Word Hoard

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Hearty Hogmanay To You!

I'm going to pull a lot of this from my alphaDictionary.com daily email:

Hogmanay Meaning: Scottish Hogmanay is not swine food or a pig resort but a festivity celebrated on last day of the year. Children traditionally ranged about the neighborhood on this day asking for presents. It also refers to the gifts given or received on Hogmanay. More recently it has become a raucous New Year's Eve party in many Scottish cities.

The traditional Hogmanay includes "first footing," the welcoming of a tall, dark stranger at the stroke of midnight. First-footers bring good luck but should also bring a gift such as uisge beatha "water of life" (where Gaelic uisge is the source of English whiskey). If the uisge is all sold out, a lump of coal or an oat cake called a bannock will suffice. This tradition reaches back to the Viking era.

Word History: The sense of Hogmanay corresponds to that of Old French aguillanneuf "the last day of the year, new year's gift." In modern French dialects it survives as "aiguilan," "guilané," and "guilanneau" but in Normandy it is "hoguinané," whence it probably invaded Scottish English. The French term survives today in the phrase au gui l'an neuf! "(kiss) under the New Year's mistletoe.” Others speculated that "hogmanay" itself comes either from the Anglo-Saxon haleg monath "holy month" or Gaelic oge maidne "new morning."

My second word comes from one of my favorite TV shows right now, Man v. Wild with Bear Grylls. The most recent episode I saw, he was marooned on a desert island in the Pacific Ocean. The song "It's Now or Never" was playing on the radio and Wendy said the first time she heard that song was when Bugs Bunny was singing it on a desert island. I thought the cartoon title was something like Marooned! but it was more than likely "Wackiki Wabbit". After some more searching I realize it was a children's book with Bugs called Marooned!. Anyway, the point is that maroon, the verb, came up twice this evening.

Aside from being a fine color, maroon is a neat word with an interesting history. According to Bartleby.com, it comes ultimately from Spanish cima, mountain, then cimmaron, wild, then French marron, fugitive slave. So it is not dissimilar to maverick, a fugitive calf. But people aren't mavericked.

Of course, things aren't that simple. Marron the French word for chestnut is our source for the color maroon. They got it from Italian marrone. So is there a possibility the French word for chestnut refered to fugitive slaves instead of being a French abbreviation of the American Spanish word for wild? (For the uninitiated, this is the point in my post where I get my OED off the shelf and end up fascinated in some word that is tangentially connected to the main word. It really should have its own theme music like a Mr Rogers ritual. Aside: my sister is also up at this early hour, and as I went to get my OED she independently said it was reminiscent of Mr Rogers, so I'm accurate in my description.)

The OED backs up Bartleby.com going further with the color's etymology to medieval Greek maraon and more specific with the first meaning: Any of the black people in the mountains and forests of Suriname and the W. Indies who are descended from runaway slaves. M17

No tangents today. Have a great new year, and start it off by letting some tall, dark and handsome man bless your home by bringing you some whiskey or Quaker rice cakes.


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