Sunday, 31 December 2017

Happy New Year?

At the time of writing the year of 2017 has but a few hours left to go. As with 2016 the news has been pretty dire, social media is positively overflowing with doom and gloom, and yet I remain the eternal optimist. Always cheerful I always manage to find the happier side of life.

But at this time of year we have had a real change in the media, be it national or social. Everyone has been happy, wearing jumpers, drinking, eating and singing songs. Christmas specials of all our (supposedly) favourite programmes, and the obligatory gush of puerile festive cinema, including the dreaded Disney.

Hence if the world can be miserable all year round whilst I couldn't give a rodent's posterior, as humanity grins inanely at itself I'll drop into full Victor Meldrew Mode and offer this news item from my home town of Tamworth from 153 years ago today.

It is December 1864 and a normal working day for the coal miners of Tamworth. At the Glascote Colliery a former police officer had been working hard when a piece of coal fell 450 feet and landed on top of him. He died later that day from the resulting injuries.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Raising a Glass

At this time of the year many will enjoy a drink. Even I have been known to take the top off a bottle around this time. Some will enjoy a glass of wine, others their spirit of choice but, should I be tempted, will open a bottle of real ale.

Quite mind-boggling just how many different brews are available these days. Many having the most extraordinary names. Indeed, this intrigued me so much that this year saw me offering talks (with thanks to the many brewers who contributed) on this very subject, a taster of which follows.

But first an introduction to the basic terminology and the etymology. The question came from thinking about ale, so let's begin with that.

Ale - has hardly changed since Proto-Indo-European alu-t and seen in Proto-Germanic aluth and Old English eali. All these early forms mean 'ale' and thus the brew and the word have equally great longevity - indeed there is one school of thought which theorises how it was the brewing of beer which initially made mankind pause as hunter-gatherers and may well have been the initial stage of permanent settlements. This is the beer before bread theory.

Beer - a Germanic word, it is derived from the same root as Latin bibere 'to drink' and in turn from Proto-Indo-European poi 'to drink'.

Mild - not heard too often these days, the term once referred to the less sharp brew when compared to bitter (hence the name). The word comes from Proto-Indo-European meldh 'soft'.

Bitter - shares an origin with 'bite' - we still describe a flavour or taste as having 'bite' - and began as Proto-Indo-European bheid 'to split'.

Lager - began as the German Lagerbier meaning 'beer brewed for keeping' and with the first element of Lager referring to the 'storehouse' and coming from the Proto-Indo-European legh 'to lie down'.

Pilsner - instantly we think 'German' but we would only be half right. The original term was Pilsner Urquell where the second word means 'primary source' and that would have been the town known as Pilsen in Germany but as Plzen in Czech, where the Old Czech plz gave the place its name meaning 'damp, moist'.

Barrel - came to English from Old French baril 'barrel, cask, vat' and can also be seen in Italian barile and Spanish barril but the trail ends there and the origins unknown.

Tap - originally referred to the spigot or plug which would have been the simplest tap, the term is Germanic and has changed little in thousands of years.

Bottle - originally made of leather sealed with tar, it is derived from the Latin buttis meaning 'a cask' and is undoubtedly borrowed from the Greek.

Glass - even as far back as Proto-Germanic this was found as glass, the word comes from Proto-Indo-European ghel 'to shine'.

Wine - no surprise to find it comes from Latin vinum, in turn from Proto-Indo-European woin-o, both with the same meaning.

Spirit - not used to mean strong alcoholic drink until 1670, the word is derived from Proto-Indo-European speis 'to blow'.

Brandy - came to English from the Middle Dutch brandewijn 'burnt wine'.

Whisky - began as 'whiskey' and from Old Irish uisce 'water' and Proto-Indo-European ud-skio from the root wed 'wet'.

Rum - of uncertain origins but certainly known as rumbullion in 1651 and rombostion in 1652 - this may be from the adjective rum from the Romany rom 'male'.

Vodka - is the Russian for 'little water' and from Proto-Indo-European woda and the same root as 'whisky' of wed 'wet'.

Gin - a shortened form of Old French geneva itself referring to the juniper plant, which is the basis for the drink. The origin of 'juniper' is unknown, almost certainly a non-Indo-European language.

But we began with the subject of ales and some of the unusual names, so here are a few examples courtesy of the breweries themselves.
BR> Bowland Breweries: Buster IPA – named after the owner’s dog

Coniston Brewery: Asrai – is a mythical fairy that lives in the copper mines above Coniston. She is so beautiful that as soon as anyone sees her they want to capture her but as soon as she is touched she disappears and turns into a pool of water.

St Austell Brewery: Tribute – the flagship ale also has an interesting story. When head brewer Roger Ryman joined from MacLays in Scotland in 1998, he had an idea for a beer that he swore he would never brew until he was a head brewer – they were lucky enough to benefit from his decision. In 1999, Roger used the idea to create a special brew to celebrate the total solar eclipse that took place that August of 1999. He named the drink Daylight Robbery to mark the event. So popular was this brew that he rebrewed it the following year as a summer special. The, in 2001, to mark St Austell’s 150th anniversary he relaunched the beer to pay tribute to all those people who had contributed across the years to make the company so successful. He named it Tribute and the rest, is history.

Chiltern Brewery: Bodgers Barley Wine – celebrates the ancient trade based locally in High Wycombe for making wooden chair legs.

Two Fingers Brewing: The name of the brewery is an oath, one making great beer for a great cause as all profits go to Prostate Cancer UK. The name is also a good old British two-fingered salute to prostate cancer, and also a nod to the cancer exam which (thankfully) is performed with just one finger, not two.

Allendale Brewery: Tar Barl – based on the New Year celebrations in the village.

Bowman Ales: At the brewery they thought it would be nice to follow a bowman and/or archery theme and thought about using ‘Swift One’ not only an archery thing but also popping down to the local for a swift one. The brewery is in the Meon Valley and this is named after the River Meon, a British river name meaning ‘swift one’ – if only they’d known!

Marstons: Hobgoblin – originally brewed as a one-off for local’s wedding. Two firkins were brewed but only one drunk so they gifted the other to a student bar in Oxford. When he collected the empty someone had drawn a picture on the side and, when it was later put into full-time production, was named Hobgoblin from the chalk figure someone had drawn on the side.

Brixton Brewery: Windrush Stout – after MV Empire Windrush, the ship that brought the first wave of West Indian immigrants to this area of South London in 1948.

Ascot Ales: Posh Pooch – named after a local woman walking a dog, the creature seen wearing a diamond-studded collar.

Ringwood: Boondoggle – is a local term meaning ‘to go on a jolly’.

Jennings: Snecklifter – to lift the latch, and sneak out of the pub.

Theakstons: Old Peculier – named after the Ecclesiastical status of Masham, a distinction granted in medieval times.

Lizard Ales: An Gof – the Cornish expression for a smith and named after a blacksmith from St Keverne who led the Cornish revolt and march to London in 1647 and came to an unpleasant end.

And if you've not had enough, you can always have a look back at at earlier post and an A to Z of drinking terminologies.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Odd Parental Concern

February 1864. Man walks into Stafford police station, his attire showing him to work in engineering. Most worried as he found a letter with a summons addressed to his son. He simply did not understand what was being demanded. The clerk found it highly amusing as it read “Orders the person to appear on the 14th to answer the charge of stealing the heart of Amelia Smart. It was addressed to one J. Lovewell, who was to appear at the Court of Hymen, of which the father had never heard. “Of course not!” replied the clerk, “It’s a valentine!”.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

The A to Z of Sex (again)

A few years ago I looked at slang for sex and thought it was about time we delved again in the seedier side of the English language and look at some of the other terms coined thoughout history to describe the sexual act and things related to same. Enjoy! (And when I say "enjoy" I mean this and not that, if you see what I mean.)

A is for ALMANACH, a late 19th and early 20th century term for what the dictionary refers to as 'the female pudend' (and for balance).....

B is for BALD-HEADED HERMIT, the male member.

C is for CHAFER, the act of copulation.

D is for DEMIREP, a woman whose chastity is called into question, and a term first seen in print in Fielding's Tom Jones published in 1749.

E is for EARLY DOORS which, while soccer pundits might use it to mean 'early on', originated as rhyming slang for 'whores'. Hence we'll all titter when hearing Joe Manager speaking of how "The lads did good early doors".

F is for FIRE-PLUG, a young man with veneral disease.

G is for GETTER, a male with great capacity for fertilization.

H is for HANDFUL OF SPRATS, best way to describe this is 'groping'.

I is for IMPALE used to mean to possess (as in being with) a woman.

J is for JIGGLE, the sexual act.

K is for KEEPING-CULLY, a man who thinks he is keeping a mistress in a home for his own personal use, when in fact he's keeping her for anyone she chooses to be with.

L is for LAP-CLAP, conception.

M is for MEDICINE, the sex act (as in take one's medicine).

N is for NUTMEGS, testicles.

O is for OLD ADAM or the male member.

P is for PARSLEY-BED, again the dictionary refers to this as 'the female pudend'.

Q is for QUEER ROOST, maybe 'living over the brush', 'living in sin', co-habiting?

R is for RAMBLER, a woman of ill repute.

S is for SEALS, testicles again.

T is for THRUM, the sexual act.

U is for UPPER WORKS, the female breast.

V is for VIRGINS BUS, the last bus from Piccadilly Corner which, contrary to the name, was largely populated by prostitutes.

W is for WAP, the sexual act.

X, Y and Z had me beaten once again!

Sunday, 3 December 2017

No Cure for a Headache

So everyone has opened advent calendars, at least thought about Christmas shopping, cards, presents or decorations, and a general feeling of joy begins to grow. Well let's put a stop to all that and turn thoughts back to 1900 and 2nd February.

Councillor George Green, meat contractor of Boston House, Walsall Road, Lichfield. His body was found at 7am on Thursday, the top of his head completely blown away, body lying on his carbine, and the bullet stuck in a window frame behind him. He was still wearing his dressing gown (reported the local press).

Aged 39 he left a widow and five children. He had given weekly gifts of meat to the families of reservists sent to the front. He had large outlets at Lichfield and London and shops at most towns in the Midlands. He was quartermaster of the Lichfield Troop of the Staffordshire Yeomanry, popular with comrades and citizens alike. In November elected to represent the south ward of Lichfield. Two years previously he and Mrs Green had been out driving a trap when the horse took fright and both were seriously injured when the trap crashed into the window of the George Hotel. He never fully recovered from his injuries and had been unwell for a time prior to his death. His rejection on medical grounds must have disappointed him when he volunteered for duty in South Africa.

Inquest the following week reported how he rose at 6:48am, telling his wife he was due to meet Mr Johnson to discuss accounts and bring her a cup of tea. She never saw him alive again. Top of his head removed from the bridge of his nose. Both halves of his brain lying on the floor. Accident had seen him suffer a fractured skull. He suffered from indigestion, fatigue and would constantly overwork to the point of exhaustion. Rejected as he had a weak heart and could not tolerate heat. He is buried at Christ Church, Lichfield.

The relief of Ladysmith came the same day as the inquest.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Scottish place names in the USA

In another unashamedly blatant plug for my book English Place Names Transferred to the USA, I thought it might be nice to look at some of the examples from Scotland. Less of a challenge than last week's Welsh names as many of these come from Old English, although I did need help with the Gaelic.

Aberdeen - means 'at the mouth of the Don', even though the river Dee also flows here the early forms clearly show this is a later mistaken idea.

Angus - an old county of Scotland named after the 8th century King of the Picts Aonghus or Oengus meaning 'unique choice'.

Argyle - from Gaelic meaning 'land of the Gaels', these Scots were of Irish origin.

Bannockburn - a famous name, owing to the battle of 1314, meaning 'little shining stream'.

Bathgate - from Brythonic baedd coed or 'boar wood'.

Berwick - an Old English place name from bere wic or 'barley farmstead'.

Cheviot - of uncertain origin, but may be a Pre-Celtic tribal name or a derivative of Brythonic cefn or 'ridge'.

Clyde - a Brythonic river name meaning 'the cleansing one'.

Culloden - another name made famous by a battle, here that name likely means 'back of the pool'.

Douglas - the two Scottish Gaelic elements dubh glas combine to speak of 'the dark water'.

Dumbarton - another of Scottish Gaelic origin, dun Breatainn describing 'the fortified stronghold of the Britons'.

Dumfries - Scottish Gaelic again, here dun phris refers to 'the fortified stronghold of the woodland'.

Dunbar - and again, where Scottish Gaelic dun barr refers to 'the fort of the height'.

Dundee - is most often said to be 'the fort of Daig', a personal name of unknown context.

Dunfermline - of unknown derivation, other than the first element dun 'fort'. Some sources point to a likely Pictish personal name, but without suggesting any.

Edinburgh - a name from Scottish Gaelic aodann 'rock face' and Old English burh 'stronghold'.

Elgin - this part of Scotland was settled by Gaelic-speakers from Ireland, thus the idea this comes from Ealg with the diminutive in to mean 'little Ireland' makes perfect sense.

Fordyce - another Scottish Gaelic name, where faithir deas refers to 'the fortification of the south-facing slope'.

Galloway - a name meaning 'land of the stranger Gaels', for this part of the country had been settled by those of a mixed Irish/Scandinavian descent.

Glasgow - from Brythonic glas cau 'place of the green hollow'.

Glencoe - another of Scottish Gaelic origin and referring to 'the narrow valley'.

Gretna - a famous Scottish name and one of Old English derivation where greoten halh refers to 'the gravelly nook of land'.

Hamilton - named after Lord Hamilton, he coming here during the 15th century.

Harris - an Old Scandinavian name meaning 'the higher island'. The island is officially known as Lewis and Harris, although this is only one island and Harris is the higher mountainous region.

Hope - of Old Scandinavian origin where hop means 'sheltered place' and originally referred to the haven offered by the bay of the same name.

Houston - comprised of Old English tun and a Saxon personal name, this is 'the farmstead of a man called Hugo'.

Inverness - Scottish Gaelic inbhir means 'mouth of' and precedes the name of the river Ness, itself of unknown origin.

Iona - a small island seemingly derived from Old Irish for 'yew'.

Irvine - a Brythonic name meaning 'the white river'.

Kelso - Old English calc hoh refers to 'the ridge of chalk'.

Kinross - from Scottish Gaelic ceann ros 'the head of the promontory'.

Kirk - likely from Old Scandinavian kirkja rather than Old English cirice, although both simply mean 'church'.

Lanark - a Brythonic name where llanerc means 'forest glade'.

Leith - if this comes from Brythonic lleith 'moist' then this name is telling us it is a 'wet place'.

Lenox - named after the Dukes of Lennox, an ancient place name referring to 'the place covered in elms'.

Linwood - combining Brythonic llyn and Old English wudu means this began as 'the wood by a pool'.

Lomond - if this is Brythonic then this is from lumon 'beacon', or of Scottish Gaelic then leamhan 'elm trees'. Either way it refers to the land and not the more famous loch, itself taking the name from the hill of Ben Lomond.

Melrose - a Scottish Gaelic name where mael ros refers to 'the bare moor'.

Montrose - again Scottish Gaelic moine ros 'the peat moss of the promontory'.

Morton - here is Old English mor tun 'the farmstead of the moor'.

Nevis - an ancient name, probably nebh 'cloud' and a reference to the mountain and not a 'cloud' as we would speak today (indeed Old English clud meant 'mountain' and not 'cloud'). Alternatively Old Gaelic numheis meaning 'venomous' has been suggested, but just what is venomous is uncertain.

Paisley - from Brythonic pasgell llethr 'sloping pasture'.

Peebles - means 'the place of the shielings', ie pasture seasonally given over to grazing sheep.

Perth - a place name meaning '(place of) the thicket'.

Preston - from Old English preost tun 'the farmstead of the priests'.

Roxborough - an Old English place name meaning 'the fortified place of a man called Hroc'.

Sutherland - if defined as 'the place of the southern territory' it becomes obvious.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Welsh place names in the USA

In an unashamedly blatant plug for my book English Place Names Transferred to the USA, I thought it might be nice to look at some of the Welsh examples. This is unknown territory for me as I neither speak nor read Welsh, so I'm grateful for the help from those who do.

Bala - is a place name from bala and 'a place where a river enters a lake'.

Berwyn - another which has not changed at all since berwyn means 'snowy summit'.

Bangor - a delightful name for it describes what could be found in the early days as it describes this as the place of 'the wattled fence'.

Bryn Mawr - is Welsh for 'the big hill'.

Caernarvon - as many will know this is Welsh for 'the fort near Mon', this the Welsh name for Angelesey.

Cardiff - is the 'fort on the (river) Taff'. Origins of the river name are disputed but may mean 'craggy' or 'rocks' and describe the nature of the youthful river.

Flint - is named for the 'gravel' of the stony area on which the castle was built.

Lampeter - an Anglicised version of Llanbedr or 'church of St Peter'.

Gwynedd - is the 'land of the Venedotae', this the name of the Celtic tribe.

Montgomery - took the name of Roger de Montgomery, himself named after the town of Montgomery in the Pays d'Auge region of Normandy. THe Welsh name os Trefaldwyn means 'the town of Baldwin'.

Pembrey - simple Welsh for 'the top of the hill'.

Pembroke - is the Anglicised version of Penfro or 'amd's end'.

Radnor - is the English version and means 'red bank', while the original Welsh name of Maesyfed means 'Hyfaidd's field'.

Swansea - this is not English but an Old Scandinavian name meaning 'Sveyn's island', the Welsh version is Abertawe mouth of 'the river Tawe'

Sunday, 12 November 2017


Some years ago I posted the appalling story of the treatment of old photographs by someone I refuse to admit I'm distantly related to. You can read the Criminal Waste of History here.

For me old imagery is extremely useful when illustrating books and articles. Thus recently, having shown an interested party some of the images I had discovered, an interesting conversation followed which got me thinking when the other said how it was "amazing these photographs have survived". Well in the case of those rescued from the bonfire, this is true. But is this really the case? Remember images in those days were precious, few images were taken and those that were successfully developed cherished as these represented a significant investment. Furthermore, these images were often 'captioned' in the sense the names of those pictured were given on the reverse, often including the date and even the place. Such was the case with Maitland Kempson pictured below - indeed without the note on the reverse I would have had no idea who the man was.

Yet will old images be so easy to find in future? Will we have any notion as to who, where and when? Today's technology makes photography commonplace - we have images from cameras, mobile phones, tablets, and the many video cameras dotted around everywhere. Now 'when' is easy to as the digital record puts both the date and the time - assuming the equipment is set correctly, of course. But does anyone ever bother to caption images, except for those on social media? And are they saved and easily retrievable? No. Usually when the equipment dies the images die with them, and even those saved online will never be found again once the photographer's copyright has started to countdown from 70 years - unless passwords are known.

So, it is not surprising to find old images have survived from a century ago, but try finding an image of Jack or Lindsey a hundred years from now and recognising them when you do. Best of British!

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Health and Safety

On Tuesday 23rd November 1858, Eli Meakin had been working on his father's farm at Whitgreave. Employed as a waggoner's boy, whilst driving the horses he is thought to have stepped over the horizontal shaft between them and the threshing machine. His action caused him to slip and he fell between the cog wheels. Subsequently found by a passer-by who, seeing the horses stopped and unsupervised, investigated and found the lad held quite firmly. The man released him but his chest injuries were appalling and he died shortly afterwards. Eli Meakin was just twelve years of age.

At the subsequent inquest the threshing machine was deemed to be dangerous for any driver, for the rods were secured in an improper position and the wheels unprotected. The owner of the farm promised the equipment would not be used again until the improvements had been made. Too late for young Eli whose demise was recorded as Accidental Death.

It seems unlikely the same verdict would be reached today. Further stories like this can be found in my Bloody British Histories: Stafford.

Sunday, 29 October 2017


Trees are comprised of wood, yet a wood is made up of trees. A linguistic quirk? No. If we go back far enough we find Proto-Germanic widu and Proto-Indo-European widhu, each used to refer to the both the 'timber' and also 'tree'. Hence the anomaly is the word 'tree', itself odly derived from the root (no pun intended) drew-o meaning 'be firm, solid' and for obvious reasons.

But what about the different names given to various kinds of trees? Where do these originate?

Oak - a name which is Germanic but that is where the trail ends and the etymology is a mystery. However the Indo-European root of deru, which is also the Greek and Celtic word for 'oak', is also the source of the English word 'tree'. And if that isn't confusing enough, when the Vikings arrived in Iceland and brought with them the Norse word eik or 'oak', they discovered no oaks whatsoever and thus used eik to mean simply 'tree'.

Broom - the tree gets its name from the Proto-Germanic braemaz 'thorny bush' and derived from Proto-Indo-European bherem 'to project, a point'. Such lumps and points characterise the broom tree, this also making them most suitable for being tied together to produce what we would call a besom but which is effectively still a broom for sweeping.

Elm - quite easy to trace this back to Proto-Indo-European el meaning 'red, brown'. It is also the origin of the word 'elk' and 'eland'.

Yew - a similar origin to that of the elm (see above), where Proto-Indo-European ei-wo also suggests 'reddish'.

Maple - a name of surprisingly recent origins, indeed it seems to have simply appeared in Germanic languages around 1,500 years ago. It is highly improbable to think all Germanci languages suddenly began using the name, hence there must be a common origin but that root is unknown.

Lime - or linden tree is derived from Proto-Indo-European lent-o meaning 'flexible', this a reference to the trees pliant bast, this the inner fibrous bark.

Beech - all forms across the Proto-Indo-European languages, these all from Proto-Indo-European bhago and all simply refer to the tree. The same word is also the source of the word 'book' and thus the smooth bark of the tree would be seen as being a black metaphorical page on which to make marks to send messages.

Pine - ultimately from Proto-Indo-European pi-nu and derived from peie 'be fat, to swell' and liely referring to the sap or resin pouring from the tree when it is damaged.

Alder - has exactly the same origins as the elm (see above) and simply means 'red, brown'.

Ash - a Germanic term and, while the origin is far from certain, seems to come from it being the preferred wood used in the making of spear shafts. Old English aesc plega may have been used to mean 'war' but it literally translates as 'spear play'.

Holly - easy to see why the Proto-Indo-European root here is kel meaning 'to prick'.

Willow - ultimately from Proto-Indo-European wel meaning 'to turn, revolve' and a reference to the young willow's usefulness as it is whippy and flexible.

Larch - thought to be a loanword from an Alpine Gaulish langauge which could be related to Old Celtic darik meaning 'oak' which may add to the information known for 'oak' (see above) to suggest the word 'oak' simply meant 'tree'.

Sunday, 22 October 2017


Never one to simply learn names, I have to know the origin, and having someone in the family who finds the skeleton the most fascinating part of everyone, I thought it might be interesting to see where the correct names originate. Whilst most of us would refer to it as the collarbone, I begin with the clavicle which not only comes first alphabetically but also happens to be the only bone I've broken to date which isn't in my hands or feet.

Clavicle - came to English from the French clavicule which not only meant 'collarbone' but also 'small key'. Tracing this back to the Latin clavicula, where the meaning was 'small key, bolt', it is from clavis or 'key' and shows this bone was seen as being that which fastened the shoulder together.

Coccyx - directly from the Greek kokkyx or 'cuckoo' as the Greek physician Galen believed this bone resembled the beak of a cuckoo.

Femur - a word derived from Latin, the etymology of which is completely unknown. Clearly this is an ancient term for the longest and strongest bone in the human body, for it is known as the femur in English, Latin, Spanish, Portuguese and French.

Fibula - another taken directly from Latin, where fibula meant 'clasp, brooch, bolt, peg, pin' and taken from the root figere 'to drive in, insert, fasten' which is itself related to the modern 'fix'. The bone is seen as such because it resembles what we would today call a safety pin.

Humerus - this bone of the upper arm is again taken directly from the Latin, itself derived from umerus 'shoulder' and from the Proto-Indo-European root omeso which also meant 'shoulder'.

Mandible - again from Latin where mandibula meant 'jaw' and related to mandere 'chew' and derived from the Proto-Indo-European root mendh 'chew'.

Maxilla - another directly from the Latin where maxilla also meant 'upper jaw'. It is derived from mala meaning 'jaw, cheekbone'.

Metacarpus - is also Latin but here Modern Latin derived from the Greek metakarpion. Here meta 'between' or 'next after' and derived from Proto-Indo-European me 'in the middle', together with Greek karpos 'wrist'.

Metatarsus - as above the meta element can be traced to Proto-Indo-European me 'in the middle'. Here with Greek tarsos 'ankle, sole of the foot, rim of the eyelid' and originally used to refer to 'a flat surface for drying'. Ultimately this is from Proto-Indo-European ters 'to dry'.

Patella - another Latin word with the same meaning of 'kneecap' but was also used to mean 'pan' as was the root patina. Ultimately both come from Proto-Indo-European pet-ano 'to spread', itself referring to the flattened or dished shape of the pan or kneecap.

Pelvis - easy to see by looking at the bones of the pelvic girdle as to why it comes from the Latin pelvis 'basin'. Ultimately this is from Proto-Indo-European pel 'container', which has also given us Greek pelex 'helmet', Sanskrit palavi 'vessel', Greek pelike 'goblet, bowl', and the word full common to both Old Scandinavian and Old English and meaning 'cup'.

Radius - has the same origin as the spoke of a wheel or that part of a circle, however just what that origin may be is unknown.

Rib - a Germanic word which can be traced to Proto-Indo-European rebh meaning 'to roof, cover'. Hence if the curved bone is seen as a rafter supporting a roof, clearly the bone's shape has been likened to that and not vice versa as a certain book may suggest.

Scapula - the Latin scapula means 'shoulder'. It was also used to mean 'spades, shovels' and this suggests the bone being used as such, albeit these of animals. Such a scraping motion when using these tools can be seen in the Proto-Indo-European root skep 'to scrape'.

Sternum - comes from the Greek sternon 'chest, breast' as well as 'breastbone'. It is related to the Greek stornyai 'to spread out' which is also seen in the original Proto-Indo-European stere 'to spread'.

Tibia - the Latin tibia means not only the 'shinbone' but also used to mean 'pipe, flute'. The instrument would have been made from said bone, and the etymological trail stops here.

Ulna - Latin again where ulna meant 'elbow' and was also a measure of lenth. This cominge from Proto-Indo-European el-ina which also meant 'elbow, forearm'.

Vertebra - in Latin meant 'joint or articulation of the body' as much as it did 'backbone'. This comes from the Latin vertere 'to turn' and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European wer also 'to turn' and thus seeing the backbone as a virtual hinge for the body.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Australian Territories

To define the names of the eight territories of Australia seems a little pointless, for they are obvious. Of course, this is because they were named very recently, albeit from words often coined very much earlier. Yet these are worthwhile looking at for, unlike most names which simply developed, these were chosen.

Western Australia - obviously the westernmost part of Australia, but why 'west'? It transpires this an abbreviation of the Proto-Indo-European compound wes-pero meaning 'evening'. Australia is an abbreviation of the Latin Terra Australis meaning simply 'southern land'.

Southern Australia - from the Proto-Germanic sunthaz or quite literally 'sun side'. For the origins of Australia see Western Australia above.

Northern Territory - 'north' comes from Proto-Indo-European ner meaning 'left' as that is where north lies when facing the rising sun. Note the same word is the root of Sanskrit narakah 'hell'. Territory is ultimately from Proto-Indo-European ters 'to dry' and orium a suffix denoting place. Together this produced the Latin territorium meaning 'a place from which people are warned off'.

Australian Capital Territory - Named as such for it is home to Canberra, itself a greatly Anglicised version of an indigenous name. Tales of this being named Canberry because of the number of native Australian Cranberry bushes growing around here seems fanciful, at best. Possibly this represents an old Ngunnawal word meaning 'meeting place', although other sources point to the two mountains which dominate the skyline and thus the river running between them is the nganbira or 'hollow between a woman's breasts'. For the origins of Territory see Northern Territory above and for the origins of Australia see Western Australia, also above.

New South Wales - a word seen since Proto-Indo-European newo and thus has hardly changed in form or meaning for thousands of years. For the origins of south see South Australia above, while Wales is an Old English word, where wahl meant 'foreigner' or, more correctly, 'not Saxon'.

Queensland - named in 1859 after former monarch Queen Victoria.

Victoria - exactly as for Queensland above.

Tasmania - is named after the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, the first European to sight the island, doing so on November 24th 1642, although he called it Van Diemen's Land after the then Dutch governor-general of the East Indies. Abel's surname comes from a Germanic term meaning 'of great faith'.

What do we know of the names of regional names used by those living here for millennia prior to the arrival of the Europeans? Nothing, as while they had names for places they did not name vast areas as they simply did not need to.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Colonial Slang

Dialect terms vary greatly across England, words used in the north and east would be completely unknown in the south and west. What is more the English spoken in Scotland and Ireland has even more variations. Hence I wondered what terms had crept in English among the former British colonies, in particular the slang terms. There were hundreds, but having removed those referring to body parts, sex and those of more obvious meaning, I ended up with the following list.

Australian: Back of Bourke (a very long way away)

Australian: Bush oyster (nasal mucus)

Australian: Franger (condom)

Australian: Mystery bag (a sausage)

Australian: Zack (sixpence - actually 5 cents)

Canadian: Toque (a warm knitted cap)

Canadian: Cowtown (how the locals know Calgary, Alberta)

Canadian: Pablum (vitamin deficiencies) and named from a propietary baby food.

Canadian: Gastown (a region of Vancouver) named after Gassy Jack Deighton and refers to the area devoted to the arts, media, technology and tourism.

Canadian: Skookum (excellent)

New Zealand: Carked (death, not necessarily a person)

New Zealand: Choice (thanks a lot)

New Zealand: Hungus (someone who likes food a lot)

New Zealand: Squizz (a glace)

New Zealand: Dairy (expensive)

South African: Babbelas (a hangover) comes from the Zulu word ibhabhalazi.

South African: Braai (barbecue)

South African: Fundi (expert) comes from the Nguni tribe's language.

South African: Jislaaik (an expression of surprise)

South African: Shongololo (a millipede) and from the Zulu word ukushonga which means 'to roll up'.

If anyone wants to drop me a line and suggest others, feel free.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Christian Feast Days

With this being the first week of October and, as far as I could gather, no religious festival whatsoever, I thought I'd look at the names of Christian feast days.

Ash Wednesday - derives its name from the practice of blessing ashes made from palm branches blessed on the previous year's Palm Sunday, these placed on the heads of those present in the form of the cross.

Quadragesima - the first Sunday of Lent, traditionally the first of the Sundays when fasting is suspended. It is Latin for 'fortieth' as it is exactly forty days between then and Good Friday.

Palm Sunday - commemorates Christ's entry into Jerusalem, where the crowd scattered palm branches on the path before Jesus as he rode through the streets.

Good Friday - not, as is often said, a corruption of 'God' Friday but uses 'good' in an earlier sense of 'pious, holy'.

Easter Day - comes from an Old English goddess Eostre, a dawn goddess which can be traced in numerous cultures many centuries before Christianity and Easter. Her name comes from Proto-Indo-European h'ews 'to shine'.

Ascension Day - the day on which the risen Christ is said to have risen to heaven. It is always a Thursday and the fortieth day of Easter.

Whit Sunday - the eighth Sunday after Easter, the day on which the Holy Spirit is said to have descended upon Christ's disciples. It is a contraction of White Sunday and is also referred to as Whitsun and Pentecost, itself from the Greek for 'fiftieth day'.

Trinity Sunday - is the first Sunday after Whit Sunday or Pentecost, marking the Trinity of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Corpus Christi - Latin for 'the Body of Christ', it is celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday.

Advent - the period from the fourth Sunday before Christmas up to, but not including, the day itself. Its name comes from Latin and means 'to come'.

Christmas - literally 'the mass of Christ', where 'mass' comes from mittere 'to let go' and 'Christ' is a translation of the Hebrew mashiah to Greek khristos 'the annointed'.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Etymology for Entomologists

Recently talking to a represent of Staffordshire Wildlife Trust about the excellent work they do and offered to talk on the origins of some of the names of the animals whose habitat they help to both preserve and create. Here I take a look at the origins of the names of insects, but if you're interested in hearing how other creatures got their names, perhaps you would care to book me for a talk. And if you're missing the story behind the name of Butterflies and Moths, I covered these a few years ago.

Ant - a Germanic term, seen in Old English aemette which is why it is still known in the southwest of Britain as the 'emmet', and coming from the Germanic root ai 'off, away' and Proto-Indo-European mai 'to cut' (a word which has also given us 'maim'). Thus the ant or emmet is actually 'the biter-off', a reference to how the creatures chop up larger prey to take back to their nests.

Aphid - the gardener's traditional enemy has an odd name which has never been understood. It is unknown before 1758, the colloquial name of ant-cow from 1847, when it was apparently coined by Linnaeus as aphides, the plural of aphis. Here the trail goes cold, although it has been suggested this comes from Greek apheides meaning 'unsparing, lavishly bestowed' and a reference to its unbelievable rate of production. While this etymology seems plausible there is nothing to show it to be true. What is true is their prodigous breeding capability for, under optimal conditions and with no predation, disease. parasites, and unlimited food supplies, a single female aphid can, through asexual reproduction, theoretically produce 600,000,000,000 (six hundred billion) descendants in a single season. Now you see why insects have been suggested as the answer to the world's food problem - although it doesn't answer the question the aphids ask about their food problem.

Bee - since humanity's days as hunter-gatherers honey will have been an important natural resource. Freely available, albeit not easily gathered, nutritious, sweet (and who doesn't like sweet), and with a long shelf life, it was the answer to many needs. Hence there has been a long association with the bee and that is reflected in the name. Coming from Old English beo, Old Norse by, Old High German bia, Middle Dutch bie, Proto-Germanic bion, and Proto-Indo-European bhei, all mean simply 'bee' and thus the name of this now worryingly endangered insect has not only never changed but has always been imitative of the buzzing sound associated with it.

Beetle - from Old English bitela, itself from Proto-Germanic bitel 'biting', and ultimately traceable to the Proto-Indo-European bheid 'to split' and referring to the formidable mandibles of beetles.

Caterpillar - the larval stage of butterflies and moths does not have a name it can call its own for, no matter what it is known as and from what language, the creature is always alluded to as resembling something else. For example, the English 'caterpillar' came from Old French chatepelose or 'shaggy cat'. Nothing different in other tongues, Swiss German teufelskatz 'devil's cat', Milanese cagnon 'little dog', Italian gattola 'little cat', Portuguese lagarta 'lizard', and Kentish where it was either a 'hop-dog' or 'hop-cat'.

Centipede - simply unites Latin centum and Proto-Indo-European ped 'foot' - although known centipedes have anything from 30 to 354 legs (or 15 to 177 pairs) and always an odd number of pairs of legs and therefore no centipede can have a hundred legs (see also millipede).

Chafer - a kind of beetle taking its name for a similar reason. Here Proto-Germanic kabraz meant 'gnawer' and came from Proto-Indo-European geph 'jaw, mouth'.

Cricket - comes from the Old French criquet from criquer, which means exactly what it sounds like 'creak, rattle'.

Dragonfly - is a fairly modern name, dating from the early 17th century and an example of folklore more than its earlier name of adderbolt, a good description of its shape and movement.

Earwig - named because it was thought the the wicga 'beetle, worm, insect' would be likely to hide inside the human ear - French perce-oreille and German ohr-wurm give the same warning - although there is not a single recorded instance of any earwig found in any earhole throughout the entire human history. The term wicga shares an origin with 'wiggle' in Proto-Indo-European wegh 'to go, move'. Also worth noting is the old dialect term from the north of England, where it was known as a 'twitch-ballock'.

Flea - see 'fly' below.

Fly - this is from the sense of movement through air, but this comes from the word 'flee' (as is 'flea' above) as it was the fastest means of escape. Here 'flee' comes from Proto-Indo-European pleuk, from the root pleu 'to flow'.

Gnat - shares a root with 'gnaw' as this means 'biter' but understood as 'little biter'.

Grasshopper - is basically the same thing as a locust, except from time to time the locust form vast swarms. The name is obvious, unlike the locust (see below), referring to its movement and habitat.

Greenfly - obviously some are indeed green and they are capable of flight.

Grub - derived from the verb and thus 'the digging insect', in turn this is from Proto-Indo-European ghrebh 'to dig, bury'.

Hornet - there is no doubting this is from 'horn', but whether this refers to the instrument and thus the buzzing sound of the creature or to the sharp feel of its sting is unknown. Interestingly as the first instruments known as horns were likened to the shape of the animal horn, both share an origin.

Katydid - named for the sound made when the male vibrates its wings. Of more interest is the alternative name for the insect, again imitative of the males but said to sound more like "Katy didn't".

Ladybird - or in the USA the ladybug, the latter are far more sensible name as it clearly is not a bird - although better still was the earlier name of 'ladyfly'. The 'lady' here is the Virgin Mary, which can be seen better in the German Marienkafer.

Locust - shares an origin with the name of the lobster, indeed the French form is languste and the Latin locusta meaning both 'locust' and 'lobster'. Now onbviously it referred to any multi-limbed creature with an external skeleton but, other than that, the etymology is a mystery. Note the Latin lacerta is the only other word known to refer to two quite different creatures, in this case the lizard and the mackerel.

Louse - a parasitic insect and one which has been with humankind for so long its name has never changed, at least not since Proto-Indo-European lus.

Mantis - often referred to as a 'praying mantis', where the first element is superfluous as the name 'mantis' comes from the Greek mantis meaning 'one who divines, prophet'.

Millipede - as with centipede (see above) this combines Latin and Proto-Indo-European to give 'a thousand feet', although the most ever discovered had 750 feet.

Mite - can be traced to Proto-Indo-European mei 'small', something which is seen as another meaning of the word 'mite' today. And before anyone points this out, I know a mite is an arachnid, not an insect.

Mosquito - is a Spanish word, itself derived from Latin musca 'fly' and ultimately the Proto-Indo-European mu 'gnat, fly'.

Nit - little change in this, the egg of the louse (see above), since Proto-Indo-European knid which referred to exactly the same thing today.

Spider - an obvious name when we realise this can be traced back to Proto-Indo-European spen meaning 'stretch, draw, spin' and thus the spider is literally 'the spinner'. And before anyone points this out, I know a spider is an arachnid, not an insect.

Tarantula - named from the seaport city of Taranto in southern Italy where these spiders are frequently found, as a place name it is thought to come from darandos 'oak trees'. And before anyone points this out, I know a trarantula is an arachnid, not an insect.

Termite - began as the Latin terere 'to rub, erode', then termes 'woodworm, white ant', and then to Modern Latin termites, pronounced as three syllables: 'ter-mi-tees', which was mistakenly thought to be plural and the final 's' dropped to produce an apparent singular.

Wasp - no matter how far back we trace this word it, like 'bee' (see above), has only ever meant 'wasp'. It is likely related to webh meaning 'to weave' and a reference to the production of the nest.

Weevil - exactly as 'wasp' (see above) in coming from Proto-Indo-European webh 'to weave'.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Norse Gods

In my work on English place name, particularly in the north of the country, I often find names referring to Norse gods and thought it might prove interesting, especially with the new Thor film due out later this year, to see how and why they were named.

Should start with the home of the heavenly hall in which Odin receives the souls of those slain in battle. The name is from Old Norse valr 'those slain in battle' and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European wele 'to strike, wound'. This root has also given us Latin veles 'ghosts of the dead', Old Irish fuil 'blood', and Welsh gwel 'wound'.

Aegir - the Norse sea god has a name meaning 'sea' and related to Old English ieg 'island', Gothic ahua 'river, waters', Proto-Germanic akhwo 'river', Latin aqua 'water', and Proto-Indo-European akwa 'water'.

Balder - his name is related to Old English bealdor, baldor 'lord, prince, king'. This honorific likely comes from a Proto-Germanic term related to balpaz, Old English bald, and Old High German pald, all meaning 'bold, brave'.

Bragi - got his name from Old Norse bragr 'poetry'.

Buri - the first god of Norse mythology, has a name where the origin is unknown but (as always) has several suggestions. Some hold this to be from Old Norse burr meaning 'son' which, as he is the first Norse god, hardly fits. However his status as the founder of the gods does add weight to the idea this came from buri 'producer'. He came into being when the cow Authumbla released him from a salty block of ice by licking it - which is probably my favourite creation myth.

Eir - a goddess associated with medical knowledge has a name from Old Norse meaning 'help, mercy'.

Frey - a name derived from Proto-Norse frawjaz 'lord' given to a god associated with kingship, virility, prosperity, sunshine, and fair weather.

Freyja - a goddess associated with love, sex, beauty, fertility, gold, war and death has a name from Old Norse freyja meaning 'the lady'.

Frigg - a goddess who gave her name to Friday seems to come from the same root as Freyja (above) and thus simply means 'the lady'.

Hel - a female figure associated with the place of the same name, both likely coming from Proto-Germanic xaljo or haljo meaning 'concealed place' or 'the underworld'. Hel had a horse named Sleipnir meaning 'the slipper'.

Hermothr - is Old Norse for 'war spirit', he often spoken of as the messenger of the gods.

Hlin - a goddess whose name means 'protectress' and thought to simply be an alternative name for Frigg.

Loki - this god's name has never really been understood but may be related to Old Norse luka meaning 'close, shut', which would fit with Loki's role in the Battle of Ragnarok.

Nanna - Balder's wife and another whose name has uncertain origins. This may be nanth 'the daring one' or, and this seems less likely, typical baby-babbly meaning 'mother'.

Od - sometimes given as Odr, is Old Norse for 'mind, soul' and related to Proto-Germanic words meaning 'madness, furious, vehement, eager'.

Odin - has exactly the same origins as Od or Odr (see above).

Ran - a Norse goddess associated with the sea whose name means 'runner'.

Sif - a goddess associated with the earth, her name is a plural form of Msifjar and understood as 'in-law-relative'.

Sigyn - is the goddess wife of Loki whose name means 'victorious girlfriend'.

Thor - the hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning, storms, oak trees, strength, protection of mankind, and fertility has a name associated with the Germanic thunraz 'thunder'.

Tyr - a god whose name means literally 'god'.

Vidar - a Norse god whose name means 'wide ruler'.

Wotan - has exactly the same origin as Odin (see above).

Saturday, 9 September 2017


Always been interested in heraldry, although I know very little. Hence I thought if I looked at the etymology of the terms it may help me to understand more and thus interpret what I see before me.

Abatements - marks showing some dishonourable act, not actual marks but seen as several pieces removed and all of different shapes. Mostly used in a legal sense to mean 'destruction or removal of a nuisance' - the two clearly connected.

Achievement - refers to the ranks and/or titles of the family. No surprise then to find it comes from Old French meaning 'to accomplish'.

Ambulant - describes the figure as 'walking', for obvious reasons.

Anchor - used to refer to 'hope' more often than any maritime connection, this a biblical quote where one's faith is said to be an anchor through life's storms.

Baton - in earlier generations it signifies illegitimacy of the first bearer.

Chevron - one of the simplest of images and one of the earliest, hence its original usage is unknown. What we do know is it comes from the French word for 'rafter' or 'roof'.

Courant - describes an animal - such as a horse, stag, dog - running at full speed.

Crescent - not a crescent as we would think, ie in a crescent moon, but one usually elongated and lying on its back with horns uppermost.

Dexter - heraldic terminology for the righthand side.

Escutcheon - a lovely word referring to the shield, and derived from the Latin scutum meaning 'shield' and ultimately from a Proto-Indo-European word meaning 'hide, conceal'.

Gradient - a term meaning 'walking'.

Lampasse - refers to the tongue of any quadruped when of a different colour to the rest of the creature. No, neither have I.

Martlet - perhaps not an actual bird, although some sources say this is a blackbird or swallow, but is marked by its lack of legs, thighs yes, legs no.

Potent - another name for a crutch or cane.

Saltire - as many will know is a cross, the most famous that of the cross of St Andrew, but heraldically it refers to a cross not in the usual vertical and horizontal form.

Sinister - lefthand side.

Tierce - refers to the shield being divided into three.

Vorant - is a term telling us one figure is swallowing or devouring another.

Does knowing the origins of thus the meaning of the terms help me understand more of heraldry? Only time will tell.

Sunday, 3 September 2017


I did look at some basic colours in July 2015 under COLOURFUL LANGUAGE. If you want to know the origins of colours such as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet, black, white, gold, silver, purple, brown, beige, cerise, chartreuse, cyan, ecru, magenta, mauve, taupe, or puce, simply follow the link. For other colours, read on

Amber - the name of the colour comes from the substance ambergris, secreted in the intestines of sperm whales and used in perfumes, itself from the Arabic anbar referring to the product rather than its colour.

Amethesyt - from the same source as the gemstone, this representing Latin amethystus, itself from Greek amethustos translating as 'anti-intoxicant' as it was once believed to be a remedy for drunkeness.

Apricot - from the name of the fruit, which can be traced through Catalan aberoc, Portuguese albricoque, Arabic al-birquq, Byzantine Greek berikokkia, and ultimately from the Latin (malum) praecoquum telling us it was the 'early ripening fruit'.

Auburn - now this will confuse you, for the reddish-brown colour has only been associated with this word since the 16th century. Prior to that the English word meant 'whitish, yellowish-white' and comes from Old French auborne and Medieval Latin alburnus 'off-white' and ultimately derived from Latin albus 'white'.

Azure - a colour originally made from the stone lapis lazuli. This came from Latin lazuri and lost the initial letter when the French considered it to be the definite article. This comes from Greek lazour and ultimately the Turkestan place name Lajward. This was mentioned in the writings of Marco Polo and was where the stone was originally collected.

Burgundy - named after the administartive region of France, itself taking the name of the Gothic tribe who lived there, The baurgjans taking their name as 'the dwellers of the fortified places'.

Cobalt - from the name of the metal, itself from the German kobold meaning 'household goblin'. This was down to the ore obtained from the Harz Mountains containing arsenic and sulphur, these making the miners ill but thought to be caused by the goblin of the mountain.

Copper - takes its name from the metal, itself from Latin cuprum and Greek Kyprios meaning 'Cyprus' for this was one of the original mining sites.

Cream - the colour of the dairy product, itself from Middle French creme'chrism, holy oil' and ultimately from the Latin chrisma 'ointment'.

Crimson - came to English from Old Spanish cremeson meaning 'belonging to the kermes'. These louse-like insects were the source of the red dye. However if we trace 'kermes' we find this comes from Arabic qirmiz and ultimately Sanskrit krmi-ja meaning 'that produced by a worm'. Hence the insect game the name to a colour which gave its name to an insect which gave its name to a colour.

Emerald - came to English from Old French, Latin, Greek, Semitic, Herbrew and ultimately Arabic barq or 'lightning'.

Fawn - takes its name from the colour of the young deer, although originally it meant 'young animal' and shares its root with 'foetus' which was originally used to mean 'offspring'.

Gentian - said to be named from the plant from which the colour is named, itself taken from the king of ancient Illyria named Gentius who is said to have discovered its properties.

Ginger - a long trail through Old English, Latin, Greek and Prakrit brings us to two possible origins. Here we either have Sanskrit srngam vera 'horn body' and a description of its shape; or Malayam spice names inchi-ver 'root'.

Hazel - named from the colour of the nut, itself almost unchanged since Proto-Indo-European was spoken.

Heliotrope - a Greek term literally translating as 'the plant turning its leaves and flowers to the sun'.

Jet - originates from Greek gagates lithos 'the stone of Gages' which is where it was collcted.

Khaki - a Persian word meaning 'dust'.

Lavender - comes from the Latin lividus 'bluish, livid' and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European leue 'to wash'.

Lemon - derived from the fruit, itself traceable through a line including Old French, Arabic, Persian, Balinese and Malay where limaw probably meant 'citrus fruit' - the same as is found for 'lime' below.

Lilac - not used as a colour until 1801, this is derived from the name of the shrub introduced to Europe through Turkey, where it was known as leylak and likely derived from its native Balkan name.

Lime - see 'lemon' above.

Maroon - coming to English from the French where marron meant 'chestnut'. Here the likely origin is Greek maraon 'sweet chestnut'.

Mauve - named from the French mauve meaning 'mallow' as the colour is close to that of the mallow plant. However the dye was not obtained from that plant but was the first dye not produced from animal or vegetable matter. This process was unique, actually creating a whole new technology which formed the basis of many other processes - the whole fascinating story is told by Simon Garfield in Mauve: How One Man Invented a Colour That Changed the World - a book I can certainly recommend.

Navy - obviously the colour used by the Royal Navy, the dye obtained from what became known as the navy bean. Clearly it takes its name from the branch of the armed forces, all of which lead back to Latin navis a plural form based on Proto-Indo-European nau 'boat'.

Ochre - named from the clay soil from which the pigment was obtained. The etymological trail can be traced back to the Greek ochra but ends there and the original meaning unknown.

Olive - no surprise to find it comes from the fruit, itself named from the tree and ultimately seen in an Aegean language meaning simply 'oil'.

Peach - another named from the fruit, it is derived from Persis or 'Persia' and even once known as the Persian apple'.

Pearl - obviously from the gem, itself having two possible origins. If this refers to the pearl itself it could be likened to the shape of the fruit of the pear tree, itself referring to the tree. However it seems more likely to be derived from the oyster in which it grows, a creature known in Latin as pernula 'sea mussel', but also used to refer to 'ham' as it was seen as resembling the oyster shell.

Pink - named from the flower, itself from the Latin verb pungere and Proto-Indo-European peuk both meaning 'to prick, pierce'. The flower uses this name as the petals have a perforated appearance, and we still use the word in this sense, albeit only when cutting with pinking shears.

Ruby - from the colour of the gemstone, itself from the Latin rubeus or 'red'.

Ruddy - only used as a euphemism since 1914, a ruddy interesting fact and the start of a trail which ends with Proto-Indo-European reudh meaning both 'red' and 'ruddy' and the only word for a colour thus far known to have been used in Proto-Indo-European.

Sable - as a colour only seen in heraldry, where it is black. However the word comes from the animal, although the creatures coat is brown. It seems likely the use of this for 'black' comes from the custom where the coat of the sable was dyed black and worn when in mourning.

Sapphire - traceable to Sanskrit, where sanipriya meant 'sacred to the planet Saturn'.

Scarlet - first seen in English in the 13th century when used to mean 'rich cloth' which was often, but not always, red. This was likely from a Germanic term where scar 'sheared' joined with lachen 'cloth'.

Tan - the colour is derived from the Latin tannum 'crushed oak bark', this used as a dye. Interestingly Breton tann meaning 'oak tree' is related to German Tanne 'fir tree'. Clearly the two are quite different in shape and one deciduous the other evergreen, which almost certainly shows this colour is ultimately from a very early word, one possibly referring to 'a tree' or maybe even as simplistic as 'plant'.

Titian - named from a person, specifically the Venetian artist Tiziano Vecellio (1490-1576) and a reference to the light auburn hair colouring often found in his work.

Turquoise - as a colour first seen in 1853, this comes from Old French pierre turqueise 'Turkish stone'. Thus the name comes from the country, itself thought to come from Phrygian ank 'angled, crooked' and a reference to a gorge where these people were first identified.

Ultramarine - from Latin ultramarinus and ultimately Proto-Indo-European al mori literally 'beyond the water' and so called as the mineral was imported from Asia.

Vermilion - is from Old French vermeillon 'red lead, cinnabar', and derived from vermeil which comes from Latin vermiculus 'a little worm' and from here shares the same origins as found in 'crimson' above and began as Proto-Indo-European wer 'to turn, bend' which is the basis for the modern word 'worm'.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Cathedral Cities of England

It has been a couple of months since I looked at place names, even longer since I looked at the origins of English place names. Thus recently having popped in to look at some architecture - Pugin it was, not particularly uplifting unlike the majority I have seen - I thought it time to look at some of England's place names through the cathedral cities. This is also a thinly disguised way to remind everyone of my books on place names covering England.

Canterbury - this is 'the fortified place of the people of Kent'. Further information can be found in my book East Kent Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Bath - 'the place at the Roman baths'. Further information can be found in my book Somerset Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Wells - 'the springs'. Further information can be found in my book Somerset Place Names.

Birmingham - 'the homestead of the family or followers of a man called Boerma'. Further information can be found in my book Warwickshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Bristol - 'assembly place by the bridge'. Further information can be found in my book Somerset Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Chelmsford - 'the ford of a man named Ceolmaer'. Further information can be found in my book Essex Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Chichester - 'the former Roman strognhold of a man called Cissa'. Further information can be found in my book West Sussex Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Coventry - 'the tree of a man named Cofa'. Further information can be found in my book Warwickshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Derby - 'the farmstead where deer are seen'. Further information can be found in my book Derbyshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Ely - 'the district where eels can be found'. Further information can be found in my book Cambridgeshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Exeter - 'the former Roman stronghold on the river Exe', this a British river name meaning simply 'water'. Further information can be found in my book South Devon Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Gloucester - 'the former Roman stronghold known as Glevum', this a Romano-British place name meaning 'the bright place'. Further information can be found in my book Gloucestershire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Guildford - ''ford by the gold-coloured hill'. Further information can be found in my book Surrey Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Ipswich - 'the trading centre of a man named Gip'. Further information can be found in my book Suffolk Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Hereford - 'the ford capable of permitting an army to cross'. Further information can be found in my book Herefordshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Leicester - 'the former Roman stronghold of the Ligore'. Further information can be found in my book Leicestershire and Rutland Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Lichfield - 'the grey wood'. Further information can be found in my book Staffordshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Lincoln - 'the Romany colony by the pool'. Further information can be found in my book Lincolnshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

London - an uncertain name but maybe 'the landing place of man named Londo'. Further information can be found in my book Middlesex Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Norwich - 'the northern trading centre'. Further information can be found in my book Norfolk Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Oxford - 'the ford used by oxen'. Further information can be found in my book Oxfordshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Peterborough - 'the borough of St Peter'. Further information can be found in my book Cambridgeshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Portsmouth - 'the mouth of the harbour'. Further information can be found in my book Hampshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Rochester - 'the former Roman stronghold known as Hrofi', the British place name meaning 'the walled town with bridges'. Further information can be found in my book East Kent Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

St Albans - 'the holy place of St Alban'. Further information can be found in my book Hertfordshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Salisbury - 'the fortified place known as Sorvio', the British place name of uncertain origins. Further information can be found in my book Wiltshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Truro - 'place of turbulent water'. Further information can be found in my book Cornwall Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Winchester - 'the former Roman stronghold known as Venta', the British place name meaning 'the chief place'. Further information can be found in my book Hampshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Worcester - 'the former Roman stronghold of the Weogora tribe', this British people taking their name from their home being at the 'winding river'. Further information can be found in my book Worcestershire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

York - ''the estate marked by yew trees'. Further information can be found in my book North Yorkshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Blackburn - 'the dark stream'. Further information can be found in my book Lancashire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Bradford - 'the broad ford'. Further information can be found in my book West Yorkshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Carlisle - 'fortified place of man named Luguvalos'. Further information can be found in my book Cumbria Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Chester - 'the former Roman stronghold'. Further information can be found in my book Cheshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Durham - 'the island with a hill'. Further information can be found in my book County Durham Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Liverpool - 'the dark-coloured pool'. Further information can be found in my book Lancashire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Manchester - 'the former Roman stronghold at the breast-shaped hill'. Further information can be found in my book Lancashire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Newcastle - 'the new castle'. Further information can be found in my book Northumberland Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Ripon - 'the territory of the Hrype tribe'. Further information can be found in my book North Yorkshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Sheffield - 'the open land on the river Sheaf', a river name meaning 'boundary stream'. Further information can be found in my book South Yorkshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Southwell - 'the southern spring'. Further information can be found in my book Nottinghamshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.

Wakefield - 'open land where wakes are held'. Further information can be found in my book West Yorkshire Place Names. Available both in print and as an ebook.