Wormwood and vermouth are the same word

Many people are aware of the link between wormwood and absinthe. As names for the plant Artemisia absinthium, they are synonyms. A. absinthium has been used for many centuries to add a bitter flavor to various concoctions, especially wines and liqueurs. It has even taken the place of hops in some beer recipes. The cultural … Continue reading Wormwood and vermouth are the same word

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The oldest written sentence in Polish

Polish—alongside Czech, Slovak, and Sorbian—belongs to the West Slavic family of languages, which began to diverge from each other towards the end of the first millennium. Polish is the largest member by far of the Lechitic subgroup, which also includes Silesian and Kashubian. The 13th-century Book of Henryków (księga henrykowska) contains, among other things, a … Continue reading The oldest written sentence in Polish

Eleventy-one

When as a naive 8th-grader I first trudged my long and arduous way through J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, I understood "eleventy-one" (111) to be a charming neologism on the part of the author—meant to be a quirk either of Bilbo Baggins' speech or of Hobbit-language as a whole. In fact, this … Continue reading Eleventy-one

The “Shiva Sutras”

In his most famous work, Aṣṭādhyāyī ("Eight Chapters"), the ancient Indian grammarian Pāṇini laid out his analysis of Sanskrit grammar in a comprehensive and impressively compact manner, outlining rules for everything from noun compounding to accentuation to sandhi. In sections dealing with individual sounds, the author is able to refer to whole groups of specific vowels … Continue reading The “Shiva Sutras”

Bagmē Blōma “Flower of the Trees”: Tolkien’s Gothic poem

J.R.R. Tolkien's adventures in language creation are well known and do not need elaboration here. But, in addition to his conlanging projects, he also composed an original 18-line poem in the Gothic language, the best-attested member of the extinct East Germanic language family. The bulk of the Gothic corpus is the Codex Argenteus, which contains … Continue reading Bagmē Blōma “Flower of the Trees”: Tolkien’s Gothic poem