Thursday, 27 September 2012

Poetsen = to Polish

But I also thought it meant to clean or wash (around the house)…? 

Anyway, great sounding word!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Brussels is a Rosetta Stone of languages

Well, it is for French and Dutch at least!

The beauty of the situation is that I speak French and am learning Dutch in Brussels so even just a walk along the street is a language lesson for me. There are signposts and posters all around the city in both languages, sometimes with a direct translation and other times with a creative translation which gives a sense of the meaning in another language. Below we see a signpost and this tends to be a direct translation which stays faithful to the exact meaning (it has to-it's a sign!). Usually it's adverts which use more ambiguous and poetic translations.

This translated into English means 'Emergency access' but you can take clues about other words from this sign too:

Toegang : access

Hulp : help

Diensten : services

(literally Access (for) Help Services)

Monday, 24 September 2012

Spelk : Splinter

This post is to put to rest a ghost of mine. When I went to University I thought lots of the words I used daily were standard English (why would I think anything else!?) and was a little surprised when others from around the UK were bemused when I used them.

SPELK is a great word and is only ever used to mean a splinter (of wood), generally in the finger. Upon meeting Scandinavian or Dutch people I would always corner them and ask what 'splinter' was in their language and, until now, I've had no luck and thought spelk was an isolated Northern word, unrelated to other Germanic languages.

Tonight I found the answer here!

It states that spelk comes from Old English (spelc or spilc) for splints (surgical supports). Also related to Old Norse spelkur (splints).

Splint (still in the sense of surgical support) in different languages:

Dutch: spalk
Swedish: spjälor

This page here refers directly to the NE dialect word 'spelk' in the first paragraph:
"oe. spelc ‘spalk’ (ne. dial. spelk)"

The same source states that  spelk, spelc, spalk all derive from the word 'to split' (that is to say "cleave piece of wood):

"Het woord betekent eigenlijk ‘afgespleten stuk hout’ en is een afleiding van de wortel 'splijten'"

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Flemish TV

I don't have a telly.

Well, that's strictly not true as I do, in fact, own a tv but I don't have it (what I like to call) "plumbed in" (subscribed to any channels). So in some ways my statement of my not having a telly stands true. Sort of. In any case it doesn't detract from the point I'd like to make and that is this: you can still watch Flemish telly even if you're not connected up to the local network via the magic of the internet!

Today I watched a couple of short extracts from a Flemish cookery show which I found very interesting and almost entirely incomprehensible. I am proud of my language abilities but it's a bit disheartening when, after many lessons and good progress listening to radio, you hear something else which makes little sense.

Luckily for me, there were images to accompany it.

Tune in and learn how to make Pims, here:

Other Flemish show clips available here:

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Old English used GE- Prefix for past tense

I was watching a history show about England when the presenter held up a beautiful object which he said belonged to King Alfred. The proof was in the inscription which read,

"Alfred mec heht gewyrcan"

This means Alfred had me (ordered me to be) made.

Instantly my curiosity was piqued by the word "gewyrcan' or made. After some research my suspicions that this verb was similar to other Germanic words for to work or to make were confirmed.

English: worked or made
Old English: gewyrcan
Dutch: gewerkt
German: gewerk is used in the term of a craft or a guild.

The next question I asked myself was how far this ge- prefix survived into English, as obviously we don't use it to form the past tense today.

There's a good article about it here :

…which show that Old English did use a ge- prefix which turned into y-, i- or ȝe- in Middle English and then was lost altogether.

Or was it?

The same article claims that the vestiges of this prefiix exist in the following words: alikeawarehandiwork.

Double check on the online etymology dictionary

handiwork  late 12c., from O.E. handgeweorc, from hand (n.) + geweorc, collective form of weorc "work" (see work). O.E. ge- regularly reduces to i- in Middle English, and the word probably came to be felt as handy + work.

Photograph courtesy of Kotomicreations.