Monthly etymology gleanings for July 2014

By Anatoly Liberman

Considering the fact that I’ll be out of city at the conclude of July, I was not certain I would be able to generate these “gleanings.” But the inquiries have been numerous, and I could response some of them in advance of time.

Autumn: its etymology

Our correspondent wonders irrespective of whether the Latin phrase from which English, by using French, has autumn, could be determined with the identify of the Egyptian god Autun. The Romans derived the phrase autumnus, which was each an adjective (“autumnal”) and a noun (“autumn”), from augere “to raise.” This verb’s great participle is auctus “rich (“autumn as a rich season”). The Roman derivation, although not implausible, seems to be like a tribute to people etymology. A more major conjecture allies autumn to the Germanic root aud-, as in Gothic audags “blessed” (in the linked languages, also “rich”). But, extra almost certainly, Latin autumnus goes back again to Etruscan. The primary argument for the Etruscan origin is the resemblance of autumnus to Vertumnus, the name of a seasonal deity (or so it seems), about whom minimal is identified other than the tale of his seduction, in the form of an previous girl, of Pomona, as explained to by Ovid. Vertumnus, or Vortumnus, could be a Latinized type of an Etruscan identify. A definite summary about autumnus is hardly feasible, even although some sources, while tracing this term to Etruscan, increase “without doubt.” The Egyptian Autun was a development god and the god of the setting sunlight, so that his relationship with autumn is remote at most effective. Nor do we have any evidence that Autun experienced a cult in Historic Rome. Anything is so uncertain in this article that the origin of autumnus will have to wants continue to be mysterious. In my feeling, the Egyptian hypothesis retains out minor promise.

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 shape of an previous woman. (Pomona by Frans de Vriendt “Floris” (Konstnär, 1518-1570) Antwerpen, Belgien, Hallwyl Museum, Image by Jens Mohr, by way of Wikimedia Commons)

The origin of so prolonged

I gained an appealing letter from Mr. Paul Nance. He writes about so extended:

“It appears to be the form of expression that should really have derived from some fuller social nicety, these kinds of as I regret that it will be so prolonged right before we fulfill yet again or the like, but no one has proposed a very clear antecedent. An oddity is its sudden visual appeal in the early nineteenth century there are only a handful of sightings in advance 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 long in the tale ‘Cruise of a Guinean Man’. Knickerbocker: New York (Month to month Journal 5, February 1835, p. 105 available on Google Textbooks). Supplied the absence of a fuller antecedent, suggestions as to its origin all propose a borrowing from yet another language. Does this look reasonable to you?”

Mr. Nance was variety sufficient to append two content (by Alan S. Kaye and Joachim Grzega) on so long, both of which I experienced in my folders but have not reread because 2004 and 2005, when I located and copied them. Grzega’s contribution is specially detailed. My database has only one more little remark on so very long by Frank Penny: “About 20 decades back I was informed that it [the expression so long] is allied to Samuel Pepys’s expression so house, and ought to be published so together or so ’long, meaning that the person employing the expression need to go his way” (Notes and Queries, Collection 12, vol. IX, 1921, p. 419). The team so property does transform up in the Diary a lot more than as soon as, but no citation I could locate appears to be like a components. Perhaps Stephen Goranson will ferret it out. In any scenario, so very long appears to be like like an Americanism, and it is unlikely that such a well known phrase ought to have remained dormant in texts for just about two hundreds of years.

Be that as it might, I concur with Mr. Nance that a formulation of this type most likely arose in civil discussion. The quite a few attempts to discover a foreign resource for it carry little conviction. Norwegian does have an virtually equivalent phrase, but, given that its antecedents are unidentified, it could have been borrowed from English. I suspect (a most loved change of speech by previous etymologists) that so extensive is without a doubt a curtailed variation of a once extra comprehensible parting system, except if it belongs with the likes of for auld lang sine. It may possibly have been introduced to the New World from England or Scotland and later abbreviated and reinterpreted.

“Heavy rain” in languages other than English

Once I wrote a submit titled “When it rains, it does not always pour.” There I pointed out a lot of German and Swedish idioms like it is raining cats and pet dogs, and, rather than recycling that textual content, will refer our outdated correspondent Mr. John Larsson to it.

Ukraine and Baltic location names

The comment on this make a difference was welcome. In my reaction, I most well-liked not to chat about the factors alien to me, but I questioned no matter whether the Latvian position identify 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, remains unanswered, but the suggestion is tempting. And sure, of system, Serb/Croat Krajna is an specific counterpart of Ukraina, only with out a prefix. In Russian, stress falls on i in Ukrainian, I think, the first a is pressured. The similar holds for the derived adjectives: ukrainskii ~ ukrainskii. Pushkin said ukrainskaia (feminine).

Slough, sloo, and the rest

Numerous thanks to individuals who knowledgeable me about their pronunciation of slough “mire.” It was new to me that the surname Slough is pronounced differently in England and the United States. I also obtained a problem about the heritage of slew. The earlier tense of slay (Outdated Engl. slahan) was sloh (with a long vowel), and this kind produced like scoh “shoe,” even though the verb vacillated concerning the 6th and the 7th course. The reality that slew and shoe have this sort of dissimilar written types is because of to the vagaries of English spelling. Just one can feel of too, who, you, group, fruit, cruise, rheum, truth, and true, which have the exact same vowel as slew. In addition, think about Bruin and ruin, which search deceptively like fruit, and insert personoeuver for great evaluate. A delicate spelling reform appears to be like like a fantastic idea, doesn’t it?

The pronunciation of February

In one of the letters I been given, the author expresses her indignation that some people insist on sounding the initial r in February. Everyone, she asserts, says Febyooary. In these issues, everybody is a dangerous term (as we will also see from the subsequent item). All of us are inclined to imagine that what we say is the only proper norm. Text with the succession r…r are likely to reduce one particular of them. Nonetheless library is additional generally pronounced with each, and Drury, brewery, and prurient have withstood the tendency. February has adjusted its type a lot of instances. Therefore, extended ago feverer (from Previous French) turned feverel (perhaps below the influence of averel “April”). In the more mature language of New England, January and February turned into Janry and Febry. Nevertheless effective the phonetic forces may perhaps have been in affecting the pronunciation of February, of good relevance was also the simple fact that the names of the months generally occur in enumeration. Devoid of the very first r, January and February rhyme. A very similar circumstance is very well-known from the etymology of some numerals. Even though the pronunciation Febyooary is equally frequent on both equally sides of the Atlantic and is recognized as regular all through the English-speaking environment, not “everybody” has approved it. The consonant b in February is owing to the Latinization of the French etymon (late Latin februarius).

Who versus whom

Dialogue of these pronouns misplaced all interest long ago, because the confusion of who and whom and the defeat of whom in American English go back to previous times. Nevertheless I am not absolutely sure that what I claimed 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 the two instances? Irrespective of the rebuke, I imagine that even in Fashionable American English the lady who we frequented won’t go through if who is replaced with whom. But, not like my opponent, I admit that preferences differ.


Yet another problem I received was about the origin of the verb wrap. This is a alternatively extensive tale, and I resolved to dedicate a particular article to it in the foreseeable potential.

PS. I see that of the two questions asked by our correspondent last month only copacetic captivated some notice (read through Stephen Goranson’s response). But what about hubba hubba?

Anatoly Liberman is the author of Phrase Origins And How We Know Them as very well as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on word origins, The Oxford Etymologist, appears on the OUPblog every single Wednesday. Mail your etymology problem to him care of [email protected] he’ll do his ideal to stay clear of responding with “origin unknown.” Subscribe to Anatoly Liberman’s weekly etymology article content via email or RSS.

Subscribe to the OUPblog via email or RSS.
Subscribe to only language content on the OUPblog by way of email or RSS.