Bits and bobs

I’d heard of ”La Dame aux Camelias” but didn’t know before that it was originally a novel by Dumas first published in 1848.  According to Wiki, La Dame aux Camélias is a semi-autobiographical novel based on the author’s brief love affair with a courtesan, Marie Duplessis. The camellia comes from her habit of wearing a red camellia when menstruating (and a white otherwise).

And after reading an, in my opinion, a not so successful “follow up” to Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, I wonder why Hardy chose the name Bathsheba for the main female character. In the Bible, Bathsheba had an affair with King David and became pregnant by him. Her soldier husband refuses to accept the baby as his and the king has him slain in battle. While a soldier, Sergeant Troy, gets murdered by another of Bathsheba’s suitors, I can’t work out how Hardy was thinking when he chose the name.

Otherwise, I have again understood the difference between the often confused English words for the Swedish spice words Spiskummin and kummin. Spiskummin is cumin in English and Kummin is carroway. Hopefully, I shall remember it this time!

And a linguistic term “substrate”. According to Lund Language Diversity Forum Blog, a language substrate “is a language that seems to have influenced another language that was somehow more dominant at the time of contact”. An example is the Old Irish word “adarc” meaning horn, which closely resembles the Basque “adar” horn, while the words in  other Indo-European languages are vastly different (English, horn, Latin, cornu etc.).

I’ve wondered about “paragon” which derives from the Old Italian word “paragone”, meaning touchstone, ultimately from Greek parakonan (from para, alongside of and akone meaning whetstone). I hadn’t consciously noted before the range of meanings of the prefix “para”,  which at least in Latin means to protect from (from parare, to ward off). Not sure whether it has that meaning in Greek as well.

And about “flabbergasted”, the etymology of which is uncertain but (according to Wiktionary) may come from a Suffolk dialect word from flabby or flap (to strike) + aghast or possibly from Scottish where apparently flabrigast means to boast.

Then there was “grifter” slang for a non-violent criminal, like a confidence trickster and “swathe” with its roots in Old English words meaning track or trace and cognate with German Schwade. And “deliquescent” which feels familiar although I can’t think why unless it is some distant memory from O level chemistry that’s been lurking around in a cerebral nook (or possibly cranny). It refers to a substance that absorbs liquid from the air, eventually becoming liquid itself.

Finally “anabasis” which apparently, as well as being an autobiographical (historical? ) work by Xenophon also means moving inland away from the sea (perhaps in a military context). This word from a novel by Linklater, which is partly set in the Faroes (although it wasn’t the description of the Faroes during the British occupation that I hoped for, when I relieved the secondhand bookseller of this relic from the 1950s). I doubt that “anabasis” is going to become part of my active vocabulary. Let’s walk away from the sea to get out of the wind feels simpler than can we anabase.

This little collection a result of a struggle on my part to bring some order into my collection of notebooks so that I record new words or words I am thinking about in one place and not scribbled on the nondescript.

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