Saturday, October 15, 2011

To the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds tonight - appropriately accompanied by one of my daughters - to see an excellent production of King Lear. And to note, with regret, that English is no longer blessed with the direct equivalent of Spain's most frequent insult/term of endearment - whoreson. Or hijo de puta.

And to be reminded that uncle used to be nuncle. Just as orange used to be norange. Or naranja in Spanish. And something very similar in Arabic and Persian -  نارنج and نارنگ respectively.

Surely the power of the internet can be used to bring back selected words that have fallen out of use.

As I may have previously mentioned, my favourite would be sennight, meaning week. Just as fortnight means two weeks. In Britain at least. In the USA, I believe, not only sennight but also fortnight has fallen by the wayside.

But that's quite enough of that. Unless anyone wants to put forward a candidate or two. Couth, for example.


Ferrolano said...

Colin, I want the word "gay" as in happy back in English. the other folks can look for another word to describe themselves!!

Colin said...

So do most of us but no chance, I suspect.

Bill said...

One of the two words for orange you mention is from Sanskrit, the other is from Farsi; neither is Arabic.

The word for orange in Arabic is:
- transliteration is "al-burtuqa-al" in other words 'Portugal'.

Colin said...

Thanks, Bill. Self-evidently, Arabic is not my strong point. But don't both Arabic and Farsi derive from Sanskrit? In Farsi, of course, the terms for family members are not dissimilar to those in Teutonic languages also descended from Sanskrit. - Pedar, Barodar, Maadar, etc., as I recall.

Loved the Portugal info. cf. wikipedia . . Portugal's name derives from the Roman name Portus Cale. Cale was the name of an early settlement located at the mouth of the Douro River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean in the north of what is now Portugal.
And, just for completeness, here's the wiki bit I took the two words from
The word orange entered Middle English from Old French and Anglo-Norman orenge. The earliest recorded use of the word in English is from the 13th century and referred to the fruit. The earliest attested use of the word in reference to the colour is from the 16th century. It is generally thought that Old French borrowed the Italian melarancio ("fruit of the orange tree", with mela "fruit") as pume orenge (with pume "fruit"). Although pume orenge is attested earlier than melarancio in available written sources, lexicographers believe that the Italian word is actually older. The word ultimately derives from a Dravidian language—possibly Telugu నారిఙ‌ naarinja or Malayalam നാരങ്ങ‌ naaranga or Tamil நாரம் nāram—via Sanskrit नारङ्ग nāraṅgaḥ "orange tree", with borrowings through Persian نارنگ nārang and Arabic نارنج nāranj.

Bill said...

Hi Colin

Yes, I read the Wikipedia article on the topic, and saw the references to Arabic - but I think in this case it's one of those occasions when it is dangerous to rely on that source. However, since having thought about it a bit more, I'm wondering if the references to "naranj" supposedly from Arabic, in fact refers to a derivation from the Moorish period in Spain and if, perhaps, the word in that context is not Arabic but Berber in origin - I know from my time in Morocco that there is some vocabulary there that is not in any way current in the rest of the Arabic-speaking world (quite apart from the borrowing by educated Moroccans of words coming from French or Spanish, from the two former colonising powers). I'm currently in Spain so do not have access to my text books back in Scotland to allow me to delve further into this. There are certainly some other words in Spanish that seem to me to be directly borrowed from Arabic, for example "usted" which although used differently from the Arabic word "usTadh" has some of the same connotations.

I've never heard it postulated that Arabic derives from Sanskrit. When I was being taught Arabic the similarities in grammar structure and word derivations with ancient Greek were however discussed in great depth - probably understandable given the trade and political links across and around the Meditteranean which have gone on for thousands of years. I cannot speak for Farsi or Sanskrit, but Arabic is an exceedingly logical language, much more so than, for example, English.

Colin said...

Very many thanks, Bill. I'd often wondered about usted. I'm out of Spain too so can't access the appendix at the back of Norman Stone's huge tome on Europe. The one which draws links between current European languages and those of the middle/far east.
I've just skim read this
Which suggests that Arabic and Persian are from different sources, despite the adoption, I guess, of the Arabic script by the the Aryan Persians. said...

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