Wednesday, 25 March 2009

maelstrom and blintz

Some dictionaries say that maelstrom is borrowed from Danish malstrøm. I'll go with the OED, which says it's borrowed from early modern Dutch maelstrom (nowadays spelled maalstroom). Both the Danish and Dutch words are related, being composed of the words for "whirl" and "stream". Dutch malen "to grind, whirl round" is from Proto-Indo-European *melh₂- "to crush, grind".

*melh₂- possibly became Old Russian mlinŭ, blinŭ (млинъ/блинъ) "pancake" which became the diminutive blinets (блинец?), borrowed into Yiddish as בלינצע blintse, and then into English as blintz(e). Similar food-related senses are found in the English cognates meal (as in cornmeal), and mill "building for grinding grain into flour".


bulbul said...

The Old Russian word is млинъ/блинъ, the modern word I am more familiar with is блинчик [BLEEN-cheek]. But that's just another diminutive.
The etymology sounds ok, though I have to wonder: the Czech/Slovak equivalent is palačinka/palacinka. I've always assumed it to be a cognate of placka (think Arab bread or this example of downhome cooking) and which I thought derived from placatý = "flat" or something similar ultimately derived from PIE root *pelə-, *plā- (Pokorny 805).

Anonymous said...

bulbul, the Czech/Slovak word is a Vlach word, I should imagine. In Romanian placinta means crepe, and it's a regular development from Latin placenta.

goofy said...

placenta is from *plak- (Pokorny 831) "to be flat", so bulbul was on the right track.

bulbul said...


that would make perfect sense, a lot of those food items are first mentioned with the Vlach colonization (14th-15th century). Even placka might be Vlach and the adjective may be derived from the noun, not the other way around.