Issue 115, page 4
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From Richard Timberlake:
Ah, yes, and this is quite interesting as Latvian is an Indo-European language. They see Monday as the first day of the week (or did, when the word arose).
From Nancy Friedman:
We certainly agree that some Spanish nouns beginning with al- are of Arabic origin, but we can't agree that most of them are. However, not being Spanish etymologists (or etymologists of Spanish!), we must defer to one of our readers who also happens to be a Spanish linguist, for the final word on the derivation of the place name Albu(r)querque. We must add that the word albergue means "shelter" in Spanish; that would be another conceivable source of the place name. If that particular reader is not available or not familiar with this issue, perhaps we have another Spanish etymologist, or native speaker with knowledge on this issue, in the house who can help.
One correction: albatross is thought to be an English or Dutch invention formed on alcatras "pelican" with the alba "white" being a conscious change as the albatross is white while the alcatras is black.
From Brad Daniels:
[We discussed dunce in last week's newsletter. If you aren't on our mailing list, you can find last week's newsletter in the archives at http://etymology.listbot.com .] That's actually a good question. The dunce cap first appeared in writing in the mid-19th century. Even then, it was a tall, conical hat marked with a D for dunce. The term fool's cap was used a few years earlier to mean the same thing. Prior to that, a fool's cap was a jester's hat (the type you see at Renaissance fairs, with bells on all the pointy bits).
The fact that the term dunce's cap doesn't appear in the written record until the 19th century makes the following explanation of its origin somewhat doubtful (as dunce itself dates from quite a bit earlier), but we'll give it to you anyhow, as it comes from one of our favorite columnists, Cecil Adams, who writes The Straight Dope:
From Scott Swanson
Program Manager for English as a Second Langauge and Foreign Languages
Scott Community College
Thanks, Scott. Yes, as Malcolm suggested last week, this is language evolving, but Malcolm's a curmudgeon so he has to complain, anyhow.
We must clarify for our non-prescriptivist readers that Malcolm is a curmudgeon, as is Barb Dwyer. It's their job to complain. Most of us have a little bit of curmudgeon in us so we can relate to what Malcolm and Barb say, even if we know that we shouldn't complain because the subject of such curmudgeoning is often simply the "evolution of language", and to complain and object to it could be construed by some as elitism. Let's take Malcolm and Barb for what they are - curmudgeons having some fun - and not take them too seriously! Scott's letter above is a good example of the spirit in which we should take Malcolm and Barb's tirades.
We (Melanie and Mike) try not to be prescriptivist; the notion of etymology is diametrically opposed to prescriptivism, if you think about it! However, every so often we do slip into curmudgeonly moods (from having Barb and Malcolm around a bit too much!). Bear with us, you non-curmudgeons (actually, we could call you curmudgeons of a different color).!
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