Tuesday, 18 May 2010

phlogiston and beluga

Proto-Indo-European *bhel- "to shine" extended to *bhleg- became Greek φλόξ "flame" and phlogiston, the substance thought, in the 18th century, to exist in combustible substances and to explain why some substances burned and others didn't.

*bhel- became Russian белый belyj "white" and beluga. The suffix -уга/уха is, I think, an embiggening suffix.

Two more interesting derivatives are black, possibly from Proto-Germanic *ƀlakaz "burned", and bleach, from Proto-Germanic *ƀlaikjan "to make white" from *ƀlaikoz "white". This survived in Old English blāc "pale" and an obsolete word blake meaning "pale" or "yellow".

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Captain Nemo speaks Punjabi

Having just finished 2000 Leagues Under the Sea, I naturally turn to wikipedia, which claims that Nemo comes close to revealing his Indian ancestry in that book, but that it's only obvious in retrospect. This suprised me; I thought Nemo outright says he's from India. My copy has

"That Indian, professor, lives in the land of the oppressed, and I am to this day, and will be until my last breath, a native of that same land!"

The original is

<< Cet Indien, monsieur le professeur, c'est un habitant du pays des opprimes, et je suis encore, et, jusqu'a mon dernier souffle, je serai de ce pays-la ! >>

I guess it is ambiguous - ce pays-là ("that country") could refer to India, or to oppressed nations generally.

In the sequel, The Mysterious Island, which I haven't read, it is revealed that Nemo was Prince Armitage Ranjit Dakkar, a descendent of both Hindus and Muslims. In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill make Nemo a Sikh, and fit out the Nautilus with Indian design and iconography.

And in the latest book, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume III: Century, Nemo speaks Punjabi with his daughter Janni.

I can't translate it, but I'm pretty sure it's real dialogue, as opposed to random Punjabi copied and pasted from another source. Of course, understanding the conversation isn't necessary to enjoy the story - the gist of it is repeated later. But I include the Punjabi below the fold in case someone wants to have a go at translating it.

I found a translation.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

ayurvedic and gallowglass

Proto-Indo-European *h₂oi̯u- "life force" became Vedic ā́yus "life force" and आयुर्वेद āyur-veda - veda meaning "knowledge".

The AHD claims that *h₂oi̯u- was a variant of *h₂i̯eu- "youth, vigor" altho I haven't seen anyone else make this claim. *h₂i̯eu- is the source of Old Irish óac "young" which combined with the abstract noun-making suffix -lach to become Irish Gaelic óglách "youth, servant, warrior".

Óglách is the second part of the Irish Gaelic gallóglách, the first part being from gall "foreigner, stranger" - borrowed from Latin Gallus "Gaul" (according to MacBain's). A gallowglass was a mercenary class in Scotland and Ireland, but its etymological meaning is apparently "foreign warrior, possibly Gaulish".

The mercilesse Macdonwald
… from the Westerne Isles
Of Kernes and Gallowgrosses is supply'd

- Macbeth I, ii

(A kerne is an Irish foot-soldier, from Irish Gaelic ceithern.)