Tag Archives: German

Today’s post is brought to you by the letters I, J, U, V, W and Y.

The Volkswagen—my first car

Want more? The letter J eventually replaced I as a consonant and is pronounced Y. Before that, Jesus (Joshua/Yeshua in Hebrew) was IESVS in Latin and pronounced YEH-zoos (the V is a vowel: U). When Pontius Pilate had ‘INRI’ posted on the Cross it was short for: Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudæorum—Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews (it was meant to mock Him). Which reminds me: in Spain they pronounce J and soft G as H: Jesus=hay-ZOOS or Julio=HOO-lee-o or George/Jorge=HOR-hay. J replaced Y, too. G-d’s name, YHWH eventually got vowels and became Jehovah—because when W was added to the Latin alphabet people couldn’t decide whether to pronounce it W or V. In Italy, they pronounce V and W at the same time—vincere=VWIN-che-reh. In Germany, Vs are Ws or Fs. They pronounce the name of their own car, designed in Germany for Germans, the Volkswagen, as ‘FOLKS-vagen.*’ The Austrian town of Vienna and the sausage made there is pronounced ‘WEE-ner’—think ‘wiener schnitzel.’


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-OQojS_aVw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLLQz78w6Bo
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jehovah
Your one-stop shop for canned Vienna sausage:
https://www.amazon.com/Libbys-Vienna-Sausage-4-6-oz/dp/B01NGZ050U/ref=asc_df_B01NGZ050U/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=416696927952&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=6906383959846779699&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9005171&hvtargid=pla-871853311415&psc=1&tag=&ref=&adgrpid=93865725557&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvadid=416696927952&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=6906383959846779699&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9005171&hvtargid=pla-871853311415
https://www.thespruceeats.com/wiener-schnitzel-recipe-1447089

Check the comments in the previous post for a Jim F’s list of Letters With Multiple Pronunciations!

* Thanks for the pronunciation help, Heidi K!

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Today’s post is brought to you by the letter C

A chivalrous caballero chanting a sea-shanty

Not only did P get pronounced F in the Roman Empire’s northerly boondocks, C stopped being K and got softened to CH or S. In Germany Caesar is still Kaizer but in the British Isles (and so in North America) it’s pronounced SEE-zer. Over in Russia it got shortened to Czar. Even in Italy the name became Cesare (CHEZ-a-ray). Chalk and calcium mean sort of the same thing but which of those sounds is the real C? A song is a canto or a chanson or a chant or a shanty. In a card store you can buy paper to draw a chart on. A caballero can be chivalrous or cavalier—all 3 words are about guys who ride horses. Which reminds me: in Spain they harden V to B.

Can you think of any more?

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Today’s post brought to you by the letter P, or maybe F

Gradually, the Roman Empire grew old and split into two. The western half became the Holy Roman Empire; the eastern half became the Byzantine Empire. Regions of the western half mixed Latin into languages that would eventually become English, French, German, Spanish, Italian. When we speak English today, we use words that originated from Latin. F’rinstance, I just now used the words ‘gradually, empire, region, language, would’ and ‘originated.’ Those words have Latin roots. ‘Gradually’ means step-by-step. You devoted readers who’ve been following along since we were talking about Time & Space may remember that ‘gradus’ is a Latin word to measure a step. https://johnmanders.wordpress.com/2019/07/04/measuring-distance-in-rome/

Yup, they’re Grimm

And here’s something interesting: as you get further away from Rome headed north, Latin words that use the letter ‘P’ switch to the letter ‘F.’ Pisces becomes fish; pater=father/vater; pode=foot; poultry/pollo=fowl.* This replacing a hard P with a fricative F is known in linguistic circles as Grimm’s Law. That’s right, Jacob Grimm of the Brothers Grimm who tramped all over the German countryside looking for folk fairytales in the ad 1800s. It turns out they were tracking the history of the German language. The brothers needed to collect old words—the older the better. They reasoned the best place to find old words was in old folk tales, the stories handed down from generation to generation. The language of fairytales provides clues to how words evolve. After accumulating all those stories, they published them in Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The rest is history—er, linguistics.

https://daily.jstor.org/the-fairytale-language-of-the-brothers-grimm/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brothers_Grimm
https://www.amazon.com/Original-Fairy-Tales-Brothers-Grimm/dp/0691160597/ref=pd_sbs_2?pd_rd_w=yOiJx&pf_rd_p=651d64d1-3c73-45b6-ae09-e545600e3a22&pf_rd_r=KHXPKWB3ZSJXXZ1G6Z7N&pd_rd_r=c24e0194-4b22-4c6f-9e94-d56782a9a82c&pd_rd_wg=lSo2R&pd_rd_i=0691160597&psc=1
Here’s a great article about the brothers—the writer also wonders if there were a Mother Tongue, a language on which all the others are based.
https://lflank.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/linguistics-and-the-brothers-grimm/

* Something I wonder about: Rome battled the Phoenicians in what they called the Punic Wars. Which pronunciation came first?

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