow lines—as in the patterns of some club-colours’ in Wilkinson (1901) A Malay-English Dictionary, Part 1, p. 216, available here. Also note Bahasa Indonesia jalur ‘wide stripe’, as here (run through your preferred translator). But I don’t yet have a handle on the derivational morphology that may be operating in jlarang, and I still hope to follow up on this with some native speakers.

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