Thursday, August 28, 2014

Food and Lunch Are Not the Same Thing

If you are very skinny, some well-intentioned person may give you this logical advice: “You need to eat food.”  Of course, if (s)he spoke to you in Armenian, (s)he would logically say: “Bedk e geragoor oodes” (Պէտք է կերակուր ուտես).

There is another word for “food,” oodelik (ուտելիք). However, the same person would not say: “Bedk e oodelik oodes” (Պէտք է ուտելիք ուտես). The reason is that oodelik and oodes sound quite odd in the same sentence.

Despite the fact that many people do it, the acquaintance of Mr. or Ms. Skinny would never say: “Bedk e jash oodes” (Պէտք է ճաշ ուտես).Why? Because jash does not mean “food,” but “meal” and, by extension, “lunch.”

Geragoor also means “meal.” If you are a child, you may announce to your parents after finishing your meal: “Geragoors gera” (Կերակուրս կերայ). You may also say “Jashs gera” (Ճաշս կերայ) if it is noon and you have finished lunch. But you don’t eat lunch when the sun has set, do you? At that time of the day, “Jashs gera” would be incorrect.

In conclusion,

“Food”: geragooroodelik

“Meal”: geragoor jash

“Lunch”: jash

Let’s end by listing the names of the different meals of the day:

nakhajash --- նախաճաշ --- “breakfast”
jash --- ճաշ --- “lunch”
nakhuntrik --- նախընթրիք --- “snack”
untrik --- ընթրիք --- “dinner, supper”

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Circus Is Not New

You may know nothing about the origin of English words, but when you hear the word circus, you will probably bet your money on a Latin origin, since the circus, as a spectacle, was invented in Rome. You are dead right, indeed. English and German circus is a straightforward derivation from the Latin circus “ring, circular line,” a name applied by Romans to arenas for performances and contests, and courses for racing.

The Armenian language has derived very few words from Latin, because, despite the long political interaction between the Roman Empire and the Armenian kingdom, there was very little Roman cultural and linguistic influence over Armenia. For this reason, English circus and Armenian կրկէս (grges, in Western Armenian pronunciation; krkes, in Classical/Eastern Armenian) mean the same, but have different origins. In the Armenian case, the source is the Greek word κίρκος (kirkos), “a circle, a ring,” which in the time of Homer and his Iliad was spelledκρίκος (krikos). The Armenian word was already attested in the fifth century.

In any case, once again, if the parents of circus and grges are different, their grandparent is the same. The Proto-Indo-European language (the “mother” of the family language to which Armenian, English, Greek, and Latin belong) had a root that meant “to turn, to bend” (*(s)ker). That root, at its turn, originated another one, *kirk, and this is how we have certain words in English, such as “circle” and “cycle,” that also come via Latin, from the same idea of “ring” or “circle.”

By the way, the Yerevan Circus has existed since the 1930s. The building was privatized in 2005 and demolished in 2012. A new building is under construction and it is scheduled to be finished next year. Thus, the next time you go to Yerevan you will hopefully be able to see, and perhaps to enter, the new grges.