Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Snack in Swedish and English. And genealogies.

In English it means basically a minor meal. Tea is a snack taken at five usually with the hot drink tea.

In Swedish it means a chat.

Now, this is not a very big difference in pronunciation (Swedish short a just sounds like u in cup), but it is in meaning. Knowing how many words Swedish has taken over from English - jumper, juice, T-shirt, golf, green (as in golf), et c. are all English words that Swedish took over. So is Carnegie Porter (a brewery in Gothenburg). Surely it is reasonable, someone would say, that "snack" is also one of the words that went this way, however you explain the difference in meaning?

Actually, Swedish has a word that has a change of meaning going on in the direction suggested. Kafferep is a snack, i e a minor meal, and you serve it with coffee. Only, in slang, if a group is very chatty, it may be corrected - as is done in the military - by an officer telling them "this is the pure kafferep" (when we heard this in military training we knew we were supposed to shut up). Why not assume that "snack" went the same direction?

Well, no. North German has "schnacken" - chat - and in Lithuanian "shneka" simply means talk. "Kur ... lietuvishkiai shneka," means "where (so and so) speaks Lithuanian". And take a snack has totally different words in those languages. So, it would seem, either English snack has nothing to do with Swedish snack, or the change of meaning went the other direction than "kafferep". Also, though "kafferep" actually is used as an ironic word for chat, it has never lost its meaning of "a meal with jam and bread" or rather more often with cookies.

Now, there are people who say that Babylon gave Israel its myths about the Flood and about a Snake tricking man out of immortality. Just as it was Babylon that gave Israelites, lately, the Lilith myth (as an added twist on the snake story). Or inspired it (we do not find the Lilith myth an Babylonian Paganism, but neither in Hebrew Bible). But what would these people use as arguments? Obviously, Babylon is greater, historically, geographically, et c, than Israel. So is England than Sweden (except for surface of land, but it is much less tightly peopled and further from French ports, and so on). That does not mean English can have got no word from the Baltic (North Germany is the Southern Shore, Lithuania the South-Eastern shore, Sweden and Denmark - where you also find "snakke"- with a gap between them, are the Western shore of the Baltic). After all the Hannovers came from Hannover, in Northern Germany. Take a look at snack in OED and see if it occurs any earlier than Händel or the Hannovers, will you! And then reflect: how much lost detail can hide the possibility that, if Babylon did not exactly get the flood myth from Israel, again it may have found it in the same general area as Israel did, that being not the Baltic of course, not even minor tribes of the Middle East, but - the area of fact.

Logic is not a thing that works for only "all men are mortal-Sortes is a man-so Sortes is mortal" and banal stuff like that. It is however in banal stuff like that, stuff where noone except a perfect idiot would make a disagreement, that you test that the syllogism in question - Middle Age logicians would have classified second and third propositions as "particular" and therefore the syllogism as a whole as a Darii - works any time, any place, any kind of subject, as long as first two propositions are true the third must be so too. The trick is of course not to find one syllogism where all three propositions are true, and conclude that the form is correct, that would be reasoning by parallels, which is a known fallacy, but consistently failing to find any of the same logic form (that is important) where third step is false while first two are clearly true. But even in looser stuff, like forming hypotheses about where loans come from, it might be an idea to test the form of the hypothesis on very banal stuff. That is why I test the form of Babel-Bible hypothesis on much more banal stuff, like linguistics of eats, treats and chats. And the outcome, as we see, is: "cultural item shared with a difference by big and little culture do not always come only from the bigger to the smaller".

I did use a criterium in the example "snack" that if applied speaks against Israel having priority about flood. "snack (Sw)" fits in with "snacka"="schnacken"="shneka" against "snack (Engl)". So, Babylonian, Greek, Nordic, Peruvian, Chinese and so on Flood stories would suggest that Polytheism came first because the Monotheistic version is the odd one out. But the Biblical version is also the odd one out in a sense that adds credibility against the other versions: alone it has complete genealogies both before and after flood, from first man to "known persons" - known from a continuous history leading up to our history, like Jesus Christ or Abraham and David before him.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
St Cecily's day
(and Memory of CSL's obiit),
22 November 2011,
Mouffetard Library of Paris.

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