June 4, 2023


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Monthly etymology gleanings for July 2014

By Anatoly Liberman

Due to the fact I’ll be out of city at the conclude of July, I was not certain I would be able to compose these “gleanings.” But the questions have been several, and I could solution some of them forward of time.

Autumn: its etymology

Our correspondent wonders no matter if the Latin term from which English, by way of French, has autumn, could be discovered with the title of the Egyptian god Autun. The Romans derived the term autumnus, which was both of those an adjective (“autumnal”) and a noun (“autumn”), from augere “to improve.” This verb’s great participle is auctus “rich (“autumn as a prosperous season”). The Roman derivation, however not implausible, seems like a tribute to folk etymology. A more really serious conjecture allies autumn to the Germanic root aud-, as in Gothic audags “blessed” (in the connected languages, also “rich”). But, more likely, Latin autumnus goes again to Etruscan. The key argument for the Etruscan origin is the resemblance of autumnus to Vertumnus, the identify of a seasonal deity (or so it seems), about whom tiny is regarded in addition to the tale of his seduction, in the condition of an aged lady, of Pomona, as told by Ovid. Vertumnus, or Vortumnus, could be a Latinized form of an Etruscan title. A definite conclusion about autumnus is barely probable, even even though some sources, though tracing this word to Etruscan, include “without doubt.” The Egyptian Autun was a creation god and the god of the setting sunshine, so that his link with autumn is distant at greatest. Nor do we have any evidence that Autun had a cult in Ancient Rome. Anything is so uncertain here that the origin of autumnus should demands keep on being mysterious. In my impression, the Egyptian speculation holds out little assure.

Vertumnus seducing Pomona in the shape of an old woman. (Pomona by Frans de Vriendt "Floris" (Konstnär, 1518-1570) Antwerpen, Belgien, Hallwyl Museum, Photo by Jens Mohr, via Wikimedia Commons)
Vertumnus seducing Pomona in the shape of an previous female. (Pomona by Frans de Vriendt “Floris” (Konstnär, 1518-1570) Antwerpen, Belgien, Hallwyl Museum, Photograph by Jens Mohr, through Wikimedia Commons)

The origin of so very long

I gained an interesting letter from Mr. Paul Nance. He writes about so extensive:

“It looks the type of expression that really should have derived from some fuller social nicety, these types of as I regret that it will be so extensive prior to we fulfill once more or the like, but no 1 has proposed a clear antecedent. An oddity is its unexpected overall look in the early nineteenth century there are only a handful of sightings before Walt Whitman’s use of it in a poem (like the title) in the 1860-1861 edition of Leaves of Grass. I can, by the way, present an antedating to the OED citations: so, very good bye, so extended in the tale ‘Cruise of a Guinean Man’. Knickerbocker: New York (Monthly Magazine 5, February 1835, p. 105 out there on Google Publications). Supplied the deficiency of a fuller antecedent, suggestions as to its origin all suggest a borrowing from an additional language. Does this appear fair to you?”

Mr. Nance was sort enough to append two articles (by Alan S. Kaye and Joachim Grzega) on so extended, both of those of which I experienced in my folders but have not reread given that 2004 and 2005, when I observed and copied them. Grzega’s contribution is specifically thorough. My database incorporates only just one extra very small comment on so prolonged by Frank Penny: “About twenty decades ago I was educated that it [the expression so long] is allied to Samuel Pepys’s expression so home, and need to be composed so along or so ’long, which means that the person using the expression ought to go his way” (Notes and Queries, Series 12, vol. IX, 1921, p. 419). The group so household does switch up in the Diary a lot more than after, but no citation I could discover appears to be like a components. Possibly Stephen Goranson will ferret it out. In any circumstance, so lengthy appears like an Americanism, and it is unlikely that these types of a well-liked phrase really should have remained dormant in texts for pretty much two generations.

Be that as it might, I agree with Mr. Nance that a formula of this kind possibly arose in civil dialogue. The quite a few tries to find a foreign source for it have small conviction. Norwegian does have an practically identical phrase, but, given that its antecedents are unknown, it may have been borrowed from English. I suspect (a favorite flip of speech by previous etymologists) that so very long is in fact a curtailed model of a the moment a lot more comprehensible parting formulation, except it belongs with the likes of for auld lang sine. It may have been brought to the New Environment from England or Scotland and later abbreviated and reinterpreted.

“Heavy rain” in languages other than English

The moment I wrote a publish titled “When it rains, it does not automatically pour.” There I outlined lots of German and Swedish idioms like it is raining cats and puppies, and, rather than recycling that text, will refer our aged correspondent Mr. John Larsson to it.

Ukraine and Baltic put names

The comment on this issue was welcome. In my reaction, I most well-liked not to speak about the points alien to me, but I questioned whether or not the Latvian position title could be of Slavic origin. That is why I mentioned cautiously: “If this is a indigenous Latvian word…” The problem, as I realize, continues to be unanswered, but the suggestion is tempting. And sure, of program, Serb/Croat Krajna is an exact counterpart of Ukraina, only without a prefix. In Russian, tension falls on i in Ukrainian, I assume, the first a is pressured. The very same holds for the derived adjectives: ukrainskii ~ ukrainskii. Pushkin explained ukrainskaia (feminine).

Slough, sloo, and the relaxation

Numerous thanks to those people who educated me about their pronunciation of slough “mire.” It was new to me that the surname Slough is pronounced differently in England and the United States. I also obtained a concern about the record of slew. The past tense of slay (Previous Engl. slahan) was sloh (with a prolonged vowel), and this variety made like scoh “shoe,” while the verb vacillated amongst the 6th and the 7th course. The point that slew and shoe have this sort of dissimilar penned forms is due to the vagaries of English spelling. A person can consider of too, who, you, group, fruit, cruise, rheum, truth, and true, which have the very same vowel as slew. In addition, take into account Bruin and ruin, which search deceptively like fruit, and incorporate maleoeuver for fantastic evaluate. A gentle spelling reform seems like a very good idea, doesn’t it?

The pronunciation of February

In one of the letters I been given, the author expresses her indignation that some people today insist on sounding the initial r in February. Every person, she asserts, states Febyooary. In these matters, everybody is a hazardous term (as we will also see from the subsequent product). All of us are likely to assume that what we say is the only right norm. Words and phrases with the succession r…r are likely to shed one particular of them. Nonetheless library is far more usually pronounced with both equally, and Drury, brewery, and prurient have withstood the inclination. February has changed its form several periods. Consequently, lengthy in the past feverer (from Aged French) became feverel (perhaps less than the affect of averel “April”). In the more mature language of New England, January and February turned into Janry and Febry. Even so highly effective the phonetic forces could have been in affecting the pronunciation of February, of fantastic relevance was also the simple fact that the names of the months generally arise in enumeration. Without the need of the 1st r, January and February rhyme. A similar problem is very well-regarded from the etymology of some numerals. Whilst the pronunciation Febyooary is similarly prevalent on both equally sides of the Atlantic and is acknowledged as conventional throughout the English-speaking environment, not “everybody” has approved it. The consonant b in February is thanks to the Latinization of the French etymon (late Latin februarius).

Who vs . whom

Dialogue of these pronouns lost all desire long in the past, due to the fact the confusion of who and whom and the defeat of whom in American English go back again to old times. Still I am not positive that what I claimed about the educated norm is “nonsense.” Who will marry our son? Whom will our son marry? Is it “nonsense” to distinguish them, and must (or only can) it be who in both of those instances? Regardless of the rebuke, I believe that that even in Modern-day American English the girl who we visited won’t put up with if who is changed with whom. But, contrary to my opponent, I admit that tastes differ.


A further problem I acquired was about the origin of the verb wrap. This is a somewhat lengthy story, and I determined to devote a special write-up to it in the foreseeable future.

PS. I recognize that of the two queries asked by our correspondent previous thirty day period only copacetic attracted some consideration (study Stephen Goranson’s response). But what about hubba hubba?

Anatoly Liberman is the creator of Phrase Origins And How We Know Them as properly as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on word origins, The Oxford Etymologist, appears on the OUPblog just about every Wednesday. Mail your etymology dilemma to him treatment of [email protected] he’ll do his best to stay away from responding with “origin mysterious.” Subscribe to Anatoly Liberman’s weekly etymology articles via email or RSS.

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