Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Words the Romans Gave Us’ Category

Hello,

Today the CAO results come out in Ireland. The what? Students, aged about 18, sit exams in eight subjects to complete their second level education. They found out last week how they did in those exams. Since then the Central Applications Office (CAO) have taken those results, looked at their applications for university (and other third level establishments), and worked out if the students earned enough points from their exams to study their top choice.

Image from pexels.com

If a particular course is only run in one place and only 20 students can enter then the points are likely to be high. If it’s run in several places and hundreds of students can enter, the points are lower. Then they factor in what’s popular with students this year and that skews the points too. It’s complicated and very stressful for the students.

As a result (pun intended) I’m thinking about the word result today. I expected it to be a fairly modern word, thinking it related to results-driven office work, but it’s another one the Romans gave us.

Classical Latin has a verb resultare (a frequentative of past participle of resilire, to rebound, if you really need to know). This verb, as you might guess from the spelling, also relates to resilience in English. Resultare edged its way into medieval Latin with the meaning to spring back, and hence to late Middle English as a verb.

By the 1620s it was being used, still as a verb, to mean springing back, but by the 1640s it had transformed into a noun meaning outcome or effect. You’d have to wait until 1771 to see it used in the mathematical sense of a result being an answer or solution.

I love that result started life as something springy. It’s wonderful that it was less about a definitive answer and more about resilience, springing back, and finding another jumping off point. I hope anybody disappointed with their CAO results today can take that meaning instead.
Until next time happy reading, writing, and springing,
Grace (@Wordfoolery)
p.s. Regular readers will know I take part in National Novel Writing Month each November. This year I’ll be drafting another non-fiction book inspired by this blog “Words The Sea Gave Us”. I’m currently researching nautical words and would love input from my blog readers. If you’ve got a fun sea-related word, stick it in the comments below and I’ll try to include it (and will put you in the acknowledgements, of course). Thank you!

Read Full Post »

Hello,

I’m just back from my family trip to Paris and I finally managed to snap a carousel so I can explore its word history. Choose your unicorn, pay for your ticket and off we go.

Carousel with a rather famous neighbour

The use of the word carousel to indicate a slowly rotating merry-go-round for children featuring horses, carriages, and tiny trains is relatively recent innovation, 1895 to be precise. Even more recent is the luggage carousel in the airport.

The word itself goes back further and still involves horses. The first stop on this ride is the Romans. The Latin word carrus means a two-wheeled wagon and as you can imagine has links to the modern word car. From carrus you get the Italian word carro which means chariot (two-wheeled again). After that it’s a hop to carusiello in Italian for a tilting match which slid into French as carrousel (yes, two Rs).

By the 1640s English had acquired the carousel from French as a playful tournament of knights in chariots or on horseback. The interesting thing being the retention of two wheeled chariots right from Roman times up to the 1600s in England. Chariots aren’t used much in warfare these days and I’ve struggled to imagine how knights could use them but according to a letter in 1673 such a carousel would provide –

“instruction to all such ingenious young gentlemen as desire to learne the art of perfect horsemanshipp.” [sic]

I was intrigued as to what a knight’s carousel would have looked like. The Smithsonian Magazine claims it came from a 12th century training game played by Arabian and Turkish warriors throwing a clay ball between them which was filled with perfume. A fumbled catch meant the knight reeked until he could wash. This doesn’t seem to include chariots however.

There is the idea of a melée in knights’ tournaments where many knights fought at the same time and the last one standing won the day, I imagine a carousel could work the same way except you fought in a circle that decreased in size until it was a duel. If the training was chariot or horse-based it might have been more like our images from the iconic movie “Ben Hur”, but that would be a tricky, and high-risk game which could injure the extremely valuable war-horses of the day. They cost so much that it would be like allowing a learner driver get behind the wheel of your Bugatti super car for a rally drive.

My own theory is that the carousel might have been like the quintain. This simple device, used to train knights and squires in castle courtyards and town squares, consisted of an upright post with swiveling arms spread wide. One arm ended in a shield which the rider targeted, the other ended in a filled sack. Hit the shield just right and the quintain would spin away from you allowing you to ride on. Hit it wrong and the sack would swing round and swipe you from your steed. It is likely that such devices were setup at town fairs. Couldn’t a smaller version for wannabe squires have gradually led to a rotating horse-riding device for children at such fairs?

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

Read Full Post »

Hello,

Hinterland Festival

This week I’m exploring the word umbrage, with thanks to John McKenna whose writing workshop I attended last weekend at the Hinterland Festival. The annual festival is held in Kells, Ireland and features over 60 events over four days for readers, writers, and younger visitors. This year I was proud to be chosen as the winner of their inaugural short fiction contest and closed their Lit Crawl event with a reading of my story “The Purple Tree” in the library.

 

 

Anyhow, back to umbrage. John mentioned it was his favourite word at the moment as he’d only recently discovered its meaning related to being in the shadow of trees.

In the shadow of trees

Naturally I had to investigate. The first surprise is that “to take umbrage” dates back to the early 1600s. I always thought that had to be a stiff-upper-lipped Victorian expression, but apparently people have been suspicious of slights against them for much longer.

Umbra, meaning shade or shadow, is a Latin word, with possible Sanskrit roots. From there it edged into Middle French as ombrage (which gives us the currently popular ombré colour effect) and shaded into English by the early 1400s. The excellent Phrase Finder web site confirms that umbrage sometimes referred to the foliage of trees causing shade. Originally taking umbrage meant to sit under shady trees in the 1540s but a hundred years later the meaning had twisted, perhaps because of the association of darkness with negativity.

They also pointed out something which I can’t believe I missed. The distasteful character of Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter books is named for two types of darkness – umbrage and dolour which means sorrow and distress.

The idea of shade as a negative thing is still active in modern slang. Throwing shade, or simply shading someone means you’re insulting them.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

Read Full Post »

Hello,

I usually keep love words for Valentine’s Day blog posts but romance shouldn’t be confined to a single day, should it?

I couldn’t resist the nugget of anatomical science which tells me that the oblique muscles of the eye used to move your glance sideways in an amorous way are called the amatorial muscles.

Now, before you check that detail I must warn you an online search for amatorial muscles will probably give you results for a different muscle used in amorous ways of a more, shall we say, physical nature. Search at your own peril!

Amatorial comes, of course, from the word amorous. I had an inkling that had Latin roots because I knew l’amour is the French for love and yes, the Latin word for love is amor and it reached English via French. I was hoping for a Roman god or goddess link but nope, it’s just love – both the romantic and the friendly sort. Simple but important.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling. If anybody ‘throws you the eye’, remember what muscle they’re using,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

Read Full Post »

Hello,

This week I’m exploring boor, bore, and neighbour with thanks to “Sticklers, Sideburns and Bikinis” by Graeme Donald for inspiration.

Boor entered English in the early 1300s and meant a countryman or peasant farmer. It came from the Old French word bovier (herdsman) which evolved from Latin bovis (cow or ox) which also gives us bovine. These roots entangled with Old English gebur (farmer or peasant but unrelated to boor) and later in the 1500s with the Middle Dutch word boer (fellow dweller) which I look at below.

Read Full Post »

Hello,

This week I’m looking at money, currency to be precise. My local currency is the Euro and it wouldn’t take a genius to discover its link to the European Union. Other names of currencies, however, have more intriguing histories.

A selection from my coin box

Weight is at the core of many currency names. It’s easy to imagine early merchants using scales to assess the value of goods being traded and it certainly provides the origins of a surprising number of modern currencies.

The Mexican Peso is one example, its name means weight in Spanish. Turkish Lira and the Italian Lira (now replaced with Euro) come from the Latin word libra which means pound (a unit of weight). The pre-Euro Deutschmark in Germany and the Finnish Markka also took their names from units of weight. The British Pound (and the pre-Euro Irish Pound or Punt) came from the Latin word poundus, meaning weight. Other countries whose currency is a Pound include Egypt, Lebanon, South Sudan, Sudan, and Syria.

The idea of currency as weight is involved in Rubles and Shekels too. Russia and Belarus use the Ruble as currency and it is named after a measure of weight for silver. The Shekel is a noun created from the verb shaqal, meaning to weigh, in ancient Hebrew. The Shekel was the chief silver coin and also a unit of weight.

Currencies aren’t all related to weight. Another way to lend legitimacy to your currency back in history was to link it to your monarchy.

Roman Coin (replica)

The Latin word regalis, meaning royal, is the origin for the Omani and Iranian Rials. Similarly, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen use a currency called the Riyal. Spain used Reals in the past too. The Scandinavian version of this concept is currencies named for the Latin word corona, which means crown. You get Sweden’s Krona, Norway’s Krone, Denmark’s Krone, Iceland’s Króna, the Estonian Kroon (now replaced by the Euro), and the Czech Republic’s Koruna. Readers of an older vintage may recall the crown and half-crown coins in British currency too.

If you’re not pinning your currency to the worth of your monarchy then you may choose to draw attention to valuable metals instead.

The Indian and Pakistani Rupee and the Indonesian Rupiah all come from the Sanskrit word rupya which means “wrought silver” while the Polish Zloty translates as “golden”. The South African Rand is inspired by gold too. Rand is a shortening of the Dutch name for the South African city Witwatersrand which is located in an area rich in gold deposits.

I was surprised to find the word Dollar has its roots in silver rather than gold. The Low German word joachimsthal means Joachim’s Valley where silver was once mined. Coins minted from that silver became joachimsthaler which shortened to thaler and ultimately to Dollar. It’s worth noting that Dollar is a currency for the USA, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Fiji, and New Zealand.

One exception to the weight, metal, and monarchy generalisations comes from Asia. The Chinese character 圓, meaning “round” or “round coin”, is responsible for the name of the Chinese Yuan, Japanese Yen, and the Korean Won.

My favourite currency origin is the Pula from Botswana. Pula means rain in Setswana. Rain is scarce in Botswana, — home to much of the Kalahari Desert, and therefore seen as a valuable blessing.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

p.s. I’m sure I haven’t covered every currency in my exploration – if you know another interesting one, please drop a comment.

Read Full Post »

Hello,

This week I’m thinking about talking. My son is on his school’s debating team and they’re in a regional final on Saturday. This is no surprise to anybody who has ever met him. I prefer to express myself in writing but if I had a dollar for every time he opened his mouth, I’d be a rich woman.

Trophies for Talking

I’m driving him nuts by reminding him of the correct pronunciation of words he’s learned from reading so he doesn’t trip up in the debating contest. His English teacher pronounces hyperbole as it’s written but I explained it’s actually high-pear-bow-lee, much to his irritation.

Another word of that type (along with Hermione and anxiety which confused me when I was younger) is grandiloquentpronunciation here and I hope his speeches on Saturday avoid both hyperbole and grandiloquence.

Grandiloquent is a style of language use which is complicated in order to attract admiration and attention.

Grandiloquent entered English in the 16th century and is a word created from both Latin and English roots. Eloquence is the ability to speak fluidly, convincingly, and with grace and can apply in written text as well as the spoken word. Grandiloquus means grand-speaking in Latin and itself is formed from two other Latin words – grandis meaning grand and loqui meaning speak.

If you don’t mind being accused of grandiloquency (like delinquency, but you throw words rather than bricks) then check out the 40 Grandiloquent Words Starting with G – I’ll have to revisit some of these in future posts.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and grandiloquent wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »