Sunday, 30 November 2014

Hah, Bumhug

A seasonal thought to mark the beginning of Advent

As the strains of Wachet auf fade away (and I missed O come O come Emmanuel anyway [ a suitable case for iPlayer]) I reflect that orange didn't have its n by the time it was borrowed from the Old French in the 13th century. So the possibility of the n dropping out by false assimilation (that is, suspected assimilation where there had been none) from 'a norange' seems to me unlikely, although it is true that the initial n was there if you look back far enough, through Arabic naranj, Persian narang and Sanskrit naranga (where the trail goes cold, with the dispiriting words 'of uncertain origin' ['of uncertai norigin'?]):
c.1300, of the fruit, from Old French orangeorenge (12c., Modern French orange), from Medieval Latin pomum de orenge, from Italian arancia, originally narancia(Venetian naranza), alteration of Arabic naranj, from Persian narang, from Sanskrit naranga-s "orange tree," of uncertain origin. Not used as a color word until 1540s. 

I favour the 'perhaps influenced by French or "gold"' idea suggested further on in that Etymonline article. This would tie in with the Italian name of another fruit, though not the one excluded by WISE MEN (catch the topical reference? Magic  ) from a fruit salad: pomodoro.

But, in that quote from Etymonline, note the last sentence: Not used as a color word until 1540s. This explains the inappropriate ascription of red in many English expressions. The colour was named after the fruit; so if only the word 'orange' had been used to name that colour before it lost its n, we'd be talking about the norange squirrel being out-competed by the grey ones, the  norange deer 

<autobiographical_note date-range="late '50s?" theme="PG Tips British Wild Life series"> 
 a rarety, as I remember, not like the fallow deer, which seemed to appear in every other  packet
and – back on topic at last  – the robin norange-breast  – a bit of a mouthful, that; maybe that cheerful little cheeky-chappy would have evolved a name based on its colour, so that our Christmas cards would have been decorated with pictures of little NORRIES.
<autobiographical_note date-range="1989-1991" theme="double-lettered bird names">    
Back in the '90s, when I was starting (and indeed ending) my career as a compiler of 3-dimensional crossword puzzles [which call for a double letter when a word reaches a corner of the cube], I remember noticing the commonness of double letters in bird names:
albatross, bittern, booby, bullfinch, buzzard, chaffinch, cockatoo, coot, crossbill, cuckoo, dipper, dunnock, great tit, guillemot, gull, hoopoe, kookaburra,  mallard. moorhen, parakeet, peewit ('vanellus vanellus', since you ask), puffinrooster, ruff, reeve, rook, sparrow, swallow, willow-warbler, woodpecker,  yellowhammer ...
At the time I filled several pages of a notebook with obscure bird names that shared this trait. I can't see how this could be anything but coincidental, but still.... It seems to apply to other bird-related words:  broody, egg, cheep, chirrup, hoot, lesser-spotted, roost,  stoop, trilltweet, twitter... But maybe this is some (possibly well-known) bias – whatever you're looking for [in some sort of corpus of data], you find it. Hmmm...
But it wasn't like that. Redbreast, says Etymonline, is 'early 15c., of the English robin, from red (adj.1) + breast (n.)'  – at least a century before the colour got its name. Until then, red 'the only color for which a definite common PIE root word has been found' – had to do for all colours spectrally south of yellow. In that, though at the other end of the spectrum, it was like Russian and, I think, Mandarin (at least that's what my Tai Chi teacher said when I asked whether the dragon  was blue or green though, now I come to think of it, maybe that was just iridescent

Things Chinese provoke the thought that a piece on the mandarin might be more topical than one on orange another time, maybe.


Update 2014.12.01.21:14  – added afterthoughts in brown.
 Update 2014.12.12.16:25  – added afterthoughts in norange.

 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:  
nearly 48,200 views  and over 6,500 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 2,400 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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