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aurum (8572)

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Ex-Akamaite, ex-Goldmanite. Currently working on Ph.D. in Armenian/Byzantine history at Oxford. Spends more time these days deciphering squiggly characters than spaghetti code. Thinks that UTF-8 is the best thing since sliced bread.

Journal of aurum (8572)

Tuesday April 22, 2008
08:25 AM

hello world

[ #36216 ]

So it turns out that Nicholas keeps posting things here to which I want to comment; thus, I finally had to create an account here. Hello, world.

I've just come back from a trip that included visits to perl mongers in Vienna and Amsterdam; I blogged things about that trip elsewhere.

The real reason I'm posting, however, is to talk about (natural) languages, which has become something of a habit for me. In this post, Nicholas was looking for a Latinate word for the (bad, evil, wrong, no one should do it ever, etc.) act of killing a kitten. Now many people know that a cat is a Felis domesticus, so cat-killing would be "felicide". Damian pointed out, and I concur, that the obvious word for kitten would be "felis" (or "feles", the proper nominative spelling) with a diminutive suffix, which gives "feliculus". All this would give us "feliculicide", which works, but is kind of an unwieldy mouthful.

But it turns out that there is another word in Latin that can mean cat: coincidentally enough, that word is "catus" or "cattus". This word (along with its Greek cousin "κάττα") has a direct (though not necessarily causative—the source for this word is very hard to pin down) relationship to the German "Katze" and the English "cat"; Cassell's English -> Latin section actually gives "catulus" for "kitten". On the other hand, Lewis & Short think that "cattus" is a word for an unknown sort of animal, and that although "catulus" can be the young of any animal, it especially refers to puppies. But "catulicide" is easier for English-speakers to say that "feliculicide", with its uncomfortable extra syllable.

Really I think this is just an example of Latin as an evolving language. Lewis & Short aren't particularly keen on admitting as proper Latin anything that wasn't attested before the end of the Roman Republic, or thereabouts. I think it rather likely, though I couldn't tell everything I needed to from the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, that "cattus" was the usual medieval word for "cat", and that "catulicide" (the word, not the act itself, mind) will serve just fine.

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