v38: blå

Coming back through Arlanda airport recently, I noticed an advertisement with the word blåsig, which my colleague said meant windy, as in blåsa (to blow), and wasn’t related to the word blå (blue). But the sky is blue, and the wind blows out of the sky, so do you think those words really could be related?

In fact, etymological dictionaries say that blå and blue are certainly related, deriving from a common Proto-Indo-European (PIE) base, *bhle-was (or maybe *bhleuos) “light-colored, blue, blond, yellow”. It seems that PIE speakers weren’t too fussy about their colour words; the Latin flavus “yellow” is also derived from the same root. [The * means there is no written example of the PIE word, it was “reconstructed” from known languages.]

Similarly, blåsa and blow are related, deriving from PIE *bhle- (or *bhel-) “to swell, blow up”.

All of which doesn’t really help in answering what I thought was a fairly simple question. In fact I had to go all the way back to PIE, which is supposed to have been spoken around 6000 years ago (and not written down), to not get a good answer. I could stick with my original theory, but I guess that’s not a very scientific way to study etymology. However, I did find out a lot about Swedish colour terms, and the history of the Swedish language, for future posts.

Next week:

bicycles

There are a lot of bicycles in Sweden, but they hardly ever get ridden. Why not?

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Published in: on September 14, 2009 at 08:05  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. This topic reminded me of somehting I thought of a long time ago I was a just kid… I thought that Blåsa (in the meaning ‘Blister’) came from the fact that you blow on it to make it better. Blåsa can also mean ‘Bladder’ by the way, but I’m sure you already knew that.


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