Monthly etymology gleanings for July 2014

By Anatoly Liberman

Considering the fact that I’ll be out of town at the conclusion of July, I was not confident I would be capable to write these “gleanings.” But the issues have been numerous, and I could response some of them ahead of time.

Autumn: its etymology

Our correspondent miracles no matter whether the Latin word from which English, by using French, has autumn, could be recognized with the title of the Egyptian god Autun. The Romans derived the word autumnus, which was equally an adjective (“autumnal”) and a noun (“autumn”), from augere “to improve.” This verb’s great participle is auctus “rich (“autumn as a rich season”). The Roman derivation, although not implausible, looks like a tribute to people etymology. A more significant conjecture allies autumn to the Germanic root aud-, as in Gothic audags “blessed” (in the similar languages, also “rich”). But, a lot more in all probability, Latin autumnus goes again to Etruscan. The primary argument for the Etruscan origin is the resemblance of autumnus to Vertumnus, the identify of a seasonal deity (or so it looks), about whom minor is known in addition to the tale of his seduction, in the shape of an outdated woman, of Pomona, as explained to by Ovid. Vertumnus, or Vortumnus, may perhaps be a Latinized type of an Etruscan name. A definite conclusion about autumnus is hardly achievable, even though some resources, although tracing this word to Etruscan, increase “without question.” The Egyptian Autun was a development god and the god of the placing sunlight, so that his relationship with autumn is remote at most effective. Nor do we have any evidence that Autun had a cult in Historical Rome. Anything is so uncertain in this article that the origin of autumnus should requirements continue to be unknown. In my view, the Egyptian hypothesis retains out little guarantee.

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Vertumnus seducing Pomona in the shape of an outdated lady. (Pomona by Frans de Vriendt “Floris” (Konstnär, 1518-1570) Antwerpen, Belgien, Hallwyl Museum, Photograph by Jens Mohr, by way of Wikimedia Commons)

The origin of so prolonged

I gained an attention-grabbing letter from Mr. Paul Nance. He writes about so very long:

“It looks the type of expression that need to have derived from some fuller social nicety, such as I regret that it will be so extensive before we satisfy once more or the like, but no one has proposed a distinct antecedent. An oddity is its unexpected physical appearance in the early nineteenth century there are only a handful of sightings right before Walt Whitman’s use of it in a poem (together with the title) in the 1860-1861 edition of Leaves of Grass. I can, by the way, offer you an antedating to the OED citations: so, great bye, so long in the tale ‘Cruise of a Guinean Man’. Knickerbocker: New York (Regular Magazine 5, February 1835, p. 105 readily available on Google Books). Given the deficiency of a fuller antecedent, solutions as to its origin all suggest a borrowing from yet another language. Does this feel affordable to you?”

Mr. Nance was type more than enough to append two posts (by Alan S. Kaye and Joachim Grzega) on so prolonged, both of those of which I experienced in my folders but have not reread because 2004 and 2005, when I identified and copied them. Grzega’s contribution is primarily specific. My database has only just one much more very small remark on so long by Frank Penny: “About twenty years back I was knowledgeable that it [the expression so long] is allied to Samuel Pepys’s expression so property, and should be published so along or so ’long, this means that the man or woman working with the expression need to go his way” (Notes and Queries, Collection 12, vol. IX, 1921, p. 419). The team so property does turn up in the Diary much more than the moment, but no citation I could find appears to be like like a system. Potentially Stephen Goranson will ferret it out. In any case, so lengthy appears to be like an Americanism, and it is unlikely that such a preferred phrase really should have remained dormant in texts for practically two hundreds of years.

Be that as it might, I concur with Mr. Nance that a system of this type possibly arose in civil discussion. The a lot of makes an attempt to find a overseas supply for it carry very little conviction. Norwegian does have an pretty much similar phrase, but, considering the fact that its antecedents are not known, it might have been borrowed from English. I suspect (a preferred change of speech by previous etymologists) that so extensive is in truth a curtailed version of a at the time a lot more comprehensible parting method, unless of course it belongs with the likes of for auld lang sine. It may possibly have been brought to the New Environment from England or Scotland and afterwards abbreviated and reinterpreted.

“Heavy rain” in languages other than English

After I wrote a submit titled “When it rains, it does not essentially pour.” There I outlined many German and Swedish idioms like it is raining cats and pet dogs, and, somewhat than recycling that text, will refer our old correspondent Mr. John Larsson to it.

Ukraine and Baltic location names

The comment on this make any difference was welcome. In my reaction, I most well-liked not to discuss about the matters alien to me, but I puzzled whether the Latvian put identify could be of Slavic origin. That is why I claimed cautiously: “If this is a native Latvian word…” The query, as I realize, continues to be unanswered, but the suggestion is tempting. And sure, of program, Serb/Croat Krajna is an precise counterpart of Ukraina, only without a prefix. In Russian, pressure falls on i in Ukrainian, I consider, the initial a is pressured. The exact same holds for the derived adjectives: ukrainskii ~ ukrainskii. Pushkin claimed ukrainskaia (female).

Slough, sloo, and the relaxation

Many many thanks to these who informed me about their pronunciation of slough “mire.” It was new to me that the surname Slough is pronounced in different ways in England and the United States. I also gained a dilemma about the historical past of slew. The past tense of slay (Previous Engl. slahan) was sloh (with a very long vowel), and this form made like scoh “shoe,” nevertheless the verb vacillated concerning the 6th and the 7th class. The simple fact that slew and shoe have these dissimilar written types is thanks to the vagaries of English spelling. One can feel of too, who, you, group, fruit, cruise, rheum, truth, and true, which have the identical vowel as slew. In addition, consider Bruin and ruin, which glimpse deceptively like fruit, and include gentlemanoeuver for superior measure. A gentle spelling reform appears to be like a superior strategy, does not it?

The pronunciation of February

In a person of the letters I acquired, the writer expresses her indignation that some people today insist on sounding the to start with r in February. Everyone, she asserts, says Febyooary. In these kinds of issues, every person is a harmful term (as we will also see from the next product). All of us tend to imagine that what we say is the only right norm. Terms with the succession r…r are inclined to shed one particular of them. Still library is more frequently pronounced with both equally, and Drury, brewery, and prurient have withstood the inclination. February has altered its sort numerous occasions. Thus, extensive in the past feverer (from Outdated French) turned feverel (perhaps below the influence of averel “April”). In the more mature language of New England, January and February turned into Janry and Febry. However highly effective the phonetic forces may perhaps have been in affecting the pronunciation of February, of fantastic worth was also the simple fact that the names of the months normally come about in enumeration. Without the initially r, January and February rhyme. A very similar problem is effectively-recognized from the etymology of some numerals. Although the pronunciation Febyooary is similarly widespread on both sides of the Atlantic and is acknowledged as typical in the course of the English-talking world, not “everybody” has accepted it. The consonant b in February is thanks to the Latinization of the French etymon (late Latin februarius).

Who versus whom

Discussion of these pronouns lost all curiosity very long back, due to the fact the confusion of who and whom and the defeat of whom in American English go back to aged times. Nevertheless I am not positive that what I reported about the educated norm is “nonsense.” Who will marry our son? Whom will our son marry? Is it “nonsense” to distinguish them, and need to (or only can) it be who in both of those scenarios? Inspite of the rebuke, I think that even in Modern-day American English the lady who we visited won’t put up with if who is replaced with whom. But, as opposed to my opponent, I confess that preferences vary.


An additional dilemma I been given was about the origin of the verb wrap. This is a rather prolonged tale, and I decided to dedicate a exclusive write-up to it in the foreseeable long term.

PS. I detect that of the two issues questioned by our correspondent last month only copacetic attracted some focus (study Stephen Goranson’s response). But what about hubba hubba?

Anatoly Liberman is the creator of Word Origins And How We Know Them as nicely as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on word origins, The Oxford Etymologist, appears on the OUPblog each and every Wednesday. Send your etymology problem to him care of [email protected] he’ll do his greatest to keep away from responding with “origin unidentified.” Subscribe to Anatoly Liberman’s weekly etymology posts via email or RSS.

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