Saturday, 29 June 2013

paraffin and few

He got up to go, and added: "Then I shall see you in the City before you go back to... Castra Parvulorum, was it? What a jolly name!"

"Unfortunately it isn't generally called that," the Archdeacon said. "It's called in directories and so on, and by the inhabitants, Fardles. By Grimm's Law."

"Grimm's Law?" Mornington asked, astonished. "Wasn't he the man who wrote the fairy tales for the parvuli? But why did he make a law about it? And why did anyone take any notice?"

"I understand it was something to do with Indo-European sounds," the Archdeacon answered. "The Castra was dropped, and in parvulorum the p became f and the v became d. And Grimm discovered what had happened. But I try and keep the old name as well as I can. It's not far from London. They say Caesar gave it the name because his soldiers caught a lot of British children there, and he sent them back to their own people."

"Then I don't see why Grimm should have interfered," Mornington said

- Charles Williams, War in Heaven, 1930
Full marks for creativity, but the Latin word would not have developed into the English word in that way. I wonder if Tolkien had something to do with this. (Tolkien and Williams were in the same literary group, along with CS Lewis.)

paruulī are chidren, the dimunitive of paruus "small". It's cognate with Greek παῦρος "little, small", from Proto-Indo-European *peh₂u-.

In English *peh₂u- became few.

Latin paruus made its way into English in parvi- as in parvovirus. And paraffin from parum+affinis, ie "small affinity". It got this name due to its small affinity with other chemicals, apparently.

I don't see a way to get English Fardles and Latin paruulī from the same protoform. If the English was Fartles (**pardu̯-) it might work.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

jealous, zealous, जादू

So a friend of mine was wondering when jealous and envious both came to mean "possessiveness about someone else's stuff". Only envious should be used in this way, he felt. I decided to look into it, because that's the sort of service we provide here at Bradshaw of the Future. But it turns out that Gabe at Motivated Grammar has already covered it, and covered it much better than I could. (Both words have been used this way since at least 1385.)

But I discovered a few other interesting things. For instance jealous and zealous are both derived from late Latin zēlōsus, the adjective form of zēlus which was borrowed from Greek ζῆλος (zēlos) "jealousy, fervour, zeal". jealous is thru Old French gelos (derived from zēlōsus), while zealous was borrowed straight from Latin zēlōsus.

The reason why we don't have a word *jeal to correspond with zeal is… well, I guess there is no reason. zeal is borrowed from late Latin zēlus, but an Old French reflex of zēlus, if one ever existed, wasn't borrowed into English as *jeal.

ζῆλος is from Proto-Indo-European *yeh₂- meaning "seek, request, desire" in the AHD and "to be angry, to be punished, also to invoke, to bless" in the IEW.

According to the IEW, derivatives include Sanskrit यातु yātu "witchcraft" and Avestan yā-tū- "magic". The semantic shift from either "seek, request" or "to invoke" to "magic" doesn't seem implausible to me.

The Avestan is related to Persian جادو jādū "magic", which was borrowed into Hindi as जादू jādū.

When I think of jadoo, of course I think of this magical song from my favourite Hindi film, Koi Mil Gaya. It will bewitch you.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

arrested devanagari

In one of the episodes of the new Arrested Development (the one where Tobias goes to India), we can see an authentic Indian airport, straight from Google Translate:
बाॅब होप हवाई अड्डे - "Bob Hope airport". It suffers from a rendering problem - the last vowel diacritic is hanging in space.

 There's another sign that's clear enough to read:
 टर्मिनल बी - "terminal B". The vowel diacritic is misplaced, probably because of a rendering problem. (Language Log has a detailed description of the issue.) And why not conjoin some letters once in a while?

 From the same episode:
निराशा अस्पता के सिटी "city of hopelessness hospital" - there's a letter missing, it should be अस्पताल. And why transliterate "city" instead of using the Hindi word शहर?

I need to find a name for this phenomenon, where software renders a script infelicitously, and no one knows enough about the script to fix it. These signs only appear for seconds on the screen, so it's not a big deal. When it happens in government publications or posters it's a bigger deal.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013


There are four docks, each with a different etymology.

The structure used to receive ships is related to Dutch dok, Swedish docka, German Dock, further etymology uncertain. Skeat connects it to Latin doga "ditch" and Greek δοχή "receptacle".

The place where a criminal is placed during a trial is related to Flemish dok "rabbit-hutch, fowl-pen, cage".

The solid part of an animal's tail, also used a verb meaning "cut off, amputate" is related to Icelandic dockr "short stumpy tail" and German docke "bundle, plug, peg", further etymology uncertain.

The name for the herb (genus Rumex) is from Old English docce, perhaps from PIE *dheuh₂-.
Rumex patientia