You know you're a language nerd when…

General discussion about learning languages
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Alphathon
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Re: You know you're a language nerd when…

Postby Alphathon » Fri Feb 10, 2017 3:58 am

Tillumadoguenirurm wrote:
Iversen wrote:If I have to choose then the "big unspecified dangerous animal" explanation would also be my favorite, and there are indeed similar cases galore if you look for them. For instance a giraffe is officially called Giraffa camelopardalis - i.e. a camel-leopard (because of the spots), and a sizeable portions of the heraldic lions (those that walk with their faces turned towards the spectators) are called leopards just because the medieval Europeans didn't really know the real difference between the two species, penguins are called penguins because the great auk was called that and somebody thought they might be related, the white rhino ain't white but grey (it just had 'wide' mouth according to the boers), the cuttlefish aren't fish in any sense of the word -they just live in water like fish do .. and so on and so on.
That's funny Iversen, when I read these post last night, the first thing that came to mind was the heraldic so-called lions. There are even examples of animals with eagle-like heads and feline bodies being called lions. Even today people who don't know animals confuse lions with other cats and vice versa. And honestly, if people have never seen neither a lion nor an elephant, and all they know about them is that they both come from Africa/Asia/"Asia" and that they are both big mammals with big teeth, it's not especially hard to imagine that someone might have gotten confused at one point.

I like the "leaning" version, but I have no idea wether it's true or not.
Yeah, there are numerous weird mythical/heraldic beasts from the middle ages that originated from misunderstandings of descriptions of real animals. I believe the unicorn originated from a description of a rhino for example (either an extant species or a now-extinct European species).

The weirdest charge I can think of though is the "panther" found on the coat of arms of the Austrian state of Styria (Steiermark in German). It has a body somewhat like a heraldic lion/"leopard" but with a cow's ears, horns, a long snout, a peculiarly split tail and a flaming tongue. If memory serves, the name originated in Greek describing a big cat which could change its coat; how they got from that to the Styrian beast I have no idea. A similar "panther" also appears on the arms of Ingolstadt, Bavaria, although that one lacks horns.

(I'm not sure this is strictly relevant but I think it's interesting.)
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Re: You know you're a language nerd when…

Postby Cainntear » Fri Feb 10, 2017 7:12 pm

Alphathon wrote:Yeah, there are numerous weird mythical/heraldic beasts from the middle ages that originated from misunderstandings of descriptions of real animals. I believe the unicorn originated from a description of a rhino for example (either an extant species or a now-extinct European species).

Quite likely. (As an aside, I've no idea why people keep talking about Narwhal's as the origin of the myth. Perhaps that's where the medieval form of the horn came from, but why would a whale turn into a horse in folklore?)

Similarly, there are myths in Scotland about "water horses" -- big, powerful, fast horses that live in fresh water and will drag you to your death (similar stories are found elsewhere in Europe). All that will ever be found of you are your internal organs. Given that an animal the ancient Egyptians feared was dubbed by the Greeks a "river horse", I'm guessing that the myth started with hippopotamuses...
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Re: You know you're a language nerd when…

Postby Cavesa » Fri Feb 10, 2017 7:23 pm

Alphathon wrote:Yeah, there are numerous weird mythical/heraldic beasts from the middle ages that originated from misunderstandings of descriptions of real animals. I believe the unicorn originated from a description of a rhino for example (either an extant species or a now-extinct European species)


Yep. A few hundred years ago, Charles IV (the most important Czech king, who was even more importantly a Holy Roman Emperor) once paid an outrageous amount of money for a dragon skull. The crocodile is still part of the exposition at Karlštejn, as it wasn't worth stealing later (unlike most things in the castle).
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Re: You know you're a language nerd when…

Postby vogeltje » Fri Feb 10, 2017 9:41 pm

Cavesa wrote:
Alphathon wrote:Yeah, there are numerous weird mythical/heraldic beasts from the middle ages that originated from misunderstandings of descriptions of real animals. I believe the unicorn originated from a description of a rhino for example (either an extant species or a now-extinct European species)


Yep. A few hundred years ago, Charles IV (the most important Czech king, who was even more importantly a Holy Roman Emperor) once paid an outrageous amount of money for a dragon skull. The crocodile is still part of the exposition at Karlštejn, as it wasn't worth stealing later (unlike most things in the castle).


I thought that he would be Charlemagne, but I searched and he was Charles I, not IV, and the one I thought wasn't Czech.

It's really interesting and fun that they muddle up the descriptions of the animals and put them on their heralds.
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Re: You know you're a language nerd when…

Postby Cavesa » Sat Feb 11, 2017 12:07 am

vogeltje wrote:
Cavesa wrote:
Alphathon wrote:Yeah, there are numerous weird mythical/heraldic beasts from the middle ages that originated from misunderstandings of descriptions of real animals. I believe the unicorn originated from a description of a rhino for example (either an extant species or a now-extinct European species)


Yep. A few hundred years ago, Charles IV (the most important Czech king, who was even more importantly a Holy Roman Emperor) once paid an outrageous amount of money for a dragon skull. The crocodile is still part of the exposition at Karlštejn, as it wasn't worth stealing later (unlike most things in the castle).


I thought that he would be Charlemagne, but I searched and he was Charles I, not IV, and the one I thought wasn't Czech.

It's really interesting and fun that they muddle up the descriptions of the animals and put them on their heralds.


:-D Charlemagne in Prague :-D

Nope. Charles IV had been educated in France. He spent there half his youth, under his original name Václav and his first wife was French (as the time went, he got married four times). And he took the name Charles as a great admirer of Charlemagne, when he got the crown.
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Re: You know you're a language nerd when…

Postby vogeltje » Sat Feb 11, 2017 1:19 am

Cavesa wrote:
vogeltje wrote:
Cavesa wrote:
Alphathon wrote:Yeah, there are numerous weird mythical/heraldic beasts from the middle ages that originated from misunderstandings of descriptions of real animals. I believe the unicorn originated from a description of a rhino for example (either an extant species or a now-extinct European species)


Yep. A few hundred years ago, Charles IV (the most important Czech king, who was even more importantly a Holy Roman Emperor) once paid an outrageous amount of money for a dragon skull. The crocodile is still part of the exposition at Karlštejn, as it wasn't worth stealing later (unlike most things in the castle).


I thought that he would be Charlemagne, but I searched and he was Charles I, not IV, and the one I thought wasn't Czech.

It's really interesting and fun that they muddle up the descriptions of the animals and put them on their heralds.


:-D Charlemagne in Prague :-D

Nope. Charles IV had been educated in France. He spent there half his youth, under his original name Václav and his first wife was French (as the time went, he got married four times). And he took the name Charles as a great admirer of Charlemagne, when he got the crown.



oups :? haha I don't know anyhting about history at all. I've heard of 2 Roman Emperors: Charlemagne and Caesar. sorry to the other ones. I am terribly ignorant about most things like history, politics, chemistry, computing, etc etc etc etc. But I know where Prague is :D and Paris :lol: It's funny that he thought a crocodile was a dragon because the crocodiles don't breath fire.
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Alphathon
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Re: You know you're a language nerd when…

Postby Alphathon » Sat Feb 11, 2017 5:42 am

vogeltje wrote:
Cavesa wrote:
vogeltje wrote:
Cavesa wrote:
Alphathon wrote:Yeah, there are numerous weird mythical/heraldic beasts from the middle ages that originated from misunderstandings of descriptions of real animals. I believe the unicorn originated from a description of a rhino for example (either an extant species or a now-extinct European species)


Yep. A few hundred years ago, Charles IV (the most important Czech king, who was even more importantly a Holy Roman Emperor) once paid an outrageous amount of money for a dragon skull. The crocodile is still part of the exposition at Karlštejn, as it wasn't worth stealing later (unlike most things in the castle).


I thought that he would be Charlemagne, but I searched and he was Charles I, not IV, and the one I thought wasn't Czech.

It's really interesting and fun that they muddle up the descriptions of the animals and put them on their heralds.


:-D Charlemagne in Prague :-D

Nope. Charles IV had been educated in France. He spent there half his youth, under his original name Václav and his first wife was French (as the time went, he got married four times). And he took the name Charles as a great admirer of Charlemagne, when he got the crown.



oups :? haha I don't know anyhting about history at all. I've heard of 2 Roman Emperors: Charlemagne and Caesar. sorry to the other ones. I am terribly ignorant about most things like history, politics, chemistry, computing, etc etc etc etc. But I know where Prague is :D and Paris :lol: It's funny that he thought a crocodile was a dragon because the crocodiles don't breath fire.
The Roman Empire ≠ the Holy Roman Empire, as much as the Holy Roman Emperors would have liked you to think otherwise. ;)

In the 4th century the Roman Empire was split in two: the Western half centred on Rome lasted for less than 100 years more and its fall led to the dark ages; the eastern half was centred on Constantinople (modern Istanbul). It became known as the Byzantine Empire since Constantinople was originally called Byzantium/Byzántion, although it was always officially known as the Roman Empire. It lasted until the 15th century when it was conquered by the Ottomans (the predecessors of modern Turkey).

I forget who said it but the Holy Roman Empire was "neither holy, nor Roman nor an empire". For much of its existence it can basically be thought of as equivalent to Germany, and indeed was sometimes known as the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation in later centuries, although it covered a larger area than the German Sprachraum and also included the Kingdoms of Bohemia, Arles/Burgundy and Italy (although the latter two had been long since lost when it finally came to an end in 1806). Sometimes Charlemagne is considered the first Holy Roman Emperor but while he is the predecessor of the Holy Roman Emperors and was crowned "Emperor of the Romans" (in Rome by the Pope), his empire is usually called the Carolingian Empire or the Frankish Empire since it evolved from the Kingdom of the Franks/Francia. Basically he and his successors claimed to be the successors of Roman authority in the west. Eventually the imperial title became defunct again, but was ultimately reclaimed by Otto I of East Francia (a.k.a. the Kingdom of Germany/Kingdom of the Germans), one of the divisions of the Frankish realm, following his conquest of Italy (the other main divisions were West Francia – a.k.a. the Kingdom of France – Burgundy and Italy). The realm of Otto and his successors ultimately developed into the Holy Roman Empire. There's a lot more to it than that but we're off-topic enough as it is.

Of course while it was called the Kingdom of Germany, this was Germany in the Latin sense, and covered almost all of the continental West Germanic Dialect continuum, not just High and Low German; the only major exceptions are North Frisian and West Flemish (for most of its existence; it did fall under the empire at some points). I have do doubt this strongly affected the development of all these languages, although there was no Dachsprache really until Luther translated the Bible in the 16th century, at which point Central High German slowly became the standard. Prior to that Low German and Dutch were also quite prominent, particularly in the Hanseatic league.

Incidentally, and to bring it back to languages a little bit, the title Caesar* became Germanicised and ultimately led to the words for emperor in most Germanic languages: the German Kaiser, the Dutch keizer, the Old Norse/Icelandic/Faroese keisari, the Norwegian keiser/keisar, the Danish kejser, the Swedish kejsare and the Gothic kaisar; the Gothic term was subsequently borrowed into proto-Slavic and became tsar etc and the Old Norse was borrowed into Finnish.

*Caesar was originally a name, that of Julius Caesar, but by the end of the Roman Empire had become a title.
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Re: You know you're a language nerd when…

Postby Brun Ugle » Sat Feb 11, 2017 7:47 am

I love this thread. It's got everything -- etymology, mythology, history -- triple nerdiness.

(Autocorrect thinks "nerdiness" should be "nerd inescapable." Yeah, it's that too.)
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Re: You know you're a language nerd when…

Postby luke » Sat Feb 11, 2017 10:05 am

You join a Toastmaster's club and think you're next 9 speeches will be about language learning.
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Re: You know you're a language nerd when…

Postby Teango » Sat Feb 11, 2017 11:57 am

When you see a crazy ol' lady gesticulating and talking to herself in the middle of the road (Friday nights in Honolulu, eh!), only to realize you've been signing to yourself for the last 15 minutes on the way to the supermarket and must have looked equally as eccentric. :shock:
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