08 November 2011

Shots I Wish I'd Taken: Namibian Trees (Lanting)

You may have seen this one... Franz Lanting's image of camel thorn trees circulated around* the internet earlier this year.

One of the amazing things about this shot is that it is not a fake. Though it reminds me of a painting you might get if Gauguin were crossed with Matisse and the resulting artist decided to paint a landscape, this is a straight-up, brilliantly composed, photo. Plus, it's trees!
Camel Thorn Trees, Franz Lanting, National Geographic (June 2011)

- o - o -

* Is "circulating around" a redundant phrase?

06 November 2011

Thinking of Beer and Bread

I live in Germany, so I think a lot about bread and beer. Okay, I do more than think about them. In my view, these two food groups form the basis for all human progress.

Perusing a recent Biergarten menu, I started musing on one of the beer options: Weizen. I know that Weizen = “wheat” in English. (You've heard of wheat beer, right?) I also know another way to order the same thing is to ask for a Weissbier. Weiss, or weiß, means “white” in English.

So, do “white” and “wheat” share the same root? Seems like they should, if you think about it.

Here’s what my OED reveals (I’ve truncated the entries, which in full reveal interesting Indo-European cognates, but you can click on the words to go straight to the full OED entries):

Wheat: O.E. hwæte "wheat," from P.Gmc. *khwaitijaz, lit. "that which is white," from *khwitaz-, the source of O.E. hwit, whence English “white”.
White: O.E. hwit, from P.Gmc. *khwitaz, from PIE *kwintos/*kwindos "bright".

What do we learn from this? The next time the Denny’s waitress asks if you want “white or wheat”, you can answer “yes”.

You’ll still be a smart-ass, but you’ll be a smarter one knowing the close linguistic kinship of these two words.

You’re welcome.

- o - o -

PS. Reminder: Etymological abbreviations here.