What a funny old language

I’ve been around a few places recently and I’m currently nesting in France. As I’ve been around Europe a lot in the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a lot of similarities (and differences) in the languages – mainly Spanish, German, French and Italian. Don’t get me started on the Eastern European ones as I’m simply baffled by the whole fricking lot of them.

But the one that raises the most questions? English. It’s weird. I mean, I love it, but it’s weird.

Take the following two examples. In English, we say “window”. This translates into the following words in various languages:

French – fenêtre
German – Fenster
Italian – finestra
Spanish – ventana
Dutch – venster
Latin – fenestra
Greek – parathyro (in "Greeklish")

OK, Spanish is a little off but the rest are obviously hugely based on the Latin. Where the hell did we get “window” from? And to throw another spanner in the works, why do we resort to the Latin root for the word “defenestration” (the act of throwing something, usually a person, through a window)? OK, “dewindowation” looks and sounds crap, but still…

Want another example? Try “blood”:

French – sang
German – Blut
Italian – anima
Spanish – sangre
Dutch – bloed
Latin – cruor, cruorem
Greek – aima (in Greeklish)

Now in this case, English seems to be in the slight majority for a change. French and Spanish have joined forces and Latin’s sat there wondering why nobody is listening to it. On the other hand, what’s the English term for blood-letting? It’s “exsanguination”. So we hop roots to another source again. Argh.

I’m no language expert, though I find them interesting. Anyone got any ideas where these to-ings and fro-ings come from?

16 thoughts on “What a funny old language”

  1. Don’t get me started on the roots of the English language. I’ll talk for hours and you’ll never shut me up. Damn my love of our language!

  2. I just think the whole language thing is funky. DId you know that the Vietnamese use all French words for their baking and pastries, with the exceptions of the “sh” sound which doesn’t exist in their phonetic alphabet?

  3. Sorry.. again..

    Defenestration is like:

    1) fighting with infestation by simply throwing it through a window. And if it is your wife lover, then we are dealling with:

    2) de-fe-ne (whatever, help me someone!) castration by throwing him through the window and hoping that:

    i) he will cut himself in the critical part on the piece of window glass

    ii) will not survive the crash with his own car front mask…

    c) above to unfaithful lover…

    Sorry… Couldn’t resits ;DDD Too many Green Little People in my life today…

  4. It’s because she works with hi-tech cutting-egde technologies! Bylem tu! 😀 Best regards! Rob

  5. Well, when I lived in Greece, everyone called it a “fenestra”. That’s how I’ve always remembered the French version, by remembering the Greek first.

    I tried a google search for “fenestra greek” and guess what came up as the first hit?

    And I also came across this: http://www.logos.it/pls/dictionary/new_dictionary.kdic.main?phrase_code=4884074

    From that, if we order the fenestra/window versions by a sort of similarity, we get a sort of slow fade from one to the other:

    fenestra Latin ** Start here **
    fenestra Greek, Marchigiano, Occitan
    fenèstra Bergamasco, Bresciano
    fensetere Setswana
    fenestro Esperanto
    fenèstro Provençal
    fänschter Swiss German
    ffenestr Welsh
    fenesta Napulitano
    fnestra Mantuan, Parmigiano, Reggiano
    fnèstra Mudnés
    fnéstra Romagnolo
    fnèstra Bolognese
    f’nestr’ Viestano
    fenîtra Dzoratâi
    fenêtre French
    fnetra Piemontese
    fanestra Romansh
    finessra Sicilian
    finestra Aragones, Calabrese, Catalan, Catanese, Italian, Ladin, Triestino, Valencian
    finèstra Lombardo Occidentale
    fönster Swedish
    finster Frisian
    vinster Limburgian
    Vindu Norwegian
    vindue Danish
    windova Spanglish
    vindeyga Faeroese
    window English ** End Here **

    …or…

    fenestra Latin ** Start here **
    fenster German, Yiddish
    fënster Luxembourgish
    venster Afrikaans, Flemish
    ventana Asturian, Judeo-Spanish, Leonese, Sardinian Campidanesu, Spanish
    bentana Sardinian
    vent English ** End here **

    So we could argue that the language just drifted. But I blame Microsoft for brainwashing us all with subliminal messages. If you ask someone who’s never used a computer the English name for those glass-covered holes in the wall, they’ll say “It’s a venister, innit?”

  6. And I thought I had too much time… Actually, I don’t. Good reply though. From the master or procrastination himself! 🙂

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