fimmtudagur, júlí 13, 2006

blog days

Today my Landsbankinn desk calendar tells me that "Hundadagar byrja". This translates as "Dog Days Begin". Remembering some terrible dog days from my own childhood summers in New England, I checked into the issue, and it turns out to be pretty interesting. The tradition of naming dog days comes to us originally from the ancient Greeks, who observed that the star Sirius rose and set with the sun during this time in the summer. They thought that Sirius, also called the Dog Star and the brightest star in the sky, added to the sun's heat during this time. Later the Romans, always better at branding, came along and slapped on the famous "Dog Days" label and the concept took off. All that extra thermal juice did seem to make for a lot of sticky, humid, hot weather - one might even say hundleiðinlegt veður*.

Because of differences in latitude and custom, dog days begin at different times in different locations. Here in Iceland they begin on the 13th of July and last until the 23rd of August. An English-language source that is presumably more southerly has them occurring from the 3rd of July until the 11th of August.

The Icelandic word for dog is hundur which sure seems a lot like "hound". In fact, they share the same proto-Germanic root khundas. The word "dog" didn't take over in English until the 1500s and its origins are apparently mysterious. OK, there's your etymology lesson for the day. Now please don't hound me any more!

*dog-dreary weather

14 Comments:

Blogger cK said...

Ah, being a language geek, I'm enjoying this recent series of entries with etymological content.

Happy days,
-cK

13.7.06  
Blogger dtw said...

I blame mandatory Swedish in our schools for making hundur seem like a plural to me.

14.7.06  
Blogger JB said...

I think the old spelling was hundr and the -ur got added later on with some kind of regularization of Icelandic. Any reader know when this happened?

Many masculine nouns in Icelandic end in -ur. Most of the rest end in -i. The plural of a noun ending in -ur is -ar. So dogs would be hundar. At least in the nominative case. ;-)

Try speaking it fast in a noisy bar and you'll have a real challenge. It's a little bit like doing differential equations on the fly.

14.7.06  
Blogger dtw said...

Thanks for the lesson! It's hundar in nominative plural in Swedish too.

I'm not afraid of irregularities in grammar or the different cases (can't remember if this is the right term) since in Finnish there are 14 other of them besides nominative. :)

Those too might give foreigners headaches.

Trying to figure out how to pronounce the Icelandic-specific alphabet gives them to me though.

14.7.06  
Blogger JB said...

Well actually...

The alphabet used here in Iceland isn't unique to Iceland. In fact, the two "extra letters" are letters that were originally used in other Germanic languages, including English. Those letters are:

Þ, þ - called "thorn" in English
Ð, ð - called "eth" in English

If you look at old writings in English, you can see these letters. The letter thorn makes especial sense in English, as it is simply the "th" sound, at the beginning of "th" for example. Back in þe day, "the" used to be spelled "þe", "that" used to be spelled "þat", etc.

It was printers who for some typographical reason dropped the letter "þ" and replaced it with "th".

If you step back and think about it, it's a little silly that we use two letters in English to write this one consonant sound. Bring back the thorn!

14.7.06  
Blogger Kristen said...

I was talking to Lyle about the thorn and its runic origins when he was showing me pictures of his visit there. Bring back the thorn, bring back the runes.

(I'm with the other language nerds, by the way. I very much enjoy the etymology lessons.)

14.7.06  
Blogger JB said...

It is really excellent here to see thorn on a license plate. It threw me off when I first saw one as a tourist. Then I was really hoping for a Þ of my own on my first plate, but it was a no-go.

14.7.06  
Blogger dtw said...

Yeah, I didn't mean that the alphabet is unique, just that it contains some letters I've never dealt with.

None of the languages I speak use accents like á. They prefer umlauts.

It's taking me some time to get used to pronouncing several unfamiliar letters in one word. For example I think I have no problems with þorsmörk but put all the ð's, þ's, æ's and ú's together and I'm in deep trouble.

15.7.06  
Blogger Farbror Willy said...

A t-shirt with "BRING BACK THE THORN" in big capital letters could be a big tourist seller along with "go native - drink brennivín" and other such pieces of clothing.

I think the thing most people associate Hundadagar with is a Danish hustler that proclaimed himself ruler of Iceland during one summer in the early 19th century, got the nickname "Hundadagakonungur" because he "reigned" during the dog days.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%B8rgen_J%C3%B8rgensen

http://is.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%B6rundur_hundadagakonungur

15.7.06  
Blogger JB said...

DTW, Það kemur. :-)

Farmer Willy, Do you think it would be better as:

BRING BACK THE ÞORN

?

But that's maybe gonna look too much like "porn" to some twisted individuals.

Maybe just a huge Þ sign, and then underneath BRING BACK THE THORN.

Or, just a T-shirt with only a huge Þ would be cool.

Or, how about just a picture of an actual Icelandic license plate that includes a Þ, inspection sticker and all. I think that would be the dope-dad-est.

15.7.06  
Blogger Syngibjörg said...

Frábærar hugmyndir. Þið eruð efni í mikla sölumenn. Þið þyrftuð að koma þessum hugmyndum á framfæri við rétta aðila.
By the way,bloggið mitt er komið í lag. Góða helgi.:O)

15.7.06  
Blogger JB said...

Takk, Ingibjörg. Við erum alltaf að hugsa og alltaf að selja, Villi og ég.

17.7.06  
Blogger cK said...

This has nothing to do with the entry; rather, an older one on Skyr. But Jon Pack has just put a bit--really, just a bit--on his blog about Skyr:

http://jonpackapproves.blogspot.com/2006/07/skyr.html

The whole site is him approving or disapproving of things. It's brilliant, really.
-cK

17.7.06  
Blogger JB said...

Thanks, CK. That is a great site. Thumbs-up, I say.

18.7.06  

Skrifa ummæli

Links to this post:

Búa til tengil

<< Home