June 13, 2024


Education is everything you need

Monthly etymology gleanings for July 2014

By Anatoly Liberman

Since I’ll be out of city at the finish of July, I was not sure I would be able to publish these “gleanings.” But the inquiries have been quite a few, and I could remedy some of them forward of time.

Autumn: its etymology

Our correspondent wonders whether or not the Latin word from which English, by using French, has autumn, could be discovered with the title of the Egyptian god Autun. The Romans derived the phrase autumnus, which was both an adjective (“autumnal”) and a noun (“autumn”), from augere “to boost.” This verb’s best participle is auctus “rich (“autumn as a wealthy season”). The Roman derivation, though not implausible, appears to be like like a tribute to people etymology. A much more really serious conjecture allies autumn to the Germanic root aud-, as in Gothic audags “blessed” (in the connected languages, also “rich”). But, more likely, Latin autumnus goes back to Etruscan. The main argument for the Etruscan origin is the resemblance of autumnus to Vertumnus, the name of a seasonal deity (or so it looks), about whom minimal is recognized apart from the tale of his seduction, in the condition of an aged lady, of Pomona, as instructed by Ovid. Vertumnus, or Vortumnus, may well be a Latinized type of an Etruscan identify. A definite summary about autumnus is barely achievable, even however some sources, while tracing this word to Etruscan, increase “without question.” The Egyptian Autun was a generation god and the god of the placing sunshine, so that his connection with autumn is remote at most effective. Nor do we have any proof that Autun experienced a cult in Historic Rome. Every little thing is so uncertain in this article that the origin of autumnus have to requirements stay unfamiliar. In my viewpoint, the Egyptian hypothesis holds out very little assure.

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Vertumnus seducing Pomona in the shape of an outdated female. (Pomona by Frans de Vriendt “Floris” (Konstnär, 1518-1570) Antwerpen, Belgien, Hallwyl Museum, Image by Jens Mohr, through Wikimedia Commons)

The origin of so long

I acquired an exciting letter from Mr. Paul Nance. He writes about so extensive:

“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 long in advance of we fulfill all over again or the like, but no a person has proposed a apparent antecedent. An oddity is its unexpected visual 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 includes the title) in the 1860-1861 edition of Leaves of Grass. I can, by the way, supply an antedating to the OED citations: so, very good bye, so extensive in the story ‘Cruise of a Guinean Man’. Knickerbocker: New York (Every month Magazine 5, February 1835, p. 105 offered on Google Books). Specified the absence of a fuller antecedent, ideas as to its origin all suggest a borrowing from a further language. Does this look acceptable to you?”

Mr. Nance was sort sufficient to append two articles (by Alan S. Kaye and Joachim Grzega) on so very long, the two of which I had in my folders but have not reread since 2004 and 2005, when I found and copied them. Grzega’s contribution is specially detailed. My databases includes only a single much more very small remark on so lengthy by Frank Penny: “About 20 years back I was informed that it [the expression so long] is allied to Samuel Pepys’s expression so household, and must be written so alongside or so ’long, this means that the particular person utilizing the expression need to go his way” (Notes and Queries, Series 12, vol. IX, 1921, p. 419). The team so residence does convert up in the Diary additional than when, but no citation I could find appears like a components. Maybe Stephen Goranson will ferret it out. In any scenario, so very long seems like an Americanism, and it is unlikely that these types of a well known phrase must have remained dormant in texts for practically two hundreds of years.

Be that as it may well, I concur with Mr. Nance that a method of this style almost certainly arose in civil dialogue. The quite a few attempts to uncover a foreign supply for it carry minor conviction. Norwegian does have an nearly equivalent phrase, but, because its antecedents are not known, it may possibly have been borrowed from English. I suspect (a beloved flip of speech by outdated etymologists) that so prolonged is in fact a curtailed model of a after a lot more comprehensible parting components, except it belongs with the likes of for auld lang sine. It may possibly have been introduced to the New Globe from England or Scotland and later on abbreviated and reinterpreted.

“Heavy rain” in languages other than English

Once I wrote a post titled “When it rains, it does not always pour.” There I mentioned several German and Swedish idioms like it is raining cats and dogs, and, alternatively than recycling that textual content, will refer our old correspondent Mr. John Larsson to it.

Ukraine and Baltic spot names

The comment on this issue was welcome. In my reaction, I desired not to converse about the things alien to me, but I questioned whether the Latvian put identify could be of Slavic origin. That is why I claimed cautiously: “If this is a indigenous Latvian word…” The dilemma, as I comprehend, stays unanswered, but the suggestion is tempting. And sure, of course, Serb/Croat Krajna is an specific counterpart of Ukraina, only devoid of a prefix. In Russian, stress falls on i in Ukrainian, I believe, the initially a is stressed. The exact same retains for the derived adjectives: ukrainskii ~ ukrainskii. Pushkin stated ukrainskaia (female).

Slough, sloo, and the relaxation

Quite a few thanks to 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 query about the record of slew. The earlier tense of slay (Outdated Engl. slahan) was sloh (with a extended vowel), and this form formulated like scoh “shoe,” even though the verb vacillated in between the 6th and the 7th class. The simple fact that slew and shoe have these kinds of dissimilar published kinds is due to the vagaries of English spelling. A single can believe of too, who, you, group, fruit, cruise, rheum, truth, and true, which have the same vowel as slew. In addition, take into account Bruin and ruin, which look deceptively like fruit, and insert manoeuver for great evaluate. A gentle spelling reform looks like a fantastic plan, does not it?

The pronunciation of February

In just one of the letters I obtained, the author expresses her indignation that some individuals insist on sounding the first r in February. All people, she asserts, suggests Febyooary. In this sort of issues, every person is a dangerous term (as we will also see from the up coming product). All of us are inclined to believe that what we say is the only suitable norm. Text with the succession r…r are likely to lose one of them. Nonetheless library is additional typically pronounced with equally, and Drury, brewery, and prurient have withstood the inclination. February has improved its variety several moments. So, lengthy back feverer (from Aged French) became feverel (probably beneath the impact of averel “April”). In the more mature language of New England, January and February turned into Janry and Febry. On the other hand highly effective the phonetic forces could have been in affecting the pronunciation of February, of good worth was also the reality that the names of the months typically come about in enumeration. With out the first r, January and February rhyme. A related scenario is nicely-identified from the etymology of some numerals. While the pronunciation Febyooary is equally common on each sides of the Atlantic and is regarded as typical in the course of the English-speaking earth, not “everybody” has approved it. The consonant b in February is due to the Latinization of the French etymon (late Latin februarius).

Who versus whom

Dialogue of these pronouns shed all curiosity extensive in the past, for the reason that the confusion of who and whom and the defeat of whom in American English go back to outdated times. But I am not certain 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 ought to (or only can) it be who in the two cases? Irrespective of the rebuke, I believe that even in Present day American English the female who we frequented will not experience if who is replaced with whom. But, as opposed to my opponent, I confess that tastes vary.


One more concern I obtained was about the origin of the verb wrap. This is a fairly very long tale, and I resolved to commit a distinctive put up to it in the foreseeable foreseeable future.

PS. I discover that of the two questions asked by our correspondent very last thirty day period only copacetic attracted some notice (examine Stephen Goranson’s response). But what about hubba hubba?

Anatoly Liberman is the creator of Term Origins And How We Know Them as nicely as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on word origins, The Oxford Etymologist, appears on the OUPblog each Wednesday. Send out your etymology problem to him care of [email protected] he’ll do his best to stay clear of responding with “origin mysterious.” Subscribe to Anatoly Liberman’s weekly etymology article content via email or RSS.

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