10,000 miles

One of the items my local choir is singing is a medley of the American folk songs Shenandoah (which I previously knew) and He’s gone away (which I didn’t). Because of the folk origins of both songs, information about them is confused and confusing. Shenandoah might be the Oneida Iroquois chief (“I love your daughter”) or the river in Virginia and West Virginia (“Away, you rolling river”) or both. On the other hand “Oh Shenandoah, I love your daughter” might just be a poetic way of saying “I love a young woman who lives in the Shenandoah Valley”.

The only information I could find about He’s gone away is that it’s from North Carolina. It contains the line “Look away over Yandro”. Where is Yandro? It probably isn’t. There is a possibility that it’s a local name for a local watercourse or mountain which (the name) didn’t survive, but the consensus of opinion on a discussion site for choral directors is that it’s a local pronunciation of yonder (indeed some versions of the words render it “over Yondro”, which might have originated as “over yondro”). One participant linked to what looks like a personal blog which claims that yandro means “the place we put our hopes and our longings. It is the place of reunions dreamt of fondly. It is the place, wherever it may be, that we meet our hearts”.  Yeah, right. That blog is private, so I can’t check its writer’s credentials. Continue reading

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Strenuous laboratory

Two snippets from this week.

1) My class was practicing changing verbs into nouns into adjectives and vice versa. One word was strength, to be changed into an adjective. Most students wrote strong, but one wrote strenuous. To the extent that I have ever actually thought about it, I have never thought that strenuous is related to strong, so I had to check it quickly. No – it’s not. Online dictionaries didn’t give quite enough information, but Etymology Online shows the derivation of each, slightly confusingly, but convincingly.

Strong is from Proto-Germanic *strangaz and Proto-Indo-European *strenk-. (An asterisk with an etymology means that word has not been directly attested, but has been reconstructed by comparing forms in related languages.) Strenuous is from Latin strenuus and is possibly related to stern.

The student happily accepted his classmates’ answer of strong, but I told him that if he’d written strenuous in a test, I would have given him a mark. Continue reading

Grammarbites part 9 – Latin, Greek, French, Norse and English words

Part 1 – introduction

Part 8 – Building words, prefixes and suffixes

Part 9 – Latin, Greek, French, Norse and English words

Part 6 – sentence types

Part 5 – nouns

Part 2 – auxiliary and modal verbs

Part 3 – regular and irregular main verbs

Part 7 – pronunciation – the basic sounds of English

Part 4 – pronunciation – consonant clusters

The word manage might look like it is made up of man and age, but it isn’t – the meaning of manage has nothing to do with the meanings of those two words. Instead, it is related to the Latin word manus, meaning hand. Other English words with similar meanings are maintain, manifest, maneouvre, manner, manual, manipulate, manuscript, manufacture, manure, manicure.

Similarly, the Latin word for foot is pes/pedis, from which we get words with meanings related to feet or travel: biped, expedition, impede, pedal, pawn, pedestrian, pedestal, pedigree, pioneer, pedicure.

At the same time, the Greek word for foot is podós, from which we get the very similar words podiatry, podium and tripod, and the word for hand is kheír, from which we get chiropractic/chiropractor.

Many English words are built on a root taken from Latin or Greek, sometimes a whole word, but often just part of it. Sometimes the connection and meaning is clear, other times people know only by looking in dictionaries or on the internet. Sometimes the Latin and Greek roots are very similar (pes/pedis and podós) and sometimes they are very different (manus and kheír).

But not all man– words are related to hands, or ped-/pod– words to feet. Some man– words are related to Latin manēre, meaning stay (permanent, remain), or Greek mania, meaning crazy (manic, maniac), and some ped– words are related to Greek paîs, paidós, meaning child (p(a)ediatric, pedagogue, pedant). Continue reading

Happy one New Year

I have always found the idea of a New Year rather too arbitrary to celebrate. Which may be because I was rarely invited to such parties. Which may be why I was rarely invited to such parties. I spent last night at a Korean church service. Here are some lines to read between / / / /.

So we choose one day with no particular significance, choose a prime meridian such that our time zone falls now instead of one hour sooner or later, ignore the fact that true midnight wanders around relative to clock midnight, ignore the fact that many southern hemisphere countries are on daylight savings (Tweed Heads on the NSW side of the border celebrates one hour before or after Coolangatta on the Queensland side), ignore the fact that a time zone covers at least several hundred kilometres, and all get excited … RIGHT NOW!

Wikipedia lists 46 New Year’s Days from around the world, or one every eight days on average.

Happy New Year, if that’s your thing.

“I’ll be frank with you”

I currently have one very low level student (who would be better off in the morning class, but keeps coming to mine), who is working from the beginner textbook. One early chapter introduces countries, first by themselves, then with people from those. One country is France and one person is Franz (I didn’t note which country, probably Germany). The student noticed the similarity between the names, so I quickly said “They aren’t the same word. France is a country, like China (pointing to her) and Australia (pointing to me). Franz is a name, like [her name] (pointing to her) and [my name] (pointing to me).” She seemed to understand.

Except that they really are the same word. The names Franciscus, Francesco, Francisco, François, Franz and, according to Wikipedia, 192 other variations from 74 languages, all mean “Frenchman/woman”. Famous people with that name include Francis of Assisi, Francis Xavier, Francis Bacon (x 2), Francis Ford Coppola, Frank Sinatra, Francis Drake, F Scott Fitzgerald, Francis Scott Key, Holy Roman Emperors, kings and assorted other noblemen, the current pope, and Francis the Talking Mule. Perhaps surprisingly, given the popularity of the name overall, Pope Francis is the first of his name, compared to 16 Benedicts. I can only assume that more Benedictines have become popes than Franciscans. Pope Francis is, in fact, a Jesuit, but there haven’t been any Pope Ignatiuses. (That looks wrong – Ignatii?) Then there’s the surname Frank/Franck/Frankel/Franco/Franz (and several more variations).

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“choose crime huts of supplements”

The chapter in the textbook was about the media, and one activity was a reading about two famous tv interviews, David Frost’s of Richard Nixon and Martin Bashir’s of Princess Diana. I found videos of both on Youtube and played them to the students. The one I found of Princess Diana is bizarre, for reasons unconnected with her. It is subtitled in Japanese, and the autosubtitling in English is way off the mark. (I can make no comment about the quality of the Japanese.) The first question on this video (which picks up in the middle of the interview) is “What effect did the depression have on your marriage?”. Her answer is autosubtitled, “Well again everybody a wonderfully new label this time as unstable and donna’s m bank in balance enforcing that seems to stop on our thirty s”.

Other excerpts are “you have so much pain inside yourself then choose crime huts of supplements” and “I want to get better analgesic enforce and continue my teaching my romance wife mother kansas last”. All within the first minute and a quarter. Ponder a while.

She actually said:

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Sydney and Nepean

(long but hopefully interesting) The Nepean and Hawkesbury Rivers circle the Sydney metropolitan area and surrounding countryside to the south-west, west, north-west and north. I live in a suburb on the banks of the Nepean and last weekend went photo-hiking to four lookouts about 20 minutes’ drive south of here, in the small part of the greater Blue Mountains National Park east of the river. An online friend from Canada commented “Your Nepean is a lot more photogenic than ours” – “ours” being a major suburban centre of Ottawa, Ontario.

The former British colonies, big and small, are strewn with names commemorating places and people from Great Britain and Ireland, alongside names from other colonial powers (most notably Spain, France and the Netherlands) and indigenous names. Canada and Australia both have a Sydney and a Nepean. (And a Toronto – Australia’s Toronto has a population of about 5000; Canada’s Toronto … doesn’t.)

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