Word of the Day

Friday, February 23, 2007


I've seen this word in a few language forums, especially used by foreigners, to mean declension. All the dictionaries I have access to do not assign the declension acceptation to declination, but only mention an astronomical sense. Sometimes from seeing a word being used in a certain one, one may fall into the trap of believing it to be correct usage, which no one has yet been able to prove to me is valid for declination meaning declension. Declination is obviously built on other languages, like Portuguese declinação, Spanish declinación, Italian declinazione, French déclinaison, German Deklination, etc., which have a suffix ação, ación, azione, aison (more commonly ation for French) and ation corresponding mostly to English ation.


It's a pity that my dictionary just disabused me of the notion that rodoviária (Portuguese for intercity bus station) is not derived from Greek δός (road) + Latin via (also road). The word comes from rodagem (from rodar, to rodate) and via (road). It would be funny to have a word meaning road road. Βut again, if δός had any say in building the word, the proper Portuguese word would be hodoviária, since the hard breathing (the ῾ over the first o) would have been transliterated into Latin as hodos with an h, which would have been kept in Portuguese.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Russian добрый (dobryj)

In Russian добрый means kind, unlike in other Slavic languages (Czech dobrý, Polish dobry, Macedonian добар, for example), where it means good. Nevertheless, it is the adjective добрый (and variations thereof) that Russians employ in their daily salutations: доброе утро = good morning, добрый день (dobryj den') = good afternoon "good day"), добрый вечер = good evening. I wonder if Russian добрый was ever used like dobrý, dobry, dobar, etc., to mean a general good.

To believe

I've just realized that Germanic (in this case English and German) and Slavic languages make a useful distinction between to believe somebody and to believe in somebody, a concept that is blurred in most Romance languages and which requires further context to be elucidated. This is due to Latin, which required the dative for both to believe someone and to believe in someone. In Spanish, for example, one sometimes says No creo en las brujas, pero que las hay, las hay (I don't believe (in) witches, but they do exist), a sentence that plays with the two meanings of creer: to believe someone or to believe in someone. What also struck me is that the languages I'm acquainted with that have cases use the dative to mean to believe someone and the accusative after the equivalent of in to signify to believe in someone:

Czech: věřit v Boha
Polish: wierzyć w Boga
Russian: верить в Бога (verit' v Boga)
an Gott glauben
English: to believe in God

Czech: věřit učiteli
Polish: wierzyć nauczycielowi
Russian: верить учителю (verit' uchitelyu)
dem Lehrer glauben
English: to believe the teacher