Friday, 30 November 2007

A.W.A.D. - Built-in Definite Articles

What does the 'lute' of a musician have in common with the Norwegian sea monster 'kraken' and 'lariat' of a cowboy? All three words come with a built-in definite article. The word lute is from Arabic al lud (the wood), kraken has the suffixed Norwegian definite article (-en), and lariat isfrom Spanish la reata (the rope).

Words are buried civilizations. Begin digging and you come across layers of history. Passage of time muddies the original form of words and when we borrow them from another language, we don't realize that they're already hitched to an article before we add a new one.

Well, you don't have to hop across languages or travel through time to see this kind of redundancy in action. We have the ATM machine and VAT tax and AC current in the English language.

This week we feature five more words that come with a packaged definite article.



lagniappe
(lan-YAP, LAN-yap) noun
An unexpected benefit, especially a small gift a customer receives with a purchase.


[From Louisiana French, from American Spanish la 単apa (the gift), from Quechua yapa (something added).]


alcove
(AL-kov) noun
1. A recess in a wall.
2. A small, secluded space connected to a room or in a garden.


[From French alcôve, from Spanish alcoba, from Arabic al-qubba (the vault).]


El Dorado
(el duh-RAH-doh) noun
A place offering fabulous wealth or opportunity.

[From Spanish, literally, the gilded one. After a legendary place in South America sought for its gold by 16th century explorers.]

azimuth
(AZ-uh-muhth) noun
The horizontal angle to an object, measured clockwise from a fixed reference point, usually north or south.

[From French azimut, from Latin azimut, from Arabic al-sumut, from al (the) + samt (way).]

algorithm
(AL-guh-rith-uhm) noun
A finite sequence of well-defined steps for solving a problem.

[After al Khwarizmi (the [man] of Khwarizm), a nickname of the 9th century Persian astronomer and mathematician Abu Jafar Muhammand ibn Musa, who authored many texts on arithmetic and algebra. He worked in Baghdad and his nickname alludes to his place of origin Khwarizm (Khiva), in present-day Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.]

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