v53: reklam

Reklam = advertising. It’s a word you see often on letterboxes: Ingen Reklam Tack = No Advertising Material:

The fact that reklam and advertising are such common words caused me to miss that there is an obvious cognate in English: reclaim. But how does that work?

The Latin clamare means to cry out, proclaim. Then reclamare means to call back or maybe to protest, you can see how both of these could give rise (via French) to the English reclaim.

The Swedish verb reklamera originally (since 1682) means complain about or put in a claim for, but it also has a newer (since 1915), but now outdated, meaning, to advertise. These days, to advertise is annonsera or göra reklam.

I can sort of see the connections going on here, but not quite. Clearly, reklam is much closer in meaning to the Latin clamare than to reclamare, but I guess this illustrates how meanings drift and intertwine over the centuries.

After not thinking about reklam for many months, what spurred my interest was that there was one Hungarian word I recognised on my trip to Budapest: reklám.

Published in: on November 30, 2011 at 05:00  Comments (1)  
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v52: påse

Påse (bag) was one of the first words I had to learn. Sweden is keen on recycling, and you have to pay for bags at the supermarket, so:

Vill du ha en påse?
Do you want a bag?

Påse is related to the English purse, but what about the etymology of these two words? It’s a lot more complicated than I would have thought, and the sources I’ve found are not consistent. My impression is that it all goes back to a Proto-Indo-European stem *bus-, which evolved into two families of words.

The b- family are words such as English reimburse, bursar, and Swedish börs (Stock Exchange or purse, according to Norstedts). Some of these are later borrowings from French.

Then we have Grimm’s Law, or the First Germanic Sound Shift, which describes a series of changes in consonant pronounciations as the Germanic languages branched off from the Indo-European family a few thousand years ago. So, for example, b became p, p became f, d became t, and so on. Go have a look at the Wikipedia article for an idea. Thus the PIE b- words evolved into the Germanic p- words, of which påse is an example.

Why is that complicated? Well, Old English seems to have had both b- words and p- words for bags, and it’s difficult to say which lineage purse comes from. The Wiktionary article on purse gives you some idea what I mean.

This is connected to my previous post about getting sick. You may know the following common childhood vaccinations:

MMR: measles, mumps, rubella
MPR: mässling, påssjuka, röda hund

DTP: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis
DSK: difteri, stelkramp, kikhosta

Mumps is påssjuka in Swedish: “bag sickness”. That’s an easy one because the swollen parotid gland looks like a bag hanging down from the jaw. But what about rubella? Röda hund does literally mean red dog, I found a few theories about why, but nothing convincing. If anyone out there knows, please tell me!

Published in: on November 26, 2011 at 02:23  Comments (2)  
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