Quickly improves English pronunciation!

  Issue 116, page 4

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From Anson Young:

On the subject of Arabic word origins that the Spanish would rather deny {Issue 115, Sez You...], the common Usted (the polite form of "you") is claimed to be a contraction of Vuestra Merced ("Your Grace") rather than the much more probable Arabic Ustad ("Master") which has passed into Turkish, Persian, Hindustani, etc. 

Very interesting!

From James G. Wooten:

I noticed that in Issue 114 [Spotlight] you cited hefto as the Hungarian word for "Monday".  I have no expertise in Hungarian, but I do speak several languages and am always curious about etymology. When I found myself in a university library doing unrelated research, I took a moment to browse a Hungarian-English dictionary.  I found that "Monday" is hetfo, with a trema or umlaut on the o. Further browsing revealed that het means both "seven" and "week", while fo (with umlaut/trema) means "head". Perhaps Hungarians consider Monday to be the "head of the week"?

Thank you for the excellent site.  I can't wait until next week, when hopefully you'll explain why Odin/Woden was considered the equivalent of Mercury.

Thanks first for catching the typo; it has been fixed.  Thanks second for the etymology of hetfo.  Very interesting!  As for Odin/Woden and Mercury, see this week's Spotlight.

From Jim Schuler:

I was cruising along through your very interesting page regarding the names for Tuesday [Issue 115 Spotlight] when I came across the following: ..."essentially the same as Sanskrit diva, Greek theos, Latin deus, Italian dio, Spanish dios and Welsh diw."  Theos is questionable in this list. Many linguists believe that theos is a non-IE word which the Greeks borrowed from indigenous people. For those who do believe that it may be of IE origin the etymology is as follows: Indo European *dhewes  "to storm", related to the Latin furere - to rage.  Deus, Deva, dio, etc., on the other hand, come from Indo European *deiwos "god" <base *dei "to shine" (akin to the Latin and Germanic words for "day"). 

Er... did we say that? Thanks, Jim!

From Dean Jens:

When I read about d's being dropped from couldn't [Issue 114, Curmudgeons' Corner], I thought of a friend from western Massachusetts who speaks that way; I was very surprised, though, to see someone from my home state of Iowa writing as though this is more pervasive. I take for granted that pronunciations vary with location, but I'm quite surprised by the notion that variants would exist in a metropolitan area of 200,000 people (and that I wouldn't know about them).  Incidentally, the fellow from Massachusetts is also the only person I know who would replace a t before a k with a glottal stop. As far as Scotts English, I can't even make myself replace those 't's with a glottal stop; is that what was intended by that parting remark?

That is how we understood the Scotts English reference, but we, too, can't insert a glottal stop there without it sounding as though we've got a bad cause of hiccoughs.  As for "couln'nt", we hear it from all kinds of people who come from many different places and backgrounds, though it seems especially pervasive in the under-25 crowd here in the U.S.

From Barbara Colvin:

I wasn't satisfied with your explanation for the etymology of broad [Issue 115, Words to the Wise].  According to wordorigins.org, the origin of the word broad is:


Where did this slang word for woman come from? Evidently, it is not from being broad in the hips as is commonly believed.  Broad originally meant a ticket (admission, transport, meal, etc.). The word was then applied to prostitutes (a pimp's meal ticket), then to women of loose morals, and eventually to women in general. It dates to 1911.  Why a ticket was called a broad is uncertain. Playing cards were also called broads, so the similarity may be the answer. Or it could have something to do with traveling abroad.

Something for you to consider, anyway, and add to your data.

Wordorigins.org is a great site (it's on our Links page) and Dave Wilton does a super job.  You can choose his word over ours, see if we care! (Just kidding.) However, everyone seems to have a different explanation for broad's derivation.  John Ayto and John Simpson suggest that it comes from broadwife "female slave separated from her husband" (now obsolete) which was formed from abroad + wife.  We could not find broad used to mean "ticket" in any of our sources.

As far as we know, broad  to mean "woman" first shows up in a dictionary of thieves' cant in 1914.  We'd be interested to see where the 1911 date (cited above) comes from.

From Greg Umberson:

Thanks for the continued great work with your "e"(for etymology)-zine. In last week's issue, No. 115, Shirbert asked "Where does the term broads referring to females come from?" It appears that the answer is far from being settled. Actually that's one thing I really like about the thoroughness of your answers; when there are several plausible explanations for an etymology you try to explore them all, as well as explore some of the implausible ones. 

I thought I might add another possibility to the source of broad as a general term for "woman". In Sweden the word brud means "bride", and both the English and Swedish words derive from the same Germanic root. But brud is also used in the slang sense of "broad", i.e. a female confederate or a female companion. After moving to Sweden and hearing this usage of "brud"/"bride" I just assumed the connection was so natural that the use of "broad" in English must have had similar origins in "bride". Food for thought.

Indeed!  However, this broad doesn't appear to have made its debut in English until the 19th century at the earliest, long after any connections between bride and "woman" (versus "marrying woman") had dissolved.  However, we can just imagine the term bride being used as slang for a "woman", especially one of loose morals, by members of the underworld in the 19th century.  Whether it would have devolved into broad so quickly is another question entirely.

From Steve Parkes:

In my schooldays (MANY years ago!) I came across a suggested explanation for casting the apple in the rôle of the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden (Issue 115, Words to the Wise): a confusion between malum (Latin, "evil") and the accusative case of malus (Latin, "apple"), which is also malum.  Sorry, I can't remember any more details but successful web-wide fallacies have been perpetrated on iffier grounds than this!

It's comforting to see that American pancakes are rather sorry little affairs compared to British ones! A pancake, like a Yorkshire pudding, should be a "poem in batter"; it should, ideally, hang over the edges of the plate (if it doesn't, the answer is a larger frying pan, not a smaller plate!); and it should be capable of being rolled up tightly enough to stop any sugar, lemon juice or sultanas falling out of the other end when picked up. What? You surely don't eat yours with a spoon and fork?!

Interesting story about the apple.  As for pancakes, they're not as crepe-y in America as they are in the U.K.  They're thick and fluffy here, and not meant for rolling.  They should be equipped with lashings of butter and real maple syrup, and served hot off the griddle.  They come in all sizes and numbers.  

From Char Henwood:

The person who placed the "Back in Time" ad [Issue 115, Laughing Stock] could be a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism.   Or not.   Works either way.  Great website!

Thanks, Char! 

From Scott Murphree-Roberts:

I agree with Guest Curmudgeon Nancy Friedman in her gripe against improper use of reflexive pronouns [Issue 115, Curmudgeons' Corner]. In addition to G.C. Nancy's example, I've heard "You can give it to her or to myself." To this diatribe, I would add the misuse of nominative pronouns. It irritates the bejeebers out of me, and I need every bejeeber I've got. 

My guess is that people have been corrected so many times when they used the objective case where the nominative was correct, that they've switched to nominative for everything. Because "You and me went to the store" is incorrect, "between you and me" must also be incorrect, so let's say "between you and I."  Then, in an effort at even greater grandiloquence, they may think, "Let's make it even correcter and say 'Between yourself and myself'." It just grates, doesn't it?

If you ever end up with any extra bejeebers, please send them our way!  You are very likely correct about the mechanism behind between you and I.  There could very well be a similar mechanism at work with the misuse of myself.

From Greg Fleischman:

My only exposure to the word battle-axe [Issue 115, Words to the Wise] came from my dad. He would say that I should find and marry some "rich old battle-axe with one foot in the grave and the other slipping." I gathered that battle-axe meant someone who's life-weary, and that's why she had one foot in the grave... Thanks for setting me straight!

We could certainly see "life weariness" contributing to one's degree of battle-axitude.

From Tom Williams:

I have one memory and one usage opinion to to share with you.  First, the memory: during the Vietnam war, troops [Issue 115, Words to the Wise] came to be used to refer to soldiers, as in "They sent three thousand troops to burn down a small village."  Interestingly, it was primarily used only as a plural: 2 troops = 2 soldiers; 1 troop = 1 collection of Boy Scouts. (The source I used for confirming my memory was the Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary of 1979.)

Now, the opinion: I have never received a mail at home; it was always just mail. Similarly, I don't expect to receive an e-mail (or two emails); I would expect "lots of e[-]mail" or a "couple of e-mail messages."

Of course, my expectations aren't always met - except when it comes to the consistently high quality and entertainment value of Take Our Word For It.

Thanks for the troops commentary.  That jibes with our memories, as well.  As for email, you clearly agree with Malcolm and Barb.  It should be email messages or email letters or even e-letters, but the majority of the population says emails, and it would be rather difficult to get the majority to change.  

Thanks also for your kind words!

From Bruce Yanoshek:

At first, after I had finished all the back issues, I absolutely hated the fact that TOWFI [Do you pronounce this to rhyme with "cow fee"?] came out on Wednesdays, because I am always ready for it on Monday morning. Of course I wish I could have it every day, but I just have to settle for weekly.  Now I realize that Hump Day is the perfect day for it, because it lifts my spirits to get me through the rest of the week. Thank you for continuing your tradition of excellence.

I am writing about a cryptic statement by Nancy Friedman [Issue 115, Curmudgeons' Corner]. She writes, "English-speakers just have a hard time with those Greek words, I guess - we want to fall back on Latin rules."  Phenomenon (as well as the equally-abused "criterion/criteria") is a Greek neuter noun with a plural ending in -a.  Latin neuter words normally end in -um in the singular and -a in the plural, which is very similar to the Greek, and also much abused by modern Americans (datum/data, medium/media, etc.). So I don't understand what falling back on Latin rules she is observing.  Can you offer any insights?

Nancy? Are you there?  What did you mean?

Actually, we say it "toe-fee" but rhyming it with "cow fee" is perfectly acceptable, too.  Then there's TIERE.  We pronounce it "tea-air-ee".

From miayat:

Libai'er (or li-pai erh in their quaint Wade-Giles spelling) [Issue 115, Spotlight] belongs in the section just above - "From Christianity - 'second day' " - although it's etymologically closer to "second of the week" or "second day since Sunday".

This libai + the numbers 1 to 6 was introduced by missionaries (not sure if Catholics or Protestants) and is used a lot - though not formally - in Taiwan and Hong Kong. And it is thanks to them that the week begins with Monday, not Sunday.

It's not generally perceived, but Libai is a very Christian word for "week"; it means "worship"/"Sunday".

I understand that it is not used much on the Mainland.

The Wade-Giles transliteration scheme quaint?  Oh dear, we're showing our age again.


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Last Updated 03/11/01 07:07 PM