Monday, September 08, 2008

More structure...kinda

And now, for the next exciting, czechtastic piece of vocabulary...

únor

(ta-daaa!)

aka

February.

Which
comes
very
obscurely
very
obscurely
indeed
from
some
word
that
means
the
dripping
of
ice.
Drip.
Drip.
Drip.

Drip.


Drip.


Dri-
-
-
-ip

There is no other similar word alas. Unless you count "Februaryish". But this particular bit of vocab does start us down the long and winding road of Czech diacritics, with its extra-special "ú". meaning a long "u". Or ooooooooo.

Sometimes you can see the long "u" written with a little circle above it, like this: "ů". It sounds the same, but harkens back to a dim and distant past, in which the letter "o" was mysteriously involved in the word, before something, possibly angry diacritics or vengeful graphemes, ate it. Or maybe just the top bit.

Drip

Sometimes... sometimes... the "o" comes back.

Drip

But not in ůnor, because it's not spelled with the little "o", but with an acute and rather dashing accent, as in únor. How can you tell when to make your ooooo with dash not dot? Well, the dash happens when "u" comes at the beginning of the word.

In 1848 (count 'em, baby) some madmen decided that no Czech national renaissance could possibly be complete without an orthographical overhaul and decided that the "ou" (oh-ooo) dipthong at the beginning of the roots of words should be changed to "ú". Because that's how it was pronounced.

But somewhen around the same time, the long "o" ("ó") was being pronounced, "uo" (ooo-ohh - I like it when the beat goes -), and so to save paper in a time of wood-pulp and vellum scarcity, they decided to write the "o" part of the dipthong (-thong, -thong, -thong, -thong) much, much smaller above the "u". And then, the pronounciation changed, and the rest is history... er... orthography.

2 comments:

Bookwormom said...

I don't think I've ever heard of revolutionaries who were so concerned with spelling and purity of language. ;) Also- is it really warm enough in February for icicles to drip? Winters in New England, nothing dripped at all until April. Here in metro DC we rarely get icicles no matter the month.

We're all fine, thank you for asking.

EvilAuntiePeril said...

hi bookwormom, we've had a couple of really warm winters here now - no snow or coldness to speak of really. And no icicles either - they take their insulation seriously :-) But we have had that weird late-winter-in-March/April thing, where it suddenly gets absolutely freezing and may even snow.

Thanks for stopping by. :-)