May 21, 2024


Food never sleeps.

Monthly etymology gleanings for July 2014

7 min read

By Anatoly Liberman

Due to the fact I’ll be out of town at the conclusion of July, I was not absolutely sure I would be capable to publish these “gleanings.” But the thoughts have been many, and I could response some of them in advance of time.

Autumn: its etymology

Our correspondent wonders irrespective of whether the Latin word from which English, by means of French, has autumn, could be determined with the name of the Egyptian god Autun. The Romans derived the phrase autumnus, which was equally an adjective (“autumnal”) and a noun (“autumn”), from augere “to increase.” This verb’s fantastic participle is auctus “rich (“autumn as a abundant season”). The Roman derivation, even though not implausible, seems to be like a tribute to folks etymology. A much more really serious conjecture allies autumn to the Germanic root aud-, as in Gothic audags “blessed” (in the relevant languages, also “rich”). But, far more probably, Latin autumnus goes again to Etruscan. The principal argument for the Etruscan origin is the resemblance of autumnus to Vertumnus, the name of a seasonal deity (or so it would seem), about whom small is identified in addition to the tale of his seduction, in the shape of an aged lady, of Pomona, as instructed by Ovid. Vertumnus, or Vortumnus, could be a Latinized sort of an Etruscan identify. A definite conclusion about autumnus is rarely attainable, even while some resources, while tracing this word to Etruscan, insert “without doubt.” The Egyptian Autun was a creation god and the god of the environment solar, so that his relationship with autumn is remote at very best. Nor do we have any proof that Autun had a cult in Ancient Rome. Anything is so uncertain listed here that the origin of autumnus need to demands continue being not known. In my view, the Egyptian speculation retains out small 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 shape of an previous girl. (Pomona by Frans de Vriendt “Floris” (Konstnär, 1518-1570) Antwerpen, Belgien, Hallwyl Museum, Photo by Jens Mohr, via Wikimedia Commons)

The origin of so long

I gained an intriguing letter from Mr. Paul Nance. He writes about so very long:

“It would seem the sort of expression that should have derived from some fuller social nicety, these types of as I regret that it will be so extended just before we satisfy once more or the like, but no one has proposed a obvious antecedent. An oddity is its unexpected appearance in the early nineteenth century there are only a handful of sightings ahead of Walt Whitman’s use of it in a poem (like the title) in the 1860-1861 version of Leaves of Grass. I can, by the way, offer an antedating to the OED citations: so, fantastic bye, so extended in the tale ‘Cruise of a Guinean Man’. Knickerbocker: New York (Regular Magazine 5, February 1835, p. 105 out there on Google Textbooks). Supplied the lack of a fuller antecedent, strategies as to its origin all suggest a borrowing from one more language. Does this look fair to you?”

Mr. Nance was type more than enough to append two articles or blog posts (by Alan S. Kaye and Joachim Grzega) on so very long, both of those of which I experienced in my folders but have not reread considering that 2004 and 2005, when I observed and copied them. Grzega’s contribution is particularly thorough. My database has only one more little comment on so very long by Frank Penny: “About twenty a long time ago I was knowledgeable that it [the expression so long] is allied to Samuel Pepys’s expression so home, and ought to be written so alongside or so ’long, indicating that the person working with the expression need to go his way” (Notes and Queries, Collection 12, vol. IX, 1921, p. 419). The team so house does flip up in the Diary additional than the moment, but no citation I could come across appears to be like like a system. Possibly Stephen Goranson will ferret it out. In any scenario, so extensive appears to be like like an Americanism, and it is not likely that such a well-liked phrase should have remained dormant in texts for practically two centuries.

Be that as it may well, I concur with Mr. Nance that a components of this form likely arose in civil dialogue. The numerous attempts to uncover a international supply for it have small conviction. Norwegian does have an virtually equivalent phrase, but, given that its antecedents are unknown, it may possibly have been borrowed from English. I suspect (a favourite flip of speech by previous etymologists) that so long is without a doubt a curtailed variation of a once much more comprehensible parting components, unless of course it belongs with the likes of for auld lang sine. It may perhaps have been brought to the New Entire world from England or Scotland and afterwards abbreviated and reinterpreted.

“Heavy rain” in languages other than English

Once I wrote a article titled “When it rains, it does not necessarily pour.” There I mentioned a lot of German and Swedish idioms like it is raining cats and pet dogs, and, relatively than recycling that text, will refer our old correspondent Mr. John Larsson to it.

Ukraine and Baltic location names

The remark on this matter was welcome. In my reaction, I chosen not to chat about the matters alien to me, but I questioned no matter if the Latvian spot title could be of Slavic origin. That is why I claimed cautiously: “If this is a indigenous Latvian word…” The question, as I recognize, continues to be unanswered, but the recommendation is tempting. And of course, of program, Serb/Croat Krajna is an correct counterpart of Ukraina, only with no a prefix. In Russian, anxiety falls on i in Ukrainian, I believe, the 1st a is pressured. The same retains for the derived adjectives: ukrainskii ~ ukrainskii. Pushkin stated ukrainskaia (feminine).

Slough, sloo, and the relaxation

A lot of thanks to those people who informed me about their pronunciation of slough “mire.” It was new to me that the surname Slough is pronounced in different ways in England and the United States. I also received a question about the history of slew. The previous tense of slay (Outdated Engl. slahan) was sloh (with a long vowel), and this form made like scoh “shoe,” while the verb vacillated between the 6th and the 7th class. The point that slew and shoe have such dissimilar published varieties is due to the vagaries of English spelling. A person can assume of too, who, you, group, fruit, cruise, rheum, truth, and true, which have the similar vowel as slew. In addition, contemplate Bruin and ruin, which glimpse deceptively like fruit, and incorporate manoeuver for superior evaluate. A mild spelling reform seems like a great plan, doesn’t it?

The pronunciation of February

In a single of the letters I gained, the author expresses her indignation that some individuals insist on sounding the first r in February. Everybody, she asserts, claims Febyooary. In this sort of issues, most people is a perilous word (as we will also see from the next item). All of us tend to believe that what we say is the only appropriate norm. Words and phrases with the succession r…r have a tendency to drop 1 of them. Nevertheless library is more generally pronounced with both of those, and Drury, brewery, and prurient have withstood the tendency. February has altered its form a lot of instances. As a result, long ago feverer (from Old French) turned feverel (possibly under the affect of averel “April”). In the more mature language of New England, January and February turned into Janry and Febry. Nevertheless potent the phonetic forces might have been in impacting the pronunciation of February, of good worth was also the actuality that the names of the months generally happen in enumeration. With no the initial r, January and February rhyme. A equivalent situation is properly-recognized from the etymology of some numerals. Although the pronunciation Febyooary is similarly prevalent on the two sides of the Atlantic and is identified as typical through the English-talking earth, not “everybody” has acknowledged it. The consonant b in February is owing to the Latinization of the French etymon (late Latin februarius).

Who versus whom

Dialogue of these pronouns missing all desire very long in the past, because the confusion of who and whom and the defeat of whom in American English go back to aged days. Nonetheless I am not absolutely sure that what I explained about the educated norm is “nonsense.” Who will marry our son? Whom will our son marry? Is it “nonsense” to distinguish them, and ought to (or only can) it be who in both instances? Inspite of the rebuke, I believe that even in Modern American English the girl who we visited will not experience if who is changed with whom. But, compared with my opponent, I confess that preferences vary.


A different dilemma I received was about the origin of the verb wrap. This is a instead long story, and I resolved to dedicate a distinctive put up to it in the foreseeable foreseeable future.

PS. I detect that of the two inquiries asked by our correspondent previous month only copacetic captivated some awareness (read Stephen Goranson’s reaction). But what about hubba hubba?

Anatoly Liberman is the creator of Term Origins And How We Know Them as perfectly as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on phrase origins, The Oxford Etymologist, seems on the OUPblog every single Wednesday. Deliver your etymology concern to him care of [email protected] he’ll do his greatest to prevent responding with “origin mysterious.” Subscribe to Anatoly Liberman’s weekly etymology posts via email or RSS.

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