Monday, 29 March 2010

pajamas and peccadillo

The Proto-Indo-European root *ped- "foot" became Persian پای pāy "foot". This combined with جامه jāmah "garment" to form پای جامه pāy-jāmah "drawers, trousers", borrowed thru Hindi-Urdu into English as pajamas.

In Latin *ped- became ped- "foot", and perhaps peccāre "to do wrong", as in "stumble". (Ped- plus the adjective-forming suffix -cus.) Peccātum was "error, moral lapse", becoming Spanish peccadillo "minor sin".

In English the lengthened o-grade form *pōd- became foot.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

loot and rouble

loot is from Hindi लूट lūṭ, related to Sanskrit लोप्त्र loptra "stolen property, plunder" from lup "to seize" from Proto-Indo-European *reup- "to snatch".

According to the AHD, the root became Old Russian rupiti "to chop, hew", then rublĭ "cut, piece (probably originally a piece cut from a silver bar)", then Russian рубль rubl' "rouble".

Sunday, 14 March 2010

torpedo and starve

Proto-Indo-European *(s)ter- "stiff" in the extended zero-grade stative form *tr̥-p-eh₁-i̯e- became Latin torpēre "to be stiff". Torpēdo "stiffness, numbness" was applied to the electric ray, genus Torpedo, family Torpedinidae, because

Torpido is a fisshe, but who-so handeleth hym shalbe lame & defe of lymmes that he shall fele no thyng.
- Lawrens Andrewe, The noble lyfe & natures of man

In the 18th century, torpedo was used for an underwater bullet, and then later for a self-propelled underwater missile.

The extended form *ster-bʰ- became Old English steorfan "to die", as in "become stiff", becoming English starve.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

arabik

The Canadian government has new posters in Toronto advertising English classes. The poster shows the phrase "English classes" in a few different languages, but tragically the Arabic script is badly rendered.



Not only are the letters disconnected, but they're printed in the wrong direction (left to right instead of right to left).

Reverse the direction, and you get كلاساى زبان انگليسى klāsāī zabān ānglīsī. I'm guessing this is Persian for "English language classes".

The associated website has an unfortunate problem as well. The list of languages on the left includes Arabic:



This is اربيك ārabīk - it seems to be just a translisteration of the English word "Arabic" into Arabic script. Why did they use this and not العربية al-ʿarabīyah? Either it's a mistake or I'm missing something; there are a lot of google hits for اربيك.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

grammar and crayfish

The Proto-Indo-European root is *gerbʰ- "to scratch". The zero-grade form *gr̥bʰ- became Greek γράφω "to write" and the zero-grade suffixed form *gr̥bʰ-mn̥- became γράμμα "written letter". Γραμματική τέχνη (grammatikē tekhnē) meant "the art of letters" (τέχνη "art, craft, skill" from *teḱs- "to weave, fabricate"), and this was borrowed into Latin as grammatica, which became Old French grammaire "learning, especially Latin and philology". This was borrowed into English as grammar.

The OED tells us that

In the Middle Ages, grammatica and its Rom[ance] forms chiefly meant the knowledge or study of Latin, and were hence often used as synonymous with learning in general, the knowledge peculiar to the learned class. As this was popularly supposed to include magic and astrology, the OF. gramaire was sometimes used as a name for these occult sciences. In these applications it still survives in certain corrupt forms, F. grimoire, Eng. GLAMOUR

So both glamour, which originally meant "magic, enchantment, spell", and grimoire, a manual for summoning demons, used to be the same word as grammar.

There seems to be a similar language/magic association with the word spell.

In Proto-Germanic *gerbʰ- became *kraƀiz-, then Old High German kerbiz "edible crustacean". The "scratch" meaning was extended to crustaceans, because they move by scratching the ground. This was borrowed into Old French as crevice, then borrowed into Middle English as crevise, which was folk etymologized to crayfish and crawfish. Crab is probably from the same Proto-Germanic word.

Some older posts on grammar:

Last year I asked what is grammar, anyway?

The grammar of the Maple Leafs.

What's up with between you and I?

Using that or which in relative clauses.

Conditional clauses: if it was or if it were.

And check out Motivated Grammar's Ten More Common Grammar Myths, Debunked.

Monday, 1 March 2010

despot and timber

The Proto-Indo-European root is *dem- which meant "house" and also "to build" according to Fortson. Fortson talks about the phrase *dems potes "master of the house, lord, master", found in Vedic dám-patis and Greek δεσπότης des-pótēs - whence English despot.

In Proto-Germanic, *dem-ro- became *timram, and German Zimmer "room", and English timber.