HD: Leap Year
Posted: 29 February 2012 04:38 AM   [ Ignore ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4657
Joined  2007-01-03

Updated an old entry for the occasion.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 29 February 2012 04:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3026
Joined  2007-02-26

What changed?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 29 February 2012 04:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4657
Joined  2007-01-03

I updated the links and added a bit of explanation about the Latin. Nothing substantive.

This has got me to thinking. My last scrub of the old Big List entries was 2008. It’s about time for another. Maybe when I’m done with the words of the year…

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 March 2012 06:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2310
Joined  2007-01-30

A nice companion-piece to Dave’s entry by Joanna Rubery, an online editor at Oxford University Press.

Leap years around the world

The etymology of the slightly puzzling English term leap year is uncertain, but it’s thought that the name originated in late Middle English. But other languages use different terms: in German (Schaltjahr) and Chinese (闰年(rùnnián)) , the terms used literally translate as the more technically accurate intercalary year. On the other hand, the Romance languages and Russian use année bissextile (French), anno bisestile (Italian), año bisiesto (Spanish), and високо́сный год (Russian), terms that derive from the Latin bis sextum (bissextile or “second sixth” in English), due to the fact that in a Roman leap year, the sixth day before March calends (sextum) was counted twice (bis). In Reggio Emilia in northern Italy, a leap year can also be referred to as l’ann d’ la baleina (in dialect), literally the whale’s year, according to the belief that whales give birth only during leap years.

I’m instantly enamoured of the term whale’s year. One wonders how this odd belief arose.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 March 2012 07:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4657
Joined  2007-01-03

I can’t speak to the other languages, but Rubery hasn’t done a great job with the English etymology. First I wouldn’t call 1387 “late” Middle English. That’s when Chaucer is composing The Canterbury Tales and is pretty much the high point of Middle English. “Late” Middle English is generally taken to be the fifteenth century. And as I say in the Big List and as recorded in the OED, while we don’t have an extant citation for the Old English geares hlyp, there is good reason to think it existed.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 March 2012 08:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3449
Joined  2007-01-29

високо́сный год (Russian)

This is a classic prescriptivist shibboleth in Russian; even highly educated people often spell the adjective высокосный, with ы (y) instead of и (i), because of the very common adjective высокий ‘high.’ The adjective високосный occurs only in this phrase and (being from Greek bisextos) has no support within the Russian lexicon.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 March 2012 08:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2310
Joined  2007-01-30
Dave Wilton - 02 March 2012 07:35 AM

I can’t speak to the other languages, but Rubery hasn’t done a great job with the English etymology.

The blame can’t really be laid at her door, Dave, she’s quoting from the OED entry for leap year. I agree with you though, I wouldn’t have thought of that period as Late Middle English either.

leap year

Etymology:  Late Middle English, < leap n.1; probably of much older formation, as the Old Norse hlaup-ár is presumably, like other terms of the Roman calendar, imitated from English.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 March 2012 09:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4657
Joined  2007-01-03

Ooh, I see that now. She’s absolved of the “late ME” bit. But the OED etymology says “probably of much older formation” and has a paragraph on the likely Old English origin that she ignores.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 March 2012 02:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1161
Joined  2007-02-14

The etymology of the slightly puzzling English term leap year is uncertain ...

I always took it to come from the fact that in a normal year any given day, e.g., Mar. 1, comes one day later than that same day in the previous year, i.e. Mar. 1 came on a Monday in 2010 and on a Tuesday in 2011.  In the leap year of 2012 it leapt over the expected Wednesday and came on Thursday instead

Profile
 
 
   
 
 
‹‹ HD: 1954 Words      Cockney slang sketch ››