Category Archives: Origins

Ausserordentlich Viele Koinkidinks

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Speaking of Grimm, it is unfortunate that his Deutsche Mythologie has not been translated into a Slavic language (as far as we know).  There are lots of interesting tidbits throughout that book…

For example:

Most adults are aware that light travels faster than sound.  The difference is actually quite significant.  The speed of light is about 186,000 miles per second whereas sound will travel only 1,125 feet in that same second.  It is for this reason that when you see lightning, you then expect to hear thunder.  In fact, you can calculate how far lightning struck from you merely by counting the number of seconds that pass when you hear the thunder sound that follows it.

What does that have to do with Grimm and Slavs?

Well, there is an interesting passage in Procopius that says something like:

“For they believe that one God, the maker of lightning, is alone lord of all things, and they sacrifice to him cattle and all other victims…”

For years, it was assumed that this was a reference to the Russian Perun.*  And yet, as we know the Polish Piorun, the East Slav Perun or Lithuanian Perkunas refer to thunder not lightning.  Is the same God the maker of lightning?

* note: the cattle reference suggested Veles to some but, to the extent that there even was any Veles, it seems odd to sacrifice “cattle” to the alleged “cattle god”. Veles can, on the other hand, be another name for Piorun.

We might say yes if we look at expressions such as “Jasny piorun”, “jasny grom” and others…  And yet these expressions seem like conflations of two independent atmospheric phenomena.

The distinction of these two phenomena is hinted at in the 8th century work of Cosmography of Aethicus Ister where we learn that:

“Naxos and Melos and these islands are islands of the Cyclades, and the very round Isle of Melon as well, which is ver fertile; Jason, Pluto or Paron, and Pharius were born there.”

Naxon et Melos et ipsae insolae Cicladum insolaque Melon rotundissima adeo et fertilis, ubi Iason et Plutonem uel Paronem et Pharium editos.  

Here Paron is equated with Pluto but “Iason” remains separate.

So what does this have to do with Grimm, again?

Well, we’ve previously noted the strange fact that Odin simply means “one” in Russian/Ukrainian (Polish jeden – eden?).

Did Grimm know that?  He was a competent anthropologist, well-learned in Teutonic, Gallic and Slavic beliefs.

And so right at the beginning of the very first edition of his book, he mentions some Slavic Gods.

Among those, looking for similarities and differences between Slavic and Germanic Gods, he notices a God from the Slavic region of Krain (Italian Carniola) in today’s Slovenia (mentioned in a local dictionary).  That God’s name is Torik or Tork.  Grimm looks at the name and expresses his belief that this (war!) God has nothing to do with either the Germanic Tyr nor Thor.

So far so good…

But Grimm then provides an explanation of the Slavic God’s name, the implication of which he does not appear to grasp.

“There is an extraordinary great overlap in Germanic and Slavic superstitions”

He says that the Slavic God’s name simply comes from vtorik, that is the “other” or “second”.  He says this is because the Slavic Torik was a war God and the name was a simple translation of the  name Mars.  Mars or Martis was and is Tuesday (incidentally, Tyr’s day) which was the second day of the Slavic week.  So the Slavs started to call their Mars by using their translated name of the “second” day of the week which day was dedicated to the god Mars.

This may or may not be true, of course.

A much more interesting question, however, is why is Thor called Thor or Tyr called Tyr?

And here is the real brain twister.  How is it that two Germanic Gods’ names Odin and his “son” Thor correspond to Slavic numerals of one and two.  Note also that vtori can mean the returning, repeated.

And why is Odin called Odin, again?  What is the Germanic etymology here?

Moreover, is not the God of Lightning, the “first” God?  You see lightening first before you hear the corresponding thunder.  Lighting is, well, bright.  Brightness corresponds to the name of the God Jasion (the Polish Jaś), the God of the “year” or Jahr or spring (Slavic v-esna or v-iosna) also the God of agriculture rebirth (notice the adventure with Demeter – Dea – meter – the Mother Goddess but also the Earth Goddess).

First, comes Jasion (“lightning”) and then comes Peron (“thunder”).

“Father” and “Son”.

Odin and Vtor

Odin and Thor.

Was then Zeus Thor who struck his father Jasion in an act of not simply “divine punishment” but usurpation?

Incidentally, Jasion is also mentioned in Sacra Moraviae Historia  where He is referred to as “Chasson/sive Jassen”.

It is also noteworthy that “Chasson” was the name of one of the Slavic leaders in Book 2 of the Miracles of Saint Demetrius.

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July 22, 2017

The % of Goth in a Goth

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As a curiousity, this is the “latest” on the so-called Wielbark culture from “Ludność kultury wielbarskiej – wyniki badań antropologicznych” by a Polish anthropologist (Piontek).

Its summary:

“… it was shown that the population of the Wielbark culture was characterized by a very high biological (genetic) similarity to the population of Western Slavs, that is the people living in the Oder and Vistula basin during the Middle Ages did not differ in biological terms from the people inhabiting these areas in the Roman period.

On the basis of a comparison analysis of different skeletal populations from Central and Eastern Europe, taking into account the morphological characteristics of a skull, it was also shown, that the populations of Wielbark culture, connected in some archeological papers with Germanic groups (Goths), show a low biological similarity with medieval German or Scandinavian populations.

Therefore, the results of anthropological analyses do not confirm the thesis about a gap in population continuity of the Oder and Vistula basin between late antiquity and the early Middle Ages but rather indicate the opposite: a high biological similarity between the people inhabiting the Oder and Vistula basin during the Roman period and in the Middle Ages.”

This raises a number of possibilities:

  • the Goths arrived in the Ukraine from further east (for example, they went over Lithuania and Belarus or from even further east)
  • the Goths arrived in Ukraine from the West along the Danube
  • the “true” Goths constituted a very small part of the original population over which they ruled
  • the Western Slavs are descendants of Goths who – at some point – switched languages
  • the Western Slavs are descendants of the people who were ruled by the true Goths and never switched languages (“always” spoke “Slavic”) or switched languages but switched from a non-Gothic language (“Venetic” > Slavic)

These are just a few possibilities and are not all mutually exclusive.

That Przeworsk – the other archeological culture of the “Roman” period – was not “Vandalic” is discussed here.

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July 14, 2017

Melting Pots and Other Mix-Ups

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Stralsund is a town originally founded by the Slavic Rani (as far as we know).  It makes its first historical appearance in 1234 as Stralowe in a document issued by Vislav I, the duke of Rugia (one of those Slavic chieftains who gave in and got themselves new jobs as imperial dukes) in Charenz/Charenza.

We will not discuss here the rather obvious connections between Charenz and Carinthia or the Portuguese town of Chorenze.

Rather just wanted to bring up a rather curious little fact.  Sund is the same as the English “sound” (as in bay or inlet).  Its origin is obviously Germanic.  Stralowe, on the other hand was clearly named after the Slavic word for arrow (*strěla).  In fact to this day the town’s coat of arms features such an arrow:

Traditional red and white “Wendish” colors

But then we come to an interesting question, what is the etymology of the Slavic word for arrow which is the same in all Slavic languages?  It supposedly comes from a proto-Slavic word *strěla.

You can even come up with a pretty good etymology coming from the word trzec meaning “to rub” or “to grind.” (Interestingly these words can also mean “to quarrel”).  The grinding referring to the process of making the arrow or perhaps the arrow rubbing against the bow.  The initial “s” indicating completion/origin (as in “coming from grinding”).

On the other hand, there is a word stral or strale which appears in Germanic languages (Old English stræl).

Predictably, there are also those who believe that it was then borrowed into Slavic.  The people who believe that are, of course, unbothered by the fact that the Slavic version appears in all Slavic languages.  They are also unbothered by the fact that the Germanic languages also have:

  • arrow (arwan, Gothic arhwanza) related to “arc” (either bow or, more likely, the path of an arrow – think big battles; compare though with urwac meaning “to rip out”)
  • Pheil/pil (< pilowac !?) or flaflan (fly?)
  • quarrel
  • bolt (slightly different meaning – think crossbow)

and others.

Given all of that it is hard to assume that Germanic peoples had so many different original names for the same thing.  Were the situation reversed (many different names in Slavic but one of those (and only one) also found in Germanic), most academics would argue that the Slavic word also found in Germanic would necessarily be of Germanic origin (i.e., import into Slavic).  And yet, here some still argued that the Slavic came from Germanic.

This is the same reasoning as the one that:

  • allows for –mir to be a Slavic suffix but also lays a potential Germanic – depending on the context – claim to some appearances of it,
  • but reserves –mar and -mer exclusively for the Germanic sphere.

You can see where this is going, of course.  Since the Germanics were the warrior group, it, of course, makes sense that they would have “invented”their own word for “arrow”.  You can also use this to prove that Slavs did not know arrows until they learned of their existence from Germanics.  Perhaps, in your mind’s eye, you can even see a cohort of Slavic peasants servicing a Germanic lord’s bow by quickly grinding out arrows for his upcoming campaign against the Romans, Persians or whatever else his testosterone driven brain set its sights upon.  You might even try to prove that the very concept of “rubbing” became known to Slavs by way of testosterone-infused Germanics… 🙂

To be fair, there is the word “strahlen” meaning project rays (or, more recently, radioactivity) and things may be gestreut as in spread out (related to “stray”).

But then there is also “stream” (but also strimon/strumien in Slavic) and a whole host of other IE words conveying a similar concept.

Original Germanic word?

It seems that “arrow” may have come from the “original” version of an “arrow-concept” in Germanic languages.

  • Old English: earharwearewe
    • Middle English: arwearewearowearow
      • Scots: arowearow
      • English: arrow
  • Old Norse: ǫr
    • Icelandic: ör
    • Faroese: ørvørvur
    • Old Swedish: arf

Whereas the various strales in Scandinavian languages appear to be borrowings from German (MLG) probably via the Hanseatic League though maybe earlier.

This raises another series of questions

If the conclusion is that strale was an import into Germanic (West Germanic) languages then the question must inevitably be asked – from whom?  That question is intertwined with the date of the borrowing, that is “when” was the word borrowed?  

One might hesitate to note that if strahlen was also imported then these imports must have come early.

If you keep on this path, you may conclude that there may have been multiple migrations of people who (linguistically) could be designated as “Slavs” over many centuries.

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July 10, 2017

At the Walls of Jericho

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Those who think they can find Slavs in the Levant should look into the following divinities:

  • Yarikh (Jerah, Jarah, Jorah) – aka “illuminator of the heavens”‘, “illuminator of the myriads of stars” and “lord of the sickle”.
    • Yarikh was the provider of nightly dew, and married to the goddess Nikkal, his moisture causing her orchards to bloom in the desert. The city of Jericho was a center of his worship, and its name may derive from the name Yarikh, or from the Cannanite word for moon, Yareaẖ
    • origin: Canaanite
  • Yarhibol – worshiped mainly in ancient Palmyra, a city in central Syria. He was depicted with a solar nimbus and styled “lord of the spring“. (The suffix -bol may simply refer to “a god” (as in Baal) – what is interesting is whether that has anything to do with “Bol” as in “great” such as in Boleslav)
    • origin: Aramean

Now compare with:

  • Jarowit or Yarovit (GerovitHerovith) – the Polabian God of War
  • Yassa, Yessa – probably a diminutive (compare, Sasha) of Yarovit, the Polish High God (Jupiter) who was also seen as the fertility/spring God (compare with the English “year” or German Jahr) that is Dionyssus or Bacchus or Jasion (with Demeter, the Earth Mother).  Perhaps the same as the Ukrainian/Belorussian/Russian, Jarilo.

For some explanations (?), see here.  Jassa is also a city in the Bible.

For more Bible “stuff” see here.

What this really suggests is an IE influence much further south than previously thought.

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July 8, 2017

Something Fishy

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There is an excellent etymological discussion on Polish Radio about the words:

  • wędka – fishing rod
  • wędzić – to smoke fish

The expert on the show provides a fascinating discussion of the history of these words in the Polish language.  Everyone interested is encouraged to listen to this.  Of course, the translation requires some time.

The only quibble may be with the ultimate conclusion.

The discussion was spurred by a question posed by a listener (a Mr. Lech, incidentally) as to whether there is an etymological relationship between those words.  The expert on the show concludes that there isn’t.

But this is clearly wrong. She analyzes the usage of the words throughout history but finding no clear connection in the written sources, she answers the question in the negative.  The problem is that she does not care to ask the “next question.”  Let’s see what that means.

We first explain what she says about the history of these words:

Wędka – Fishing Rod

Wędka [pronounced vendka] is a word for a “fishing rod”.  It is a diminutive of the older form of the word – węda [pronounced venda] which may also have meant a “hook”.  (Incidentally, this is the same Slavic diminutive formation as one would expect to produce a laverca from a laver or lavera).

Wędka > Wędzić  – To Catch Fish

Apparently, from this word – węda/wędka – there later came a verb – wędzić – which meant as much as “to catch fish.”  Later this also became zwędzić meaning “to steal”.  (A similar meaning to łowić as in to fish/hunt which also became a colloquial synonym for “to steal”.)  This cognate of węda/wędka, however, was unrelated to the other wędzić (the one from Mr. Lech’s question).

Wędzić  – To Smoke Fish

But says our expert the above are unrelated to the word wędzić meaning “to smoke fish”.  That word, namely, comes from a “pre-Polish” (presumably meaning some old Slavic?) word meaning “to lose freshness” – same as wiotczenie as in “thinning.” But earlier that word, says our expert, the same meant “drying” or “losing water”.  She then says that “as is known, the preserving of meat by using smoke causes the meat to become dry” and that is why “the process of smoking fish was named by means of a word which referred to the [process] of drying.”

Typical ancient Slav meal

Expert Conclusion

“Of course, pure coincidence caused that wędzić and wędka are similar to one another – they  do not have the same origin.” (Incidentally, this is not original – Alexander Brueckner arrived at the same conclusion).  However, she says one can imagine a situation where a fish that is wędzona was a fish that was caught on a węda or a fish that was smoked or a fish that was first caught on   a węda and then was smoked (a “twice wędzona” fish).

The Smoking Elephant in the Room

The above conclusion however is not supported by the above discussion.  To use an oft-used aphorism “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. Without getting into the question of whether you can prove a negative, it is worth noting that the expert does not bother to get into the question of:

  • why exactly did węda [pronounced venda] mean “fishing rod”?; and
  • why exactly did wędzić [vendit] mean “smoking fish”?

Taken each by themselves, the words remain a mystery but, taken together, they can be explained logically.

First of all note that while węda may have meant a “hook” that hook never referred to hooks used for anything other than catching fish or fishing rod hooks.  In other words, whether as a “hook” or as a “fishing rod” the word essentially meant a device for fishing.

To further pursue this, we know that fishing with a fishing rod or hook or both is a laborious exercise which you spend most often sitting around for quite some time hoping that something will bite.  Of course, you do this by sitting on a boat which sits on water or by sitting on the water shore.

So the first candidate for the meaning of węda [venda] is water.

But, maybe it refers to “fish”?  That would be a good guess too and perhaps even a better one!  (There was, after all, that fish named Wanda…)

That is where matters would likely stand if… we did not know that there was also the word wędzić meaning “to smoke fish” and, as our expert noted, originally meaning “to lose freshness”.

Note, of course, that what a smoked fish loses is freshness, yes, but it does so by losing water.  In fact, as per our expert, the word first used to mean “to dry” or “[cause] to lose water”.

Thus, it would seem that a better guess would be that wend refers to “water”.

This is further supported by:

  • the fact that wędlina [vendlina] or wędzonka [vendzonka] refers to smoked meats other than fish (typically pork);
  • the fact that więdnąć [viendnot] refers to the “withering” or “wilting” of flowers (usually this results from lack of water obviously);
  • the fact that in other Slavic languages a similar word exists that tracks the Slavic name for “water” – woda as in (following Brueckner) proso woditi meaning to “smoke/cure” in Slovenian or uditi/údený meaning “smoked/cured meant” in Czech/Slovak or wudyty in Ruthenian (?) or вэнджаны in Belarussian;
  • the fact that wundan [vundan] meant “water” in Old Prussian and vanduo means “water” in Lithuanian.

The fact that the princess Wanda has traditionally been associated with the Vistula is also suggestive.

For more on this see here and – regarding Odin/Wodan see here.

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June 25, 2017

The Rain of Wodan

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We previously remarked on the similarities between Wodan and wodz – “leader”.  We speculated that a wodz did wodzil, meaning led around his people (ziehen) because fundamentally, people travelling in the old days needed water to survive.  So you went along the rivers.  Thus wodzic ought to mean just to walk along, to or around water.  The person who led that became a “wodz”.

That is probably also the origin of the word “wander” or the German wandern (notice, for example, the Old Prussian wenda for “water” – which also suggests that the Veneti were – in some “Baltic” language simply “those who dwell or travel on/by water”).  Thus:

  • woda (Sla) > wodzic > wodz
  • udens (Balt Lat)
  • wenda (Balt Pr)
    • also compare with wędka [vendka] or wędzić [vendit] or wędlina [vendlina]
  • vanduo (Balt Lith)
  • [wasser] (Germ) > wandern

Notice too that “to wander” is the roughly the same as “to meander” – both are done by rivers and both may be undertaken by people travelling along rivers or on rivers.  These names indeed suggest the very life style of certain tribes.  The fact that Slavs are recorded (Procopius) as worshipping water spirits kinda fits.

From this you could also construct wojewoda as in the one who leads “woje” or “warriors”. Incidentally, the word woje means the same as boie.  The Boii were supposedly a Celtic tribe but it is not known what language these “Celts” spoke.  (Incidentally, in this version, the Germanic Heerzieher becomes a translation of the Slavic wojewoda – not vice versa).

We’ve also mentioned the curious fact that “one” in Slavic languages is jeden/odin.

But Wodan’s name itself suggests a Slavic (or Baltic?) source word of woda (or udens in Latvian) meaning “water”.

Wodan was – perhaps (this is unproven) – the same as Mercury.  Mercury was not really a water god but a god of trade.  On the other hand, during the Mercuralia, apparently, merchants sprinkled water from Mercury’s sacred well at the Porta Capena in Rome…

All of this may suggest that Wodan (whoever he was initially) was or at some point became a “rain god.”  This raises the possibility that Wodan was the same as Piorun.  Both are, in effect, storm gods – one’s name may mean “water” – the other’s “thunder”.  The fact that wuetend then came to mean the same as “raging” naturally follows from that.

Also the ending of

  • syllable then -n,
  • as in -on, -an, -un

seems rather fashionable among Europeans:

  • Jasion
  • Piorun/Perkun (or Perkun-as)
  • Wodan, Woden

Numerous other examples abound (they are typically viewed as Greek if in the form of -on but this may just be because of the fact that Greeks could actually write – see also Simon, Jason and others such as Chasson – the Slavic protagonist of the Miracles of Saint Demetrius.  BTW Josippon is a Greek word).

As we already pointed out, piron in both Greek and Venetic (!) means “fork” which naturally suggests the physical image of electricity streaming through the sky.

For other interesting factoids you can see that Vaduz – the capital of Lichtenstein – was first recorded as de Faduzes and this too refers to water.  Although the etymology is supposed to be Rhaetian (Rhaeto-Romanic) from aqueductus, it might just as well be Germanic or even Slavic.  That wadi means “river” in Arabic should also suggest that IE languages (or something similar) were much more widely spread (in the Old World) than previously thought.

Incidentally, os means “mouth” or “estuary” and is obviously cognate to the Slavic usta.  Likewise, os, as are cognates with the idea of motion jazda and all, for obvious reasons relate to water – jezero meaning “lake” – or Tamissa meaning Thames River, Izera and many others.

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June 16, 2017

Bishop John’s Interesting Note

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For those familiar with the Slavic sun worship (Svarog? Jason?) and fire (Svarozic as Brueckner would have it?) as well as the tales of a holy horse at Arkona (compare also the horse coins of the VIndelici), the following piece of information may be interesting.  It comes from the Chronicle of Bishop John of Nikiu (Chapter 95) and talks about the Persian king Hurmuzd IV (Hormisdas) who reigned in Persia 578-590:

“The unhappy man was addicted to the worship of demons; moreover, he compelled Christians to worship fire and the sun.  And the horses also that pastured on grass were objects of his worship.”

Earlier in (Chapter 5)  John says the following under the title of “Concerning the beginning of the building of Babylon, and those who worship the image of the horse as a god, and the beginning of the chase and the eating of animal food.”

“And after [Cainan] the Indians composed (it), and there was a man from India, named Qantûrjûs [Gandubarius or Andubarius], an Ethiopian of the race of Ham, who was named Cush [author’s conflation].  He begat Afrûd, that is, Nimrod, the giant.  He it was that built the city of Babylon.  And the Persians served him and worshipped him as a god, and named him after the name of the stars of heaven and called him Orion, that is, Dabarah.*  And he was the first to hunt and eat the flesh of animals.”

Dabarah is an Ethiopic transcription of the Arabic word for Orion.

It is also worth point out that among the names that circulate in the Sassanid Empire at the time of Hurmuzd are such names as:

  • Bozorgmehr-e Bokhtagan (Middle Persian: Wuzurgmihr ī Bōkhtagān), also known as Burzmihr, Dadmihr and Dadburzmihr who was the Qārinwand. (The Karenas, Karan-Vands, Qarinvand dynasty or Karen-Pahlevi, claimed descent from Karen, a figure of folklore and son of the equally mythical “Kaveh the Blacksmith”)
  • Vistahm
  • Vinduyih (Middle Persian: Windôē)
  • Bahrām Chōbīn aka Mihrevandak

Note also the similarities in these names to those of the “Paratarajas” of Baluchistan.

Further note that “Vandak” apparently meant “servant”.  Mihrevandak means “servant of Mihr” or Mithra.  Whether a “Vand” means, therefore, the same as a “Serv” is an interesting question.  Though, apparently, such a “servant” would be of some divinity.

For added kicks, Mithra was a “yazata” which, as per the gods of Wikipedia, in turn, is “an Avestan language word  meaning ‘a being worthy of worship’, ‘an object of worship” or “a holy being’.” Incidtentally, yaz– means “to worship, to honor, to venerate. The word yasna means “worship, sacrifice, oblation, prayer”.

The translation is by R. H. Charles.  As he notes: “John of Nikiu was probably born about the time of the Mohammedan invasion of Egypt. He was the Coptic bishop of Nikiu and ‘rector’ of the bishops of Upper Egypt who took part in the election of the successor of John of Samnûd in 690 A.D. In 696 he was appointed administrator general of the Monasteries, but was later deposed from these offices on the ground that he had abused his powers.  His Chronicle, though even imperfectly preserved, is of immense value to historians of Egypt.”

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June 1, 2017

Laverca

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The Suevi occupied portions of Portugal for quite some time.  One might ask what their cultural influence on Portugal has been?

Take the dictionary.

If you ask what Portuguese words may be Suevic, only very few are mentioned (and then too we are told that some of these may be not Suevic but Gothic).  The words in question include:

  • britar, to break (stones),
  • lobio, vineyard [now obsolete], and
  • laverca, lark

Let’s put aside britar and lobio and ask what is the source of laverca?  We are told that it comes either from Suevic *lâwerka, or from Gothic *laiwerko.  Both of these words appear to be “reconstructions” (signaled by *) meaning they have never been actually attested in that form in Gothic or any other language.  

Of Suevic we know nothing so there is nothing to compare the word to.

Now lark appears in English and other Germanic languages.

What is a “lark”?  The Online Etymology Dictionary tells us it is a “songbird of the Old World, early 14c., earlier lauerche (c. 1200), from Old English lawerce (late Old English laferce), from Proto-Germanic *laiw(a)ikon (source also of Old Saxon lewerka, Frisian liurk, Old Norse lævirik, Dutch leeuwerik, German Lerche), a word of unknown origin.”

More noteworthy is the use of the word in Scottish – laverock.

Old English and Old Norse forms suggest a contracted compound, perhaps meaning “treason-worker,” but “nothing is known in folklore to accont for such a designation” [OED]. Noted for its early song and high flying (in contrast to its low nest). When the sky falls, we shall catch larks was an old proverb mocking foolish optimism.

Some sources are nevertheless quite certain of the word’s origin.  Here is Britannica:

Others are less certain such as this 1957 piece from the Archivum Linguisticum (volume 9):

Or this 1977 piece from the Zeitschrift fuer Romanische Philologie (volume 93):

As for English, there are actually two “larks” in English (three, if you count the obscure 18th century use of the word to mean “a small boat”). The older “lark” is a small bird (also known as both the “laverock” and the “skylark”) famed for its melodious call and its love of flying at great heights. The name “lark” comes from the Old English “lawerce,” which came in turn from Germanic roots. Oddly, some of the earlier forms of “lark,” especially those found in Old Norse, imply that the original meaning of the word “lark” was related to “treason” in some way. There may be some rationale for this to be found in some folktale somewhere (“The Tale of the Perfidious Lark”?), but so far it’s a mystery and probably nothing to worry about. After all, a batch of the little birdies has been known as “an exaltation of larks” since the 15th century, which certainly beats “a murder of crows” in the avian public-relations department.

The other sort of “lark,” the one meaning “a lighthearted adventure, a spree, an impulsive action,” is of much more recent vintage, first appearing in the 19th century (“My mother … once by way of a lark, invited her to tea,” 1857). A “lark” is a brief but daring departure from routine, a flight of fancy, a bit of forbidden fun or a harmless prank, and “to lark” since the early 18th century has meant “to frolic or play.” The generally positive tone of this “lark” fits well with one theory of its source, namely that it is simply a reference to the light, soaring flight of the “lark” bird. A related verb of the same meaning, “skylarking,” apparently originated aboard sailing ships, and was used to describe crewmen roughhousing in the upper rigging of the ship’s masts, probably by analogy to the soaring flight of actual “skylarks.”

But it’s also possible that “lark” in this “frolic” sense came from a source unrelated to the “lark” bird. Some authorities point to the English dialectical verb “lake” or “laik,” meaning “to leap, play, spring up,” dating back to Old English and derived from Germanic roots. The transition from “lake” to “lark” would, in this theory, be explained by the particularities of pronunciation in southern England, where “r” sounds tend to creep into words lacking the actual letter. Of course, the similarity of the result to the name of the “lark” bird no doubt also played a role in the spread of this “lark.”

In any event… the Portuguese/Galician word is supposed to have been derived from Suevic.  The Slavic name for a lark is skowronek meaning, literally, “what a little crow”.  (It is of a male gender.  If it were female it’d be skowronka.)

But here are the interesting things about lawerka or laverca.

First, is the suffix.  The -erca or -erka suffix is quite common in Slavic.  It is (usually) used to express a diminutive of a female word whose suffix is –ra:

  • siekiera > siekierka
  • fujara > fujarka
  • manierka, stolarka, miarka

And so forth.  In fact, you can construct new words like that that normally lack a diminutive (wiar > wiarka).  Notice that if the base suffix is -ara > -arka but if it is era > erka and lawerka would be in that second group.

No matter the source/stem of the word, the suffix looks Slavic.

Second, there was (is?) a place name in Slovenia by exactly this name.  Specifically, it seems to have been located between Ljubljana (Laibach) and Gottschee (Kočevje).  Was (is?) it of Gothic or Slavic origin?

This piece is from Karl Baedeker’s “The Eastern Alps…”

In fact the place seemed to have been well known to travelers in the region.

But maybe Portuguese/Galician also have the same -ercas?

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May 28, 2017

Suffice it to Say

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It is interesting that the word “he” appears in these two base forms in Indo-European languages:

  • El (Portuguese, Spanish, French)
  • On (Slavic)

Note that Germanic (other than German which seems just confused) languages are a bit different here using some form of “that” (compare Latvia ).  Also Italian, Lithuanian and Estonian slip into an “s”.

It is also curious that “El” is a Middle Eastern god and is a suffix in some of those deities’ names, whereas -on is a suffix in many Eastern and Southern European names and Deity names (Jasion,  Pieron).  Of course, -on is a suffix in other names too whose origin is uncertain (Simon) and Slavs construct new words using -on as a suffix even now (kujon).  Of course, -on as a suffix appears in other countries as well.

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May 24, 2017

Modelski & the Franks

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You ask where is the rest of the Teofil Modelski’s article (parts 1 & 2 being here) on the Opusculum‘s Lechia?  (No translation… too much of a pain in the ass).

Well, here is part 3 of 5:

Here is part 4:

And finally part 5:

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May 12, 2017