Tuesday, 2 July 2013

A little something?

At the end of last year I blogged about 'crepuscular' and said:

Latin had the diminutive suffix -ulus/a, which we still see in quite a few words we use in English: 'cumulus', 'homunculus', 'tumulus' [that's one for the map-readers in the audience - 'a little swelling' - think of the word 'tumor'], 'Ursula' (which means 'little bear' - don't mess with an ursa protecting her ursulam!), 'formula'... We can also see it in a word like 'regular' (regula 'little stick', cf our 'yardstick'). Another adjective - one of my favourite derivations and demonstrating again Guy Deutcher's 'reef of dead metaphors' idea (mentioned in another post) - is 'muscular', from mus ('mouse')/musculus ('little mouse'), which is the way muscles looked to Early Romans - at least the ones who didn't get within gawping distance of auspice-reading: a little metaphorical mouse scampering about under a carpet.
The OED's word of the day a few weeks ago (no pointer, because after 24 hours the paywall goes up again; somehow WOTD engineers a page-specific suspension of the force field that protects the OED) was jentacular; we already know, from that other post

'*acul*' → something to do with smallness
Now in French we have  déjeuner, which is a meal at some time other than morning (which itself is a bit of a problem for people like me, since jeûner, to fast – so why isn't déjeuner 'break-fast'? Maybe the circumflex means the similarity is only skin-deep...). As meal names are a moveable f... (oops, wrong metaphor) (look at our 'dinner'; or 'wedding breakfast' come to that – presumably everyone is too excited to break their overnight fast before the ceremony) this problem is more imagined than real.

In French (still) we have petit déjeuner, which many peope would say has a 1:1 semantic relationship with our 'breakfast' (although I bet you wouldn't get kedgeree or kippers (or bacon, come to that) on a French 'breakfast' menu).  Meanwhile, in Portuguese – while we're on the subject of skin-deep similarities – we have o jantar which I saw made diminutive in a Brasilian tweet the other day: jantarinho (or was it -inha? – @Daniela_JG would know; judging from the time of the post it wasn't JENTACULAR aha – got there in the end [ 'jentacular' meaning 'of or pertaining to breakfast']).

So, with a following etymological wind, which I hope may eventuate (though my tentative steps may well not survive the merciless scrutiny of RESEARCH) a 'little jantar' (like a petit déjeuner) is 'jentacular' .

Hope springs eternal in the – what makes the word tit come to mind? Oh well...

b ['I am going to a bookshelf, and may be some time.']

Update, 2013.07.3.16:45

The research hasn't got very far. There is a 'post-Classical' Latin word that refers to 'a breakfast taken immediately on getting up', ientaculum, it says here. But that source does not inspire confidence: 'pre-jentacular, applied to what is done early in the morning, as taking a breakfast before getting up' feels very iffy to me – I'd imagine that that word applies to things done before eating (as in the case of something like an early-morning run). Their definition makes it sound no more bracing than breakfast in bed. 

What I want is the derivation of the Latin ientaculum and the Portuguese jantar; and for that I need the Romance philologist's bible,  Romanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch von W. Meyer-Lübke, which is in the Reading University library; it's also available online, but in a version that's incredibly slow to navigate, so I'm taking the Luddite's way out and going to browse in the real thing. I still want to get to the bottom of this, so stay tuned; but don't hold your breath.

Update 25.07.2013.09.30/10:50
HeadFooter updated:
Update 2013.10.14/10:50
PS – A note about the title, for readers not conversant with Winnie the Pooh
 (and note also that in that link I've avoided what calls itself  'the official site'. Since oficinalis was used to designate plants used in cookery, perhaps that rehashed concoction – something cooked-up by the bean-counters of Disney Inc. [or whatever the hell it's called] – perhaps 'official' is appropriate)

'A little something' is a tactful way of saying 'an insignificant (that is, not counting as a meal) amount to eat'. 

(and header updated) 

Update 2014.  – Added this note:
Followers of my Twitterstream may have noted that I went to a lunchtime concert on the Whiteknights campus (featuring, as it happens my daughter's erstwhile swain on trombone) and while I was there I hoped to  visit the university library. But during the exam period (that is from  April to June) they impose the unusual rule of silence being observed... as if it were a LIBRARY OR SOMETHING FFS So we noisy riff-raff are excluded, and the promised research must be deferred again.

PPS And while I'm here I'm updating the footer.

Update 2014.  – Added this note:

At long last I've been able to consult the extraordinary Romanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch von W. Meyer-Lübke. And the answer to the jantar question I asked over a year ago: we can forget ientaculum (which is no doubt related to the shorter answer: jentare:
See quote in situ here, on page 331
Presumably his aspan is Old Spanish, but modern Spanish has (and has had for centuries) desayuno, which – given  the French jeûner [='to fast'] – means the same as BREAK-FAST (geddit?). So the nearest neighbour (to Portuguese) is Asturian.

Next on the research agenda is this: which way was the loan-borrowing, or to give it the $10 word 'calque' : breakfast to desayuno or desayuno to breakfast? Another time, maybe.

 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 of 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.

I'm thinking about doing a native iBook version in due course, but for now Mac users can use Kindle's own (free) simulator.

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

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

Freebies (Teaching resources:  nover 46,000 views  and nearly 6,200 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 over 2,300 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.

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