or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, January 09, 2012

Earthly Pleasures

This has nothing to do with my usual line of blogging but I really, really want you to watch it anyway (or if that pasted video should fail, watch it here):

Five people. One guitar. I am speechless. It doesn't hurt that the song (originally by a singer-songwriter named Gotye) is lovely. But the laserlike focus of the five performers (I guess you would have to focus on something like that, just to keep from banging into someone if nothing else) is riveting: it sounds like a stunt if you hear it described, but when you watch it and listen to it, it's intoxicating.

Oh, very well then, my usual line of blogging: the guitarists are a Canadian group called Walk Off The Earth, and you may know that "Earth" is related to the German "Erde" (via Proto-Germanic "ertho"), hence the name of the all-knowing, all-fertile Earth goddess in Wagner's Ring Cycle. The French word for "Earth" is "monde", related to the English word "mundane", from Latin "mundus", "world, universe".

Germans also have "Mond" in their vocabulary. It can't mean "Earth", since that space is taken up by "Erde". So what do you suppose it means? "Moon", of course. You know, just to keep you on your toes.

And "Monday" literally means "Moon's Day"; in German it's the exactly parallel "Montag". And while we're at it, the French for "moon" is "lune", as in "lunar" and "lunatic" ("moon-sick"), and their word for Monday is "Lundi": also "Moon's Day".

In Indo-European, "meses" or "menses" meant both "moon" and "month", because the earliest and most logical way to mark out a span of time larger than a day (if you are willing to play jiggery-pokery with the calendar) is by counting from, say, one full moon to the next. The word in IE, in fact, is thought to be descended from "me-", "measure", because of the way the moon measures out time.

English kept this tradition, with "month" deriving from a descendant of "moon" (Old English "monað" or "monath"), and the German word for "month" is likewise "Monat": this is generally true of the Germanic languages. The Romance tongues on the other hand kept "menses" for "month" (Italian "mese", French "mois") but used some form of "luna" instead for "moon": "luna" is related to "luminous", because the Moon is by far the brightest thing in the night sky, so brilliant that before people knew that the Sun is a star and the moon a pebble, they thought that the Moon emitted light in the same way that the Sun does. Predictably, English, never content with one word when three will do, has a Latinate word for "month": "lunation".

Don't you love knowing things like this?


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