September 30, 2023


Arts Eternal

Monthly etymology gleanings for July 2014

By Anatoly Liberman

Considering that I’ll be out of town at the end of July, I was not guaranteed I would be ready to generate these “gleanings.” But the inquiries have been several, and I could reply some of them ahead of time.

Autumn: its etymology

Our correspondent miracles no matter whether the Latin phrase from which English, by means of French, has autumn, could be determined with the identify of the Egyptian god Autun. The Romans derived the word autumnus, which was the two an adjective (“autumnal”) and a noun (“autumn”), from augere “to raise.” This verb’s best participle is auctus “rich (“autumn as a rich season”). The Roman derivation, nevertheless not implausible, seems to be like a tribute to folks etymology. A much more critical conjecture allies autumn to the Germanic root aud-, as in Gothic audags “blessed” (in the related languages, also “rich”). But, additional possibly, Latin autumnus goes back to Etruscan. The main argument for the Etruscan origin is the resemblance of autumnus to Vertumnus, the identify of a seasonal deity (or so it seems), about whom very little is acknowledged aside from the tale of his seduction, in the shape of an aged lady, of Pomona, as advised by Ovid. Vertumnus, or Vortumnus, may well be a Latinized variety of an Etruscan name. A definite conclusion about autumnus is hardly achievable, even while some resources, whilst tracing this phrase to Etruscan, incorporate “without doubt.” The Egyptian Autun was a creation god and the god of the environment sunshine, so that his relationship with autumn is distant at finest. Nor do we have any proof that Autun experienced a cult in Historic Rome. Anything is so uncertain here that the origin of autumnus will have to wants keep on being not known. In my viewpoint, the Egyptian speculation holds out tiny guarantee.

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

The origin of so lengthy

I been given an intriguing letter from Mr. Paul Nance. He writes about so extended:

“It appears the type of expression that ought to have derived from some fuller social nicety, these types of as I regret that it will be so long right before we meet once more or the like, but no a person has proposed a very clear antecedent. An oddity is its unexpected physical appearance in the early nineteenth century there are only a handful of sightings right before 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 an antedating to the OED citations: so, very good bye, so prolonged in the story ‘Cruise of a Guinean Man’. Knickerbocker: New York (Regular Journal 5, February 1835, p. 105 out there on Google Textbooks). Presented the deficiency of a fuller antecedent, recommendations as to its origin all suggest a borrowing from yet another language. Does this seem to be fair to you?”

Mr. Nance was type more than enough to append two content articles (by Alan S. Kaye and Joachim Grzega) on so extensive, both of those of which I experienced in my folders but have not reread since 2004 and 2005, when I uncovered and copied them. Grzega’s contribution is primarily comprehensive. My database consists of only a person far more small comment on so extended by Frank Penny: “About twenty many years back I was educated that it [the expression so long] is allied to Samuel Pepys’s expression so home, and need to be prepared so together or so ’long, indicating that the person using the expression ought to go his way” (Notes and Queries, Sequence 12, vol. IX, 1921, p. 419). The group so home does switch up in the Diary more than after, but no quotation I could uncover seems like a components. Maybe Stephen Goranson will ferret it out. In any case, so extended appears like an Americanism, and it is unlikely that such a well-liked phrase really should have remained dormant in texts for pretty much two generations.

Be that as it might, I agree with Mr. Nance that a system of this kind likely arose in civil dialogue. The many makes an attempt to discover a foreign source for it carry tiny conviction. Norwegian does have an practically equivalent phrase, but, given that its antecedents are unidentified, it may possibly have been borrowed from English. I suspect (a most loved transform of speech by aged etymologists) that so prolonged is indeed a curtailed variation of a the moment additional comprehensible parting formulation, unless of course it belongs with the likes of for auld lang sine. It may have been brought to the New Globe from England or Scotland and afterwards abbreviated and reinterpreted.

“Heavy rain” in languages other than English

When I wrote a post titled “When it rains, it does not automatically pour.” There I talked about numerous German and Swedish idioms like it is raining cats and canines, and, fairly than recycling that text, will refer our aged correspondent Mr. John Larsson to it.

Ukraine and Baltic location names

The remark on this subject was welcome. In my response, I chosen not to communicate about the issues alien to me, but I wondered whether the Latvian put name could be of Slavic origin. That is why I said cautiously: “If this is a indigenous Latvian word…” The question, as I understand, stays unanswered, but the recommendation is tempting. And of course, of system, Serb/Croat Krajna is an specific counterpart of Ukraina, only with no a prefix. In Russian, pressure falls on i in Ukrainian, I think, the initial a is stressed. The exact holds for the derived adjectives: ukrainskii ~ ukrainskii. Pushkin stated ukrainskaia (feminine).

Slough, sloo, and the rest

Lots of thanks to people who educated me about their pronunciation of slough “mire.” It was new to me that the surname Slough is pronounced otherwise in England and the United States. I also received a problem about the history of slew. The earlier tense of slay (Old Engl. slahan) was sloh (with a very long vowel), and this type designed like scoh “shoe,” nevertheless the verb vacillated between the 6th and the 7th course. The reality that slew and shoe have such dissimilar written kinds is thanks to the vagaries of English spelling. 1 can consider of too, who, you, group, fruit, cruise, rheum, truth, and true, which have the identical vowel as slew. In addition, look at Bruin and ruin, which search deceptively like fruit, and include maleoeuver for very good evaluate. A mild spelling reform appears to be like like a excellent idea, doesn’t it?

The pronunciation of February

In just one of the letters I been given, the writer expresses her indignation that some men and women insist on sounding the very first r in February. All people, she asserts, suggests Febyooary. In these kinds of matters, everybody is a risky phrase (as we will also see from the following product). All of us tend to think that what we say is the only right norm. Phrases with the succession r…r are likely to reduce a single of them. But library is more typically pronounced with each, and Drury, brewery, and prurient have withstood the tendency. February has changed its kind lots of instances. Consequently, lengthy back feverer (from Previous French) turned feverel (potentially less than the influence of averel “April”). In the older language of New England, January and February turned into Janry and Febry. On the other hand highly effective the phonetic forces may perhaps have been in affecting the pronunciation of February, of terrific significance was also the actuality that the names of the months typically occur in enumeration. Devoid of the first r, January and February rhyme. A identical predicament is well-identified from the etymology of some numerals. Whilst the pronunciation Febyooary is similarly prevalent on both equally sides of the Atlantic and is regarded as regular in the course of the English-talking entire world, not “everybody” has recognized it. The consonant b in February is due to the Latinization of the French etymon (late Latin februarius).

Who vs . whom

Discussion of these pronouns misplaced all curiosity long back, since the confusion of who and whom and the defeat of whom in American English go back again to previous times. Yet I am not positive that what I reported about the educated norm is “nonsense.” Who will marry our son? Whom will our son marry? Is it “nonsense” to distinguish them, and should (or only can) it be who in both equally conditions? Despite the rebuke, I consider that even in Modern-day American English the lady who we visited will not go through if who is changed with whom. But, unlike my opponent, I admit that preferences vary.


Another query I been given was about the origin of the verb wrap. This is a rather lengthy tale, and I resolved to devote a exclusive write-up to it in the foreseeable upcoming.

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

Anatoly Liberman is the writer of Word Origins And How We Know Them as effectively as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on term origins, The Oxford Etymologist, seems on the OUPblog each and every Wednesday. Ship your etymology problem to him treatment of [email protected] he’ll do his finest to stay clear of responding with “origin unidentified.” Subscribe to Anatoly Liberman’s weekly etymology content articles via email or RSS.

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