December 5, 2023


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Monthly etymology gleanings for July 2014

By Anatoly Liberman

Given that I’ll be out of town at the close of July, I was not guaranteed I would be ready to produce these “gleanings.” But the inquiries have been lots of, and I could solution some of them forward of time.

Autumn: its etymology

Our correspondent miracles irrespective of whether the Latin phrase 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 maximize.” This verb’s excellent participle is auctus “rich (“autumn as a abundant season”). The Roman derivation, even though not implausible, appears like a tribute to folk etymology. A a lot more serious conjecture allies autumn to the Germanic root aud-, as in Gothic audags “blessed” (in the relevant languages, also “rich”). But, a lot more in all probability, Latin autumnus goes back to Etruscan. The primary argument for the Etruscan origin is the resemblance of autumnus to Vertumnus, the name of a seasonal deity (or so it appears), about whom minimal is recognised aside from the tale of his seduction, in the form of an old woman, of Pomona, as told by Ovid. Vertumnus, or Vortumnus, could be a Latinized type of an Etruscan identify. A definite summary about autumnus is hardly attainable, even though some sources, even though tracing this word to Etruscan, include “without doubt.” The Egyptian Autun was a development god and the god of the placing solar, so that his relationship with autumn is distant at finest. Nor do we have any proof that Autun had a cult in Historic Rome. All the things is so uncertain below that the origin of autumnus have to requirements continue being unidentified. In my impression, the Egyptian hypothesis holds out minimal 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 aged lady. (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 long

I received an fascinating letter from Mr. Paul Nance. He writes about so prolonged:

“It would seem the type of expression that really should have derived from some fuller social nicety, this sort of as I regret that it will be so lengthy prior to we meet up with yet again or the like, but no a single has proposed a very clear antecedent. An oddity is its unexpected overall look in the early nineteenth century there are only a handful of sightings in advance 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, provide an antedating to the OED citations: so, fantastic bye, so long in the tale ‘Cruise of a Guinean Man’. Knickerbocker: New York (Every month Journal 5, February 1835, p. 105 readily available on Google Publications). Presented the lack of a fuller antecedent, suggestions as to its origin all suggest a borrowing from a further language. Does this seem to be sensible to you?”

Mr. Nance was variety more than enough to append two article content (by Alan S. Kaye and Joachim Grzega) on so long, both equally of which I had in my folders but have not reread considering that 2004 and 2005, when I uncovered and copied them. Grzega’s contribution is specially specific. My database is made up of only just one extra little comment on so extended by Frank Penny: “About 20 decades back I was educated that it [the expression so long] is allied to Samuel Pepys’s expression so household, and should be written so along or so ’long, indicating that the person applying the expression have to go his way” (Notes and Queries, Sequence 12, vol. IX, 1921, p. 419). The group so house does transform up in the Diary additional than after, but no quotation I could come across appears to be like a system. Possibly Stephen Goranson will ferret it out. In any case, so extended appears like an Americanism, and it is not likely that such a well-liked phrase need to have remained dormant in texts for just about two hundreds of years.

Be that as it may, I concur with Mr. Nance that a components of this form likely arose in civil dialogue. The a lot of tries to obtain a international supply for it have minor conviction. Norwegian does have an practically identical phrase, but, considering that its antecedents are mysterious, it may well have been borrowed from English. I suspect (a favourite switch of speech by aged etymologists) that so lengthy is certainly a curtailed edition of a the moment more comprehensible parting system, except if 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 abbreviated and reinterpreted.

“Heavy rain” in languages other than English

At the time I wrote a submit titled “When it rains, it does not necessarily pour.” There I pointed out numerous German and Swedish idioms like it is raining cats and dogs, and, rather than recycling that textual content, will refer our aged correspondent Mr. John Larsson to it.

Ukraine and Baltic area names

The remark on this subject was welcome. In my response, I most popular not to discuss about the matters alien to me, but I wondered whether or not the Latvian area title could be of Slavic origin. That is why I stated cautiously: “If this is a native Latvian word…” The dilemma, as I comprehend, continues to be unanswered, but the suggestion is tempting. And indeed, of system, Serb/Croat Krajna is an precise counterpart of Ukraina, only without the need of a prefix. In Russian, anxiety falls on i in Ukrainian, I believe, the very first a is pressured. The exact retains for the derived adjectives: ukrainskii ~ ukrainskii. Pushkin mentioned ukrainskaia (female).

Slough, sloo, and the relaxation

Quite a few many thanks to those who knowledgeable 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 background of slew. The past tense of slay (Outdated Engl. slahan) was sloh (with a very long vowel), and this type developed like scoh “shoe,” although the verb vacillated involving the 6th and the 7th class. The reality that slew and shoe have these dissimilar created kinds is because of to the vagaries of English spelling. A person can imagine of too, who, you, group, fruit, cruise, rheum, truth, and true, which have the exact vowel as slew. In addition, consider Bruin and ruin, which glance deceptively like fruit, and add manoeuver for very good evaluate. A delicate spelling reform appears to be like a fantastic idea, doesn’t it?

The pronunciation of February

In just one of the letters I acquired, the writer expresses her indignation that some men and women insist on sounding the 1st r in February. Every person, she asserts, suggests Febyooary. In these matters, everyone is a unsafe term (as we will also see from the future item). All of us are likely to imagine that what we say is the only proper norm. Terms with the succession r…r tend to get rid of a person of them. Nevertheless library is extra typically pronounced with equally, and Drury, brewery, and prurient have withstood the tendency. February has modified its sort several times. So, lengthy in the past feverer (from Old French) became feverel (maybe below the affect of averel “April”). In the older language of New England, January and February turned into Janry and Febry. However highly effective the phonetic forces may possibly have been in influencing the pronunciation of February, of great value was also the reality that the names of the months frequently come about in enumeration. With out the initially r, January and February rhyme. A similar situation is well-acknowledged from the etymology of some numerals. Although the pronunciation Febyooary is equally prevalent on both sides of the Atlantic and is recognized as typical all through the English-speaking globe, not “everybody” has approved it. The consonant b in February is owing to the Latinization of the French etymon (late Latin februarius).

Who as opposed to whom

Discussion of these pronouns shed all interest long ago, for the reason that 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 both of those conditions? Even with the rebuke, I imagine that even in Present day American English the lady who we frequented will not experience if who is changed with whom. But, compared with my opponent, I acknowledge that preferences vary.


One more concern I been given was about the origin of the verb wrap. This is a relatively lengthy tale, and I made a decision to commit a particular publish to it in the foreseeable long run.

PS. I discover that of the two inquiries questioned by our correspondent past month only copacetic captivated some awareness (study Stephen Goranson’s reaction). But what about hubba hubba?

Anatoly Liberman is the author of Word Origins And How We Know Them as well as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on phrase origins, The Oxford Etymologist, seems on the OUPblog every Wednesday. Send out your etymology issue to him care of web [email protected] he’ll do his very best to stay clear of responding with “origin not known.” Subscribe to Anatoly Liberman’s weekly etymology article content via email or RSS.

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