Monthly etymology gleanings for July 2014

By Anatoly Liberman

Due to the fact I’ll be out of town at the end of July, I was not confident I would be equipped to compose these “gleanings.” But the questions have been quite a few, and I could respond to some of them ahead of time.

Autumn: its etymology

Our correspondent wonders whether or not the Latin word from which English, by way of French, has autumn, could be recognized with the identify of the Egyptian god Autun. The Romans derived the term autumnus, which was the two an adjective (“autumnal”) and a noun (“autumn”), from augere “to improve.” This verb’s best participle is auctus “rich (“autumn as a rich season”). The Roman derivation, although not implausible, seems like a tribute to people etymology. A far more significant conjecture allies autumn to the Germanic root aud-, as in Gothic audags “blessed” (in the related languages, also “rich”). But, extra most likely, Latin autumnus goes back again to Etruscan. The key argument for the Etruscan origin is the resemblance of autumnus to Vertumnus, the name of a seasonal deity (or so it would seem), about whom tiny is recognized moreover the tale of his seduction, in the condition of an previous woman, of Pomona, as informed by Ovid. Vertumnus, or Vortumnus, could be a Latinized variety of an Etruscan identify. A definite conclusion about autumnus is hardly probable, even even though some resources, while tracing this term to Etruscan, increase “without doubt.” The Egyptian Autun was a development god and the god of the placing sun, so that his link with autumn is remote at most effective. Nor do we have any proof that Autun had a cult in Historical Rome. All the things is so uncertain here that the origin of autumnus have to needs keep on being unidentified. In my belief, the Egyptian speculation holds out very 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Vertumnus seducing Pomona in the form of an outdated woman. (Pomona by Frans de Vriendt “Floris” (Konstnär, 1518-1570) Antwerpen, Belgien, Hallwyl Museum, Picture by Jens Mohr, by using Wikimedia Commons)

The origin of so lengthy

I obtained an intriguing letter from Mr. Paul Nance. He writes about so long:

“It would seem the sort of expression that really should have derived from some fuller social nicety, such as I regret that it will be so prolonged before we satisfy again or the like, but no just one has proposed a crystal clear antecedent. An oddity is its sudden physical appearance in the early nineteenth century there are only a handful of sightings in advance of Walt Whitman’s use of it in a poem (together with the title) in the 1860-1861 version of Leaves of Grass. I can, by the way, provide an antedating to the OED citations: so, superior bye, so prolonged in the story ‘Cruise of a Guinean Man’. Knickerbocker: New York (Regular monthly Journal 5, February 1835, p. 105 available on Google Books). Presented the deficiency of a fuller antecedent, suggestions as to its origin all propose a borrowing from a different language. Does this seem to be sensible to you?”

Mr. Nance was type ample to append two article content (by Alan S. Kaye and Joachim Grzega) on so long, both of those of which I experienced in my folders but have not reread given that 2004 and 2005, when I discovered and copied them. Grzega’s contribution is specially in-depth. My database is made up of only a person additional little remark on so long by Frank Penny: “About twenty many years ago I was educated that it [the expression so long] is allied to Samuel Pepys’s expression so dwelling, and ought to be prepared so along or so ’long, which means that the man or woman working with the expression should go his way” (Notes and Queries, Series 12, vol. IX, 1921, p. 419). The group so residence does turn up in the Diary additional than the moment, but no citation I could locate appears like a components. Potentially Stephen Goranson will ferret it out. In any circumstance, so very long seems to be like an Americanism, and it is not likely that these types of a popular phrase must have remained dormant in texts for almost two centuries.

Be that as it may well, I agree with Mr. Nance that a system of this type probably arose in civil discussion. The various attempts to obtain a overseas source for it carry small conviction. Norwegian does have an nearly equivalent phrase, but, given that its antecedents are unidentified, it may have been borrowed from English. I suspect (a favorite flip of speech by old etymologists) that so prolonged is indeed a curtailed version of a the moment more comprehensible parting system, except it belongs with the likes of for auld lang sine. It might have been brought to the New Globe from England or Scotland and afterwards abbreviated and reinterpreted.

“Heavy rain” in languages other than English

As soon as I wrote a post titled “When it rains, it does not automatically pour.” There I outlined lots of German and Swedish idioms like it is raining cats and dogs, and, fairly than recycling that textual content, will refer our aged correspondent Mr. John Larsson to it.

Ukraine and Baltic area names

The remark on this make a difference was welcome. In my reaction, I desired not to communicate about the things alien to me, but I questioned no matter if the Latvian spot name could be of Slavic origin. That is why I explained cautiously: “If this is a indigenous Latvian word…” The query, as I understand, remains unanswered, but the suggestion is tempting. And yes, of course, Serb/Croat Krajna is an actual counterpart of Ukraina, only devoid of a prefix. In Russian, tension falls on i in Ukrainian, I believe, the very first a is stressed. The exact holds for the derived adjectives: ukrainskii ~ ukrainskii. Pushkin explained ukrainskaia (female).

Slough, sloo, and the rest

A lot of thanks to those who informed me about their pronunciation of slough “mire.” It was new to me that the surname Slough is pronounced in another way in England and the United States. I also gained a query about the background of slew. The earlier tense of slay (Outdated Engl. slahan) was sloh (with a extended vowel), and this kind produced like scoh “shoe,” while the verb vacillated between the 6th and the 7th class. The actuality that slew and shoe have this sort of dissimilar written varieties is due to the vagaries of English spelling. 1 can think of too, who, you, group, fruit, cruise, rheum, truth, and true, which have the exact vowel as slew. In addition, contemplate Bruin and ruin, which appear deceptively like fruit, and include personoeuver for superior evaluate. A mild spelling reform seems like a superior idea, doesn’t it?

The pronunciation of February

In 1 of the letters I been given, the author expresses her indignation that some men and women insist on sounding the initial r in February. Everyone, she asserts, states Febyooary. In these types of matters, every person is a hazardous term (as we will also see from the subsequent merchandise). All of us are inclined to assume that what we say is the only proper norm. Words with the succession r…r have a tendency to drop a single of them. Nevertheless library is a lot more often pronounced with both equally, and Drury, brewery, and prurient have withstood the tendency. February has adjusted its type several instances. Therefore, very long back feverer (from Outdated French) grew to become feverel (potentially below the affect of averel “April”). In the more mature language of New England, January and February turned into Janry and Febry. On the other hand potent the phonetic forces may well have been in affecting the pronunciation of February, of great value was also the truth that the names of the months usually take place in enumeration. Without having the initially r, January and February rhyme. A equivalent condition is properly-acknowledged from the etymology of some numerals. Whilst the pronunciation Febyooary is similarly typical on both sides of the Atlantic and is regarded as common during the English-talking world, not “everybody” has acknowledged it. The consonant b in February is thanks to the Latinization of the French etymon (late Latin februarius).

Who versus whom

Dialogue of these pronouns misplaced all fascination lengthy back, since the confusion of who and whom and the defeat of whom in American English go back again to aged times. Nevertheless I am not guaranteed that what I mentioned 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 each situations? Even with the rebuke, I consider that even in Present day American English the female who we visited won’t suffer if who is replaced with whom. But, in contrast to my opponent, I confess that preferences vary.


An additional dilemma I obtained was about the origin of the verb wrap. This is a fairly very long tale, and I determined to commit a specific post to it in the foreseeable long run.

PS. I detect that of the two questions asked by our correspondent final thirty day period only copacetic captivated some interest (browse Stephen Goranson’s response). But what about hubba hubba?

Anatoly Liberman is the creator of Word Origins And How We Know Them as effectively as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on phrase origins, The Oxford Etymologist, seems on the OUPblog each and every Wednesday. Ship your etymology problem to him treatment of [email protected] he’ll do his finest to stay clear of responding with “origin not known.” Subscribe to Anatoly Liberman’s weekly etymology articles via email or RSS.

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