Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Sanskrit Word in English: Yoga

The Sanskrit word YOGA is now very familiar to speakers of English!  What is fascinating about the word "yoga" is that it is also a way to see how Sanskrit and English are related languages, both belonging to the Indo-European family of languages. The Sanskrit word "yoga" is from the Indo-European root *yeug- which is also the root of English words like "yoke" and also "join." If you are interested in the history of the Indo-European languages, you can read more at Wikipedia. You can see a detailed list of the Indo-European words from the yeug- root at the UT Indo-European Lexicon.

The idea behind the Sanskrit word is a "joining" or "yoking," in the sense of harnessing something in order to put it to use. It can also refer to the sense of "joining" with the divine.  You can read about the history of yoga and the different yoga traditions of India in this article at Wikipedia.

In Sanskrit, a man who practices yoga is called a "yogi" (yogin), while a woman who practices yoga is a "yogini." Sanskrit is a language that forms many compound words; you can see a list of Sanskrit compound words with yoga at

Word from Mythology: Tantalize

Today's word from mythology is tantalize, which means to torment someone with the sight of something desirable that is just out of reach. The word comes from Tantalus, the King of Phrygia, who was tortured in the afterlife by having to stand up in water that reaches to his chin, with tree branches full of fruit directly in front of him. Every time that he tried to drink, however, the water would recede so that he could not drink, and every time that he tried to reach out and pluck one of the fruits, the branch pulled away so he could not reach the fruit.

King Tantalus committed various crimes that could have led to his famous punishment. One of his most notorious crimes was to sacrifice his own son, Pelops, cooking him up and serving him at a banquet for the gods. The gods realized what was happening, but only after Demeter had already eaten Pelops's shoulder. Clotho, one of the Fates, brought Pelops back to life, but because one of his shoulders was missing, it had to be replaced with a shoulder of ivory.

The image below is a 16th-century illustration of a poem about Tantalus by Alciato:

And here is a Renaissance painting by Joseph Heintz the Elder:

Shakespeare Insult Generator

I've seen several different Shakespeare Insult Generators... but this is the most fun! Here's a link:

Word Count Humor


And here they are on Letterman in 1989:

The Linguistics of LOLspeak

This video shows a presentation by two linguists from Australia, Lauren Gawne and Jill Vaughan, who have studied LOLCats and the language that people use when creating LOLCats. They even include a discussion of the LOLCat Bible! If you prefer to read, you will find their work online at the Open Research Library.

Here is the video; also at YouTube.