or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, April 06, 2012

Mint Condition

If you are interested in opera, it will please you to know that the Belgian national opera will be streaming their entire 2012-2013 season online (this is their lineup, dates here), each opera available for 21 days after the final performance.

If you are interested in etymology, you may have been puzzling (a little) over the name of the Belgian national opera, which is La Monnaie / De Munt. "Monnaie" looks kind of like "money", and if you figure that it is, then "Munt" looks kind of like "mint", and except for the fact that opera is expensive, what do these words have to do with one another?

The official name of the opera house in Brussels — because Belgium has two official languages, French and Dutch — is Le Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, or Koninklijke Muntschouwburg, because the building was constructed on a site that had housed a mint, "monnaie" in French and "munt" in Dutch.

And where might "mint" come from, you ask. And is it related to the plant, you also ask, knowing full well that it couldn't possibly be. And fortunately, it isn't. Mint the plant is from Greek "minthe", the name of a nymph transformed, as people so often were in Greek mythology, into a plant. (Daphne, willow, hyacinth, poplar, elm, and smilax are just a few others. Seriously, there are a lot of them.)

The mint that makes coins, on the other hand, comes from Latin "moneta", which, I surely don't even have to say, is the source of English "monetary" (from "monetarius", "of money"). "Money" is from French "monnaie", as we surmised, and "monnaie" is obviously from "moneta", after some of the smoothing and softening which French generally applies to its words.


Blogger Pinellas Thrifter said...

Amusing how a post titled Pennies From Heaven is followed by one about the mint that produces them.

Saturday, April 07, 2012 4:15:00 AM  

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