mercoledì 23 settembre 2009
Nothing is better than etymology, the science of the origin of words, to memorize foreign words. I like sometimes to enjoy a cup of coffe with an apple strudel... So, lets start our journey into History and linguistic curiosities with a couple of words: apple, and coffee...
-- Apple --
English: Apple / German: Apfel / Russian: Яблоко, pron. yabloko
from Indo-European root: *abol. It is a very old northern European’s word which is also concealed in city names such as Avella (in ancient times Abella, i.e. ‘city of the apples’), small city of Avellino’s province in Italy, and Avallon in France.
It is only from the 17th Century, that the term ‘apple’ was associated with the prohibited tree’s fruit in the Genesis.
Italian: Mela / Romanian: Măr
comes from Latin malum that takes origin from ancient Greek mêlon. An old generic Mediterranean term used to indicate also other seed fruits, like peer, quince, and so on.
French: Pomme / Catalan: Poma
It comes from Latin root pomum which means ‘fruit’. Is maybe associated with the Sanskrit word phala, ‘fruit, apple’.
Spanish: Manzana / Portuguese: Maçã
It comes from popular Latin : mattiana, abbreviation of “mala mattiana”, in literary terms ‘apple of Mattius’, from the agronomist’s name who spread this kind of apple.
In other languages with non alphabetic writings, ‘apple’ is written in this way...
Chinese: in traditional Chinese, apple is written: 蘋果 (pron. píng guǒ); in simplified Chinese: 苹果. The second character 果 of the word means ‘fruit’ and is made with the pictograms 田 and 木 together symbolizing a fruit on a tree.
Japanese: Japanese people use two different writings in concomitance with the Chinese characters called ‘kanji’: the sillabic katakana and hiragana characters are used to write words in a ‘phonetic’ way.
Apple in kanji’s writing is as follows: 林檎 (pron. ringo ), in katakana: リンゴ, and in hiragana: りんご.
-- Coffee --
The word coffee, one of the symbols par excellence of the Italian ‘dolce vita’, comes from Arabian qaHwat (al-bûnn), i.e. ‘wine (of the bean)’, in Arabic قهوة.
Originally it identified a stimulating drink produced by a juice extract from some seeds that was drank as a dark red liquid.
Thanks to the Venitian ambassador in Constantinople, Gianfrancesco Morosini, in 1585, we get the first report of coffee’ consumption: "Turkish people here stay sit on the floor and spend their time drinking together, in shops as well in the street, a black and hot water obtained from a seed called cavèe, which has the virtue to maintain people awake".
So, the word passed from Turkish (kahvé), to Venetian (cavèe) and, from Venetian to today’s Italian (caffè) and finally to English (coffee).
English: Coffee (drink). Coffee bar or café (public place).
French, Catalan, Spanish, and Portuguese: Café (drink and public place).
In French slang, however, we pronounce 'caoua', like in Arabian!
The word indicates also a public place where the coffee itself is drank.
German: Kaffee (drink). Gastwirtschaft or Café (public place).
Russian: Кофе kòfye (drink). Кафе kàfye (public place).
A Russian saying: “The coffee, to be good, must be black like the night, sweet like love and hot like hell”.
In other languages with non alphabetic writings, ‘coffee’ is written in this way...
Chinese: 咖啡, pron. kā fēi. As coffee doesn’t belong to Chinese culture, the word ‘coffee’ is adapted from Italian, and is written with phonetic symbols used precisely to write foreign words.
Japanese: katakana: コーヒー, hiragana: こうひい, pron. kuhii.
lunedì 7 settembre 2009
Interesting single letter words to be found among the world's languages are the following:
"á" is Icelandic for river.
"å" (an a with a circle on top) is Swedish for river, stream.
"ø" or "ö" (an o with two dots on top) is Swedish for island.
"A", short from 'Aa', means big brother in Sudanese (West Java, Indonesia). To be used preceding a name, e.g. A Rudi - big brother Rudi.
"e" is Japanese for picture, bait or handle.
"e" (pron. uh) in Chinese means hungry.
"i" in Japanese can be stomach or well (the kind you draw water from).
"o" (long o) means large, big in Japanese.
"u" is Japanese for cormorant.
"u" (Burmese), a male over forty-five (literally uncle).
"i" (Latin) means ‘go!’.
"i" (Korean), a tooth.
"m" (Yakut, Siberia), a bear; or an ancestral spirit.
"Zi", short from "Zio", means uncle and informal an unrelated older acquaintance in Neapolitan dialect. It is used preceding a name, e.g. Zi' A' - Uncle Angel, Old Angel.
A famous Swedish tongue twister involving single letter words is the following:
"I åa ä e ö å i öa ä e å". (I ån är en ö och i ön är en å)
In the stream there is an island and in the island there is a stream.
And here is another interesting tongue twister in Bergamasco (Italian dialect):
"A o a ae, e öe i ae ie!".
I go and catch bees and I want them alive!
Two friends bet who would be able to write the shortest letter in Latin. Thus, the first man wrote: "Eo rus" -- ‘I am going to the countryside’. His friend responded with just a vowel: "I!" which means ‘Go!’... and had won the bet!
But, indubitably, the shortest written exchange ever was that between the French writer Victor Hugo and his publisher, following the publication of ‘Les Misérables’, with Hugo enquiring with a simple "?" about the book's success, and his publisher responding: "!".
martedì 1 settembre 2009
“John Smith” is a name often regarded as the archetype of a common personal name in most English-speaking countries, a generic name sometimes representing ‘everyman’ or ‘the average person’. Whereas “John Doe” is widely used in the United States as a recurrent pseudonym or a placeholder name for a male party in a legal action, case or discussion whose true identity is unknown (or must be withheld for legal reasons).
Below is a list of other typical placeholder names from around the world (interesting to note that the Arabic "Fulan" gets used in a lot of Hispanic countries):
Italy: Pinco Pallino; Tizio, Caio e Sempronio.
Germany: Lieschen Müller; Otto Normalverbraucher; Hinz & Kunz.
Spain: Fulano; Mengano; Zutano.
France: Monsieur Durand; Monsieur Untel; Jean Dupont; Pierre-Paul-ou-Jacques.
Belgium: Duschmol; Jos Joskens.
Netherland: Jan Jansen; Jan Modaal.
China: 无名氏 (Wúmíng Shì, literally 'Mr./Ms. No Name'); 某某 (Mǒu Mǒu, literally "so-and-so").
Japan: 名無しの権兵衛 (Nanashi-no-Gombei, literally 'Nameless member of the imperial guard').
Israel: פלוני (Ploni); אלמוני (Almoni).
Arabic countries: فلان (Fulan); علان (Ellan); مجهول (Majhoul).
Russia: Иванов Иван Иванович (Ivanov Ivan Ivanovich).