Monday, 29 April 2013

Meanwhile, back at the -i*- digraphs

Time for a 'sitrep', as they say on NCIS. For readers not conversant with that piece of military jargon, it is a porte-manteau word that conflates the words 'situation report'. The same sort  of conflation happens with other miltary collocations: intelligence derived from intercepted signals is 'sigint', for example.

I have trawled through the IAs making handwritten notes, and will spend the next two weeks doing my HoTMeTaL Pro/Sigil thing (as described here). Then I can look forward (that's the sort of anticipation felt by a schoolboy waiting outside the headmaster's door, rather than the sort felt by the too-excited husband in the Disneyland ad) to 'The Devil's Digraph' ( i.e. '-ie-', of which there are thousands of examples). No, really, thousands. To quote from the work-in-progress version of Introduction to When Vowels Get Together:

  • There are no entries for words that end '-ies'. There are nearly 1500 of these – about half of all words that include the vowel pair '-ie-'  – usually representing the sound /i:/ or /aɪ/.
  • There are no entries for words that end '-ied'. There are nearly 300 of these – about a tenth of  all words that include the vowel pair '-ie-'  – usually representing the sound /i:/ or /aɪ/    ...   
When I thought of this principle (excluding whole swathes of words that used a common sound/spelling) I meant it to save time; and it did, for my ELTons entry (which didn't include the idea of percentages).  But now that I do, I'm not so sure. For example, in the AA section (one of the least fruitful pairs of vowels):

This means that, although I don't include some words in the book, I do have to note their existence in my handwritten notes  – so as to calculate the percentages.

So, when I get into the IEs, I may go into purdah – no doubt a relief for my followers!

Ho hum, back to the grind.

Update 2013.09.30.11:15
Header updated:

 Mammon (When Vowels Get Together V4.0: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs – AA-AU, EA-EU, and  IA-IU, and – new for V4.0 – OA-OU.  If you buy it, contact  @WVGTbook on Twitter and I'll alert you to free downloads of the forthcoming volumes; or click the Following button at the foot of this page.)
And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources: nearly 32,400 views**,  and  4,400 downloads to date. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with 1570 views/700 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Absinthe makes the heart enfonden

I took a passing interest, as one does, in this page earlier today. And being ever on the lookout for new words I was struck by the caption of the main graph: UK budget deficit and party in power. Click image to embiggen. Not having my reading glasses, I knew instinctively what to do – I clicked.

Habitués of Index DOT Html (among whom I don't include myself, although I use it from time to time) will know that Big is an HTML element that does what it says on the tin – it increases the font size. Older coders may be tempted to use the Font element; but this is, as that page sternly says (probably peering over its spectacles, if only RFCs could do that sort of thing) 'Deprecated in HTML 4.x/XHTML 1.0.'. Big, on the other hand, gets an indulgent pat on the head: 'HTML: In all 4.x DTDs'.

I let slip the term 'RFC' back there. Excuse me  –  it betokens a youth misspent in the world of software standards. In the wacky world of the internet, engineers looked with scorn at the European standards bodies. Instead, a group of interested parties (who knew and contributed to the right mailing list) got together and produced a draft document – a Request For Comments. If you want the whole intricate tale of documents and drafts and reviews and redrafts and never attaining the status of UAOAP (=Ultimate Agreement on All Points) I'm sure Wikipedia will help. But the point is that even when recognized as BCP (= Best Current Practice – no, it really does mean that, I'm not joking this time) the document is still referred to as an RFC.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, <Big>, and the new verb it has spawned; well, I doubt if there's any way of telling for sure that 'embiggen' is derived from that HTML element, and – whether or not it was – English has a productive rule (and I'll talk about Chomsky some time soon†) that lets you coin a new verb from an adjective, using the prefix 'eN' (where N is a nasal that can be /n/, /m/, or /ŋ/, depending on what follows) and the suffix 'en'. So if I wanted to say 'make more pink' I could say 'empinken' and native speakers of English would understand (while possibly raising an eyebrow, curling a lip, or allowing some other facial contortion to show their reaction to the neologism). Often, only one of the affixes is used (in an established word): feeble => enfeeble, red => redden. But if you're neologizing, there's safety in numbers. And speakers of English as a Second Language may also latch on to this device: can't recall the word for enlarge/magnify/blow up...? Coin a new one – the locals will understand.

There is a tendency towards dysphemism (the opposite of euphemism) among cognoscenti of one kind or another. People who play the violin are accepted (by other violinists) if they call it a fiddle; players in an orchestra can call it a band; readers of DIY books know the value of 'PTFE tape' – but plumbers call it thread tape ... Knowing the right familiar-sounding words marks you out as one of the élite. And while we're on the subject of élite I wonder if that word is referred to in the computer nerds' special transcription system known as Leet*... The HTML reformers who took against the latinate <Font>, wanted to show their man o' t' people status when thinking up an alternative; <Big> filled the bill. (Of course I don't want to belittle the change; there were many things wrong with <Font>, not least of which was that it made the web less world-wide, and contributed to the need for inelegant sticking-plasters like 'Best viewed in <browser-name>' [which besmirched the web in its infancy]).

Google, a corpus of sorts (though one needs to bear in mind the provenance of some of its inputs) now reports well over 300,000 instances of embiggen, although if you restrict the search to UK sites the number falls to just over 20 – one of whch calls it 'that ugly useless word embiggen'. And the word has found its way into only 3 of the dictionaries used by OneLook: Wordnik, Wikipedia, and Wiktionary (not sources with the highest of bars for entry).

Right – that's enough enlatening. Words with '-ia-' spellings await!

*Wikipedia says my guess is right, but that source – a very useful one – is a bit of a Folk-Etymology Sink.

Update 2013.05.06
On the subject of the 'en-' + <adjective> device, teachers of English (et al., but especially teachers) may be interest in a TES Resource I created a few years ago '-en' verbs and 'their' adjectives
In my covering spiel I wrote:
I have not listed this as a blog, but it's 'bloguesque' - in that it is an area that I have simply reflected on as a result of questions in a summer school. The .xls file is the main resource; the .doc file gives further explanations where necessary.
Update 2013.07.28:
And I've just thought of this other one:, of which my intro. says:
Game encouraging word-building, based on scoring points for 'playing' stems and affixes: e.g. help+less='helpless'. 
I've put this update out of order, but it's related to the 05.06 update.
Update 2013.05.10: Here it is.
Update 2013.09.30.11:15
Header updated:

 Mammon (When Vowels Get Together V4.0: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs – AA-AU, EA-EU, and  IA-IU, and – new for V4.0 – OA-OU.  If you buy it, contact  @WVGTbook on Twitter and I'll alert you to free downloads of the forthcoming volumes; or click the Following button at the foot of this page.)
And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources: nearly 32,400 views**,  and  4,400 downloads to date. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with 1570 views/700 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Finally, finally

On the news this morning I heard a report from a refugee camp in a francophone part of Africa. There was a translator's voice, faded in over the original – which was topped and tailed to provide local colour. The woman being interviewed was recounting a separation caused by war, but, thanks to some agency, 'Finalement, finalement' she was reunited with her family. The translator said 'Finally, finally', which just about did the job, but it sounded a bit off – not exactly a FAUX ami, but one whom your mother wouldn't invite for tea.

'Finalement finalement' reminded me of Jaques Brel's Chanson des Vieux Amants:
Finalement, finalement
Il nous fallut bien du talent
Pour être vieux sans être adultes
And the vieux amants had been together, off-and-on, for a good few years.

I checked in the British National Corpus, and found, as I had suspected, that 'finally, finally' just didn't happen (well it did – on the radio this morning – but it doesn't spring naturally to the lips of native speakers) I then wondered, as the BNC was there in front of me, what I would say. 'In the end' doesn't quite do the same job (of emphasizing that the process was long and fraught with problems); 'when all was said and done' doesn't do it either; it rather trivializes the process, suggesting that it was a fairly normal thing that happened.

I ultimately (!) came up with 'at long last'. The BNC reported 132 hits.

I just wrote 'fraught with problems'; what other nouns fit, after that rather archaic word? To  quote When Vowels Get Together V2.0, referring to the nouns 'problem', 'danger', and 'difficulty':

One final bit of BNC-ery – a note I added to a query about 'much to my surprise' here:

This sort of 'much to' works with quite a few 'reaction' words: BNC has these :

+ 83 others with a frequency of only 1.

(There are a fair few odd-looking nouns there: 'much to her father' for example. These two cases are  'much to her father's mixture of chagrin and pride' and 'much to her father's irritation' – maybe someday I'll learn enough of BNC's syntax to avoid that sort of mishit (but I was pretty pleased with myself at finding out the magic word meaning 'any possessive pronoun' – which, FYI is 'APPGE'...
Five years ago, this was true, but some time ago a new interface was introduced. But to ease the change, and to pander to stick-in-the-muds [sticks~?] like me, the command line accepts the /old qualifier. So I do this, rather than learn a whole new interface, however much more intuitive it may be claimed to be.
 ... [which kinda trips off the tongue, don't you think? ])

But what I've 'finally, finally'  done is release V2.0 of my minimum opus.


Update 2013.04.18:
Yesterday, in a discussion here I made this contribution (after others had made their ritual request for context):

Quote Originally Posted by Prito View Post
It will be witness.
It will be witnessing.
It will be witnessed.

which sentence is correct? Can you tell me example?
[HD: My response:]
To demonstrate the need for context:

It will be witness - something, not a person, will be the only thing collecting evidence of an event (perhaps, a movie camera triggered by movement). Not very likely.

It will be witnessing as above, but also could be an example of a journalistic device. For example, 'St Paul's Cathedral witnessed a memorial service for the much-loved Christopher Martin-Jenkins yesterday' If that sentence had been written on Monday it would have been ''St Paul's Cathedral will be witnessing a memorial service for the much-loved Christopher Martin-Jenkins tomorrow.'

It will be witnessed. Again, on Monday, that report could have been 'Tomorrow, CMJ's memorial service will be witnessed by six former England captains'. As Tdol said, this is probably the most likely of the three. But are you sure you want the subject of witness to be 'it' at all? My impression is that it's more common for people to be reported as 'witnessing' rather than things being 'witnessed'.


PS I understand that someone else is notable for an event at St Paul's this week. No idea who - there's something of a news blackout.
It's not particularly apposite but its humour value is time-sensitive...
I was referring to another funeral, celebrate[and that's not a low blow, I'm just using celebrate with more care for its origins than is usual]d the day after CMJ's memorial.
...[2018 readers can ignore the rest of this post, which I'm leaving in for documentary purposes]

Notes from the word-face
Many thanks to the 70+ people who have downloaded V2 – but nobody yet from .fr, .es, it, .jp, or .br. Come on folks!

Update 2013.04.18 – later, the same day:
Over 80 now, and both .it and .es have joined the party. Get downloading now – there's only one full day left of the free period (probably about 36 hours at time of writing).

 Update 2013.04.20
Well over 100, but time's up now. Time for me to get started on the Is.

 Update 2018.05.23.14:45 – Added inline PSs

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Chronophagy (Part II)

The story so far: The British Council invited contributions from etymologists. I answered, giving an Indian etymology, and was gainsaid by a report of Arabic/Islamic etymology. As the origin was given in a tweet addressed to me (among many others), I took it as a claim that I was simply wrong; tweeters with Islamic backgrounds said 'Hands off ‐ it's ours' (in a way strangely reminiscent of much post-colonial rhetoric ). You left your hero in a frenzy of self-doubt. Now read on.

Henry Yule, co-compiler of Hobson-Jobson , wrote in his Introductory Remarks (not content with a mere Preface)

The crucial (or perhaps critical) word there is 'origin'. Mufti's origin is not Indian. The mufti is that Arabic scholar.

Hobson-Jobson itself, after giving the Arabic origin, gives this alternative meaning:
b A slang phṛase in the army, for 'plain clothes.' No doubt it is taken in some way from a  [the Arabic original], but the transition is a little obscure. [It was perhaps originally applied to the attire of dressing-gown, smoking-cap, and slippers, which was like the Oriental dress of the Muftī who was familiar in Europe from his appearance in Moliere's Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Compare the French en Pekin (HD: My emphasis).]
So  India was the beginning of the word's journey (I almost wrote trek, but the origin of that is Afrikaans, which might further muddy the waters) into English. The Etymological Dictionary adds
Sense of "ordinary clothes (not in uniform)" is from 1816, of unknown origin, perhaps from mufti's costume of robes and slippers in stage plays, which was felt to resemble plain clothes
That last speculation seems to me quite likely – with the 'in' meaning 'dressed like a ...'. Somewhere in the Raj in the early nineteenth century, one may imagine, someone had seen an amateur production of Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (the West's introduction to this sort of Islamic scholar/judge) dressed in a dressing gown and whatever else came to hand in an amateur wardrobe, and used 'in mufty' (sic) to refer to an officer's off-duty attire. The reinstatement of the i was presumably a later bit of scholarly meddling (like, in its way, the 'reinstatement' of the silent b into 'debt', when Chaucer was quite happy using the French borrowing dette   {thinks} When Dr Johnson defined a lexicographer as 'a harmless drudge' I think he knew what he was doing. Lexicographers can make life much more difficult for students. They say 'Look, what a boon is standardization'; but look at the mess they make! The movements of the people connected with the British army, particularly during and after the Empire, explains the dissemination (or to give it its Greek-based near-synonym, diaspora – think 'semen' and 'spore') of many words. My oldest brother did National Service, but I didn't. When everyone spends their life in mufti, what's the point of distinguishing it with a name ... unless...

Some time after my schooling, the idea of raising money for charity by allowing wearers of school uniform to wear their own clothes became common. The teachers who arranged the first of these (in the seventies, at a guess) had experience in the armed services (or had parents who had, and had grown up surrounded by the jargon of the armed forces)*; so they knew just the word for 'out of uniform' – thus 'mufti days' were born. But, as I said in my original tweet, my children knew what they were, but it was grownup-speak; they both said something like 'Own Clothes Day'. This tweet sums it up:

The word mufti had had a long and chequered life. Originally there is no doubt that it referred to an Islamic scholar/judge. But the events that led to its adoption into English happened in India. The question is, as time clicks inexorably through the chronophage's mandibles, where do you stop the clock? If you do, whenever you do, you risk being '[a] bit old fash'.


Report  from the word front
V2 is ready to go, except for an intractable bug in the .mobi file, which makes it open half-way through the table of contents. This is no big deal, as a Go To command makes the problem go away; but ideally I'd like to fix it. But Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien, as someone said; so I'll ignore it and stay on schedule.

*I remember a confusing case that exemplifies this, which involves me on holiday at Fishwick (just down the coast from Bognor Regis), going out for a sailing trip with a friend of the family, a retired naval man. He kept his dinghy well up on  the shingle, and used roller bags to get it down to the sea. The actual pushing was done by adults and adolescents, but a 7- or 8-year-old could look after the roller bags – taking the rearmost one as it became free, carrying it round and slipping it under the prow before the boat ploughed into the shingle. He said to me 'You be OC bags' [='Officer Commanding'],  which I heard as 'UBOC bags', whatever that meant. There was an embarrassing pause, during which he no doubt wrote me off as the worst of landlubbers.

PS on the subject of army slang (well, wartime slang):
Recycling waste paper is not as trendy a thing as some of the greenwash we get from politicians might lead one to think. In my childhood, in the 1950s we distinguished between household waste (which went in the bin)  and clean waste paper (which went in 'The Salvage Box'). We had no idea, nor any need to know, what salvage meant; the linguistic 'clock' just happened to stop in WWII, when salvage mattered.

Update 2013.04.15 – a few tweaks
Update 2013.04.16 – V2.0 available 
Update 2013.07.15: 'Tempus', as my old maths master used to say as we neared the end of another lesson, 'has fugitted'. See below for the latest.
Update: 2013. - wrote the PS on 'salvage' ...
Update 2015.11.01.12:40 – Added this note:
Ever on the qui vive? for faulty claims of etymology, I have just seen a good case that shows the working of this linguistic (etymological) clock, on this site. This was  the claim that caught my attention:

Really? I thought. Surely, with that 'al-' prefix, it must be from Arabic. [I talked about this prefix here  – at least, I thought I did. Briefly, the Moors who invaded Spain in the year 711 {and stayed there, in varying territories, for nearly 800 years} had Arabic as a second language and prepended the definite article to their nouns: that's why many Arabic borrowings in Spanish and Portuguese have an a[l]- tacked on at the beginning – sugar, for example, azucar/açúcar in Sp/Pg is zucchero in Italian, as the Arabs who invaded Sicily  had Arabic as their mother tongue.]

Luckily, before rushing to press with a report of this suspected howler, I checked in Etymonline. 'Alembic' did come to English by way of Old Spanish, as I suspected, but άμβιξ was Greek. So again, it all depends on when you stop the etymological 'clock'.

Update 2016.12.04.17:00 –  Deleted obsolete footer.

Friday, 12 April 2013


There is, at the end of Bene't Street, in the vestibule of what was in my day a bank, an award-winning piece of' 'public art': "invented and designed by Dr John Taylor for Corpus Christi College Cambridge for the exterior of the college's new library building"  as it says here. And to call it just 'art' is akin to calling the Mathematical Bridge – about 200 yards away as the crow flies (nearer a quarter of a mile as the undergraduate squeaks on a borrowed bike on the way to the Sidgwick Site)  – just 'civil engineering'. Time clicks through the chronophage's mandibles, unendingly – as is its wont (time's that is) – and recycles itself.

My thoughts turned to this when I was caught up in the twitterstorm (twyphoon? ... twornado? ... twaboob? ... Got it – TWISTER [see what I did there?]) that followed this request:

My initial response (duly retweeted, – as were many of the other responses, many of which were blessed with the British Council's impwimatur) was:

On reflection, I reinterpreted the question (which I had read as 'is it known by all schoolchildren?'), and posted this afterthought:

 Hobson-Jobson was a late nineteenth-century collection of Anglo-Indian words. As one of the earlier compilers wrote in the Preface:

But this was only the beginning. One of the less-shrill contributions (which I admit to taking personally – but fortunately I was on my way to bed at the time), was:

The following morning, girding up my etymological loins, I did a bit of research – which is where the chronophage comes in. Where does one stop the clock?...

Enough for today. I must go and give some thought to a song inspired by David Crystal's IATEFL keynote on 'blends' (or as he said, to give it the $10 word, anacoluthon). It is based on the song sung, but not written, by the Beatles – Anna; the lead-singer sings 'Ana-' and the backing singers join in, to move the tune to the relative minor, '-coluthon'. That's as far as it goes so far. Annoyingly Anna doesn't include any blends.
b (who will finish the story in the next post).

Update: 2013.04.13  I am working on an update, but my experience with Blogger and images doesn't inspire confidence. So it will appear, probably tomorrow, as a separate post. I'm not renaming this as 'Pt 1' (although it is) in case someone has it bookmarked.

Update: 2013.04.15: Here it is.

Update 2013.07.15: 'Tempus', as my old maths master used to say as we neared the end of another lesson, 'has fugitted'. See below for the latest.

Update: 2013.09.25.17:00
And here it is ...

Update 2014.07.08.12:15
...[A] few days after Le Grand Départ, I'm adding this link to a photo of the Chronophage. 
Note the the clairvoyant pun, which you'll appreciate when you follow that link.

 Update 2016.11.27.15:50 – Deleted obsolete footer.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

'Latin phrases everyone should know'

I've just come across this site. Everyone? Should? (Certainly, people who use them should be able to spell them and know what they mean.).

Why they're good
  • they often say more accurately what is meant; Cogito ergo sum, for example has the philosophical advantage (over the English translation) of not having a pre-existing subject ‐ it is the <verb>ing that creates the subject
  • they are the key to more vocabulary. Carpe diem ‐'carpal tunnel', post mortem ‐ 'mortal'...
  • they are un- ambiguous: 'Time flies' could evoke wacky visions of Bentine-esque scientists studying the speed of fruit-flies, stop-watch in hand
Another thing everyone (everyone who uses them, that is)  should know is how to translate and/ or spell them. Cogito ergo sum means the reverse of  'I think therefor [sic] I am' (which means 'I think, the reason for that [therefor] is that I am). And prima* facia‡is presumably a typo for prima fasciae, whatever that means ‐ undercoat specially for use on guttering?  Come to think of it, I have heard on some US TV drama a DA saying /pri:mǝ fæʃǝ/, which might suggest that this typo (facie, the ablative of facies [='at first sight']) ‐ and incidentally, I prefer 'sight' to 'view': when Elizabeth's walking by the lake at Pemberley, turns a corner and suddenly sees the house's façade, sort of thing ‐ may be at large in US law schools.

Another gripe about the translations: pro bono is an adverbial phrase; work done pro bono is done 'for the good' (either for the furtherance of goodness in general or because it in particular is 'a good cause'. Someone who translates it as 'done without charge' presumably says things like 'PIN number'. or 'ATM machine'. Again, I suspect the influence of US legal practice. For an American lawyer, 'pro bono' has been almost fully Anglicized as an adjective meaning 'unpaid'. Give it a generation or two and it will probably have coalesced into a single word.

But does everyone need to know these Latin tags? I have my doubts. Some of them are useful to know, but that's not the same. They're neat and  efficient; I use them sometimes. But they're easy to get wrong, and can interfere with communication. Moreover, they are a custom-made banana skin ‐ and if you slip on it you may get egg on your f... (Verbum sat)

Update 2013.04.08: A few tweaks and fix format.
Update 2013.06.13: Update footer.
Update 2013.09.30.11:15: Footer updated.
Update 2013.11.13.18:35: Footer updated
Update 2014.06.07.23:15: Footer updated:

Update 2015.08.01.16:30  – Added this footnote:

Incidentally, over the years there have been many ‘correct' ways of pronouncing Latin. In Goodbye Mr Chips one of the old teachers mocks Mr Chips for giving  veni, vidi, vici the new-fangled /w/ pronunciation. [I'm referring to the 1969 film. I don't know whether this happens in the book, or in any of the  other  film versions.]  This is the style preferred by Classics scholars today.]

In one of these styles,  prima has the /ɑɪ/ diphthong in the first syllable...
<autobiographical note>
In a choir I used to sing in, there was a great kerfuffle about how one should pronounce Benedicite. It couldn't have  mattered less, as it happens, since that word does not occur in the text.  But in  Benjamin Britten's world (and particularly at the school he went to when he went there) the first "i" (but not the second) had this same /ɑɪ/ diphthong.
</autobiographical note>
...and in that world, while we're on  the subject the first syllable in habeas corpus had the /eɪ/ diphthong.

In that poem, in the school where Wilfrid Owen learnt his Latin, the last two lines rhymed (and they may have scanned as well – I dunno; even  if they didn't they probably did in schoolboy-speak, where the stress  is often inverted in memorized (and drilled) Latin. Think of aMO aMAS aMAT..., whose actual stress is attested by most [if not all] Romance languages.)

Update 2015.08.18.18:30  – Added this metafootnote:

This is too restrictive. Looking  up something else in the Concise OED I just happened on this:


Update 2015.09.09.12:50  – Added this footnote:
Not before time, I think this joke needs explaining. The correct phrase is prima facie, not prima facia. The reference would have been clearer if I had added an s; but it also depended on pronunciation of the first word with an /ɑɪ/ diphthong. The fascia is part of the eaves of a house (the surface facing out) as distinct from the soffit (the surface facing down).

 Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs ov vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources: over 41,800 views  and over 5,800 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with nearly 2,150 views and nearly 1,000 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Ink in the cloisters?

On Saturday I will be visiting my Alma Mater, and to celebrate I have found out what the Alma part means. I have hitherto assumed that it had something to do with the Spanish alma, which means 'soul'; and to call the scene of my studies in the early seventies my 'soul mother' seemed a bit excessive – fine though that time was.

But it doesn't mean 'soul' – which doesn't mean of course, that the Spanish alma has no connection with what it does mean, which is 'nourishing'. Perhaps the alma was so called in Spain because it was the part of the individual that was 'nourished by Divine Grace'. Hmm ... I may have more to say about this at some time in the future.

But nourishment will certainly be on the agenda on Saturday evening. Bread will be broken. And a 'companion' – as it happens – is someone who shares bread with you; and a 'company' is made up of companions (although the board of directors – hmmm.... 'board'... . probably prefer Rich Tea biscuits to plain bread). When Caesar's troops made their inroads into what is now France and Germany, they found a very useful Gothic word that combined 'with' and 'bread' to mean 'mucker'/''mess-mate': GA-HLAIBA (if you screw your eyes up you can just about see the word 'loaf' there. They took the Latin words CUM and PANE(M), and coined the new word COMPANIO. 'Where...' (I hear you ask) did the second N in 'companion' come from, and why 'PANE(M)' instead of PANIS?'

Attentive readers may remember the post that explained the second of these:
(I'm using the Vulgar Latin convention of giving what a classicist would  call 'the accusative case marker' in parentheses, as the nominative rarely had much influence on the Romance languages.) 
And the answer to the first is my reason for using 'rarely' in that explanation.

The last category [the  author has been discussing different signs of case endings that survived in Vulgar Latin] in Vulgar Latin declension comprising words of the third declension that remain imparisyllabic [! the number of syllables differed in various derived words], is fully attested only in Gaul.... These words designate human beings and the persistence of the original nominative is undoubtedly due to its frequent use as a vocative.... The group includes in particular a large number of words designating agents [and] words formed on  verbal stems, usually those of the first conjugation, e.g. IMPERATOR from IMPERARE...
See more here.
Elcock  – for it is he – goes on to list about twenty examples, with their Old French and Old Provençal derivatives: e.g. IMPERATOR/IMPERATOREM, O.F. empere(d)re/empere(d)or, O. Prov. emperaire/emperador.

Later, when non-Latinate words were adopted into the new vernacular, 'nominative/accusative' pairs were created, following the Vulgar Latin pattern: bers/baron, gars/garçon, copain/compagnon and a handful of others. More often than not, only the 'accusative-based' half has survived, if ever the putative nominative half existed. A porpoise is a 'pig-fish' (porc + pois); but it's poisson that means 'fish' in modern French.

Anyway, the prospect of revisiting my old stamping ground has brought to mind the late/great Joe Cremona, whom I have mentioned before; he is the source of many of my unattributable tit-bits – which I explain away as 'private conversation'; not that they necessarily arose in private conversations, but the 'Vulgar Latin and Romance Philology' option was not over-subscribed. So even when there was a full turn out at his lectures the number of people in the audience could have been counted on one hand.

My last post mentioned the r in Fr. encre and It inchiostro. The root is the Greek ένκαυστον, adopted into Late Latin in the form encaustum – stressed on the first syllable, and with no r; in fact the Old French enque still had no r. This dictionary definition of ink  gives some background. Why the changes?  I don't think anyone knows for sure; they certainly didn't at the time of the lecture in which Joe suggested the following possibility:

The context for this speculation was a quote from Crystal from which I was ellipting a mention of the association of learning with religion (which didn't seem to me to be essential to an understanding of the argument at the time). Writing with ink was something that was done – predominantly, at the time – in monasteries. If the ένκαυστον was something that was usually found in chiostro [='in cloister'] that would explain both the change of stress and the addition of the r. 'Se non è vero è ben trovato*


News from the word-face
Dotting and crossing of the appropriate letters is proceeding with as much dispatch as Zeno's Arrow, but with slightly more hope of reaching its goal: 15 April looks like being the red letter day.

Update 2103.04.06: @BobK99 proposes and God disposes! I'd've lasted until mid-evening, but not been very good company - while posing a health risk. So I'm sitting this one out. But I can report, having just printed out V2, that the EA-EU section is about twice as big as the AA-AU section. I have a pretty busy week ahead, but it's still looking good for 15 April.

* Meaning, roughly, 'If not true it should be'. Some day I must write a novel with a happy-go-lucky character called 'Ben Trovato'.

Update 2016.07.28.15:15 – Deleted out-of-date footer.