Thursday, December 16, 2021

Language Of Confusion: Can You Tell I’m Cold?

I’ve already gone over several words related to ice and the cold. How about some more?
Glacier is relatively recent since they have an actual year for when it showed up: 1744. It’s from the French glacier, which, you know, means glacier. That’s from the Old French glace, from the Vulgar Latin glacia, from the classical Latin glacies, which literally means ice. That word can be traced all the way back to the Proto Indo European gel-, cold or freeze. That is indeed where gel comes from, in addition to being the origin for jelly, cold, chill, and congeal, which is just gel with the con- (with) prefix in front of it.
Flurry is another word that is quite recent. In relation to snow, it showed up in 1828, though the word did show up in the early eighteenth century meaning commotion, and then even earlier in the late seventeenth century it meant a gust or squall. Yes, that means it went from meaning weather, to a less literal usage, and then back to weather again. As to where it’s from before that, it’s uncertain. It may be imitative—so people named the word because of how it sounds, which is weird because I don’t think flurries sound like flurry—or it’s from flurr, to scatter or fly with a whirring noise. Yeah, sure, why not?
Now, I’ve already gone over what ice means, but what about the -berg part? Iceberg showed up in… 1774. Okay, I swear, it’s a coincidence that all these words are from the same time period. Anyway, it meant a “glacier humped like a hill”, and then by 1820 meant a glacier at sea. It’s actually from the Dutch ijsberg, which if you break it up, means ice mountain. Berg is actually from the Proto Indo European bhergh-, high. Icebergs look like ice mountains.
Finally today, avalanche showed up in… 1763. Did we just see snow for the first time or something??? Anyway, it’s from the French avalanche, means the same thing, from the Romansch avalantze, meaning descent. That certainly has to be the first time Romansch has appeared on this blog. It’s not a huge language, as only about seventy thousand people speak it in the Swiss canton of Grisons, and it’s made up of a bunch of closely related dialects. And apparently it gave English the word avalanche.
Online Etymology Dictionary
Google Translate
University of Texas at Austin Linguistic Research Center
University of Texas at San Antonio’s page on Proto Indo European language
Encyclopaedia Britannica


Please validate me.