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Old 29 April 2013, 07:37 AM
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Ponder English words that aren't really English

Many believe the urban myth about bungalow: that the word was coined after a builder was told to “bung a low roof” on a house when he ran out of bricks. But bungalow was actually first recorded in the 1600s, when one-storey houses were built for early European settlers in Bengal. It comes from a Hindi or Bengali word meaning “belonging to Bengal”.

http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/...really-english
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Old 29 April 2013, 08:46 AM
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I wonder when that stopped being a joke and became an "urban myth"? I wonder if the people who believed it was true often try to have picnics on the beach and eat all the sand which is there.

I don't suppose many people who know about language will be surprised by most of those. I would rather see a list of words which did "originate in Britain" without having Germanic, French, Norse, Celtic, Latin or Greek roots. Newly-coined Welsh words maybe, and neologisms like "radar" and "laser", although those might have first been used in the USA for all I know.
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Old 29 April 2013, 08:58 AM
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Why do you exclude "Celtic", Richard? Isn't that a language that indeed originated on what today are the British Isles?

Or is it because of your weltanschauung?
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Old 29 April 2013, 09:06 AM
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I'm not sure where Celtic languages originated (I almost didn't include that one) but I had the impression they came up through the Iberian peninsula and France. But they've been in the British Isles long enough that arguably some of their words will have "originated" here - that's what I was trying to get at when I mentioned newly-coined Welsh words. I don't think that very much of any pre-Celtic language has survived. Nobody is even sure what language the Picts used, as far as I know.

It depends what you mean by "originate" really. There aren't many words that are just made up from nothing. Victorian nonce words that have passed into use might count. (Runcible? Quiz - possibly?)
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Old 29 April 2013, 09:26 AM
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Seems like almost all the ancient words that are claimed as British in origin are actually not really or not likely to be or, at least, not certainly. For example, "bucket" and "hog" are often said to be but the OED casts doubts on that.
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Victorian nonce words that have passed into use might count. (Runcible? Quiz - possibly?)
I thought quiz was thought to come from the Latin? (The Latin I don't know, of course, meaning some thing like "what th-?" )
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Old 29 April 2013, 09:43 AM
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By the way, are there any Latin words that are truely Latin? Aren't of lot of them originally Greek, or from the languages spoken on the peninsula before the rise of Rome?

Can we actually trace words* to a known beginning, or is it all lost in the pre-written languages that we know nothing about?

*old words, I mean, not newly coined ones like "automobile" or "internet".
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Old 29 April 2013, 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Don Enrico View Post
Can we actually trace words* to a known beginning, or is it all lost in the pre-written languages that we know nothing about?
Good question. I think the answer is "somewhere in between". We have a pretty good idea of how Indo-European languages relate to each other, so we can sort of trace English, German, Latin and the rest back in time thousands of years. But we're not really sure how accurate our conjectures are about the early vocabulary.

There was an even an attempt by two linguists to come up with some vocabulary for the language they called "Proto-world", which was supposedly the first language ever. They tried tracing back all languages in the world to a common root. Should your time machine ever take you back to the paleolithic era, apparently "tik" meant "one" and "agua" meant "water". OK, the whole thing seemed pretty ridiculous to me. But if you ever want the New York Times and BBC to report on a linguistics paper, the more ridiculous the better, so it got some press at the time.

By the way, I don't think much of Latin vocabulary was borrowed from Greek or Etruscan. Most of it just evolved from Indo-European.
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Old 29 April 2013, 04:38 PM
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I always think of Torpenhow Hill, a minor elevation in Cumbria, whose name is said to come from Old English (Tor), Welsh (Pen), Danish (How), and modern English (Hill). Each word means "hill" in its respective language, so it's "Hillhillhill Hill."

I read that story years and years ago in a book called You English Words by John Moore. His theory was that each group of newcomers assumed that whatever the place was called was its proper name--so the Welsh called it Tor Pen, the Danish Torpen How, and so on.

Sadly, that charming explanation seems to have been disputed later on.
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Old 29 April 2013, 04:40 PM
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It's like Chai Tea Latte!
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Old 29 April 2013, 06:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Enrico View Post
*old words, I mean, not newly coined ones like "automobile" or "internet".
But even new ones like your examples are actually made out of old roots.

Auto and mobile
Inter and, well... net.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad from Georgia View Post
I always think of Torpenhow Hill, a minor elevation in Cumbria, whose name is said to come from Old English (Tor), Welsh (Pen), Danish (How), and modern English (Hill). Each word means "hill" in its respective language, so it's "Hillhillhill Hill."

I read that story years and years ago in a book called You English Words by John Moore. His theory was that each group of newcomers assumed that whatever the place was called was its proper name--so the Welsh called it Tor Pen, the Danish Torpen How, and so on.

Sadly, that charming explanation seems to have been disputed later on.
It's also like Chester Castle!
Military fort Castle or Castle Castle!
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Old 29 April 2013, 07:54 PM
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How about the "River River" that runs through Stratford-upon-River (or "Avon" as the locals like to call it). According to my recollection (and Wikipedia agrees with me for what it's worth), "Avon" derives from British "abona" ("river"). The word survives in Welsh as "afon".

Ta 'ra wan,

Ieuan "Up an abona without a paddle" ab Arthur
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Old 29 April 2013, 08:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad from Georgia View Post
I always think of Torpenhow Hill, a minor elevation in Cumbria, whose name is said to come from Old English (Tor), Welsh (Pen), Danish (How), and modern English (Hill). Each word means "hill" in its respective language, so it's "Hillhillhill Hill."
Well ... close. According to the Oxford Dictionary of English place names, its name comes from just two languages - the Old English torr, the Celtic penn, the Old English hoh and the Old English hyll. The actual meaning is ridge of the hill with a rocky peak.

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It's also like Chester Castle!
Military fort Castle or Castle Castle!
Not really. Chester comes from the Old English ceaster meaning a Roman station, walled town or earthwork. Roman forts were not castles in the modern, i.e. post-1066, meaning of the word. They were not defendable like castles. (See the Oxford Dictionary of English place names.)

As for the Celts, they came from eastern Europe and were not really a group of people like the Gauls, Saxons, etc. They were separate tribes sharing a similar culture. They conquered large parts of eastern Europe before the rise of the Greek city states. The Greeks and later the Romans pushed them further west and north, eventually reaching the British Isles, settling in what we now call England, as recently as 800 to 600 BC. It was not until the arrival of the Romans that they were pushed into what we now call Scotland and Wales.
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Old 30 April 2013, 03:31 PM
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Mini rant concerning the article title: Yes, they are English words. If they are common in English and used in English, then they're English words with English meanings. They may not have originated in England (or the U.S, or Canada, or Australia), but that doesn't make them not English.

Seaboe
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Old 30 April 2013, 03:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew of Ware View Post
As for the Celts, they came from eastern Europe and were not really a group of people like the Gauls, Saxons, etc. They were separate tribes sharing a similar culture. They conquered large parts of eastern Europe before the rise of the Greek city states. The Greeks and later the Romans pushed them further west and north, eventually reaching the British Isles, settling in what we now call England, as recently as 800 to 600 BC. It was not until the arrival of the Romans that they were pushed into what we now call Scotland and Wales.
They might have come from eastern Europe, or not. According to the Wiki article linked below, they enter history already predominant in most of western Europe beyond the Alps, and a good bit of central Europe and a bit into eastern Europe, with enclaves as far east as Asia Minor and the Black Sea. The article does not say so, but I have long heard that 'Celt' and 'Gaul' are cognates, with a consonant shift is come areas between the hard-c sound and the hard-g sound (and the ess sound really only being used by those who learned about Celts by reading, rather than spoken reference, or by spoken reference from those who learned from reading, etc.) It is similar to the relation between gall bladder and its removal - Cholecystectomy; the gall and the chol- are the same.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celts
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Old 30 April 2013, 07:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alarm View Post
But even new ones like your examples are actually made out of old roots.

Auto and mobile
Inter and, well... net.
There are very few English words that are not derived from other words. I would doubt that there are 50 of them. "Googol" (the number) is the only clear example ("google" existed 40 years earlier as a cricket term, but was unknown to Milton Sirota).

"Quiz," often cited as a word that was made up out of the whole cloth, is clearly related to "inquisitive" or "inquisition." "Hoodlum" might be a candidate, but its origin is too muddied to be sure. Some trade names (like "Kodak") qualify as being completely made up, but that's a deliberate process.
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Old 30 April 2013, 07:26 PM
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"Blurb" would be another: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=blurb
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Old 30 April 2013, 07:29 PM
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Dord, at least for a few years, was a coined word.

Would "chortle" qualify?

Nick
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Old 30 April 2013, 08:00 PM
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Quote:
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Would "chortle" qualify?
Depends on whether you think portmanteau words are coinages. Chortle is chuckle and snort smushed together.

Seaboe
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Old 10 May 2013, 05:55 AM
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English May Have Retained Words From an Ice Age Language

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If you've ever cringed when your parents said "groovy," you'll know that spoken language can have a brief shelf life. But frequently used words can persist for generations, even millennia, and similar sounds and meanings often turn up in very different languages. The existence of these shared words, or cognates, has led some linguists to suggest that seemingly unrelated language families can be traced back to a common ancestor. Now, a new statistical approach suggests that peoples from Alaska to Europe may share a linguistic forebear dating as far back as the end of the Ice Age, about 15,000 years ago.
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Old 10 May 2013, 06:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seaboe Muffinchucker View Post
Depends on whether you think portmanteau words are coinages. Chortle is chuckle and snort smushed together.

Seaboe
Smushed? Very clever, Seabow.
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