Friday 10 June 2022


I am ashamed that I asked myself this afternoon for the first time why no is the abbreviation for number. The answer turns out to be obvious. No is the abbreviation for the Latin word numero.

I also didn't know till today that carnival means farewell to flesh. Of course!

I was in my 20s or 30s before I realised ventriloquist is derived from the Latin words for stomach and speak, even though I was top of the class in Latin.

I have known for thirty years which is the only word in English which comes from Lithuanian. 

It's 'talk'.


  1. Hmmm, Wiktionary says otherwise about "talk". I've spent hours on Wiktionary looking up interesting etymologies (e.g., brânză).

    From Middle English talken, talkien, from Old English tealcian (“to talk, chat”), from Proto-Germanic *talkōną (“to talk, chatter”), frequentative form of Proto-Germanic *talōną (“to count, recount, tell”), from Proto-Indo-European *dol-, *del- (“to aim, calculate, adjust, count”), equivalent to tell + -k. Cognate with Scots talk (“to talk”), Low German taalken (“to talk”). Related also to Danish tale (“to talk, speak”), Swedish tala (“to talk, speak, say, chatter”), Icelandic tala (“to talk”), Old English talian (“to count, calculate, reckon, account, consider, think, esteem, value; argue; tell, relate; impute, assign”). More at tale. Despite the surface similarity, unrelated to Proto-Indo-European *telkʷ- (“to talk”), which is the source of loquacious.

  2. Scanning the political horizons of the free world as we confront our own self-destructiveness and the ever-greater threats of the unfree one, I see no leader with any real idea of what to do, except, of course, the only one on the front line, President Volodymyr Zelensky.

    Baron Moore of Etchingham

    Oh, yeah, President Z : 'the young Churchill'

  3. Regarding carnival, it looks like "farewell to meat" is a foll etymology.

    The English word:
    From French carnaval, from Italian carnevale, possibly from the Latin phrase carnem levāmen ("meat dismissal"). Other scholars suggest Latin carnuālia ("meat-based country feast") or carrus navālis ("boat wagon", "float") instead.[1]

    The French word:
    Either from Italian carnevale, from Medieval Latin carnelevale, from caro (“flesh”) + levo (“to lighten, to raise”), or directly from Medieval Latin.

    The alternative carne vale (“to flesh/meat, farewell”) is believed to be a folk etymology.

  4. I was told that etymology on Facebook when I posted my discovery of why no is short for number. Actually my intuition told me it sounded wrong but I didn't listen. Christopher Hollis said talk was Lithuanian in knowledge and I esteem him vastly. I did check it once and a dictionary said it somehow came from Old Baltic.

  5. I'd bet on the first two, as they are relatively fresh & matter of record as academic conventions; the last is quite a different matter & not the kind I want to need to know...