Monthly etymology gleanings for July 2014

By Anatoly Liberman

Since I’ll be out of city at the conclude of July, I was not confident I would be capable to write these “gleanings.” But the concerns have been numerous, and I could reply some of them forward of time.

Autumn: its etymology

Our correspondent miracles whether or not the Latin phrase from which English, by means of French, has autumn, could be recognized with the title of the Egyptian god Autun. The Romans derived the phrase autumnus, which was both equally an adjective (“autumnal”) and a noun (“autumn”), from augere “to boost.” This verb’s excellent participle is auctus “rich (“autumn as a abundant season”). The Roman derivation, while not implausible, looks like a tribute to people etymology. A a lot more critical conjecture allies autumn to the Germanic root aud-, as in Gothic audags “blessed” (in the linked languages, also “rich”). But, much more likely, Latin autumnus goes back to Etruscan. The principal argument for the Etruscan origin is the resemblance of autumnus to Vertumnus, the title of a seasonal deity (or so it looks), about whom little is acknowledged moreover the tale of his seduction, in the condition of an aged lady, of Pomona, as advised by Ovid. Vertumnus, or Vortumnus, may perhaps be a Latinized form of an Etruscan title. A definite summary about autumnus is barely achievable, even even though some resources, whilst tracing this word to Etruscan, incorporate “without doubt.” The Egyptian Autun was a creation god and the god of the placing sun, so that his relationship with autumn is distant at very best. Nor do we have any proof that Autun had a cult in Historical Rome. Anything is so unsure in this article that the origin of autumnus have to desires stay unidentified. In my view, the Egyptian hypothesis holds out minimal 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 previous female. (Pomona by Frans de Vriendt “Floris” (Konstnär, 1518-1570) Antwerpen, Belgien, Hallwyl Museum, Image by Jens Mohr, by means of Wikimedia Commons)

The origin of so long

I gained an exciting letter from Mr. Paul Nance. He writes about so prolonged:

“It would seem the sort of expression that really should have derived from some fuller social nicety, these kinds of as I regret that it will be so extensive before we fulfill all over again or the like, but no 1 has proposed a clear antecedent. An oddity is its unexpected visual appearance in the early nineteenth century there are only a handful of sightings ahead of Walt Whitman’s use of it in a poem (which includes the title) in the 1860-1861 edition of Leaves of Grass. I can, by the way, supply an antedating to the OED citations: so, very good bye, so very long in the tale ‘Cruise of a Guinean Man’. Knickerbocker: New York (Regular monthly Journal 5, February 1835, p. 105 available on Google Textbooks). Given the deficiency of a fuller antecedent, strategies as to its origin all suggest a borrowing from a different language. Does this appear fair to you?”

Mr. Nance was kind adequate to append two content (by Alan S. Kaye and Joachim Grzega) on so prolonged, equally of which I had in my folders but have not reread since 2004 and 2005, when I located and copied them. Grzega’s contribution is specially in-depth. My database is made up of only one particular much more little comment on so lengthy by Frank Penny: “About 20 yrs back I was educated that it [the expression so long] is allied to Samuel Pepys’s expression so dwelling, and really should be penned so along or so ’long, that means that the individual making use of the expression need to go his way” (Notes and Queries, Collection 12, vol. IX, 1921, p. 419). The group so property does convert up in the Diary a lot more than the moment, but no quotation I could discover appears to be like like a components. Maybe Stephen Goranson will ferret it out. In any case, so lengthy seems to be like an Americanism, and it is unlikely that such a well-known phrase really should have remained dormant in texts for just about two generations.

Be that as it may well, I agree with Mr. Nance that a formulation of this variety almost certainly arose in civil discussion. The several attempts to locate a international supply for it carry minor conviction. Norwegian does have an practically identical phrase, but, due to the fact its antecedents are unfamiliar, it may possibly have been borrowed from English. I suspect (a beloved change of speech by old etymologists) that so very long is indeed a curtailed variation of a once much more comprehensible parting system, unless of course it belongs with the likes of for auld lang sine. It may perhaps have been brought to the New Environment from England or Scotland and later on abbreviated and reinterpreted.

“Heavy rain” in languages other than English

Once I wrote a put up titled “When it rains, it does not automatically pour.” There I talked about quite a few German and Swedish idioms like it is raining cats and dogs, and, somewhat than recycling that text, will refer our previous correspondent Mr. John Larsson to it.

Ukraine and Baltic place names

The comment on this make a difference was welcome. In my reaction, I most popular not to speak about the points alien to me, but I wondered no matter whether the Latvian area identify could be of Slavic origin. That is why I stated cautiously: “If this is a native Latvian word…” The problem, as I realize, remains unanswered, but the suggestion is tempting. And indeed, 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 think, the initial a is pressured. The very same holds for the derived adjectives: ukrainskii ~ ukrainskii. Pushkin said ukrainskaia (feminine).

Slough, sloo, and the rest

Quite a few many thanks to those 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 obtained a issue about the history of slew. The past tense of slay (Aged Engl. slahan) was sloh (with a prolonged vowel), and this variety formulated like scoh “shoe,” while the verb vacillated involving the 6th and the 7th course. The truth that slew and shoe have these kinds of dissimilar composed varieties is due to the vagaries of English spelling. 1 can feel of too, who, you, group, fruit, cruise, rheum, truth, and true, which have the similar vowel as slew. In addition, look at Bruin and ruin, which search deceptively like fruit, and incorporate guyoeuver for good measure. A gentle spelling reform appears to be like a fantastic idea, does not it?

The pronunciation of February

In one particular of the letters I gained, the writer expresses her indignation that some men and women insist on sounding the first r in February. Every person, she asserts, says Febyooary. In this sort of matters, all people is a perilous term (as we will also see from the following item). All of us have a tendency to imagine that what we say is the only proper norm. Words with the succession r…r are likely to reduce 1 of them. Nonetheless library is extra often pronounced with both of those, and Drury, brewery, and prurient have withstood the tendency. February has transformed its variety several moments. Thus, very long back feverer (from Outdated French) grew to become feverel (potentially beneath the affect of averel “April”). In the older language of New England, January and February turned into Janry and Febry. Nevertheless impressive the phonetic forces might have been in impacting the pronunciation of February, of fantastic relevance was also the actuality that the names of the months often happen in enumeration. Without the need of the initial r, January and February rhyme. A similar problem is well-identified from the etymology of some numerals. Even though the pronunciation Febyooary is similarly common on both of those sides of the Atlantic and is acknowledged as conventional all over the English-talking entire world, not “everybody” has approved it. The consonant b in February is due to the Latinization of the French etymon (late Latin februarius).

Who versus whom

Dialogue of these pronouns lost all curiosity lengthy in the past, for the reason that the confusion of who and whom and the defeat of whom in American English go back to outdated times. However I am not absolutely sure that what I explained about the educated norm is “nonsense.” Who will marry our son? Whom will our son marry? Is it “nonsense” to distinguish them, and ought to (or only can) it be who in equally conditions? Inspite of the rebuke, I believe that even in Modern-day American English the lady who we frequented will not endure if who is changed with whom. But, not like my opponent, I confess that preferences differ.


Yet another dilemma I been given was about the origin of the verb wrap. This is a relatively prolonged story, and I determined to commit a special write-up to it in the foreseeable long term.

PS. I discover that of the two inquiries questioned by our correspondent previous thirty day period only copacetic captivated some notice (go through Stephen Goranson’s reaction). But what about hubba hubba?

Anatoly Liberman is the writer of Phrase Origins And How We Know Them as effectively as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on term origins, The Oxford Etymologist, seems on the OUPblog every single Wednesday. Ship your etymology question to him treatment of [email protected] he’ll do his very best to steer clear of responding with “origin unidentified.” Subscribe to Anatoly Liberman’s weekly etymology posts via email or RSS.

Subscribe to the OUPblog via email or RSS.
Subscribe to only language articles on the OUPblog through electronic mail or RSS.