Thursday, February 28, 2008
There is a concept in Yiddish, and by extension, I assume, in several Germanic languages, of verb oyfn tsveytn ort, the verb takes the second syntactical position in a sentence, no matter what. Take the Yiddish sentence ikh bin gegangen in shul, where ikh is "I," bin is the verb literally meaning "am," gegangen is a particle meaning "gone," and in shul means "to school." These words come together to form the English sentence "I went to school" (although, by the way, in older English, you will observe the construction "I am gone to school," meaning the same thing but nearly identical in structure to the Yiddish).
1 | 2 | 3 | 4
Ikh | bin | gegangen | in shul|
In shul | bin | ikh | gegangen|
Gegangen | bin | ikh | in shul|
As you can see, bin (the verb) is always in the second syntactical position in the sentence, no matter how the sentence is laid out. Now in English this does not have to be the case.
I ate food yesterday
Food I ate yesterday
Yesterday I ate food.
As you can see, the position of "ate" is constantly changing.
You can still see vestiges of this grammatical feature in the English language. The example given by Becca works: "Never have I seen such audacity." Here, "have" is the verb in the second position. Other examples of this are, "Then did I say to him" (that's a bit more archaic) and "Only when I came home did I realize the truth." What caused this construction to become less common in the English language?
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
and the list goes on... is that a commonly known thing? Has anyone seen this pattern before?
In my dialect (Southern/Galician Yiddish): דורך is pronounced "derekh." But wait: so is דרך (literally meaning "way"), such as in דרך־ארץ, loosely translated as "respect." Of course, this couldn't cause that much ambiguity, considering that the first is a preposition and the second is a noun. But how about this one (it's very witty, actually): .עמלק and אַמאָליק
Don't be fooled by the disparity in appearance. They are pronounced almost exactly the same. One is amolek, the sworn enemies of the Jews who attacked them from the back in the desert. Haman from the Purim story, and, more recently, Adolf Hitler, are said to be spiritual or physical descendants of amolek. The second word is amolik, the adjective meaning once-upon-a-time. Can anyone think of a sentence where the meaning would be ambiguous?
Monday, February 18, 2008
Wish me luck!
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Sunday, January 20, 2008
The diminutive ending "-le" (spoken very quickly, e.g. Haus may become Häusle, Bisschen may become Bissle) and "-la" for plurals (e.g. Spätzle becomes Spätzla). Wow. This is exactly like Yiddish (at least, the first part)! Hoyz הױז in the diminutive becomes hayzl הײַזל, and bisl ביסל is the Yiddish equivalent of standard German's Bisschen.
They always say that Swiss German is the closest form of German to Yiddish. What I didn't realize is that, as Wikipedia put it, "occasionally, the Alemannic dialects spoken in other countries are called Swiss German." Hmmm.
Anyhow, an alternate suggestion is the fact that its waste resembles butter, supported by the Dutch boterschijte (do you recognize any cognate there? I'm not sure I see the connection between excrement and schijte - do you?).
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
English speakers have this annoying tendency to take words from foreign languages and put them into a format that they're familiar with. For example, the word juggernaut: you might have thought that the "naut" suffix has something to do with the words "astronaut," "cosmonaut," or "nautical," (naus in Greek means ship, and is related to the English "naval"). But no. Those English speakers got you again. There is absolutely no connection. It actually is the following:
1638, "huge wagon bearing an image of the god Krishna," especially that at the town of Puri, drawn annually in procession in which (apocryphally) devotees allowed themselves to be crushed under its wheels in sacrifice. Altered from Jaggernaut, a title of Krishna (an incarnation of Vishnu), from Hindi Jagannath, lit. "lord of the world," from Skt. jagat "world" + natha-s "lord, master." The first European description of the festival is by Friar Odoric (c.1321). Fig. sense of "anything that demands blind devotion or merciless sacrifice" is from 1854.
(By the way, my last name, Viswanath, is related to this word; viswa means "universe" and, as you now know, nath means lord. So my name means "lord of the universe." Not pretentious at all. But certainly befitting if you know my father's Yiddish/Hebrew name: Meylekh מלך.)
Now consider this: the Yiddish for "to bless" is bentshn בענטשן from the Latin benedecire. When this entered the vocabulary of the second-generation, the children of Yiddish-speaking immigrants, and probably influenced by German spelling, it became bentshen. This further evolved into "benchin'," and, under the impression that this was formed in the same way that "whistling" becomes "whistlin'," converted it into the more English-friendly benching (barbells, anyone?).
I recently saw a similar ignorance of a word's Yiddish origin in a caption of a picture in a wedding album on Facebook: "the bedeckin'." I was tempted to break out into a spontaneous round of "Deck the halls with boughs of holly," but I was already marching onto the next picture. (I treat this with considerable sarcasm, but the Yiddish badekn באַדעקן is, in fact, related to "deck" and "bedeck.")
One more example before you start scoffing: it's not "good shabbos," as you might think, but rather gut גוט. This is a pet peeve of mine. But hey, not everyone knows Yiddish. .הלװאַי
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Examples: kapitan, internat, koridor, palats, balants, telefon, parad, tirazh, aktivitet, zhurnal, papir, kolir
I recently proposed this theory to someone who tried to disprove my hypothesis. I asked her to name a single word with ultimate stress that doesn't derive from French. The only possible refutation she managed to come up with was "tararam." I searched for it in French dictionaries in vain. I searched it on Google and only managed to come up with a Russian movie called Tram-tararam Ili Bukhty-barakhty, an Arabic song, and an Israeli dance troupe.
I'll assume this to be a Slavic word and therefore a refutation of (or perhaps simply an exception to) my proposed rule...
To figure this out, you have to deconstruct the word:
a = on (equivalent to Hebrew "al")
de = that (eq. "she")
rabe = great
When you put that together, you get something along the lines of "on that which is greater." So now I'm actually going to reverse my question. For the Yiddish, I suppose it would make in meaning "all the more so," but how would it mean "on the contrary" in Aramaic... any ideas?
It seems to be a feature of Germanic languages:
German - Wie kommt es
Swedish - Hur kommer det sig
Dutch - Hoe komt het
Nor is it uncommon to find variants of this phrase in well-known English literature such as Shakespeare:
The Comedy of Errors, Act II, Scene 2
How comes it now, my husband, O, how comes it,
That thou art then estranged from thyself?
The Tragedy of Coriolanus, Act III, Scene 1
Sir, how comes't that you
Have holp to make this rescue?
It seems that "How come" is elliptical in that one must fill in the missing words to deduce what the original phrase was trying to say. One possibility would be:
How [did it] come [to be that], which is clearer than the Shakespearean version, which has already dropped the "to be" for the more favored abridged version.
Take Our Word For It offers a historical context:
That this phrase dates back to England would therefore leave no doubt in my mind of its distinctly Germanic origin.
That's exactly what how come? means. Surprisingly, it is American in origin, at least in that form. It dates from the middle of the 19th century, and its first recorded form is in Bartlett's Dictionary of American English: "How-come? rapidly pronounced huc-cum, in Virginia. Doubtless an English phrase, brought over by the original settlers, and propagated even among the negro slaves. The meaning is, How did what you tell me happen? How came it?"
Its predecessor in England was how comes it that...? That phrase was used by Shakespeare in 1607, in his Coriolanus: "How com’st that you haue holpe To make this rescue?" However, he was not the first to use it; we find it first recorded in 1548 by Hall in Chronicle: "How commeth this that there are so many Newe Testamentes abrode?"
Interesting how the pronunciation reverted back to "how come" instead of "huc-cum"...
Friday, January 11, 2008
Sunday, January 6, 2008
For everything else, we have ... nothing. Which is why I am trying to make this list. Here's what I have so far, and please help me out here if you have words to add to the list. Thanks!
- [דימינוטיװן] _ל, _לע, _עלע
***When referring to a female
*****When referring to a place (e.g. bakery), it is feminine, but when referring to the field (e.g. baking), it is neuter
To be continued... as you can see, I have a long task ahead of me (that is, if I really want to do 100 each... or maybe I should just do 100 total? Hmmmmm...)
Saturday, January 5, 2008
Consider this dialogue:
A: I don't want to go because it'll be too crowded.
B: But that's a whole 'nother thing! You told me you didn't want to go because you're socially awkward!
Note how anyone with grammatical OCD would cringe upon hearing the bolded section. I happened to look up tmesis on Wikipedia, and I glanced at the examples they gave. One of them, of course, was "congratu-f#$%-lations", akin to my example "abso-bloody-lutely," but their second one was the phrase bolded in the above dialogue. I took the liberty of naming this phenomenon casual or unaccustomed tmesis, a term which I'm sure will be quoted for generations to come. So in this case, you have "another" interpolated with "whole" to create "a-whole-nother." So next time you wish to express this idea, I would suggest "a wholly different idea," because I can't seem to figure out a way using "whole" and "another" that sounds right. Ideas?