Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Å Elske

1. to Love
2. worship, admire, adore
3. the act of having sex, equal to English "make love"

Now, the story I am about to tell you is hard to say is absolutely true. I've found two references by respected scholars backing it up, and a couple of others of unknown or less credible origin. However, I also found a couple of sources (none of them by scholars as far as i can tell) discrediting it, and claiming this is just "folk etymology". But bare with me, for just a second, and lets assume it is true. The version I first read is the one in "Snakk om Språk!" and is written by Ingebjørg Tonne, I've retold the "most important parts".

A very long time ago, when the Germanic language had divided into its branches, and Old Norse was in its early days, the word aila, meaning flame or fire, had developed into ailiska, an adjective meaning warm or burning. And as we humans do, we started using it metaphorically. Maybe we started having ailiska feelings about things, maybe seeing the village hunk walking across the yard made our stomachs go ailiska and funny.

Another thing we humans do is changing sounds. And the diphthong ai became e. See what just happened? Warm and burning ailiska just turned into equally warm and burning eliska. Slowly dropping the middle i, and making a verb to go with the adjective, we suddenly started elske each other. How incredibly amazing is that? A long forgotten root "ay", meaning fire, flame or possibly to burn, turns into the very word for love?

Another good story (which is a bit easier to prove) is the word daughter. If you take the word back through history, follow the roots as far back as we can, we find the word duhitr (or dugdhar) meaning "the milker" or "the little milker". Following this word gives us a glimpse of history, tells us about the role of the daughter, or maybe it even gives us a taste of a little joke between friends? "Is that your little milker over there?"

Knowing this, seeing how we can see parts of history through language that really aren't visible in any other way, how can you look at language with anything but pure and true enthusiasm?
How can you do anything but å elske