or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Dear Diary

You might think that after a lifetime of reading and most of a lifetime of looking, really looking, at words, I would have figured out all the basic ones by now, but they still have the power to surprise.

Yesterday I was reading some posts on Manhunt Daily (pretty definitely not safe for work)

when I noticed this graphic in a sidebar:

And I thought, "'Diario'! Well, that looks just like 'diary'! So wouldn't that be like 'Manhunt Diary'?" And then the light bulb flicked on and I realized that "diario" could very well mean "daily" in Spanish, because the word "diary" almost certainly comes from the Latin "dies", "day, because a diary is something you write in daily. (It's descended from "diarium", originally a daily allowance, later a daily journal. The "-rium" later became the suffix "-aire" in French, which English adopted as the suffix "-ary", "pertaining to", often used as a combining form to denote a collection, so an aviary is a collection of birds and a bestiary is a collection, in book form, of beasts.)

Maybe this is obvious to people who studied Spanish, but it wasn't to me because I never did: the French word for "daily" is "quotidienne", so I never ran across "diario" before.

Anyway, "diario" does in fact mean "daily", and every day is a day in school, if you're paying attention.

While I am at it I might as well look at the etymology of the word that "diary" is most often confused with and/or mistyped as; "dairy". "Dairy", on the surface of it, is completely unparseable: where could it have come from?

You'll never guess. "Daege" was an old, old English word meaning "maid" or "female servant": it seems to be related to "dough" in that the servant in question was the one who kneaded the dough for bread. Eventually "daege" was shortened into "daie" and then "dae", and with the French suffix "-erie", which turns a noun or a verb into (usually but not always) a place, it became "daie-erie" or "dairy", the place where the maid (presumably the milkmaid) went about her milking and butter-making business. (The other English "dae" word is "lady", the first half being a compaction of Norse "hlaf", "loaf": Old English hlaefdige was the lady of the manor, but literally the one who made the bread, the loaf-kneader.)

Oh, and speaking of butter-making and the suffix "-erie", transformed to "-ery" in English (as in "refinery" and "bakery"), do you know what a buttery — the noun, not the adjective — is?

Trick question. It isn't a place where butter is made or stored or anything else: it doesn't even have anything to do with butter. It's actually a storeroom for bottles of liquor, coming from French "boterie" and somehow having a vowel corrupted in its travels.


Blogger Pinellas Thrifter said...

Cognate to the French quotidienne is the Spanish cotidiano. It means "everyday", in the context of "everyday life". Natch that quotidian is related, no?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger pyramus said...

Natch! And I did not know about that Spanish word, probably because I know about six words in Spanish, most of which are food. You live in Canada, you're going to absorb a certain amount of French unless you're determined not to: Spanish, not so much.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 7:13:00 PM  

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