Monthly etymology gleanings for July 2014

By Anatoly Liberman

Since I’ll be out of town at the end of July, I was not confident I would be capable to generate these “gleanings.” But the inquiries have been several, and I could reply some of them ahead of time.

Autumn: its etymology

Our correspondent wonders whether or not the Latin term from which English, by using French, has autumn, could be discovered with the name 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 enhance.” This verb’s excellent participle is auctus “rich (“autumn as a abundant season”). The Roman derivation, while not implausible, appears to be like like a tribute to people etymology. A additional really serious conjecture allies autumn to the Germanic root aud-, as in Gothic audags “blessed” (in the connected languages, also “rich”). But, much more most likely, Latin autumnus goes back again to Etruscan. The key argument for the Etruscan origin is the resemblance of autumnus to Vertumnus, the identify of a seasonal deity (or so it looks), about whom very little is acknowledged moreover the tale of his seduction, in the shape of an aged girl, of Pomona, as told by Ovid. Vertumnus, or Vortumnus, may well be a Latinized type of an Etruscan title. A definite conclusion about autumnus is rarely doable, even even though some sources, while tracing this phrase to Etruscan, add “without doubt.” The Egyptian Autun was a creation god and the god of the environment sunshine, so that his relationship with autumn is distant at finest. Nor do we have any evidence that Autun had a cult in Historic Rome. Anything is so unsure below that the origin of autumnus need to requires continue being mysterious. In my opinion, the Egyptian speculation retains 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 condition of an previous girl. (Pomona by Frans de Vriendt “Floris” (Konstnär, 1518-1570) Antwerpen, Belgien, Hallwyl Museum, Photograph by Jens Mohr, by using Wikimedia Commons)

The origin of so very long

I been given an appealing letter from Mr. Paul Nance. He writes about so extensive:

“It appears the variety of expression that should really have derived from some fuller social nicety, these as I regret that it will be so prolonged ahead of we meet up with once again or the like, but no a person has proposed a very clear antecedent. An oddity is its sudden 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 (together with the title) in the 1860-1861 edition of Leaves of Grass. I can, by the way, supply an antedating to the OED citations: so, excellent bye, so lengthy in the story ‘Cruise of a Guinean Man’. Knickerbocker: New York (Monthly Journal 5, February 1835, p. 105 obtainable on Google Guides). Provided the lack of a fuller antecedent, tips as to its origin all suggest a borrowing from another language. Does this appear affordable to you?”

Mr. Nance was sort plenty of to append two posts (by Alan S. Kaye and Joachim Grzega) on so very long, each of which I had in my folders but have not reread considering the fact that 2004 and 2005, when I located and copied them. Grzega’s contribution is in particular in-depth. My database has only a single extra tiny comment on so extensive by Frank Penny: “About twenty many years back I was knowledgeable that it [the expression so long] is allied to Samuel Pepys’s expression so residence, and must be penned so together or so ’long, indicating that the individual utilizing the expression have to go his way” (Notes and Queries, Series 12, vol. IX, 1921, p. 419). The group so household does change up in the Diary much more than after, but no quotation I could find appears to be like like a method. Probably Stephen Goranson will ferret it out. In any situation, so long appears to be like an Americanism, and it is not likely that these types of a well-known phrase need to 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 form possibly arose in civil discussion. The quite a few attempts to locate a overseas supply for it carry small conviction. Norwegian does have an practically identical phrase, but, due to the fact its antecedents are unknown, it may have been borrowed from English. I suspect (a favourite switch of speech by outdated etymologists) that so extended is in fact a curtailed variation of a after much more comprehensible parting method, unless of course 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 article titled “When it rains, it does not necessarily pour.” There I mentioned several German and Swedish idioms like it is raining cats and canines, and, rather than recycling that text, will refer our old correspondent Mr. John Larsson to it.

Ukraine and Baltic place names

The comment on this matter was welcome. In my reaction, I chosen not to talk about the factors alien to me, but I wondered no matter if the Latvian put name could be of Slavic origin. That is why I stated cautiously: “If this is a native Latvian word…” The query, as I have an understanding of, continues to be unanswered, but the suggestion is tempting. And indeed, of system, Serb/Croat Krajna is an actual counterpart of Ukraina, only without a prefix. In Russian, strain falls on i in Ukrainian, I consider, the initial a is stressed. The similar holds for the derived adjectives: ukrainskii ~ ukrainskii. Pushkin explained ukrainskaia (female).

Slough, sloo, and the relaxation

Quite a few many thanks to people who knowledgeable 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 received a query about the history of slew. The past tense of slay (Outdated Engl. slahan) was sloh (with a lengthy vowel), and this variety produced like scoh “shoe,” although the verb vacillated between the 6th and the 7th class. The actuality that slew and shoe have these types of dissimilar prepared varieties is because of to the vagaries of English spelling. 1 can think of too, who, you, group, fruit, cruise, rheum, truth, and true, which have the exact same vowel as slew. In addition, contemplate Bruin and ruin, which appear deceptively like fruit, and add manoeuver for fantastic evaluate. A mild spelling reform appears to be like like a excellent plan, does not it?

The pronunciation of February

In just one of the letters I obtained, the author expresses her indignation that some folks insist on sounding the initial r in February. Everybody, she asserts, states Febyooary. In these types of issues, most people is a risky word (as we will also see from the next product). All of us have a tendency to assume that what we say is the only proper norm. Words and phrases with the succession r…r have a tendency to eliminate just one of them. However library is a lot more often pronounced with equally, and Drury, brewery, and prurient have withstood the tendency. February has improved its kind several occasions. So, extended in the past feverer (from Outdated French) became feverel (quite possibly below the influence of averel “April”). In the older language of New England, January and February turned into Janry and Febry. Nonetheless impressive the phonetic forces may perhaps have been in affecting the pronunciation of February, of fantastic significance was also the actuality that the names of the months normally occur in enumeration. Without having the 1st r, January and February rhyme. A related condition is effectively-known from the etymology of some numerals. Even though the pronunciation Febyooary is similarly frequent on each sides of the Atlantic and is acknowledged as common during the English-talking earth, not “everybody” has acknowledged it. The consonant b in February is thanks to the Latinization of the French etymon (late Latin februarius).

Who compared to whom

Dialogue of these pronouns shed all desire prolonged back, simply because the confusion of who and whom and the defeat of whom in American English go back again to old days. Nevertheless I am not positive 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 scenarios? Regardless of the rebuke, I imagine that even in Modern-day American English the female who we frequented won’t suffer if who is replaced with whom. But, unlike my opponent, I acknowledge that tastes vary.


Another query I received was about the origin of the verb wrap. This is a fairly very long story, and I made the decision to devote a unique write-up to it in the foreseeable long term.

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

Anatoly Liberman is the author of Word Origins And How We Know Them as properly as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on word origins, The Oxford Etymologist, seems on the OUPblog each and every Wednesday. Mail your etymology query to him treatment of [email protected] he’ll do his finest to avoid responding with “origin unknown.” Subscribe to Anatoly Liberman’s weekly etymology posts via email or RSS.

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