I suddenly thought that a good name for a Spanish coffee shop would be Café Olé (or maybe Cafe ¡Olé!). Not surprisingly, other people (Spanish or not) have already thought the same thing (search and you will find). But I wonder how many other instances of café olé on the internet are mistakes for café au lait. The two are pronounced more-or-less identically in English. Spanish has /leɪ/ but French has /le/, not that many English speakers can correctly pronounce the difference.
God is terrible
This idea is scattered throughout the bible, if not in exactly that form. I probably knew it first and certainly know it most familiarly through Ralph Vaughan Williams’ anthem on Psalm 47, O clap your hands.
O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.
For the Lord most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth.
English has a number of words derived from Latin terror (noun), terrēre, terrificāre (verbs) and terribilis (adjective), including terror, terrorism/t, terrify, terrorise, terrible, terrifying and terrific. Terrific is now positive (though I remember a primary school teacher telling us that it should only be used in contexts of terror), terrifying is negative and terrible sits uncomfortably between the two.
As is usual with biblical words like this, there are many translations. In the 54 English versions on Bible Gateway:
awesome 18 awesome beyond words 1 awesome and deserves our great respect 1
to be feared 9 to be feared [and worshiped with awe-inspired reverence and obedience] 1 fearsome 1 fearedful (to be feared/to be revered) 1 fearful 1
excites terror, awe, and dread 1
wonderful 3 wonderful [awesome] 1
We must fear the Lord 1 We must fear Yahweh, Elyon 1
most of which have other problems, especially these days awesome. If “Everything is awesome” then there’s nothing special about God. At least no translations use awful (see this post, towards the end) (or dreadful).
(Another choral setting of the same psalm, by John Rutter, uses to be feared.)
Lying behind all of these is the Hebrew word נוֹרָא (nora, Modern Israeli Hebrew pronunciation noˈʁa). I will let an actual Hebrew speaker pronounce it and explain. So, awesome or awe-inspiring, or terrible or awful, even in Hebrew.
My problem with all of these is that if God is terrible, to be feared or even awesome, then our response will be terror, fear or awe, but will not and cannot possibly be love, and certainly not with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength.
It is noticeable that most of the verses describing God as terrible (in whatever words) are in the Old Testament (the one exception being the Old Testament-focused Hebrews). Elsewhere in the New Testament, we get “God is love” (not “God is loveable”!).
(I possibly have more to say about this, but would be venturing too far into theology for my comfort.)
sun/Sun/son/Son of righteousness
My wife and I spent two nights away at a beach holiday town. This morning (Easter Day) we attended a dawn service in a park overlooking the beach. During the service, the sun rose, but the effect was diluted slightly by some small clouds on the eastern horizon. I couldn’t take any photos because I was meant to be concentrating on the service.
Probably inevitably, I got thinking about the coincidence of sun and son in English, especially in close conjunction with rising or risen. (See also sun/Sun/son/Son of righteousness.) These two words are similar in the major Germanic languages, but English seems to be the only one in which the two words are homophones: compare German Sonne and Sohn, Dutch zon and zoon, Danish sol and søn, Norwegian sol and sønn and Swedish Sol and son (Google Translate). Further, the two words have been similar for as long as written sources are available and have been reconstructed in proto-Indo-European as *séh₂wl̥ ~ *sh₂wéns and *suHnús. Are they related even further back? Intriguingly, Etymology.com relates son to a verb meaning “to give birth”, probably in a passive form of “having been given birth”. Unfortunately, it does not include an ultimate meaning for sun, but the relationship with “to give birth” is obvious. The answer may be in some specialised source of PIE etymology. I’ll have to leave it there, though.
Compare Latin sol and filius, which is related to a verb meaning to suck, and the two words in any other language you know, in my case Korean 태양 (tae-yang) and 아들 (a-deul).
Note also the Christian Church in England’s use of the Germanic pagan word Ēostre. (See my post from last year and the year before.)
“Some dance to remember”
One day when I was at high school, some representatives of the school newspaper asked random students what our favourite song was. When the next issue of the paper came out, there was The Eagles’ Hotel California, with … one vote.
I don’t know why some songs remain in the individual or collective mind and others don’t. Some super-famous songs basically disappear almost without a trace, while others which were mildly popular at the time become classics. Hotel California was no 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for one week in May 1977. I can’t find any record of its chart performance in Australia. It certainly wasn’t no 1 or one of the top 25 singles that year.
It’s sometimes hard to say how much of my memory of a particular song is from the actual time, and how much is from encountering them on compilation cassettes, CDs or Youtube videos. Some songs were and are extensively featured on compilations and some aren’t. It was easy to spot, by their absence, the singers and groups (or their production companies) which didn’t licence their songs.Continue reading
Nice noise – nooice
A Youtuber named Rachel Boyd has channel mainly of history videos, but also of music videos each featuring works from one period of music history. Most of them have attracted comments intended to be in the language style of that period, with some commenters doing a better job than others. One commenter on a video of works from the Classical period complains the “now the music is just noice”.
I think he means noise, but noice is reasonably common in Australian English as an exaggerated and jocular pronunciation of nice, which would completely change the meaning. But it’s not new, and it’s not Australian. Dictionary.com cites Charles Dickens writing “Ye be noice chaps” in Nicholas Nickleby in 1838. And for extra emphasis, there’s also nooice.
I’ve been struggling for ideas for posts, so I turned to the online discussions I had with my classmates during my masters study in 2010-12, which we were able to save as text files.
One involved the use of technology-related nouns and verbs. The discussion thread was Google it! As the name of a website, Google is a noun (and upper case), but people soon began using it as a verb and writing it in lower case. Many people decry the verbing of nouns and/or using registered company or product names as generics (see generic trademark) but both are common procedures in English. I can remember people faxing (though fax was never a proper noun, and was an abbreviation of facsimile (another common procedure in English – I don’t think anyone ever facsimilied (btw when was the last time you sent a fax?))), and references to people telexing (which was originally an upper-case proper noun). Before that, people telephoned, then ’phoned then phoned. All of these are transitive verbs: Google it, fax the document to me, fax it to me, fax me the document, ?/*fax me it, phone me, ?telephone me. (See also telegram, telegraph (including its metaphoric use) and wire.) (I can also remember an advertisement (?for a graphic designer) informing us that we could ‘fax or modem’ our requirements to them.)Continue reading
Yesterday, a colleague advised us that it was International Chocolate Cake Day. Another colleague shared an image of a chocolate cake with the text:
I had this delicious omlette this morning. I seasoned the eggs with sugar, oil and chocolate, and threw in a little flour for texture.
A third colleague pointed out that there should be an e after the m.
Inquiring linguistic minds want to know why omelette is right and omlette is wrong.
Courtesy of the Online Etymology Dictionary, the story begins with Latin lamina (plate, layer) (with a variety of modern meanings) and lamella (small plate, layer) (also with a variety of modern meanings) and progresses through French la lemelle > l’alemelle > alemele > alemette (which is a double diminutive) > omelette to arrive in English. American English prefers omelet. Omlette and omlet exist but are rare, and at this stage are probably still mistakes rather than genuine alternatives. Pages for Mac autocorrects omlette and omlet to omelette and omelet. So omelette has the first e because Latin lamella had/has one.
For me, omelette is solidly two syllables, but Dictionary.com gives the two- and three- syllable pronunciations.
Many years ago, a service worker introduced herself as a name which sounded like Psycho. It would have been unreasonable to ask for clarification, so I just tucked it away at the back of my mind. Maybe now I’d have more confidence to ask.
A few months ago I was watching a video by Chris Broad, who has a Youtube channel about his life in Japan. One, titled 25 ESSENTIAL Japanese Words for EVERYDAY Conversation includes the word saikou literally the most, used to mean It’s the best. Searching for Japanese names, I found Saiko. There’s no definitive website of Japanese names, but this one gives a number of meanings, depending on the kanji; others give ‘most, greatest’ as the or a meaning. In the absence of any further information, I’ll assume that the service worker was Japanese, and this was her name. You’d think that some colleague would have told her that it’s not a good name for a service worker trying to make a good impression. Either that or wear a name tag.
I searched for ‘name sounds like psycho’ and found this unexplained site of Baby names like Psycho, which a) isn’t the same thing and b) mostly aren’t remotely like psycho.
So why did this name stick in my mind out of all the service workers who have ever introduced themselves? Probably because of the unusualness of it. Maybe if I’d moved to Japan and/or been a manga or anime fan, I might have discovered this sooner.
(There’s a cartoon of a worker lettering the door of an office with ‘Psycho the rapist’.)
Sing Noël! Sing Gloria!
It was probably inevitable that a married couple of songwriters named Noël and Gloria would write a Christmas song. Noël Regney and Gloria Shayne wrote Do you hear what I hear? (first recording, by the Harry Simeone Chorale) in October 1962.
Or maybe not, because his name was actually Léon, and he was hesitant to write a Christmas song due to the commercialisation of Christmas. Noël wrote the words, influenced by the then-current Cuban Missile Crisis and Gloria the music.
Gloria came into English straight from Latin, and also via Old French glorie to become Middle English glory. I couldn’t figure out what the origin of noël (or noel) might be, and would not have guessed that it comes from Latin diēs nātālis day of birth (compare nativity). French did drastic things to Latin (note also that glorie became gloire), but that one is a stretch. Noël is a relatively late arrival into English, dating from 1805-1815. The First Nowell was first published in 1823.
“thwart with danger”
Some years ago, a distant cousin wrote and self-published a book detailing the history of our mutual family. A great-great-great-grandfather and -mother, a great-great-grandfather and four other children arrived in Sydney in 1855 and settled on the mid-north coast of NSW, with four more children born in Australia. Eight of those survived to adulthood and six produced large families, so this is the biggest branch of my family tree. (I might call it a limb or a bough but I don’t know which is meant to be larger.) I have just re-read parts of it while conducting family history research. Among other things, she writes that life on farms and in small towns was difficult, and childbirth in particular was
thwart with danger
I can understand why someone would mix up fraught and thwart – they are relatively uncommon words, they rhyme (at least for people with non-rhotic pronunciation) and the differences are very small (fr and thw), and both collocate with danger: fraught with danger and thwart danger. Fraught here is an adjective and thwart is a verb.
An online search found about 3,430 instances of “thwart with danger”, 5,150 for “thwart danger” and 2,580,000 for “fraught with danger”.
Fraught is from Middle Dutch or Middle Low German and is related to freight, both most basically meaning full of, fraught in a negative way (and now only as an adjective) and freight in a positive way (as a noun and verb). Common collections are fraught relationship, fraught situation and fraught heart, process is fraught, life is fraught, situation is fraught and system is fraught, and relationships are fraught, studies are fraught and lives are fraught. Thwart is from Old Norse and basically means across; as a verb, to lie across, oppose, frustrate or prevent. Common collocations are thwart God, thwart efforts, thwart attempts, thwart justice and thwart competition, thwart a person/man/child and thwart a takeover, thwart the will, thwart the plans and thwart the efforts.