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  Issue 122, page 4

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From Steve Parkes:

Reading this week's TOWFI (Issue 121), I'd got up to duke when I was whisked back to 1964 and Mr Dixon's Latin class at school. (Just to recap: the German herizogo (war leader), translated into the Latin dux, whence duke.) I don't know if the Romans ever used the expression, but Mr D's "war leader" was (wait for it..!) dux belli. Well, at least he never tried "Caesar adsum jam forte" an us!

I know this is strictly not the right place to ask, but while I have your attention ... Is the German schalk, "rogue" (mentioned in the same piece as the above) related to the English "scallywag"?

Scallywag is a word of uncertain origin which first shows up in New York around 1840 so, who knows, there could be a German connection.

Just in case any of our readers are not aware of the British schoolboy classic referred to by Steve, here it is:

Caesar adsvm jam forte
Brvtvs adsvm tv
Caesar sic in omnibvs
Brvtvs sic in lv.

From Jim Schuler:

I loved your pieces on the letters y and w especially because I was thinking of those two letters today.  In fact, I was discussing them with a linguist friend of mine.

Why I was thinking of them was this: in school we learned the vowels as "a, e, i, o, u and sometimes y" which was fine as far as it went. But the w was not included in this list, as it should have been.  In fact, w probably functions as a vowel nearly as often as the y does, especially if we dismiss the -ly and -y suffixes and look at the root words themselves. This being said, I think at least one more letter needs to be added to the pantheon of semi-vocalic entities: the l.  In such words as folk, yolk and balm it functions as a vowel.  I say at least one more because to non-rhotic speakers, the r could be considered semi-vocalic, as it is in some Sanskrit and Hindi words.  Thank you for letting me get this off my chest... I feel so much better now! 

By the way, the rune for w was called a "wen." 

Wen... ah, those were the days!

From James McCrudden:

Regarding county as substitute for count [Spotlight, Issue 121], Sir Walter Scott in Quentin Durward has the heroine sing a song which has as a repeated line "And where is County Guy" (Guy here is the French Christian name).

Scott always was one for the contrived archaism.

From Jeff Lee:

Regarding Issue 121 of Take Our Word For It, I was surprised to read that the active ingredient in peppers is capsicine. The term I'm familiar with - which is in my dictionary - is capsaicin (four syllables).  I presume the two terms are synonymous, but what's the actual difference between them?  Is one a Standard English term, while the other is American English?

Also, you're skeptical about the suggestion that the baloo portion of "hullabaloo" comes from a French lullaby phrase bas le loup, in part because a wolf seems like an odd thing to be in a lullaby. While it sounds like a fishy etymology to me, too, is the mention of a wolf in a lullaby any stranger than comforting a child by describing a fall from the top of a tree, as occurs in one of the most well-known English lullabies?

Or is it any weirder than the German nursery rhyme about a mass murderer?  

Warte, warte nur ein weilchen,
Bald kommt Haarmann auch zu dir;
Mit dem kleinen Hackebeilchen,
Macht er Leberwurst aus dir.

(Wait, wait just a little while,
Soon comes Haarman for you too.
With his little chopping-hatchet
He'll make liverwurst of you.)

It's based on an actual person, a butcher named Fritz Haarmann who, after World War I, killed a number of young men and put their bodies through a sausage grinder. At his trial, he claimed to have sold at least some of the resulting product to his customers.

Compared to that, singing about a wolf doesn't seem quite so strange.

Hmm, now that you put it that way...  And, by the way, the French phrase about the wolf is said by one source to be a hunting cry.

We are familiar with the grotesque story of Fritz Haarmann but had not heard the rhyme.  There are many such folk-rhymes (e.g. "Little Miss Muffett", "Little Jack Horner") which record real historical persons whose names would otherwise have been forgotten.

As for capsicine versus capsaicin, the former is the older version, and the latter is the spelling more often seen in the U.S.  

From Ben Oui:

I just discovered your wonderful site. I enjoy learning languages, and find etymology fascinating. I'm always interested when I discover the connections between languages: it's a kind of archeology. 

I agree with Curmudgeon, Rick Riccio, entirely. He describes the clumsy construction precisely. "If I would have been there, I would have... " [vs.] "If I had been there, I would have..."

I've looked at Germanic languages mainly up to now, and I find that this clumsy construction is very common with Germans when they speak otherwise faultless English (perhaps better than the average English speaker!).  It seems so common, that I suspect this ugly "would-would" construction is actually taught in English classes in Germany, which is surprising since the English had seems to map onto the German subjunctive hätte

Thanks for a fun web site!

You are utterly welcome, Ben.


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