Thursday, August 24, 2017

Maundy Thursday and the Eclipse

If there is no light in the room, you say «Մութ է» ( Moot eh ) to mean “It is dark.” However, if you wanted to be less colloquial and a little more literary, you might use the word խաւար ( khavar ), which means both “darkness” and “dark.” If you wanted to translate “In the Darkness,” you could either say «Մութին մէջ» ( Mootin mech ) or «Խաւարին մէջ» (Khavarin mech ).

The word khavar, already recorded in the fifth century A.D., probably comes from an Iranian source (for instance, we have Middle Persian xvarvaran and Farsi xavar ), meaning “west.” The West is where the sun goes down (Armenian արեւմուտք/arevmoodk ) ; therefore, the idea of “west” would normally be associated with darkness.

The word khavar may remind you of one of the highlights of the Holy Week, as celebrated by the Armenian Apostolic Church: the Խաւարում ( Khavaroom ). During this ceremony, held on Maundy Thursday, the twelve candles lighted in the church are put out one after the other, symbolizing the abandonment of Jesus by the twelve Apostles—including the black candle representing Judas—after the Last Supper and his prayer at the garden of Gethsemane. The church remains in the dark, while the poignant hymn Where Are Thou, My Mother? ( Ո՞ւր ես, մայր իմ / Oor es, mayr eem ) is sung. The action of darkening is called խաւարել ( khavaril ), but there is not an exact term in English to translate khavaroom, and thus the Latin translation tenebrae is used.

There is another khavaroom that became fashionable this week, after the total eclipse of the sun recorded on Tuesday, August 22, 2017. Khavaroom is the Armenian word for “eclipse” (from Greek ekleipsis “fail to appear”), and, as we may notice, whoever created the Armenian equivalent did not care about a literal translation, but applied the concept of darkening also used in the Holy Week.

To end this small note on astronomy, let us remember that, if it is a solar eclipse like this one, we call it արեւի խաւարում (arevi khavaroom ), while the moon eclipse becomes a լուսնի խաւարում ( loosnee khavaroom ).
Get your vocabulary ready for the next total solar eclipse in seven years!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Come and Feel

The Armenian verb գալ (kal “to come”) is a word as dynamic as its English counterpart. One of the main dictionaries of the Armenian language, Eduard Aghayan’s Explanatory Dictionary of Modern Armenian (Արդի հայերէնի բացատրական բառարան, Yerevan, 1976), offers 33 entries for this word.

You have, of course, a gallery of compound words derived from kal, of which we are going to give two examples:

պարագայ (baraka “circumstance, case”), composed by պար (bar “around”) and գայ (ka, from kal), with the connective ա (a).
ապագայ (abaka “future”), which means “what comes after” (ապա/aba “after, later” and ka).

Moreover, because kal is an irregular verb, you have several words unrelated to the concept of “coming,” but nevertheless derived from kal, more exactly from the root of its imperative form, եկ-ուր (yegoor) (singular) and եկ-էք (yegek) (plural).  Here is an incomplete list:

եկամուտ (yegamood): “income.” As you may notice, both Armenian and English words have been composed in a similar way. English in-come means “what is coming in” and Armenian yeg-a-mood indicates something that “comes” (yeg) and “enters” (mood, the root of the verb մտնել/mudnel).

զեկոյց (zegooyts): “communication, report.” Here we find the prefix z again, but because it is followed by a vowel, we pronounce as it is: z-eg-ooyts (ooyts is a suffix, as in the word զրոյց/zurooyts “chat”).

իրազեկ (irazeg): “informed.”

The meaning of another verb, զգալ (uzkal “to feel”), seems unrelated at first sight. What relation can you find between “to come” and “to feel”? It comes out that you can find it.

The verb uzkal is derived from kal, with help from the quite common Classical Armenian prefix զ (z). 
Thus, kal > uz-kal (it is pronounced with a schwa, because it is followed by a consonant). Don’t you feel what comes to you? Yes, you do. Words have mysterious connections.