I gazed into the abyss Rochelle’s weekly photo prompt, and the abyss stared back. I couldn’t get Frederick Nietzsche to help me with a Flash Fiction, so this week’s back-patting, ego-driven Word Of the Week is the all-about-me
a language and word lover.
Origin of Linguaphile
Linguist has existed in English since the 16th century. It means “one who is adept at learning and using foreign languages; one who is a student of language or linguistics; a translator or interpreter.” Linguaphile has a somewhat different meaning: “one who loves words or languages.” The originally Greek suffix -phile (“lover of”) is completely naturalized in English.
I thought a Linguaphile might be something that smoothed my speech out. My son doesn’t understand my fascination with foreign names. They can tell me where someone, or their ancestors, came from. I’ve studied the origin and meaning of many English names. While some of them are – interesting, some foreign names just have me shaking my head.
A candidate in a recent, local election was named Estoesta. I quickly determined that this was a Portuguese name. From my limited knowledge of Romance languages, I thought that it might mean East/West, perhaps originating when Portuguese sailors reached Malaysia. Google Translate told me that it actually just means ‘this is.’ 😕
A young Spanish-Canadian co-worker was named Soto. I asked him the meaning of it one day, but he said he didn’t know, and would have to ask his father. He might forget or ignore, so I looked it up that evening. The next day, I told him that it translated to a copse, a thicket, or a brake. “No, No!” he replied, “My Dad says that it’s a bunch of trees.” The worker from Newfoundland, who many thought could barely write his own name, piped up. “What does he think a copse, a brake or a thicket is?”
A recent obituary was for another Portuguese, Eric Armand Cyril Cecil D’Silva. I suspect that his mother was of English heritage. While Eric and Armand may be Portuguese given names, Cyril and Cecil are very British. My English-heritage Father was Cyril, and his half-brother was Cecil. The word Silva is not the same as Sylva, and has nothing to do with trees. Instead, it means hiss, whistle, swish, fizz. How would you like to be named after a leaky steam-pipe? 😳
The four German names, Hefner, Heffner, Hafner and Haffner all come from Hőffner. Originally, hoff meant wish or hope. Medieval travelers often wished or hoped for a country inn, where they could rest and get warmth and food, so hoff came to mean an inn. A Hőffner was an innkeeper. Hugh Hefner sold Playboy magazines. A local car dealership is Heffner Lexus/Toyota. A small town, 15 miles out, has Haffner Motors, a Chrysler dealership. This explains the annual Labor Day MoparFest, where dozens of 1970s Hemi-powered muscle cars from all over Southern Ontario show up.
Lastly, I want to talk about big fish in little ponds. In Germany, if your ancestors came from the small town of Vetter, they might have adopted, or had that name assigned to them. However, if your forebears owned the village of Vetter, an honorific von, meaning of or from, was prefixed, to indicate minor nobility, and your family name became von Vetter. The same thing occurred in Dutch or Belgian, with the prefix van.
The equivalent word in French, is guy, although the last name of the French short-story writer, Guy de Maupassant, means something like hard luck, or tough times. While not a hereditary name, English has the same concept in the honorary title, Squire. This is the highest that a non-Nobility family may rise. While the Earl may possess all the surrounding fields and pastures and woods, as his administrator, the Squire owns the land that the village or town sits on, and collects rent and respect from every business and home.
Come back again later when I discuss Lingua Franca, which is how to order a hot-dog from a street vendor food cart. 😉