Sunday, 21 May 2017

Military Ranks

Browsing the displays of uniforms and insignia at a military museum recently my thoughts soon turned, as usual, to etymology. In particular the military ranks and just why a 'private' seems quite inappropriate.

Marshal - came to English from French, the latter version now seen as marechal and much easier seen as 'stable officer, horse groom' but, as a rank, began in referring to 'an officer in charge of a household' and a rank seen in other languages but, depending on the language group, rather differently. We have already seen the standing for the French, a language of the Latin arm of the Indo-European languages and indeed the Latin languages always have a marshal as a person of importance. Yet when it comes to the other arm of the Western European group, the Germanic tongues, the understanding is quite different. For example the Old English equivalent was a horsthegn, or stable officer - interestingly also the root for the police rank of 'constable' - while Old High German marahscalc 'groom', Frankish marhskalk, Gothic skalks 'servant', and Dutch schalk 'rogue' and very much lower designations.

Commodore - shares an origin with 'commander', both from Old French comandeor, itself the agent noun of the verb 'command'. Tracing the etymology of 'command' we find this to have a common root with 'commend' and 'mandate' in the Latin mandare and ultimately Proto-Indo-European man 'hand' and do 'to give'. Perfectly sensible for one still speaks of 'handing out orders'.

Captain - nothing to do with headgear, this comes from Latin capitaneus 'chief' in the sense of 'prominent'. Taking this back to its ultimate root we find Proto-Indo-European kaput meaning 'head'. Note this is not found in a naval sense until 1560 and no mention in a sporting sense before 1823.

Commander - see 'commodore' above.

Lieutenant - we British traditionally use the pronunciation 'lef-' and have done so since at least the 14th century as evidenced by the documented spelling. Just why this came about nobody has any idea - the Oxford English Dictionary rejects the usual explanation of mistaking the 'U' for a 'V' - but it does call into question a statement I once heard (and often repeat) that "nobody ever mispronounced anything until they could read", it if looks wrong then that is down to spelling. However here this is the exception for judging by every other language where such is used, we Brits have somehow got it quite wrong. Here the rank is made up of two words Old French lieu 'place' and the past participle tenir 'to hold', the latter from Proto-Indo-European ten 'to stretch'. Here the idea is the lieutenant is an officer who often deputises for a higher rank, most often a captain, and thus whilst not translating as such is used in the sense of 'substitute'.

Officer - not used in a military sense until the early 14th century. Clearly from 'office', itself coming to English through the French/Latin route where it literally meant 'work-doing'. and derived from the Proto-Indo-European root op 'to work' and dhe 'to set'. Note this 'office' is the post and not the room, that is unknown before 1560s.

General - used in military sense from 1570s, the noun comes from the adjective and is another coming from the French/Latin source. Here the roots are Latin generalis 'relating to all' and Proto-Indo-European gene 'to give birth' or 'beget'.

Major - has only been a military rank since the 1640s. As a noun it comes from the adjective and again to English from French/Latin. Here Latin magjos is a comparative of magnus 'large, great' and from the Proto-Indo-European root meg 'great'.

Brigadier - seen since the 1670s and another from the French/Latin route, here based on 'brigade', a military division unknown before the 1630s. The Italian brigata means 'troop, crowd, gang' and shares a root with 'brigafe' in brigare 'brawl, fight' and briga 'strife, quarrel. These comparable to Celtic words such as Gaelic brigh and Welsh bri both meaning 'power' and derived from the Proto-Indo-European root dwere 'heavy'.

Colonel - unlike 'lieutenant' (see above), there is an explanation for the pronunciation of 'kernel'. Until the 16th century this appeared as coronel, hence the spelling is wrong as is the norm (see 'lieutenant' above). Middle French coronel, Italian colonnella are both derived from the same root as 'column' or 'pillar'. Here the sense of a solid rectangular formation, albeit tipped on its end, can be traced to the Proto-Indo-European root of kel meaning 'to project, be prominent'.

Admiral - is not seen in its modern sense until the 13th century, and then specifically as amiral de la mer or 'admiral of the sea' which suggests the earlier admirals were not associated with the fleet and this is indeed the case. While 'admiral' came to English from French, for a change this is not Latin but a French loan word of Arabic beginnings. Here the root is a word some crossword puzzlers will be familiar with, for amir is a favourite with American compilers as an alternative (some would say 'correct') spelling for what the British would see as 'emir' and simply means 'commander'. The rank shares its origins with 'admirable', which isn't difficult to see, but the butterfly known as the 'admiral' (named from around 1720) is actually a corruption of 'admirable' and nothing to do with military rank.

Sergeant - seen since the early 13th century, here we go back to the French/Latin trail. Old French sergent meant 'servant' while the Latin servientem referred to 'serving'. Hence we need to find the root of the verb 'to serve' which is simply 'slave'.

Corporal - as the lowest non-commissioned army officer not seen until 1570s, this is another coming from the French/Latin route based on the Latin caput and Proto-Indo-European kaput both meaning 'head'.

Cadet - in a military sense from the 15th century, this shares an origin with 'corporal' (see above) in coming from kaput but here the sense is in 'little head'.

Ensign - seen from the 15th century referring to a flag or pennant, not in the sense of 'rank until 1862, here the word shares a root with 'insignia'. It combines the Proto-Indo-European en 'in' and sekw-no 'to follow', the latter also the root of 'sign'.

Albeit not correctly ranks, I thought it worthwhile also looking at the general terms used in the army, navy and air force of the military.

Solider - has a myriad etymological lines to trace but all essentially mean 'one having pay'.

Sailor - is clearly the agent noun of 'sail, itself traceable to Proto-Indo-European sek meaning 'to cut' and exactly what was required to make a sail from a piece of cloth. Note the term 'sailor' has only been in use since around 1400 (when it was 'sailer'), prior to this it was either 'seaman' or 'mariner'. Looking at these we find 'sea' originally used to mean 'large quantity' and 'man' in the sense 'person' (and thus not sexist in the slightest); while 'mariner' has the ultimate root mori 'body of water'.

Pilot - clearly one could never use this in an aviation sense until the invention of the aeroplane. Earlier balloonists could never be known as 'pilots' as we will see. Many will be aware the use for an airman came from its use in a marine sense, a 'pilot' still steering vessels into harbour, hence this is the sense we need to trace. The term came to English from Middle French pillote, Italian piloto, and Medieval Greek pedotes 'helmsman' and Greek pedon 'steering oar' and all coming from the Proto-Indo-European root ped 'foot'.

Note as the piece is in English, English spelling is used.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Whys of Wear

Ever wondered why several items of clothing can never be found in the singular? Now when it comes to socks, shoes and glove then it is quite obvious, but what about trousers and tights? Why can’t you have a trouser or a tight?

Obviously clothing has been around a long time and therefore so have the many names for same. But where do these terms come from? Who named them? And what do they mean?

To find an order proved difficult, sexism was always a likely criticism but, having played with several ideas, ended up taking them in alphabetical order, which also makes it easier to search. Oh, and to find the reason why 'trousers' are plural, see 'breeches'.

Anorak – not seen in English until 1924, this comes from Greenland Eskimo anoraq which simply describes this hooded jacket.

Apron – one of a number of words, adder and umpire are others, which began as ‘a napron’, and continued to be used until the 16th century, but through a process known as ‘faulty separation’ became ‘an apron’. Coming to English from Old French naperon ‘small table cloth’ and ultimately from the Latin mappa ‘napkin’ and further back still to ‘matting’.

Bags – looking at the singular ‘bag’ this is an Old Scandinavian word baggi meaning ‘pack bundle’ around 1200 and only latterly used to mean ‘small sack’. It has a common origin with ‘bellows’ and ‘belly’.

Bandana – first seen in English in 1752, it coming from the Hindi bandhnu which is a method of dyeing (basically the same as the modern tie-dye), itself from Sanskrit badhnati ‘binds’ and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European bhendh ‘to bind’.

Bathrobe – not seen before 1894, this a composite of two words: ‘bath’ can be traced to Proto-Indo-European ‘to warm’; and ‘robe’ which shares an origin with, of all things, ‘rob’ and presumably using both as vestments taken as spoils.

Bearskin – another composite, this seen since the early 19th century, and: ‘bear’ of Germanic origins means ‘the brown one’; and ‘skin’ ultimately from Proto-Indo-European sken ‘to cut off’ and clearly used first and foremost as a verb.

Bedsocks – not seen until the early 20th century, another composite: ‘bed’ is from Proto-Indo-European bhedh ‘to dig, pierce’ and showing the early beds required a bit of digging to allow for the lumpier bits of the body; and ‘socks’, an early 14th century word which began either as Greek sykchos or a similar Asiatic origin, both actually describing a type of shoe.

Belt – seen in English since the 5th century, the word is a Germanic loan word from Latin balteus ‘girdle, sword belt’.

Beret – unknown in English until 1827, this is from Old Gascon berrt meaning simply ‘cap’. Perhaps both the idea of a cap attached to a cape is seen as a Gaulish word related to Latin birrus ‘large hooded cloak’.

Bib – is found in English since 1570, this derived from a now lost verb bibben meaning ‘to drink’ and clearly related to ‘imbibe’.

Bikini – coined in 1948 and, as many will be aware, takes its name from the Bikini atoll of the Marshall Islands where the A-bomb test took place in June 1946. Note the idea of a ‘monokini’, seen since 1964, was down to the mistaken belief the first syllable was a Greek prefix meaning ‘two’, when it is a local word from pik ‘surface’ and ni ‘coconut’.

Blazer – not known until 1880, beginning as British university slang and derived from ‘blaze’ in referring to the red flannel jackets worn by the boating club of Lady Margaret, St John College, Cambridge.

Bloomers – coined in 1851 and named after US feminist reformer Amelia Jenks Bloomer (1818-94) who helped to promote them. Her surname comes from Old English bloma meaning ‘iron worker’.

Boa – as a name for a fur from 1836, it alludes to the snake due to its shape, the word boa is Latin an simply means ‘large snake’.

Bodice – first seen in 1560, this is a very odd spelling as it is the plural of ‘body’. Not difficult to see why ‘body’ for this tight-fitting garment covered the torso, less easy is why it should be plural. ‘Body’ comes from a Germanic term where leib meant simply ‘life’.

Bonnet – first seen in Britain in 14th century Scotland as bonat ‘brimless hat for men’, this coming from Old French bonet an abbreviation of chapel de bonet ‘kind of cloth used as a headdress’, and Latin bonitum ‘material for hats’.

Bowler – named in 1861 and from a J. Bowler, a 19th century London hat manufacturer. There were two other ‘Bowlers’ associated with hats: John Bowler of Surrey and William Bowler of Southwark.

Blouse – again seen in the 19th century and specifically 1822, this is a French word originally meaning ‘smock of a workman or peasant’. It is thought to be derived from Provencal (lano) blouso ‘short (wool)’ or, less likely, from a city of Upper Egypt named Pelusium which was an important clothing manufacturing centre.

Brassiere – known as a ‘bra’ from 1923, the longer version is an 18th century French word originally meaning ‘child’s chemise, shoulder strap’.

Breeches – seen since around 1200, this is an odd double plural. Here Old English brec meant ‘breeches’ before it was pluralised, for brec was already the plural form of broc meaning ‘garment for the legs and trunk’. Now originally the garment was one sided, thus when pluralised it referred to both legs which, with the upper part, crossed over and were tied together to form a single item but clearly plural. That the item was intended to be worn in two halves is likely the reason for it coming from Proto-Indo-European bhreg or ‘break’.

Britches – is a variant of ‘breeches’ and seen as britch from 1620 (the singular) and as ‘britches’ from 1905.

Burberry – a company established in London in 1856 by Thomas Burberry (1835-1926) who specialised in outdoor attire.

Burnous – is from more than 2,000 years ago and a Berber word abernus and shares an origin with the Greek word for ‘cloak’.

Busby – first seen in 1807, this fur hat worn by hussars it was earlier used to describe ‘a bushy tall wig’ in 1764. The origins are unknown but it is both a place name and a surname and seems likely to come from one of these sources.

Bustle – is first seen in 1788, of uncertain origin but possibly from German buschel meaning ‘bunch, pad’ or as in the sound made by these dresses as in a ‘rustling motion’.

Camisole – recorded in England by 1816, this comes from the French where Provencal camisola ‘mantle’ is a diminutive of camisa ‘shirt’.

Cape – seen from the middle of the 16th century, this Old English word has the same origins as Latin cappa ‘hooded cloak’.

Cardigan – first coined in 1868, this was named after James Thomas Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan (1797-1868) who apparently wore such an item when leading the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava. His title comes from the Anglicised version of the Welsh place name Ceredigion meaning ‘Ceredig’s land’, this Welsh chieftain lived in the 5th century.

Chaps – recorded in 1844, this is American English and taken from Mexican Spanish chaparreras named as they protected from the chaparro ‘evergreen oak’ but used here to refer to scrubland in general.

Chemise – seen in the 12th century, this shares an origin with ‘Camisole’ and originally meant ‘shirt’.

Chiton – seen from 1850, this a form of Greek khiton ‘frock, tunic, mail coat’ and worn by both sexes.

Choker – speaks for itself, but we do need to point out this tight-fitting necklace wasn’t named until 1928.

Cloak – a late 13th century word, this from Old French cloque ‘travelling cloak’, and ultimately sharing an origin with ‘bell’ and ‘clock’.

Clog – from the early 14th century, this comes from Old English clogge meaning ‘lump of wood’ and shortly used for the shoe, too. Now the earlier usage is unknown, it certainly does come from the very ‘to clog (up)’ as this comes from the noun – but interestingly, and I make no judgement here, clogge was also used to describe large pieces of jewelry and large testicles.

Coat – a 14th century term ‘outer garment’ and from Frankish kotta ‘coarse cloth’. Not used for animal covering or a layer covering a surface until the 1660s.

Coif – late 13th century, a close-fitting cap from Old French coife ‘headgear’.

Collar – first seen at the end of the 12th century, this originally applied to the collar on a suit of armour and thus it comes as no surprise to find this is from Proto-Indo-European kwol-o ‘neck’.

Comforter – as a scarf from 1823 and an agent noun from ‘comfort’, itself from the Latin intensive prefix com with fortis ‘strong’.

Corset – from 1795 century and clearly a French word, it is a diminutive of cors ‘body’

Cowl – a 6th century word, ultimately from Latin cuculus ‘monk’s hood’.

Crinoline – dating from 1830, this is from the French crinoline ‘hair cloth’.

Cummerbund – seen from 1610, here Hindi kamarband meaning ‘loin band’ and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European bhendh ‘to bind’.

Denims – seen since 1690, from the French serge de Nimes a French town from Gaulish nemo meaning ‘sanctuary’.

Derby – since 1870, a hat worn and probably associated with the race, itself named from the 12th Earl of Derby, and a place name meaning ‘the farmstead where deer are seen’ from Old Scandinavian deor by.

Domino – seen since 1801, this perhaps ‘hood with a cloak worn by canons or priests’ and comparing the black cloak with the tiles (for the game) this is from Latin dominus ‘lord, master’.

Doublet – early 14th century, from Old French doublet a diminutive of duble and from Latin duplus ‘two more’.

Drawers – first seen in 1560, these are simply garments which are ‘drawn on’.

Dungarees – since 1868 made from dungaree, itself from Hindi dungri ‘coarse calico’ and from the village Dongri in India.

Farthingale – since 1550, this hooped dress is from French / Spanish where verdugo ‘young shoot of a tree’ and the contrivance was originally made from cane shoots.

Fatigues – seen from 1836, this came from the duties given to a soldier (and thus the clothes he wore when performing same) and simply describes the soldier’s weariness. Ultimately this can be traced to Proto-Indo-European affatim ag ‘sufficiently set in motion’.

Fedora – since 1887 a type of hat, it was named from a popular play by Victorien Sardo (1831-1908) Fedora. The name comes from a Russian princess Fedora Romanodd, originally portrayed by Sarah Bernhardt who, famed for wearing manish clothes whenever she could, sported a centre-creased soft-brimmed hat. The name is ultimately from the Greek theodoros ‘gift of the gods’.

Fez – from 1802, and the city of Fez in Morocco, a place name meaning ‘pickaxe’ in Arabic. Legends states the founder of the city were marked out by the pickaxe of silver and gold by Idris I of Morocco.

Frock – since the middle of the 14th century and from French froc ‘monk’s clothing’. Probably a loan word from Germanic hroc ‘mantle, coat’.

Frog – a clothes fastening since 1719, possibly from Latin floccus ‘tuft of wool’.

Gaiters – since 1775, from Middle French guestre and Frankish wrist ‘instep’.

Galoshes – from the 14th century, this is probably from the Greek kalopous ‘shoemaker’s last’ itself made up of kalon ‘wood’ and pous ‘foot’.

Garibaldi – since 1862 this blouse is named after Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-82), liberator of Italy.

Gauntlet – since the 15th century used as ‘glove’ and originally from Germanic wintan ‘to wind’.

Girdle – since the 8th century, from a Germanic word meaning ‘to gird’ and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European ghr-dh ‘to grasp’.

Glengarry – the bonnet of Scotland dates from 1841, it is a place name where Glengarry means ‘the valley of the river Garry’.

Glove – since the 8th century and from Old Scandinavian ga a collective prefix and lofi ‘hand’.

Gown – since 1300, from Old French goune ‘habit, gown’. Probably from Latin gunna ‘skin, hide’.

Guernsey – since 1839, a vest of wool worn by seamen and from the island where it was first associated (as with Jersey) and possibly Old Scandinavian for ‘mill island’.

Habit – since the 13th century, it is ultimately from Proto-Indo-European ghabh ‘to give, to receive’.

Homburg – since 1910 and popularised by Edward VII after he visited the town of Bad Homburg in Germany, a place name meaning ‘the bath (spa) of the high fortification’.

Hood – since the 9th century, this is ultimately from Proto-Indo-European kadh ‘to cover’.

Hose – since the 13th century, this is ultimately from Proto-Indo-European keu ‘to cover, conceal’.

Jacket – since the 15th century, this is ultimately from Jacque, the generic name given to all French peasants.

Jeans – since the middle of the 15th century this has been named as it was associated with Genoa, a place name meaning ‘knee’, a description of an angled topographical feature.

Jersey – since 1580 the knitted cloth used to produce the woollen tunic, itself a place name meaning ‘Geirr’s island’.

Jodhpurs – since 1899, the name comes from a place in India, itself named after local ruler Rao Jodha who founded the place in 1459.

Jumper – since 1853, the origin and meaning is completely unknown.

Kerchief – since the early 13th century, it comes from the French couvrechief meaning ‘cover head’.

Kilt – since 1730, comes from a Germanic word meaning ‘to truss, tuck up’.

Kimono – since 1630, and a Japanese expression meaning ‘a thing to put on’.

Kirtle – since the 11th century, it is derived from a word meaning ‘short’ and simply means ‘tunic’.

Knickerbockers – since 1831, this is the alias used by Washington Irving when he published History of New York in 1809 under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker. He borrowed this name from his friend Herman Knickerbocker, his name meaning ‘toy marble maker’.

Knickers – since 1866, a shortened form of ‘knickerbockers’.

Leotard – since 1881, named after Jules Leotard (1830-1870) a popular French trapeze artist who wore such a garment.

Levis – since 1926, named after manufacturer Levi Strauss and Company of San Francisco. The Bavarian-born Strauss used copper rivets at stress points to make his jeans longer-lasting.

Lingerie – since 1852, this is French and ultimately from Latin lineus ‘of linen’.

Loincloth – since 1851, a combination of two words beginning as Proto-Indo-European lendh ‘loin’ and Old Frisian klath ‘cloth’.

Mantilla – since 1717, a diminutive of the Spanish manta ‘blanket’.

Mantle – since 6th century, and originally meant simply ‘cloak’.

Mittens – since the latter part of the 14th century, this is from French mitaine meaning ‘half glove’.

Moccasins – since 1700, originally this simply means ‘plaited shoes’.

Muffler – since 1530, an agent noun from ‘muffle’ ultimately meaning simply ‘to wrap’.

Negligee – since 1756, it comes from Latin neglegere ‘to disregard, not trouble about’ and clearly a reference to the flimsy and well-nigh see-through garment.

Nylons – since 1940, it takes the name of the manmade fibre coined by putting together nyl and on meaning ‘no (cott)on’.

Panama – a hat, since 1833, named after a place with a name meaning ‘place of many fish’.

Pantaloons – since 1660, associated with San Pantaleone a Christian martyr and Venetian saint said to have worn tight trousers over his very skinny legs.

Panties – since 1845, a diminutive of ‘pants’.

Pants – since 1893, a diminutive of ‘pantaloons’.

Parka – since 1780, an Aleut word derived from Russia parka meaning ‘pelt’.

Petticoat – since the early 15th century, from the French petite and thus ‘small coat’.

Pinafore – since 1782, originally pinned to the front of the dress, this is why it is called ‘pinned to the front’.

Plus-fours – since 1924, named because they were four inches longer in the leg than similar trousers and thus had an overhang when tucked up.

Pyjamas – since 1800, comes from Hindi and means loose trousers tied at the waist’.

Raglan – since 1863, named for British General Lord Raglan (1788-1855) who commanded forces in the Crimean War and named from a Welsh place name meaning ‘place with a market’.

Robe – since late 13th century, from the same source as ‘bathrobe’.

Rompers – first seen in 1909, the agent noun of romp (which fitted nicely with the suffix seen in trousers) came from ‘romp’ a variant of ‘ramp’ ‘to climb, scale’.

Ruff – since 1520, it is a shortened form of ‘ruffle’, itself meaning ‘to disturb the smoothness of’.

Sabot – since the 13th century, this wooden shoe (which has famously given us ‘sabotage’) simply means ‘old shoe’.

Sandal – since the 14th century, our records only show ‘sandal’ as meaning ‘sandal’ and therefore impossible to trace.

Sari – since 1785, from a Pakrit word sadi meaning ‘garment’.

Scarf – since 1550, comes from Old French escherpe or ‘pilgrim’s purse suspended from the neck’ and ultimately from a number of Middle East words meaning ‘purse’.

Shift – 1590, meaning ‘to make efforts’ and perhaps better seen as ‘change, alteration’.

Shirt – since 1580, this can be traced to Proto-Indo-European sker ‘to cut’.

Shoe – since the 5th century, originates in Proto-Indo-European skeu ‘to cover’.

Singlet – since 1746, an unlined woollen garment and thus ‘of a single thickness’.

Skirt – since the early 14th century, this has exactly the same origin as ‘shirt’.

Slacks – since 1824, as in the sense ‘loose trousers’ first used by the military.

Slip – since 1550, from Middle Dutch slippe meaning ‘cut, slit’.

Slippers – since late 15th century, agent noun from ‘slip’ as in easily ‘slipped’ onto one’s foot.

Smock – since 8th century, A Germanic root simply meaning ‘a narrow hole or gap (for the head)’.

Sneakers – since 1895, as a rubber-soled shoe made the walker’s steps fall noiselessly.

Socks – early 14th century, Old English socc ‘light shoe’.

Soutane – since 1838, from French sotane ‘undershirt’ and ultimately Latin subtus ‘beneath, under’.

Spats – since 1779, a shortening of ‘spatterdash’ to prevent trousers or stockings being spattered with mud.

Sporran – since 1818, from Irish sparan meaning ‘purse’.

Stays – since 1600, plural of stay and a common origin with ‘stake’ it come from Proto-Indo-European stak ‘stand, place’.

Stole – since 9th century, shares an origin with Latin stola ‘robe, vestment’ and Proto-Indo-European stel ‘to put, stand’.

Suit – since 1300, matching garments and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European sekw ‘to follow’.

Sweater – since 1882, was originally worn to produce sweating and to lose weight.

Tabard – about 1300, originally from Latin tapete ‘figured cloth’

Tie – since 1550, obviously from the knot, this from Proto-Indo-European deuk ‘to lead’.

Tights – since 1827, they are indeed tight-fitting.

Toga – since 100, ultimately Proto-Indo-European tog-a ‘a covering’.

Trilby – since 1897, named after Trilby O’Ferrall, eponymous heroine in the novel Trilby by George du Maurier (1834-96).

Trousers – 1610, from Middle Irish triubhas ‘close-fitting shorts’.

Turban – since 1560s, from Turkish tulbent meaning ‘gauze, muslin’.

Tutu – since 1910, an infantile reduplication of cucu meaning ‘bottom, backside’.

Tuxedo – since 1889 and an American place name of Tuxedo Park, New York State, from an Algonquian p’tuck-sepo ‘the crooked river’.

Vest – since 1610, and originally from Proto-Indo-European wes ‘to clothe’.

Wellingtons – since 1817 and famously from Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, the place name meaning ‘the farmstead in the temple clearing’.

Yashmak – since 13th century, this is the Turkish word for ‘veil’.

Sunday, 7 May 2017


I have nothing against metrication. Although if you're going to do it then stop using all imperials measurements - the mile and the pint in particular srill seem to be the norm. And why not do the same for the clock, that will stop people speaking of distances in hours when everyone knows the only way to express distance in a time sense is using the speed of light in a vacuum as a base.

As an author the one former range of sizes I miss most is those once used for paper. Today we simply use 'A' and a number but examine the list below and discover the wonderful expressions once used and where they originated. Note in most cases this requires examining the origin of the word as used in other senses for these are simply late loan words

Antiquarian - a reference to one who studies or well-versed in antiques, this is ultimately from 'antique' - this can be traced to an original meaning of 'before appearance'.

Atlas - undoubtedly coming to refer to paper sizes as this was used for maps, it comes from the god of Greek mythology and used for the book of maps because an image of the god said to hold the world on his shoulders appeared on the Atlas, sive cosmographicae meditationes de fabrica mundi a book of maps published by Flemish geographer Gerhardus Mercator in 1585. The Greek name is said to mean, appropriately enough, 'the bearer (of the heavens) and from Proto-Indo-European tele 'to lift, support' and the prefix a 'not, without'.

Emperor - a loan word from the Latin imperiator.and also 'empire'. The prefix is the same as Latin in 'not' with par-a, a Proto-Indo-European word meaning 'bring forward, bring forth' and mainly used in a 'birthing' sense. What is being said here is the empire is 'not born' but has always been, perhaps not practically but in essence.

Crown - used in many senses, all derived from the original Latin sense of 'wreath'.

Demy - only seen in this spelling for paper, it is easier to understand as 'demi', itself the French for 'half but derived from the suffix dis 'the opposite' and a root me 'between'.

Elephant - clearly a reference to size, the name of the animal has an unknown etymology, one not of Indo-European origins and thus, with few written examples, will likely prove impossible to explain.

Folio - is as it very much appears, a Latin word which means 'leaf' and is derived from Proto-Indo-European bhol-yo with the same meaning.

Foolscap - only ever having heard this and never in writing, as a child I always thought tis was 'fullscap'. Delightful if fairly recent etymology, the 'foo's cap' was that worn by a jester and used from around 1700 for the paper as it was originally watermarked with this very image.

Grand eagle - two words to define here, both with Proto-Indo-European origins. 'Grand' comes a word specifically meaning 'adult male relative other than the father' while 'eagle' is simply 'a great bird'.

Imperial - shares its etymology with 'emperor' above.

Octavo - is the Latin word for 'in the eighth' as was a printer's word for sheets folded so as to make eight leaves. Clearly the origin is the same as the Greek word for 'eight' which is ostensibly the same as the Proto-Indo-European okto and simply means 'eight'.

Princess - the female version of 'prince', itself sharing a root with 'prime' in Proto-Indo-European capere 'to take' and ultimately kap 'to grasp'.

Royal Sixto - again two words to define. 'Royal' began as a Proto-Indo-European adjective reg meaning 'move in a straight line'; while is similar to 'octavo' above except this is based on six.

Sheet - shares an origin with the cloth variety, originall meaning 'shroud' in Germanic languages but came from the Proto-Indo-European root skeud 'to chase, throw'.

Sixmo - again similar to 'octavo' above but based on six.

Still in use, at least to some degree, are the names given to the range of paper types. Again these often have to be looked at as words used in other sense as they ostensibly loan words.

Bank - began as the rise of land where Proto-Indo-European meant 'shelf' in the topographical sense.

Bond - etymologically speaking this is a variant of 'band', itself a variant of 'bind' which is exactly what the Proto-Indo-European bhendh meant and is also clearly the origin of 'bend'.

Brief - as a noun predates the verb (17th and 19th centuries respectively). However the adjective is much earlier, seen in English since the 13th century and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European mregh-u 'short'.

Cartridge - is a corruption of 'cartouche', a scroll-like ornament or a paper cartridge, then borrowed for 'a full charge for a pistol'. It is the 'paper' sense which is important, for this shaes a root with 'card'and 'chart' in the Greek khartes referring to 'a layer of papyrus' and itself derived from the Proto-Indo-European kars 'to scrape' in showing how paper from papyrus was produced.

Carbon - ultimately from the same root as 'coal, charcoal' and the rest in Proto-Indo-European ker or 'fire'.

Copy - can be traced to Proto-Indo-European op meaning 'to work, produce in abundance'.

Duplicating - is from 'duplicate' seen as a noun and an adjective but began as a verb. The first part is related to 'duo' meaning 'two' while the suffix comes from the same root as 'ply' or 'fold'.

Typing - is clearly derived from 'type' and this can be traced back to Proto-Indo-European tup meaning 'to strike, beat, knock'.

Wall - as in 'wallpaper' and comes from Proto-Indo-European walso meaning 'post' and what one needs to build a wall.

News - one of my least favourite things, but it does come from 'new' which, ironically, is not a new word at all, indeed Proto-Indo-European newo meant the same thing and it has probably changed little for thousands of years.

Wrapping - clearly derived from 'wrap', this first used as a verb and traced to Proto-Indo-European wer meaning 'to turn, bend'.

Greaseproof - clearly a combination of two words where 'grease' began in the Latin group of languages meaning 'thick, solid, fat', and 'proof' from 'prove' and Proto-Indo-European pro-bhwo 'being in front'.

Silver - as mentioned in earlier posts looking at colours, metals and elements and simply means 'white, shining'.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Car Manufacturers

A look at the origins of the names of a selection of the world's car manufacturers, past and present. Note, when anyone says 'a selection' they mean 'all those I know' - I simply admit it.

Alfa Romeo - taking the second part first, this remembers August 1915 when the company came under the control of entrepreneur Nicola Romeo, he turning the factory over to making military hardware. Note the name change did not happen until 1920, prior to that the company was still known as A.L.F.A. - Anomina Lombarda Fabbrica Automobil 'the Anonymous Lombard Automobile Factory'. It began in 1906 as Societa Anomina Italiana Darracq (S.A.I.D), not until 1910 when Giuseppe Merosi took over as designer did A.L.F.A exist.

Aston Martin - as with so many it was named after the founders, in this case Lionel Walker Birch Maritn and Robert Bamford. Martin began as a first name, itself derived from the Roman Mars, the god of fertility and war (seemingly a conflict of career options); while Bamford is an English place name (of which I know a little bit) meaning 'the ford crossed by beams', the beam being a large enough piece of tree to be used as a bridge.

Audi - is also named after the founder, one August Horch. The German horch means 'listen' and, when translated to Latin, means 'listen'.

Austin - another named after its founder, this time Herbert Austin. While this is thought of as a British company, there were two others: the Austin Automobile Company and the American Austin Car Company. Both were US concerns - the Austin Automobile Company founded by James E. Austin and his son Walter Austin existed from 1901 to 1921; the American Austin Car Company was founded in 1929 and ceased trading in 1956, and named after the British company or, more correctly, their Austin 7 for which they had rights to manufacture and sell a modified version suitable for the USA. As a surname it is a diminutive of the Latin 'Augustus' meaning 'majestic, dignified'.

Bentley - founded and named in 1919 by Walter Owen Bentley. Another English place name, and one meaning 'the woodland clearing where bent grass grows. If you want to know why grass grows this way, you'll have to buy a book!

Bertone - an Italian company founded and named after designer Giovanni Bertone. His surname means 'son of Roberto'.

Bitter - a German, and later Austrian, car manufacturer and named after former racing driver Erich Bitter. His surname means 'harsh, sour, embittered'.

Bugatti - named after founder Ettore Bugatti. Origins of this surname are unclear, but it would be nice to think the suggestion this comes from the same origin as Bogat and Buratto meaning 'bolting'.

Buick - also named after its founder, David Dunbar Buick. This is an alternative spelling of the English name Bewick, itself an English place name and likely means 'the farmstead specialising in barley'.

Cadillac - again named after the founder, one Antoine Laumet de la Mothe sieur de Cadillac, the surname originating in the Breton area of France describes a 'a small one but a strong fighter'.

Chevrolet - named after the founder Louis Chevrolet. This name is a diminutive of the French chevre meaning 'goat'.

Chrysler - again the founder, named after Walter Percy Chrysler. This is a Swiss surname and means 'maker of earthernware utensils' - ostensibly a potter.

Citroen - founder here was Andre-Gustave Citroen. The surname was adopted by his father Levie Citroen, after grandfather had taken the name Limoenman 'lime man' as he was a greengrocer who sold tropical fruit. Son Levie preferred citroen, the Dutch for 'lemon'.

Cowley - named after the place in Oxfordshire where the cars were made, the English place name means 'the woodland clearing where cows are reared'.

Daimler - after Gottlieb Daimler, this is an old southern German word meaning 'cheat, swindler'.

Dodge - named after founders John Francis Dodge and Horace Elgin Dodge, brothers whose surname is thought to be a pet form of 'Roger', itself from the Saxon Hrothgar or 'fame spear'.

Ferrari - named after founder Enzo Ferrari, a former motor racing driver whose surname originates in his ancestors' trade - they were blacksmiths.

Fiat - named after Mr Fiat, no I lie - many will already be aware this acronym stands for Fabbrica Italiana Automobil Torino or 'Italian Automobiles Factory, Turin'.

Ford - after founder Henry Ford, whose surname is as synonymous with cars as the origin is to a river crossing. This comes from Proto-Indo-European prtu meaning 'a going, a passage'.

Hillman - founder William Hillman, not only an English place name but also an occupational name meaning 'a manservant' and a personal name 'a man named Hild'.

Honda - founder Soichiro Honda, whose surname comes from the Japanese hon ta quite literally meaning 'the origin of the field'.

Humber - founded by Thomas Humber, an English place name or correctly a river name meaning ''the dark river'.

Hyundai - not from the founder but a Korean word meaning 'modernity'.

Isuzu - takes the name of the Isuzu River which, when translated into English means 'fifty bells'.

Jaguar - began as the name of a model of a 3.1/2-litre two-seater sports model produced by S.S.Cars Limited, themselves formerly known as the Swallow Sidecar Company. In 1945 shareholders decided that S.S was not the most sensible name for a company and so they adopted the name of Jaguar instead. It was the powerful image of the leaping big cat which adorned the model of that name, later adopted as the image of Jaguar Cars. The cat's name came to Europe as the Portuguese jaguar, itself their rendering of the Tupi jaguara and used to refer to any large predator.

Lada - having any number of references - including settlements in Romania, Poland, and Spain, a rifle, an asteroid, a highland region on the planet Venus, two Russian sports teams, a class of submarine, and even a sewing machine - these should have a single source, almost certainly the Slavic goddess of harmony, merriment, youth, love and beauty whose name comes from the Proto-Slavic meaning 'pretty, nice' or 'order'.

Lagonda - is named after the Shawnee name for what is now known as Buck Creek in modern-day Springfield, Ohio the birthplace of forder Wilbur Gunn. It is thought lagonda should be loosely translated to 'ultimate luxury'.

Lamborghini - from its founder Ferrucio Lamborghini which is one of many variations on the surname Lambo or 'son of Lambert', which comes from landa 'realm,estate' and berhta 'famous, illustrious'.

Lancia - named after its founder Vincenzo Lanzia, whose surname comes from his ancestors being armourers or, more specifically, a soldier who carried a lance from the Latinlancea.

Leyland - is an English place name meaning 'untilled land'.

Lincoln - named by founders Henry Leland and his son Wilfred Leland after Abraham Lincoln who, aside from his more famous roles in laying railways, chasing vampires and guest appearances in the majority of science fiction television programmes of the sixties, also found time to become president of the United States of America. His surname comes from the English place name meaning 'the Roman colony by the pool'.

Lotus - is a brand name, one also used for a board game, a bakery, a watch, rice, software, a chain of supermarkets, and a brand of toilet paper. Many were likely suggested by Greek mythology, although there are so many plants known as the 'lotus' (and bearing little resemblance to one another) it is difficult to know just what the name describes the plant as. The plant genus lotus comes from lota, the name of a sphrical water vessel used in southern regions of Asia.

Maserati - founded by brothers Alfieri, Bindo, Carlo and Ettore Maserati (it seems they couldn't think of one beginning with 'D'), their surname origins are unclear. However one suggested translated likens it to the English 'macerate', a word I have no recollection of hearing and thus looked in the good old Oxford English Dictionary to find it has two possible meanings: 'to waste away by fasting' (fast = speed, I can see that); and 'to become soft by soaking' (I shall refrain from commenting).

Mazda - for years my first thought when hearing 'Mazda' was a light bulb, but you do have to be of a certain age to recall that name. The car company state their name comes from Ahura Mazda, with ahura the word for 'god' and mazda meaning 'light' - so the light bulb was right.

Mercedes - founded by Austrian diplomat Emil Jellinek, he named the company after his daughter Mercedes Adrienne Ramona Manuela Jellinek, who lived a rather sorry life. Her name comes from the Spanish title of the Virgin Mary, Maria de las Mercedes, or 'Mary of the Mercies'.

Morgan - named after the company's founder Henry Frank Stanley Morgan, his surname a first name with an uncertain etymology. What is known is the Welsh for water sprites is 'morgans'.

Morris - named after founder and former bicyle manufacturer William Morris, a surname from the first name Maurice, itself from the Roman Mauritius a derivative of Maurus meaning 'a Moor'.

Nissan - is an abbreviation of the Nihon Sanhyo holding company, it means 'Japan Industries'.

Oldmobile - have always thought this the worst possible name for a car manufacturer, even though it is named after the founder Ransom Eli Olds whose surname comes from the Old English eald meaning 'old'.

Opel - named after founder Adam Opel, the origin of his surname is unknown.

Packard - named after founding brothers James Ward Packard and William Doud Packard, their surname comes from a French derogatory term for a 'peddler'.

Peugeot - founded by Armand Peugeot, sadly the origins of the surname is unknown.

Pontiac - takes the name of the Michigan city named after the war chief of the Ottawa people and whose name comes from the Algonquian Obwandiag thought to have three possible meanings 'stopping it/him' or 'a stick planted in the ground' and even 'spit roasted, boiled'.

Porsche - the surname has Slavic origins and means 'famous fighter'.

Reliant - is an odd name for a car because while it was clearly chosen for being 'reliable' the word actually means 'dependent upon' and not 'depend on'. Originating from Old French the word first came to English to mean 'binding' from the Latin religare and shares a common root with 'ligament'.

Renault - founders Louis Renault, Marcel Renault, and Fernand Renault share a name derived from Germanic sources and meaning 'counsel, rule'.

Rolls Royce - taking the names of founders Charles Rolls and Henry Royce, their respective surnames respectively come from: Germanic name Hrolf meaning 'wolf'; and ultimately a variant of 'rose' which, because of its thorns, means 'wicked'.

Rover - clearly suggesting something that 'roves, travels', the real meaning is 'to wander with no fixed destination' and used in its earliest sense to refer to arrows shot willy-nilly without a target. Furthermore the first use of 'rover' is as a Dutch word meaning 'plunderer', robber, predator' and even 'pirate'. Interestingly the names for 'bicycle' in Polish and Belarusian are derived from the company name, the company did once produce bicycles.

Saab - is an abbreviation of Svenska Aeroplan AB, where 'Sweish Areoplane' is followed by (much as Limited is abbreaviated to Ltd) AB or Aktiebolag meaning 'limited company' or 'corporation'.

Studebaker - a German name, the family arriving in the New World at Port Philadelphia on 1 September 1736 included Peter, Clement, Henry, Anna and Anna Studebecker. They set up business in Pennsylvania producing waggons but having tweaked their name to Studebaker - both meaning 'baker of fine white bread'.

Suzuki - named after founder Michio Suzuki, whose surname means 'bell wood', 'bell tree' or 'bud tree'.

Talbot - named after Charles Chetwyn Talbot who, after a successful business operating hansom cabs (and cabs with the first noiseless tyres seen in either London or Paris!), went on to produce motor cars. His surname is thought to be of Germanic origin, where tal 'destroy' and bod 'message' talk of him as a 'messenger of destruction'.

Toyota - named after founder Kilchiro Toyoda whose surname means 'fruitful rice paddy'.

Vauxhall - named from the English place name meaning 'hall of a man called Falkes' the perosnal name meaning 'falcon'.

Volkswagen - is, as virtually everyone knows, the German for 'people's car'.

Volvo - is the Latin for 'I roll', a refers to the (then) unique ball bearings used in manufacturing. The idea it is derived from a part of the female anatomy is about as credible as it being named after the character Volvo in the episode of Fireball XL5 entitled Planet of Platonia.

Hence car buyers may well be correct when describing their purchase as a 'lemon, cow, goat' or describing the seller as a 'daimler' I mean 'cheat'. The piece is written in English hence the English spellings.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Musical Terms

Whilst invigilating for a music exam a few weeks ago, the young man for whom I was acting as reader and scribe came out with several expressions. Some of these I would never have thought related to music, others I had never heard before.

As usual, I was more interested in how the terms developed and in the original usage and meaning.

Accidental - in a musical sense not used since 1868 when it was coined to describe a passage where the note changes without essentially changing the key of the passage. If you have no idea what that means you're not alone. What is clearer is this comes from 'accident', itself traceable to Proto-Indo-European kad or 'to make fall'.

Accompany - seen in a musical sense since 1744, only 13 years after it had first been used in an heraldic sense. Derived from 'companion', this can also be traced to Proto-Indo-European where pa meant 'to feed' and gave us recognisable words in Latin and French where panis and pain respectively mean 'bread'.

Adagio - first seen in a musical sense in 1746, the instruction to play 'slowly, leisurely, gracefully' has an identical origin to 'adjacent', both can be traced to Proto-Indo-European ye 'to throw, impel' - which suggests quite the opposite!

Air - used in a musical sense since 1580, it shares an origin with 'aria' (see below)

Allegro - musically 'brisk, sprightly, cheerful' and used since 1721. It originates in a Proto-Germanic term meaning 'zeal, eagerness' and is thought to have roots meaning 'wander, roam'.

Alto - means 'high' and seen since 1784, this began as Proto-Indo-European al 'to grow, nourish'.

Andante - seen since 1742, it means 'moderately slow', coming from a Latin root ambire 'to go round'. This origin would never have occurred to ABBA when they released the album Super Trouper containing the song Andante, Andante when it went round and round at 33rpm.

Arabesque - of Moorish or Arabic design and seen since 1786, it is from the Italian word for an Arab, itself thought to mean 'inhabitant of the desert'.

Aria - is literally the Italian for 'air'. The English word is ultimately from Proto-Indo-European awer, which meant 'sky' as much as 'atmosphere'. It has also given us words meaning 'raising', 'mist', 'haze', 'clouds', 'artery' and 'bright'.

Arpeggio - since 1742 and meaning 'harping' which has the same origin as 'harp' (see below).

Bagatelle - 'a trifle' and used musically since 1827. It has the same origin as 'bag', itself of uncertain etymology but thought to be related to 'belly' and 'bellows'.

Baritone - a deeper male voice and the reason it is related to Proto-Indo-European gwere 'heavy' and ten 'to stretch'.

Bass - in use since 1590, the etymology can be traced to the same root as 'base' which comes from Latin bassus 'thick, stumpy, low' and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European gwa 'to go, come'.

Beat - musically since 1842, it has the same origin as the sense 'to thrash' which comes from Proto-Indo-European bhau 'to strike'.

Bow - the earlist musical bows were curved, like the bow of an archer. Used since 1570, this shape is the reason the origin is Proto-Indo-European bheug 'bent'.

Bridge - a musical bridge contrasts with the main theme and, as the name suggests, connects them. Not seen until the late 19th century, it comes as no surprise to find it shares an origin with the more common sense and is derived from Proto-Indo-European bhru 'log, beam'.

Cadenza - musically since 1836, it is the passage near the close of a song and shares an origin with 'accidental' (see above).

Carol - a 'joyful song' and coined around the end of the 13th century when it was also used to refer to 'a dance in a ring'. Both originate in the Latin choraules 'flute player' and ultimately, which shares an origin with 'chorus', from Proto-Indo-European gher 'to grasp, enclose'. Not until the end of the 16th century was the term used to refer to a song associated with Christmas.

Chord - shares an origin with 'cord' in the Greek khorde 'gut-string, tripe' and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European ghere 'gut, entrail' from which musical strings were once produced.

Coda - seen since 1753, this is derived from Latin cauda 'animal tail' and chosen as the coda is the concluding passage in a musical composition.

Composition - ultimayely the same as 'compose', this can be traced to com 'with' and poser which shares an origin and meaning with 'pause' and therefore the meaning of 'compose', seen today in a creative sense, began in the sense 'cease'.

Concert - since the 16th century and from a word meaning 'harmony', this comes from a Latin verb cernere 'seperate, distinguish' and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European krei 'discriminate, distinguish' and has exactly the same origin as 'crisis'.

Conduct - is of Latin origin and means 'to bring together' and ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European deuk 'to lead'.

Flat - seen in music since 1670, it comes from Proto-Indo-European plat 'to spread'.

Harp - taken from the name of the instrument which, sadly, is of unknown origin. However it is thought to be related to the Old English harpa meaning 'instrument of torture' - clearly the harp was once confused with the bagpipes.

Instrumental - from the Latin instruere 'arrange, furnish', this has an identical origin to the word 'structure' and is derived from the Proto-Indo-European stere 'to extend, spread, stretch out'.

Key - musically since 1630, and ultimately from Proto-Germanic ki 'to cleave, split'.

Major - not seen musically until 1797, it comes from the Latin magnus 'great' and Proto-Indo-European meg with identical meaning.

Minor - also seen musically since 1797, the term comes to English from Latin minores and Proto-Indo-European mei 'small'.

Note - seen musically from the end of the 13th century, here the earliest origin we can find is Latin gnoscere 'to know'.

Opera - musically since 1640, it comes from Proto-Indo-European op 'to work' and also 'to produce in abundance'.

Overture - used to mean 'an opening' before the musical snse in 1660. Here the origin is Proto-Indo-European ap 'away' and wer 'to cover'.

Piano - effectively means 'soft', the name first used for the instrument from 1803. It shares an origin with the carpentry tool, the 'plane', in meaning 'flat'.

Pitch - musically since 1670, it is related to 'prick' and shares an origin meaning 'pointed, dagger'.

Scale in a musical sense since 1590, it comes from the Latin scala 'ladder' and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European skand 'spring, leap, climb'.

Score - not seen in a musical sense until 1839, the term is ultimately Proto-Indo-European and from sker meaning 'cut' and sharing an origin with 'scissors' and 'shears'.

Sharp - 1570 was the first year when it was used musically, it shares an origin with 'score' (see above).

Solo - first seen in 1690, this is from Latin solus and Proto-Indo-European swo meaning 'so' and also the root of 'as' and 'himself'.

String - was first known in a musical sense to mean 'to tune someone or something' and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European strenk 'tight, narrow'.

Suite - in a musical sense from 1680, it shares an origin with 'suit' used in both a clothing and playing card sense. This originates in Proto-Indo-European sekw 'to follow'.

Theme - not used musically until 1929, this comes from Proto-Indo-European dhe-mn 'to set'.

Tone - musically since the middle of the 14th century, this shares an origin with 'baritone' in Proto-Indo-European ten 'to stretch'.

These, for the most part, quite unrelated origins were not unexpected but at least I now have a reason for my addagios not being graceful, my piano playing sounding flat, and plucking the strings of a harp being considered torture.

Sunday, 16 April 2017


Trying out different fonts recently I admit before long I was bemused by the vast array now available. Their names, too, are rather confusing but clearly will have little etymological value as, in the main they have been created comparatively recently.

Yet I did think it might be a nice idea to find the origins of the words now used for fonts and typefaces. What follows is but a selection. Antique - is first used in English around the start of the 16th century and first seen as an adjective. It comes to us through a Latin line and ultimately comes from two Proto-Indo-European words anti 'before' and okw 'appearance'.

Baskerville - one of the few named as a typeface, this created around 1750 and named for British type-founder and printer John Baskerville (1706-75). He was not the inspiration for the famous story by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Bembo - named and first used in 1930 and based on a 15th century typeface by Aldus Manutius when printing a work penned by the Venetian scholar, poet, cardinal and member of the Knights Hospitallier, Pietro Bembo (1470-1547).

Bauhaus - a German word meaning literally 'architecture house' and a reference to the school of design founded in Weimar by Walter Gropius in 1919.

Bodoni - based on and named after Italian printer Giambattista Bodoni (1740-1813), the modern version is a composite of his many forms.

Cascade - a word coming to English from Latin cascata 'waterfall' and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European kad 'fall, lay out'. Note the use as a verb began in 1702 and used to refer to 'vomit'.

Clarendon - named after the Clarendon press at Oxford University, set up 1713 in the Clarendon Building and named for the Chancellor Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon.

Doric - an architectural style and an adjective derived from Dorian, itself the Greek meaning 'of Doris' a district in central Greece and itself named for Doros the legendary ancestor of the Dorians. The name Doros comes from Proto-Indo-European do 'to give'.

Garamond - named in 1780 after French type-founder Claude Garamond (1510-61). His work saw him producing the punches used to make the type.

Goudy - named in 1917 after the typographer Fredeic W. Goudy (1865-1947). This Chicago man, a realtor his entire working life, and by his own admittance a very poor realtor, changed direction at the age of 40 and left his name in a family of typefaces featuring no less than 113 different styles.

Hanseatic - takes the name of the federation of German towns, the Hanseatic League, of the 17th century. It derives it name from the Middle Low German for 'merchants' guild'.

Korinna - is a Greek word meaning 'maiden'.

Melior - is a Latin word meaning 'better' and comes from Proto-Indo-European mel 'strong, great, numerous'.

Quorum - is Latin and means 'of whom'.

Roman - clearly named for the upright style of lettering, but of greater interest is the French word roman which means 'novel'.

Sunday, 9 April 2017


Now anyone who has read my blog before will not be surprised to learn I'm looking at the origins of their names, not the religions themselves.

Christianity describes one as a follower of Christ and thus takes that name. Following this back in time we find this as a Germanic translation of Greek khristos meaning 'the anointed', a translation of the Hebrew mashiah and from the Greek verb khriein 'to rub'.

Buddhism, again clearly derived from Buddha, takes the name meaning 'awakened, enlightened'. This comes from budh 'to awake, to know' and related to the Sanskrit bodhati 'observes, understands' and sharing a root with English 'bode' meaning 'proclaim, foretell'.

Hindiusm is from the Persian word Hindu meaning 'Indian' and used both as an adjective and a noun. This in turn came from Sanskrit sindhu 'river' and specifically the Indus river and thus these were 'the region of the Indus'.

Judaism can be traced through the Old French Judaisme, to Latin Judaismus, and to Greek Ioudaios or 'Jew'. In turn this comes from the Hebrew yY'hudah meaning literally 'celebrated' and traditionally held to be the name of Jacob's fourth son from whom all Jews are descended.

Islam is an Arabic word meaning 'submission', this to the will of God. It comes from the root aslama meaning 'he resigned, surrendered, submitted', this is related to salima 'he was safe' and related to salam 'peace'.

Taoism is a religious system founded by Lao Tzu in the 19th century. Here the basis is Chinese tao or 'way, path, right way (of life)' and also 'reason'.

Shintoism is a religious system heralding from Japan and dating from the early 18th century. The term comes from the Chines shin tao, translated as 'way of the gods'.

Polytheism is a belief in many gods, the name from the Greek polytheos. This can be taken further to the Proto-Indo-European pele 'to fill' which has given a word meaning 'plenty' in many languages. There is also the Greek theo, again to be traced to Proto-Indo-European and the root dhes which has given many religious concepts in many languages including Latin feriae, festus and fanum meaning 'holidays', 'festive' and 'temple' respectively.