linguistic notes on the ‘one’ in ‘alone’ and ‘only’

Why is the element one in words such as alone and only not pronounced like the numeral one? Both the indefinite article an (a before consonant) and the numeral one are from Old English ān—which has survived in Scotland as ane, used both as indefinite article and as numeral. This Old-English word ān meant a/an, one, […]

Read More

origin of ‘double Dutch’ and ‘High Dutch’ (‘gibberish’)

‘double Dutch’, 19th century—from ‘Dutch’ in the sense of a language that few people can speak, and ‘double’ as a mere intensifier—‘High Dutch’, 17th century—loan translation from French ‘haut allemand’ (= ‘High German’), used in the sense of gibberish

Read More

origin of ‘Dutch treat’ and ‘to go Dutch’

USA—‘to go Dutch’ (1907): to have every participant pay their own expenses, or share expenses equally—via ‘to go Dutch treat’ (1887), from ‘Dutch treat’ (1873): a meal, etc., at which each participant pays their share of the expenses—from a German practice

Read More

‘maelstrom’ (a whirlpool off the west coast of Norway)

late 16th century—from early modern Dutch ‘maelstrom’ (now ‘maalstroom’)—originally a proper name designating a powerful whirlpool in the Arctic Ocean, off the west coast of Norway, which was formerly supposed to suck in and destroy all vessels within a wide radius

Read More

How ‘mouse’, ‘muscle’ and ‘mussel’ are interrelated.

Classical Latin ‘muscŭlus’, literally ‘a little mouse’, also denoted ‘a muscle of the body’, especially of the upper arm, from the resemblance of a flexing muscle to the movements made by a mouse; ‘muscŭlus’ was also used in the sense of ‘mussel’.

Read More

Werewolves were originally in the service of Satan.

Old English ‘werewulf’ (first element identified with Old English ‘wer’, ‘man’) first used for ‘wolf’ to denote a person serving Satan (cf. Gospel of Matthew “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves”)

Read More