or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Come Together

When learning another language, trying to establish a pattern to make your life easier is all well and good, but it goes only so far.

On a tube of liquid soap in the shower this morning I saw the legend


and I thought, "Isn't that interesting." Because the French word for "oatmeal" is "gruau".

Well, it is interesting, isn't it? "Oatmeal", which is to say "gruel", is "gruau", and the combining form of "cruel" is "cruau-" (the adjective itself is "cruel" if it's masculine, "cruelle" if feminine). Can there be a pattern? Did we borrow "-uel" words from French in the form of "-uau"?

Nah. It's just a coincidence, unfortunately. There aren't even that many "-uel" words in English, particularly if you don't count "sequel" and its amusing daughter "prequel" (stemming as they do from Latin "sequi", "to follow", which also gave rise to "sequence", "pursuit", "consecutive" and numerous other words). "Duel" bypasses French altogether: it arises from Latin "duellum", a variant of "bellum" which of course means "war". And "fuel" comes from Old French "feuaile", which itself originates in Latin "focalis", "of the hearth", which looks like "focus" because it is--"focus" is Latin for "hearth", which is to say something around which people gather, and one modern meaning of "focus" is "the centre of interest".


Post a Comment

<< Home