Archive for Etymology

"Add oil" is now English

Two years ago, I wrote a post about the Chinese expression "'Add oil'" (9/13/16) (cf. the comments to "Non-translation" [7/24/16]). In that post, I mentioned:

I remember way back when I was in high school (in the 50s), the cheerleaders used to tell their team to "step on the gas".  So the concept of ga1yau4 / jiāyóu 加油 ("add oil / gas") was already out there.

In a personal note, Chau Wu adds:

To echo what you said, I remember I also used the phrase 加油 when I was in elementary school (late 1940s – early 50s), both in Mandarin and Taiwanese.

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"Bāphre bāph!" — my favorite Nepali expression

As a Peace Corps volunteer in eastern Nepal (Bhojpur) from 1965-67, I became highly fluent in spoken Nepali.  I even dreamed in Nepali.

My Peace Corps buddies and I learned Nepali in Columbia, Missouri by the total immersion method, which I describe and demonstrate in this post:  "Learn Nepali" (9/21/16).

See also my comments to "Alien encounters" (9/15/16), especially this one, #7-8, and the links embedded therein.

I became enamored of many Nepali words and phrases, but my favorite of all is "bāphre bāph!", which corresponds roughly to "Wow", "OMG", etc. in English.

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Corpora and the Second Amendment: 'keep' (part 1)

An introduction and guide to my series of posts "Corpora and the Second Amendment" is available here. The corpus data that is discussed can be downloaded here. That link will take you to a shared folder in Dropbox. Important: Use the "Download" button at the top right of the screen.

With this post, I begin my examination of the corpus data regarding the phrase keep and bear arms. My plan is to start at the level of the individual words, keep, bear, and arms, then proceed to the simple verb phrases keep arms and bear arms, and finally deal with the whole phrase keep and bear arms. I start in this post and the next one with keep.

As you may recall from my last post about the Second Amendment, Justice Scalia's majority opinion in D.C. v. Heller had this to say about the meaning of keep: "[Samuel] Johnson defined 'keep' as, most relevantly, '[t]o retain; not to lose,' and '[t]o have in custody.' Webster defined it as '[t]o hold; to retain in one's power or possession.'" While those definitions could be improved on, I think that for purposes of this discussion, they adequately explain what keep means when it's used in the phrase keep arms. So I'm not going to discuss that data with an eye to criticizing this portion of the Heller opinion.

Instead, I'm going to use the data for keep as the raw material for an introduction to the nuts and bolts of corpus analysis. I suspect that many people reading this won't have had any first-hand experience working with corpus data, or even any exposure to it. Hopefully this quick introduction will enable those people to better understand what I'm talking about when I start to deal with the data that does raise questions about the Supreme Court's analysis.

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WTFF

Whence the "ff" in Roscoff, where I am now? The Breton name is "Rosko". And "ff" is not a common word ending in French.

 

 

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Long words

I'm in Hamburg for lectures and meetings this week.

The first day I was here, in the afternoon I went out for a walk.  After taking about 50 steps from the front door of my hotel, I saw this lettering on the glass facade of a nearby building:

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Honey Oligosaccharide Spice Chicken

Sign in the window at Green Pepper, a Korean restaurant at 2020 Murray Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA:

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Mongolian priests and bugs, with a note on the Japanese word for "bonze"

An anonymous correspondent asked:

Are these actually related words, or just homonyms?

p. 127 of  Jack Weatherford, Genghis Khan and the Quest for God: How the World's Greatest Conqueror Gave Us Religious Freedom:

Male shamans were treated with cautious respect, but they evoked suspicion and even disgust. As one saying put it, “the worst of men become shamans.” The word boo, Mongolian for “shaman,” is part of a cluster of words with loathsome connotations: foul, abominable, to vomit, to castrate, an opportunistic person without scruples; it is also the general term for lice, fleas, and bedbugs. 28

His footnote 28: бѳѳ (бѳѳδийн), to vomit (бѳѳлжих), to castrate (бѳѳрлѳх), an opportunistic person without scruples (бѳѳрѳний хн), and the basic term for lice, fleas, and bedbugs (бѳѳс). Хvлгийг муу жоро болох. A Modern Mongolian-English Dictionary, ed. Denis Sinor (Indiana University, Uralic and Altaic Series, vol. 150, 1997),

Someone else asked whether Japanese boosan / bōsan 坊さん ("monk") were somehow related.

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Mud season in Russia: Putin, Rasputin

A couple of years ago around this time I wrote about the "Schlump season" (3/21/15) at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.  Now, as Dartmouth is becoming enmired in the early spring mud, Pamela Kyle Crossley, who teaches there, told me that she thought of the Russian word for this season:  rasputitsa.  And that made me think of the Russian word for "way; path; pathway; route; track; road":  путь, which I suppose is cognate with "path".  Another form of the word is путин, which reminds me of "Putin" ("road" — I think [see below]) and "Rasputin" ("broken / obliterated road").

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"On the fritz" at Sing Sing

[This is a guest post by Stephen Goranson.]


Though it's generally agreed that "on the fritz" means, more or less, "in an unsatisfactory or defective state or condition" (Oxford English Dictionary), there is no agreement on its etymology. Some currently associate "fritz" with a sound from a malfunctioning electric machine, but the early uses of the phrase did not apply to machines but to persons. Others, including OED, guess that, somehow, the German name Fritz was involved. But several early usages of the phrase were spelled as "on the friz"; and both "on the friz" and "on the fritz" were often spelled without any capital F. Rather than a German name or a mechanical effusion, I suggest, the origin used dialect forms of the verb "freeze," as being frozen up or frozen out were negative. Such forms are well-attested in the Dictionary of American Regional English and in U.S. newspapers of the 1890s.

And a poem that prisoner number 23,669 contributed in 1902 to the "Star of Hope" (a prison newspaper published at Sing Sing) supports this hypothesis.

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Japanese "Yankee" ("juvenile delinquent")

"Japanese start-up helping ‘delinquents’ compete against college graduates for city jobs with new internship:  The company Hassyadai has so far helped 100 youth from outside Tokyo to land employment", SCMP (12/2/17):

Dubbed the “Yankee internship”, the programme, whose participants range in age from 16 to 22, is unique in that it includes the category of Yankee – Japanese slang for delinquent youth.

How did English "Yankee" come to mean "delinquent youth" in Japanese?

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Congee: the Dravidian roots of the name for a Chinese dish

I love congee and I love the word "congee":

"Chinese restaurant shorthand, part 2" (11/30/16)

"Chinese restaurant shorthand, part 3" (2/25/17)

Lisa Lim has written an edifying article on the subject in the South China Morning Post Magazine (11/10/17):

"Where the word congee comes from – the answer may surprise you:  The dish is frequently associated with East Asian cuisine but the term originated in India – from the Tamil kanji"

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GA

One of my favorite Chinese words is GANGA (pronounce as in "Lady Gaga", but put a nasal at the end of the first syllable).  It is so special and has had such a deep impact upon me since I began learning Chinese half a century ago that, in this post, I shall refer to it simply as "GANGA", in capital letters only, except when discussing its more precise pronunciation, derivation, meaning, and written representation in Chinese characters.  Referring to this unusual word as "GANGA" is meant to emphasize the iconic quality it has for me personally, in the sense that its nature reveals many verities about Sinitic languages and Chinese writing.

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Putting the kibosh on bosh

In the "Cultural disappropriation" section of the current The Economist, there's an entertaining and informative article on the latest attempt to purify Turkish:

"Turkey’s president wants to purge Western words from its language:  A new step in Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s campaign against foreign influences"

The whole business is both humorous and hopeless:

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