From nutmeg to ragamuffin and beyond

Waking up at 05.00 in the cathedral city of Norwich, my thoughts turned to the etymology of “nutmeg”, which has reached us from Old Occitan, also known as Old Provencal, closely associated with Catalan or perhaps Old Catalan. I don’t know whether langue d’oc is synonymous with Old Provencal or whether Old Provencal is intermediate between langue d’oc and langue d’oil. The southern French dialects (or languages,,,) should show the imprint of Vulgar Latin to a greater extent than the French referred to as langue d+oil where the Germanic language of the Franks to some  extent overlaid the previous influence of Latin. I would like to know more about this and have a few books on the history of French as well as a Provencal-French dictionary and the more doubtful benefit of Robinson Crusoe in Provencal. This project has not got off the ground as I would like . it would feel very satisfactory to have a project related to the French language.

Weakly remembered sloppy surfing brought me to the “punt volat”; the fly point or middle dot used in Catalan to separate, for example, two “l”s which belong to different syllables. The middle dot has a fascinating, if somewhat arcane, history. It was apparently in use to mark decimals before international standardisation led to the present location of the decimal point (although my source does not tell me why standardisation didn’t succeed in uniting users of the decimal comma and the decimal point).

I learn that at the time of decimalisation in the UK in 1971 the powers that be would have preferred to use the middle dot to separate pounds and pennies but that lower decimal point on the line prevailed, pushing aside official preferences.

I found a book which I almost bought “An introduction to Old Occitan” but couldn’t come to terms with the publisher’s website, probably because my computer is a harsh environment for all kinds of But Uppsala, being the wonderful place it is, there is a copy at the library and it can be read free on the net.

The morning is spent translating, edging back to the protestant work ethic after all my gallivanting. This time I was only back in Sweden for four days before resuming my headlong flight to the nearest border. But when I go back on Monday, I hope to stay for a while to enjoy the habitable part of the Nordic year. Socially it’s been a satisfactory summer but I have read less than I planned. I would like to think of myself seamlessly following my projects undisturbed by location but it’s not been quite like that.

The day ends with “ragamuffin” – I don’t remember how I got there, not from nutmeg anyway. The etymology is probably from Piers Plowman in Middle English where ragamuffin is a devil, presumably clad in rags.

Although in fact it´s not the end of the day as there is a concert at 22,00, which will probably permit me to explore the strange country outside my comfort zone.

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