Monthly etymology gleanings for July 2014

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By Anatoly Liberman

Considering the fact that I’ll be out of town at the conclude of July, I was not sure I would be capable to write these “gleanings.” But the concerns have been many, and I could respond to some of them ahead of time.

Autumn: its etymology

Our correspondent miracles regardless of whether the Latin word from which English, through French, has autumn, could be determined with the name of the Egyptian god Autun. The Romans derived the term autumnus, which was each an adjective (“autumnal”) and a noun (“autumn”), from augere “to raise.” This verb’s perfect participle is auctus “rich (“autumn as a rich season”). The Roman derivation, although not implausible, looks like a tribute to people etymology. A extra major conjecture allies autumn to the Germanic root aud-, as in Gothic audags “blessed” (in the relevant languages, also “rich”). But, a lot more possibly, Latin autumnus goes again to Etruscan. The most important argument for the Etruscan origin is the resemblance of autumnus to Vertumnus, the name of a seasonal deity (or so it looks), about whom small is regarded moreover the tale of his seduction, in the condition of an previous female, of Pomona, as informed by Ovid. Vertumnus, or Vortumnus, may well be a Latinized kind of an Etruscan identify. A definite summary about autumnus is hardly probable, even although some resources, although tracing this term to Etruscan, incorporate “without question.” The Egyptian Autun was a generation god and the god of the placing sunlight, so that his relationship with autumn is distant at finest. Nor do we have any evidence that Autun experienced a cult in Historic Rome. Almost everything is so uncertain here that the origin of autumnus will have to requires keep on being not known. In my feeling, the Egyptian speculation retains out minimal guarantee.

Vertumnus seducing Pomona in the shape of an old woman. (Pomona by Frans de Vriendt "Floris" (Konstnär, 1518-1570) Antwerpen, Belgien, Hallwyl Museum, Photo by Jens Mohr, via Wikimedia Commons)
Vertumnus seducing Pomona in the condition of an old girl. (Pomona by Frans de Vriendt “Floris” (Konstnär, 1518-1570) Antwerpen, Belgien, Hallwyl Museum, Picture by Jens Mohr, via Wikimedia Commons)

The origin of so lengthy

I obtained an fascinating letter from Mr. Paul Nance. He writes about so extended:

“It seems the type of expression that need to have derived from some fuller social nicety, this kind of as I regret that it will be so lengthy in advance of we fulfill yet again or the like, but no one particular has proposed a obvious antecedent. An oddity is its unexpected look in the early nineteenth century there are only a handful of sightings prior to Walt Whitman’s use of it in a poem (including the title) in the 1860-1861 version of Leaves of Grass. I can, by the way, present an antedating to the OED citations: so, good bye, so extended in the tale ‘Cruise of a Guinean Man’. Knickerbocker: New York (Every month Magazine 5, February 1835, p. 105 out there on Google Textbooks). Specified the lack of a fuller antecedent, recommendations as to its origin all suggest a borrowing from a different language. Does this appear acceptable to you?”

Mr. Nance was variety ample to append two article content (by Alan S. Kaye and Joachim Grzega) on so extended, each of which I experienced in my folders but have not reread considering the fact that 2004 and 2005, when I located and copied them. Grzega’s contribution is particularly in-depth. My database has only 1 extra little comment on so extensive by Frank Penny: “About twenty many years back I was informed that it [the expression so long] is allied to Samuel Pepys’s expression so property, and ought to be penned so together or so ’long, that means that the person using the expression need to go his way” (Notes and Queries, Collection 12, vol. IX, 1921, p. 419). The team so home does switch up in the Diary far more than the moment, but no citation I could uncover seems to be like a formula. Possibly Stephen Goranson will ferret it out. In any situation, so lengthy seems to be like an Americanism, and it is unlikely that these kinds of a well-known phrase must have remained dormant in texts for nearly two hundreds of years.

Be that as it might, I concur with Mr. Nance that a components of this type in all probability arose in civil discussion. The several makes an attempt to obtain a international supply for it carry small conviction. Norwegian does have an pretty much identical phrase, but, since its antecedents are mysterious, it may perhaps have been borrowed from English. I suspect (a beloved turn of speech by outdated etymologists) that so very long is indeed a curtailed edition of a the moment additional comprehensible parting system, except if it belongs with the likes of for auld lang sine. It may possibly have been brought to the New Environment from England or Scotland and later on abbreviated and reinterpreted.

“Heavy rain” in languages other than English

When I wrote a put up titled “When it rains, it does not automatically pour.” There I described a lot of German and Swedish idioms like it is raining cats and canine, and, somewhat than recycling that text, will refer our old correspondent Mr. John Larsson to it.

Ukraine and Baltic area names

The comment on this make a difference was welcome. In my response, I most well-liked not to talk about the issues alien to me, but I puzzled irrespective of whether the Latvian spot identify could be of Slavic origin. That is why I stated cautiously: “If this is a indigenous Latvian word…” The concern, as I comprehend, stays unanswered, but the recommendation is tempting. And indeed, of study course, Serb/Croat Krajna is an correct counterpart of Ukraina, only devoid of a prefix. In Russian, worry falls on i in Ukrainian, I imagine, the first a is stressed. The identical holds for the derived adjectives: ukrainskii ~ ukrainskii. Pushkin mentioned ukrainskaia (female).

Slough, sloo, and the rest

Quite a few thanks to all those who informed me about their pronunciation of slough “mire.” It was new to me that the surname Slough is pronounced in another way in England and the United States. I also been given a issue about the historical past of slew. The previous tense of slay (Previous Engl. slahan) was sloh (with a lengthy vowel), and this kind produced like scoh “shoe,” nevertheless the verb vacillated involving the 6th and the 7th course. The point that slew and shoe have these types of dissimilar composed types is because of to the vagaries of English spelling. A person can feel of too, who, you, group, fruit, cruise, rheum, truth, and true, which have the same vowel as slew. In addition, think about Bruin and ruin, which search deceptively like fruit, and incorporate maleoeuver for excellent evaluate. A moderate spelling reform seems to be like a superior strategy, does not it?

The pronunciation of February

In one particular of the letters I been given, the author expresses her indignation that some men and women insist on sounding the initially r in February. Everybody, she asserts, says Febyooary. In these issues, most people is a risky phrase (as we will also see from the up coming product). All of us tend to believe that what we say is the only right norm. Phrases with the succession r…r have a tendency to get rid of one particular of them. Nevertheless library is additional usually pronounced with each, and Drury, brewery, and prurient have withstood the tendency. February has modified its kind quite a few moments. Thus, extensive back feverer (from Aged French) became feverel (maybe under the affect of averel “April”). In the older language of New England, January and February turned into Janry and Febry. Nonetheless strong the phonetic forces may possibly have been in influencing the pronunciation of February, of great relevance was also the point that the names of the months generally take place in enumeration. Devoid of the to start with r, January and February rhyme. A related circumstance is effectively-recognised from the etymology of some numerals. Whilst the pronunciation Febyooary is equally typical on both sides of the Atlantic and is acknowledged as common all over the English-talking world, not “everybody” has accepted it. The consonant b in February is thanks to the Latinization of the French etymon (late Latin februarius).

Who vs . whom

Dialogue of these pronouns shed all fascination very long in the past, mainly because the confusion of who and whom and the defeat of whom in American English go back again to outdated days. Nevertheless I am not confident that what I stated about the educated norm is “nonsense.” Who will marry our son? Whom will our son marry? Is it “nonsense” to distinguish them, and should really (or only can) it be who in both of those conditions? Irrespective of the rebuke, I consider that even in Modern American English the lady who we frequented will not go through if who is changed with whom. But, compared with my opponent, I admit that preferences differ.


A different problem I acquired was about the origin of the verb wrap. This is a rather lengthy tale, and I made a decision to dedicate a special article to it in the foreseeable long term.

PS. I recognize that of the two queries requested by our correspondent very last thirty day period only copacetic attracted some notice (read through Stephen Goranson’s reaction). But what about hubba hubba?

Anatoly Liberman is the writer of Word Origins And How We Know Them as very well as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on phrase origins, The Oxford Etymologist, seems on the OUPblog each Wednesday. Mail your etymology query to him treatment of [email protected] he’ll do his best to stay away from responding with “origin not known.” Subscribe to Anatoly Liberman’s weekly etymology article content via email or RSS.

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