or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Day One

A whole new year, clean and snowy-white (here, anyway) and unpolluted with typos!

Ah, no such luck. Here's the front of a 2009 calendar from the Landover Baptist Church website, an excellent parody of nasty American religious fundamentalism:The word "calender" actually exists in English. It once meant someone who presses fabric in a mill, or the machine itself: the word is related to "cylinder", because of the shape of the rollers. The word "calendered" is still in currency, and describes certain kinds of paper, vinyl, and other commercial products which are rendered smooth and shiny through the application of heat and pressure.

"Calender" derives from French "calandre", which people who pay attention to such things will notice is the name of a Paco Rabanne fragrance from 1969: it got its name not from an industrial ironing machine but from the other meaning of "calandre" in French, the radiator grill on the front of an automobile. (Yes, I know this seems like a very odd thing to name a perfume, but Rabanne was going for that sense of adventure and modernity that the car still carried with it: the scent was bright and sharp and slightly metallic, and came in a glass bottle inside a metal frame.) In a beautiful illustration of how sounds slip and shift, Latin "cylindrus" became Middle Latin "calendra", which gave French "calandre", which gave us "calender".

The thing on your wall or your desk, though, is a calendar. Different spelling, different word, yet another trap for the users of English, poor things. (The "-ar" spelling was cemented in the 17th century to distinguish between the two words.) "Calendar" comes from Latin "kalends", the first day of the month.

That's all I had to say about it back in 2005, before I started really really digging into etymology, so we might as well trace it back a little farther, yes? The Romans derived their word "calendarium" from "kalend": it meant "account-book", because accounts came due on the first of the month. In the early thirteenth century, this was abstracted to "calendier" in Old French to mean any kind of official list with dates on it, which is what a calendar is.

The origin of "kalend" is the Latin verb "calare", "to announce", because the priests announced each new moon that began the kalendae. "Calare" is in turn related to another Latin verb, "clamare", "to cry out" (from Indo-European "kelh-" or "kele-", "to shout"), which gave English "clamour", "claim" and its relatives, and also "conciliate" ("to call together").


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