or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sunday Best

On Friday, a co-worker who reads my blog asked me about the days of the week--specifically, why in French, all the days end in "-di" except one, which begins with "di-". Is it related to the English word "day" in all cases, and if so, how did the "di-" end up at the beginning of the word?

Good question, that. The French days of the week, corresponding with English "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday", are "lundi, mardi, mercredi, jeudi, vendredi, samedi, dimanche", so you can see she was right about the meaning of that contentious syllable, but what about its positioning?

The "-di" at the end of each French weekday name is in fact exactly cognate to English "day", despite the fact that the French word for "day" is "jour". This is because "day" is from Latin "dies", with the same meaning, and the French weekday names are from Latin. "Jour" comes from a variation of the same word, "diurnus", "daily" or "of the day", and if you slur the "diur-" into a single syllable, you end up with "jour".

And the final piece in the puzzle is that all the weekdays in French, Monday through Friday, are named after a planetary body (just as in English, Sunday is "day of the sun"), but the weekend days are given religious significance, and Sunday comes from Latin "dies dominicus", "the day of the Lord", which over the centuries became "dimanche". So "di-" is the same as "-di"; it just ended up in a different position.

The German weekday names, in case you were wondering, are more or less exactly parallel to the English ones--Sunday is "Sonntag"--with one amusing exception, which I'll get to in a few days, because it's just occurred to me that I can spin this out over a week.


Blogger Tony Pius said...

And if you do not describe German's amusing exception by deploying the phrase "Teutonic efficiency," well, I for one intend to pitch a hissy.

Monday, September 11, 2006 5:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

please hurry and put those german weekdays on there.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007 1:13:00 PM  

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