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21Nov/14

Lingua Franca – Word of the day

Latin and Greek were the languages of the Roman Empire, with Latin keeping its status as a lingua franca of European scholars up to until 18th century when was gradually dethroned by French as the ruling language of diplomacy, to nowadays when English is the modern lingua franca, and the first truly global language, understood on every continent and at least to some extent by approximately a quarter of the world’s population.

But ironically, English dominates the modern world described by a term with an Italian origin, which literally translates as "Frankish tongue."

The lingua franca origin came with the Crusades, when the Eastern European and Arabic world referred to all Western and Central Europeans as Franks, (the widely famous Thai name for all Caucasians farang derives from the same origin). And the language of the Franks, was definitely not Germanic, but a mixed tongue which flourished in the Mediterranean in the 1600s. It was a curious pidgin language to support the booming trade and diplomacy in the area. To the Italian core was added a spice of Spanish, Portuguese, French, Greek, Arabic and Turkish words.

This was originally referred to as Bastard Spanish. The first English author to call mixed language in the Levant area lingua franca was the famous John Dryden. In his 1680, comedy The King Keeper, Dryden parodied the new language phenomena, “This a kind of Lingua Franca, as I have heard the merchants call it; a certain compound language, made up of all tongues that passes through the Levant”

Some decades later, in 1726, Swift's Gulliver tried to communicate with the Lilliputians in “.......High and Low Dutch, Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, and Lingua Franca”. He was really a great polyglot.

It is strange that the lingua franca is today used to describe the predominate language for communication. In the Roman times it was Latin, something which continued until French took over, to be replaced by English now.

The lingua franca always had a sole purpose to serve global communication. It walked a long path and crowned different languages on its way. In the last decade with the online boom, the new lingua franca is shaping up as a pidgin hybrid language of emojis, memes, numbers, symbols, abbreviations and trending slang expressions.

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20Nov/14

Autumn – Word of the day

Do you prefer to name the third season of the year with the colourful autumn or practical fall word? And do you know that beyond the different words used, Britain and North America also differ by outlining the duration of the season. On the basis of the Irish calendar and Gaelic traditions, the Brits start with autumn in August and enjoy it until October. The Americans enjoy the fall from September until December.

A long time ago, life was simpler. The Brits named the season harvest. Actually the Anglo-Saxons only had two seasons - winter and non-winter.

The word autumn came from Latin through Old French and was introduced into the English language, by Chaucer, who in 1374 described how “Autumn comes again, heavy of apples.”

The alternative word fall traces its origins to old Germanic languages and in the English language comes from the expressions like "fall of the leaf" and "fall of the year"and was in use by the mid-1500s. This was the same time when the word autumn begun to displace harvest. The word was used in a 1526 translation of the New Testament, “Trees rotten in autumn”. And not to forget that Shakespeare gave its share in popularizing autumn, starting from A Midsummer Night's Dream where the word autumn was numerously used and most remarkably in Titania's speech referring to the chain of life as seasons change : “....the spring, the summer, the childing autumn, angry winter, change.” In The Taming of the Shrew Petruchio sees the challenge of taming and conquering Kate equal to boarding a ship in unstable weather: “For I will board her, though she chide as loud, As thunder when the clouds in autumn crack.”

In the next century the terms harvest and fall gradually became obsolete in Britain and autumn came to relate solely to the season. However, fall got a second chance as the English emigrants to the British colonies in North America brought the term with them to described the time of year when the leaves fall from the trees.

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19Nov/14

Hazelnut – Word of the day

Archaeologists have found evidence of the hazelnut in Great Britain some 9,000 years ago. It goes back well before the Norman Conquest. So it is no surprise that the word hazelnut is one of the oldest words in the English language. The first time a hazelnut was mentioned was back in the beginning of the 700s.

Now Great Britain is an also-ran for hazelnut production. It is Turkey which produces approximately 75% of global production, followed by Italy with approximately 10%.

In Great Britain the large number of hazelnuts found in locals communities suggests that there could have been whole villages which were largely vegetarian. Today the hazelnut is often used in confectionary and cakes. The most famous product using the hazelnut is Nutella.  The product is celebrating its 50th birthday and has become so famous that in Italy, its country of origin, there was a commemorative stamp this year. In addition to sugar and palm oil, there are 50 hazelnuts in each jar!

The hazelnut is rich is oil and Vitamin E and eating it is recommended for providing protection against cancer and heart diseases. It is also considered to have some properties as an aphrodisiac. This is probably why dancing around the hazelnut tree was considered good for love. Obviously the ancient Britons were on to a good thing.

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18Nov/14

Piggy bank – Word of the day

Piggy Bank - Word of the day - EVS Translations

Piggy Bank - Word of the day - EVS Translations

The origin of the piggy bank goes back to the English word pygg or pig which was used in the 1400s to describe a pot of jar made of clay. A pig was filled with some sort of fluid, like wine or in a few cases even metal or coins.

Curiously enough at the same time a word pronounced in the same way and used at the same time described the animal – the pig.

The piggy bank brought the two origins of the word together – a porcelain container in the shape of a pig. The earliest coin collecting piggy bank was found in Java around about 1400.

And now to the bank part – it related originally to benches on which money was placed, a sort of counter which was used for early currency trading in Italy and from which the word bank as a money house originated. When the trader went out of business – his bench was broken – he was broke.

In modern times, the piggy bank was a way for children to learn to save. The piggy bank is often made out of a breakable material in the shape of a big – and the idea is taught that it is a good idea to made small savings in order to be able to afford something bigger.

The first times the piggy bank appears in print were in the United States. In 1913 a child remembers her room with pink roses, her Teddy bear and a “desk with the piggy bank on top of it” and the Baltimore Sun in 1917 reports that of the 108 schools in the city “in seven of them children have mobilized their piggy banks and bought bonds” (obviously school taught financial literary in quite a different way in those days).

 

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17Nov/14

Sushi – Word of the day

Sushi - Word of the day - EVS Translations

Sushi - Word of the day - EVS Translations

Sushi is a dish from Japan famous for its use of a variety of raw fish used as a topping on a small lump of hand-pressed rice. In fact, there are many different kinds of toppings including octopus, natto (fermented soya beans), red caviar and sea urchin. Popular ways to present the sushi include temakizushi in which the rice and filling is wrapped in a cone of crisp roasted seaweed, or makizushi which is a cylindrical role of seaweed-wrapped sushi.

Alice Mabel Bacon, an American writer and women’s educator in America and in Japan during its Meiji era (1868-1912), introduced sushi to the English speaking world through her book A Japanese Interior (1893) in which she described sushi as “rice sandwiches”. Unlike sandwiches, however, sushi is often eaten in restaurants which specialise only in this cuisine. At top-end restaurants, customers make successive orders of individual sushi prepared by a highly trained chef. At the lower end is kaitenzushi – better known as the sushi bars with a conveyer belt from which customers take their desired dish.

If you’re looking for a quick and healthy meal option, there’s nothing better than going to your local kaitenzushi for some cheap but delicious sushi which always comes with unlimited green tea. It’s great fast-food when you’re on the go since you only have to take a seat at the counter and the food is already there. A single plate with two pieces starts at around 105 JPY (60 pence/ 1USD) and since the food is continually travelling past you on the belt, it can be difficult to put your chopsticks down and ask for the bill. More expensive options are usually available such as otoro - and sushi really doesn’t get better than this. Otoro is tuna from the belly area and despite its unappetizing description, there are few foods that melt in the mouth like a good slice of raw tuna belly.

Sushi has steadily grown in popularity in the U.K. over the past decade, but prices are expensive and variation limited. It seems like Brits are still not sure about delving into the world of raw fish and the more unusual forms of seafood, and dishes are focused mainly around salmon, tuna and an array of vegetarian offerings. Perhaps in another decade or so, if the taste for sushi develops, we can look forward to some more adventurous options at the kind of price that make sushi bars a quick, but delicious lunch stop.

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14Nov/14

Apotheosis – Word of the day

The term apotheosis goes back to Greek and Roman days, when important men became gods. For example, of the 60 Roman emperors who ruled between 14 AD and 337 AD, 36 made it to god status together with 27 members of their families.

In the Catholic church, apotheosis was sometimes associated with humans being made saints. The first reference in the English language came in 1570 in a book about Great Britain church history, popularly known as Foxe's Book of Martyrs, where John Foxe affirmed “that in this calendar, I make an apotheosis or canonisation of false martyrs”.

Apotheosis reaches art and literature fast

Not unsurprisingly becoming a saint or the processes of going up to heaven – also known as the apotheosis – was a frequent subject of painting.

In literature, apotheosis came to mean the highest point, or a superlative. A recent example is in The Dark Tower by Stephen King where the desert is referred to as "the apotheosis of all deserts".

But it is not necessary to be Greek, Roman or a Catholic to become a god. Modern history holds many controversial apotheoses, with country leaders been elevated to superhuman charismatic and faultless figures. Great examples are Kim Jong-il in North Korea and Lenin in the former USSR. Their mausoleums still stand, publicly displaying the former leaders' embalmed bodies.

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13Nov/14

Penthouse – Word of the day

Penthouse as a word has been in the English language for a long time. But it was only in the last 100 years or so that it came to mean a flat on the top of a building, often with high social status.

Originally a penthouse was some sort of extra building tacked on to the side of a house. It could have been a shed, or a porch or even an outhouse. This was the main meaning of the word until 1892. Fittingly enough the new meaning came from business developers in New York. The Real Estate Record and Builders’ Guide. It starts by stating “It would puzzle many of our readers to know what is meant by a penthouse” and then explains it is a “habitation for a janitor and his family on the roof”. Again, the penthouse was nothing much more than an extension at the top.

The idea of luxury came much later when the publisher of Vogue and Vanity Fair, Condé Nast had the first famous up-market penthouse built in New York - on 1040 Park Avenue. From the date of its completion in 1925 it became a social hot point of the city.

Monaco is a tax haven where one in three of the 40,000 residents is a millionaire. Recently an apartment was announced with a price tag of USD 400 million. - It was really only in the 1956 that the word was used in print as something luxurious. This is a very very long way from the early penthouse shed described in 1300 the first time the word was mentioned. In a sermon about Christmas, the preacher talks about no room in the inn. The only place available was a penthouse!

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12Nov/14

Balloon – Word of the day

Balloon - Word of the day - EVS Translations

Balloon - Word of the day - EVS Translations

This weekend the world commemorated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain with a visual art installation of 7,000 LED balloons illuminating the path of the Berlin Wall – the last fallen symbol of the Cold War. The culmination was the balloon being released into the air. While Berlin filled with millions of people to celebrate the reunification of East and West, some appeared to think as merchants or souvenir hunters. The result was 1,500 stolen balloon poles, with an Ebay offer today to buy one for the colossal amount EUR 7,999. After pieces of Berlin Wall were spread around the world, now came the time for the balloon installation to follow the same path.

Of course, what could better symbolise the urge for freedom, changes and hopes than a white balloon. After all, Germany has a history with balloons as a symbol of change. Remember Nena sang 99 Balloons in 1983 inspiring anti-nuclear protests around the world.

The story of balloons started in the 1550s. In France, games were played with large inflated balls and found their way to Italy as a result of royal marriages. At the end of the century, the word was already part of the English language, as John Florio translated the meaning of the Italian word in his masterwork A World of Words as “...a great ball, a ballone”.

The first hot air balloon travellers, powered by fire, appeared in England in the middle of 18th century. And the rubber, inflated by gas balloon, as we know it today, was invented by Faraday in 1824 and “The step from fire balloons to balloons filled with gas..was now easy and obvious”, as the British scientific writer Dionysius Lardner wrote in 1831.

Balloons were not intended for parties, but had a military role to serve – from the tragic fame of the Zeppelin to barrage balloons inflated over London as an attempt to obstruct air attacks during the Battle of Britain.

Nowadays – 69 years after the WWII and 25 years after the Cold War, it is hard to imagine how colourless life would be without balloons and how a celebration could go without any. Give children a balloon and they will indulge into pleasure and play together regardless of their origin. Balloons could really make the world a better, more united place.

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11Nov/14

Lantern – Word of the day

Lantern - Word of the day - EVS Translations

Lantern - Word of the day - EVS Translations

As the days become shorter and the nights become longer, more light is needed and something is required to protect the light against the wind and the rain. Enter the lantern.

Of course the lantern has been around for thousands of years, but the word only came to English via Chaucer in the late 1300s. Troilus (Troilus and Criseyde) grieves for his absent lover and empty dark heart and palace where the lantern is without light.

The lantern provided illumination and even created jobs – “the lantern and candle man”, the “lantern bearer”, “the lantern carrier” and “the lantern maker” are all jobs described around about 1600.

On 11 November, St. Martin’s Day is celebrated in many parts of Europe by children walking down the streets with lanterns. How did this come to be a festival? The story goes that St. Martin was a relatively rich Roman soldier. In the middle of a snowstorm he saw a cold beggar and cut his coat into two halves, giving one to the shivering man. Now comes the tricky part – why is St. Martin connected with a lantern? No one has yet been able to explain to me why. I took a survey among the mothers of our company to see who could come up with the story why their children are running around the streets with lanterns. The best anyone could come up with was this fantastic story from France. St. Martin lost his donkey on a pitch dark night (why was he was riding a donkey on this day when he normally rode a horse remains a mystery). The whole event happened near a town which apparently had a lot of good children. They went searching for the donkey with lanterns. And they soon found the donkey and paraded the poor beast back to the town with their lanterns. The end of the story is even more incredible. St. Martin turned the donkey’s droppings into rolls. This was just what the children wanted to eat.

The festival of St. Martin actually was a fasting session of 40 days, starting as stated on 11 November and finishing some time before Christmas. This fasting period was taken up by the church and called Advent. In Germany, Carnival starts in earnest on 11 November, always on the same date of 11.11. This period of “fasting” broken up by Christmas and celebrations continues until Easter when the next season of fasting begins.

The lantern is connected with the new season and the hope of the beginning of darkness being the start of spring and new dreams.

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10Nov/14

Domino – Word of the day

The children’s game of dominoes forms the basis of a political theory and has become a mass television spectacle showing a series of very small events making something spectacular.

They were first mentioned in English by Joseph Strutt who was the first person who studied the history of customs and fashion in England. But he had a sideline interest – games. In 1801, he published a book on the subject Sports and Pastimes of the People of England. This is the first time dominoes are mentioned. Strutt states that “Dominoes seems to have been little known in England till towards the end of the eighteenth century, when it was imported from France.” This is followed by a relatively long description of the pieces and how to play.

The domino principle

It was only in the 1950s that the falling domino principle was proposed. President Eisenhower (who also introduced to English counter-productive, proficiency pay and killing ground) propounded the idea of related political cause and effect in a 1954 news conference 1954 with the words “You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences.” The idea was that if one state went communist others, would follow.

The domino effect is a series of small events which taken together result in a huge catastrophe. This is shown clearly in a domino show where hundreds, thousands, even millions of dominoes are arranged and then knocked down. The record is some 4 million dominoes.

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