Monthly etymology gleanings for July 2014

Dorothy S. Bass

By Anatoly Liberman

Since I’ll be out of city at the stop of July, I was not sure I would be capable to publish these “gleanings.” But the thoughts have been many, and I could remedy some of them forward of time.

Autumn: its etymology

Our correspondent miracles no matter if the Latin phrase from which English, through French, has autumn, could be identified with the name of the Egyptian god Autun. The Romans derived the term autumnus, which was both an adjective (“autumnal”) and a noun (“autumn”), from augere “to raise.” This verb’s ideal participle is auctus “rich (“autumn as a wealthy season”). The Roman derivation, while not implausible, appears to be like a tribute to folks etymology. A additional significant conjecture allies autumn to the Germanic root aud-, as in Gothic audags “blessed” (in the connected languages, also “rich”). But, much more in all probability, Latin autumnus goes back again to Etruscan. The most important argument for the Etruscan origin is the resemblance of autumnus to Vertumnus, the identify of a seasonal deity (or so it appears to be), about whom very little is identified besides the tale of his seduction, in the shape of an outdated female, of Pomona, as informed by Ovid. Vertumnus, or Vortumnus, could be a Latinized kind of an Etruscan name. A definite summary about autumnus is barely feasible, even though some resources, when tracing this word to Etruscan, include “without doubt.” The Egyptian Autun was a creation god and the god of the environment sun, so that his link with autumn is remote at best. Nor do we have any evidence that Autun had a cult in Historic Rome. Every little thing is so unsure right here that the origin of autumnus need to wants remain not known. In my feeling, the Egyptian hypothesis 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 condition of an previous woman. (Pomona by Frans de Vriendt “Floris” (Konstnär, 1518-1570) Antwerpen, Belgien, Hallwyl Museum, Image by Jens Mohr, through Wikimedia Commons)

The origin of so extended

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

“It looks the sort of expression that really should have derived from some fuller social nicety, this kind of as I regret that it will be so lengthy just before we meet up with once more or the like, but no just one has proposed a crystal clear antecedent. An oddity is its unexpected physical appearance in the early nineteenth century there are only a handful of sightings ahead of Walt Whitman’s use of it in a poem (including the title) in the 1860-1861 version of Leaves of Grass. I can, by the way, offer you an antedating to the OED citations: so, great bye, so very long in the tale ‘Cruise of a Guinean Man’. Knickerbocker: New York (Every month Journal 5, February 1835, p. 105 obtainable on Google Publications). Specified the lack of a fuller antecedent, strategies as to its origin all suggest a borrowing from a different language. Does this seem acceptable to you?”

Mr. Nance was sort adequate to append two content articles (by Alan S. Kaye and Joachim Grzega) on so extensive, both of those of which I had in my folders but have not reread given that 2004 and 2005, when I discovered and copied them. Grzega’s contribution is in particular specific. My database is made up of only a single more very small remark on so extended by Frank Penny: “About twenty several years back I was knowledgeable that it [the expression so long] is allied to Samuel Pepys’s expression so property, and ought to be composed so together or so ’long, indicating that the individual employing the expression need to go his way” (Notes and Queries, Collection 12, vol. IX, 1921, p. 419). The group so dwelling does convert up in the Diary much more than the moment, but no quotation I could find seems like a formulation. Maybe Stephen Goranson will ferret it out. In any scenario, so extended appears like an Americanism, and it is unlikely that such a preferred phrase really should have remained dormant in texts for nearly two centuries.

Be that as it may well, I concur with Mr. Nance that a method of this sort likely arose in civil conversation. The many makes an attempt to obtain a international source for it carry very little conviction. Norwegian does have an virtually similar phrase, but, given that its antecedents are not known, it may possibly have been borrowed from English. I suspect (a favorite switch of speech by previous etymologists) that so long is without a doubt a curtailed model of a the moment a lot more comprehensible parting formula, except 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 later abbreviated and reinterpreted.

“Heavy rain” in languages other than English

At the time I wrote a article titled “When it rains, it does not always pour.” There I talked about numerous German and Swedish idioms like it is raining cats and canines, and, rather than recycling that text, will refer our outdated correspondent Mr. John Larsson to it.

Ukraine and Baltic location names

The remark on this subject was welcome. In my response, I most well-liked not to discuss about the things alien to me, but I wondered no matter if the Latvian location identify could be of Slavic origin. That is why I claimed cautiously: “If this is a native Latvian word…” The question, as I recognize, stays unanswered, but the recommendation is tempting. And indeed, of training course, Serb/Croat Krajna is an specific counterpart of Ukraina, only without the need of a prefix. In Russian, stress falls on i in Ukrainian, I think, the initial a is stressed. The exact retains for the derived adjectives: ukrainskii ~ ukrainskii. Pushkin claimed ukrainskaia (female).

Slough, sloo, and the relaxation

Numerous many thanks to those people who knowledgeable 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 acquired a problem about the record of slew. The past tense of slay (Previous Engl. slahan) was sloh (with a very long vowel), and this kind made like scoh “shoe,” even though the verb vacillated in between the 6th and the 7th course. The fact that slew and shoe have this kind of dissimilar penned varieties is due to the vagaries of English spelling. One can imagine of too, who, you, group, fruit, cruise, rheum, truth, and true, which have the same vowel as slew. In addition, take into account Bruin and ruin, which appear deceptively like fruit, and add manoeuver for great measure. A delicate spelling reform appears to be like a excellent idea, does not it?

The pronunciation of February

In one of the letters I gained, the writer expresses her indignation that some people today insist on sounding the initially r in February. Every person, she asserts, suggests Febyooary. In these types of issues, everybody is a risky phrase (as we will also see from the future item). All of us have a tendency to imagine that what we say is the only right norm. Text with the succession r…r tend to get rid of just one of them. Yet library is a lot more usually pronounced with both of those, and Drury, brewery, and prurient have withstood the tendency. February has changed its sort many occasions. Consequently, prolonged ago feverer (from Previous French) became feverel (quite possibly below the influence of averel “April”). In the more mature language of New England, January and February turned into Janry and Febry. Nonetheless effective the phonetic forces could have been in impacting the pronunciation of February, of wonderful importance was also the point that the names of the months typically come about in enumeration. Without the initial r, January and February rhyme. A related predicament is well-recognised from the etymology of some numerals. Despite the fact that the pronunciation Febyooary is similarly common on both sides of the Atlantic and is regarded as normal during the English-speaking earth, not “everybody” has recognized it. The consonant b in February is because of to the Latinization of the French etymon (late Latin februarius).

Who compared to whom

Dialogue of these pronouns missing all curiosity long ago, mainly because the confusion of who and whom and the defeat of whom in American English go back to aged times. But I am not sure 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 really should (or only can) it be who in equally conditions? Even with the rebuke, I imagine that even in Contemporary American English the female who we frequented won’t endure if who is replaced with whom. But, not like my opponent, I admit that tastes differ.


One more query I gained was about the origin of the verb wrap. This is a somewhat extensive tale, and I decided to devote a distinctive article to it in the foreseeable future.

PS. I detect that of the two inquiries requested by our correspondent past thirty day period only copacetic captivated some consideration (examine Stephen Goranson’s response). But what about hubba hubba?

Anatoly Liberman is the author of Phrase Origins And How We Know Them as perfectly as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on phrase origins, The Oxford Etymologist, appears on the OUPblog every single Wednesday. Deliver your etymology issue to him care of [email protected] he’ll do his finest to stay away from responding with “origin not known.” Subscribe to Anatoly Liberman’s weekly etymology articles or blog posts via email or RSS.

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