December 10, 2023


Arts Fanatics

Monthly etymology gleanings for July 2014

By Anatoly Liberman

Due to the fact I’ll be out of town at the stop of July, I was not absolutely sure I would be able to compose these “gleanings.” But the questions have been a lot of, and I could respond to some of them in advance of time.

Autumn: its etymology

Our correspondent wonders whether or not the Latin term from which English, via French, has autumn, could be recognized with the title of the Egyptian god Autun. The Romans derived the term autumnus, which was equally an adjective (“autumnal”) and a noun (“autumn”), from augere “to maximize.” This verb’s perfect participle is auctus “rich (“autumn as a wealthy season”). The Roman derivation, though not implausible, looks like a tribute to folks etymology. A a lot more major conjecture allies autumn to the Germanic root aud-, as in Gothic audags “blessed” (in the associated languages, also “rich”). But, much more probably, Latin autumnus goes back to Etruscan. The principal argument for the Etruscan origin is the resemblance of autumnus to Vertumnus, the identify of a seasonal deity (or so it appears), about whom minimal is identified besides the tale of his seduction, in the condition of an previous lady, of Pomona, as told by Ovid. Vertumnus, or Vortumnus, may well be a Latinized type of an Etruscan name. A definite summary about autumnus is hardly doable, even though some sources, while tracing this word to Etruscan, insert “without doubt.” The Egyptian Autun was a development god and the god of the placing sun, so that his link with autumn is remote at greatest. Nor do we have any proof that Autun experienced a cult in Historical Rome. All the things is so unsure here that the origin of autumnus should demands keep on being unidentified. In my belief, the Egyptian speculation holds out very little promise.

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 aged female. (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 exciting letter from Mr. Paul Nance. He writes about so lengthy:

“It appears the sort of expression that really should have derived from some fuller social nicety, these types of as I regret that it will be so lengthy prior to we fulfill once again or the like, but no a person has proposed a obvious antecedent. An oddity is its unexpected look in the early nineteenth century there are only a handful of sightings before Walt Whitman’s use of it in a poem (like the title) in the 1860-1861 edition of Leaves of Grass. I can, by the way, provide an antedating to the OED citations: so, great bye, so very long in the story ‘Cruise of a Guinean Man’. Knickerbocker: New York (Regular monthly Magazine 5, February 1835, p. 105 out there on Google Publications). Provided the deficiency of a fuller antecedent, tips as to its origin all propose a borrowing from another language. Does this look affordable to you?”

Mr. Nance was variety ample to append two articles or blog posts (by Alan S. Kaye and Joachim Grzega) on so very long, equally 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 in particular in depth. My databases includes only a person additional small remark on so extended by Frank Penny: “About twenty several years in the past I was informed that it [the expression so long] is allied to Samuel Pepys’s expression so dwelling, and need to be written so together or so ’long, this means that the particular person applying the expression should go his way” (Notes and Queries, Series 12, vol. IX, 1921, p. 419). The team so household does turn up in the Diary additional than as soon as, but no citation I could locate seems like a system. Potentially Stephen Goranson will ferret it out. In any situation, so extended appears to be like an Americanism, and it is not likely that these kinds of a well known phrase should really have remained dormant in texts for pretty much two centuries.

Be that as it might, I concur with Mr. Nance that a formula of this form probably arose in civil discussion. The quite a few attempts to uncover a foreign source for it carry very little conviction. Norwegian does have an virtually similar phrase, but, considering that its antecedents are mysterious, it may perhaps have been borrowed from English. I suspect (a favourite change of speech by old etymologists) that so extensive is in fact a curtailed version of a after a lot more comprehensible parting system, unless of course it belongs with the likes of for auld lang sine. It may perhaps have been brought to the New Globe from England or Scotland and later on abbreviated and reinterpreted.

“Heavy rain” in languages other than English

The moment I wrote a put up titled “When it rains, it does not necessarily pour.” There I pointed out a lot of German and Swedish idioms like it is raining cats and pet dogs, and, rather than recycling that text, will refer our old correspondent Mr. John Larsson to it.

Ukraine and Baltic location names

The remark on this subject was welcome. In my response, I preferred not to chat about the factors alien to me, but I questioned whether the Latvian place name could be of Slavic origin. That is why I said cautiously: “If this is a native Latvian word…” The question, as I understand, remains unanswered, but the recommendation is tempting. And sure, of system, Serb/Croat Krajna is an actual counterpart of Ukraina, only with no a prefix. In Russian, anxiety falls on i in Ukrainian, I consider, the to start with a is pressured. The identical retains for the derived adjectives: ukrainskii ~ ukrainskii. Pushkin said ukrainskaia (female).

Slough, sloo, and the rest

Several many thanks to these who knowledgeable me about their pronunciation of slough “mire.” It was new to me that the surname Slough is pronounced in a different way in England and the United States. I also gained a dilemma about the historical past of slew. The previous tense of slay (Outdated Engl. slahan) was sloh (with a prolonged vowel), and this sort designed like scoh “shoe,” while the verb vacillated in between the 6th and the 7th class. The truth that slew and shoe have such dissimilar composed sorts is owing to the vagaries of English spelling. 1 can consider 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 glance deceptively like fruit, and increase manoeuver for great measure. A delicate spelling reform looks like a superior concept, doesn’t it?

The pronunciation of February

In one of the letters I acquired, the writer expresses her indignation that some people today insist on sounding the very first r in February. Every person, she asserts, states Febyooary. In these kinds of issues, most people is a unsafe phrase (as we will also see from the next merchandise). All of us have a tendency to assume that what we say is the only accurate norm. Phrases with the succession r…r are likely to shed just one of them. Nevertheless library is much more frequently pronounced with each, and Drury, brewery, and prurient have withstood the tendency. February has adjusted its sort numerous periods. As a result, prolonged in the past feverer (from Old French) turned feverel (maybe below the influence of averel “April”). In the older language of New England, January and February turned into Janry and Febry. On the other hand impressive the phonetic forces may possibly have been in affecting the pronunciation of February, of great great importance was also the simple fact that the names of the months often happen in enumeration. Without the need of the 1st r, January and February rhyme. A similar condition is well-recognized from the etymology of some numerals. Though the pronunciation Febyooary is equally frequent on both of those sides of the Atlantic and is regarded as normal in the course of the English-talking environment, 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

Discussion of these pronouns misplaced all curiosity long back, simply because the confusion of who and whom and the defeat of whom in American English go back to previous times. However I am not certain 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 the two cases? Regardless of the rebuke, I think that even in Contemporary American English the girl who we visited will not put up with if who is changed with whom. But, as opposed to my opponent, I admit that tastes vary.


A further query I acquired was about the origin of the verb wrap. This is a instead extensive tale, and I decided to commit a exclusive article to it in the foreseeable future.

PS. I recognize that of the two questions questioned by our correspondent final thirty day period only copacetic attracted some consideration (read Stephen Goranson’s reaction). But what about hubba hubba?

Anatoly Liberman is the writer of Phrase Origins And How We Know Them as nicely as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on phrase origins, The Oxford Etymologist, seems on the OUPblog just about every Wednesday. Deliver your etymology query to him treatment of [email protected] he’ll do his very best to stay away from responding with “origin mysterious.” Subscribe to Anatoly Liberman’s weekly etymology content via email or RSS.

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