May 23, 2024


Marsh Gas

Monthly etymology gleanings for July 2014

By Anatoly Liberman

Due to the fact I’ll be out of town at the close of July, I was not absolutely sure I would be ready to write these “gleanings.” But the thoughts have been numerous, and I could remedy some of them forward of time.

Autumn: its etymology

Our correspondent wonders whether the Latin word from which English, through French, has autumn, could be determined with the title of the Egyptian god Autun. The Romans derived the term autumnus, which was both equally an adjective (“autumnal”) and a noun (“autumn”), from augere “to increase.” This verb’s great participle is auctus “rich (“autumn as a abundant season”). The Roman derivation, nevertheless not implausible, appears to be like a tribute to people etymology. A additional critical conjecture allies autumn to the Germanic root aud-, as in Gothic audags “blessed” (in the relevant languages, also “rich”). But, additional in all probability, Latin autumnus goes back 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 minor is known apart from the tale of his seduction, in the form of an previous female, of Pomona, as informed by Ovid. Vertumnus, or Vortumnus, may possibly be a Latinized sort of an Etruscan name. A definite conclusion about autumnus is barely achievable, even nevertheless some resources, even though tracing this word to Etruscan, include “without question.” The Egyptian Autun was a development god and the god of the location sunlight, so that his connection with autumn is remote at ideal. Nor do we have any evidence that Autun experienced a cult in Historic Rome. Everything is so uncertain in this article that the origin of autumnus need to desires remain unknown. In my impression, the Egyptian hypothesis 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 form of an previous female. (Pomona by Frans de Vriendt “Floris” (Konstnär, 1518-1570) Antwerpen, Belgien, Hallwyl Museum, Picture by Jens Mohr, through Wikimedia Commons)

The origin of so prolonged

I gained an interesting letter from Mr. Paul Nance. He writes about so prolonged:

“It would seem the kind of expression that need to have derived from some fuller social nicety, this kind of as I regret that it will be so very long ahead of we meet up with once again or the like, but no a single has proposed a distinct 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 (which include the title) in the 1860-1861 version of Leaves of Grass. I can, by the way, offer you an antedating to the OED citations: so, great bye, so extensive in the tale ‘Cruise of a Guinean Man’. Knickerbocker: New York (Regular monthly Magazine 5, February 1835, p. 105 obtainable on Google Guides). Provided the absence of a fuller antecedent, solutions as to its origin all propose a borrowing from an additional language. Does this appear to be acceptable to you?”

Mr. Nance was sort more than enough to append two posts (by Alan S. Kaye and Joachim Grzega) on so long, both of those of which I experienced in my folders but have not reread since 2004 and 2005, when I located and copied them. Grzega’s contribution is primarily specific. My database consists of only one additional tiny comment on so long by Frank Penny: “About 20 decades in the past I was informed that it [the expression so long] is allied to Samuel Pepys’s expression so dwelling, and should be written so alongside or so ’long, indicating that the individual applying the expression have to go his way” (Notes and Queries, Sequence 12, vol. IX, 1921, p. 419). The group so property does switch up in the Diary far more than when, but no citation I could discover seems to be like a system. Perhaps Stephen Goranson will ferret it out. In any circumstance, so very long seems to be like an Americanism, and it is not likely that this sort of a popular phrase need to have remained dormant in texts for almost two centuries.

Be that as it may possibly, I agree with Mr. Nance that a formula of this style possibly arose in civil conversation. The several tries to locate a overseas supply for it have little conviction. Norwegian does have an pretty much identical phrase, but, given that its antecedents are unfamiliar, it may have been borrowed from English. I suspect (a favorite transform of speech by outdated etymologists) that so extended is in fact a curtailed version of a after more comprehensible parting components, unless of course it belongs with the likes of for auld lang sine. It may have been introduced to the New Earth from England or Scotland and later abbreviated and reinterpreted.

“Heavy rain” in languages other than English

As soon as I wrote a article titled “When it rains, it does not necessarily pour.” There I outlined several German and Swedish idioms like it is raining cats and canines, and, relatively than recycling that text, will refer our aged correspondent Mr. John Larsson to it.

Ukraine and Baltic location names

The comment on this issue was welcome. In my reaction, I most popular not to talk about the matters alien to me, but I wondered whether or not the Latvian position name could be of Slavic origin. That is why I explained cautiously: “If this is a indigenous Latvian word…” The query, as I have an understanding of, stays unanswered, but the recommendation is tempting. And certainly, of training course, Serb/Croat Krajna is an specific counterpart of Ukraina, only devoid of a prefix. In Russian, pressure falls on i in Ukrainian, I assume, the initially a is pressured. The exact retains for the derived adjectives: ukrainskii ~ ukrainskii. Pushkin said ukrainskaia (female).

Slough, sloo, and the relaxation

Many thanks to individuals who educated me about their pronunciation of slough “mire.” It was new to me that the surname Slough is pronounced differently in England and the United States. I also received a concern about the historical past of slew. The past tense of slay (Aged Engl. slahan) was sloh (with a lengthy vowel), and this variety formulated like scoh “shoe,” though the verb vacillated amongst the 6th and the 7th course. The fact that slew and shoe have these types of dissimilar composed varieties is because of to the vagaries of English spelling. One can believe of too, who, you, group, fruit, cruise, rheum, truth, and true, which have the very same vowel as slew. In addition, contemplate Bruin and ruin, which seem deceptively like fruit, and insert guyoeuver for fantastic evaluate. A mild spelling reform appears to be like like a great plan, does not it?

The pronunciation of February

In 1 of the letters I been given, the writer expresses her indignation that some persons insist on sounding the to start with r in February. Most people, she asserts, states Febyooary. In this sort of issues, all people is a hazardous phrase (as we will also see from the subsequent product). All of us tend to consider that what we say is the only proper norm. Terms with the succession r…r tend to reduce one particular of them. Yet library is more typically pronounced with the two, and Drury, brewery, and prurient have withstood the inclination. February has modified its kind a lot of times. Consequently, prolonged ago feverer (from Previous French) grew to become feverel (possibly below the affect of averel “April”). In the older language of New England, January and February turned into Janry and Febry. However strong the phonetic forces might have been in impacting the pronunciation of February, of terrific importance was also the actuality that the names of the months typically happen in enumeration. With no the very first r, January and February rhyme. A comparable scenario is very well-known from the etymology of some numerals. Even though the pronunciation Febyooary is similarly popular on equally sides of the Atlantic and is recognized as regular during the English-talking entire world, not “everybody” has accepted it. The consonant b in February is due to the Latinization of the French etymon (late Latin februarius).

Who as opposed to whom

Discussion of these pronouns lost all fascination extended ago, simply because the confusion of who and whom and the defeat of whom in American English go again to outdated times. Nevertheless I am not absolutely sure 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 really should (or only can) it be who in each situations? Irrespective of the rebuke, I believe that that even in Modern day American English the girl who we frequented will not put up with if who is changed with whom. But, compared with my opponent, I confess that tastes differ.


Another issue I received was about the origin of the verb wrap. This is a fairly lengthy story, and I resolved to dedicate a special submit to it in the foreseeable long term.

PS. I notice that of the two thoughts asked by our correspondent past thirty day period only copacetic captivated some notice (study Stephen Goranson’s reaction). But what about hubba hubba?

Anatoly Liberman is the author of Term Origins And How We Know Them as well as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on word origins, The Oxford Etymologist, seems on the OUPblog every single Wednesday. Deliver your etymology question to him care of [email protected] he’ll do his very best to stay away from responding with “origin not known.” Subscribe to Anatoly Liberman’s weekly etymology posts via email or RSS.

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