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"Calving" (iceberg) in Danish and Greenlandic

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Cenzontle, Apr 25, 2013.

  1. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    1. The standard English word for a baby whale is "calf". Is it "kalv" in Danish?
    2. Given that cattle were unknown in ancient Greenland, what animal is referred to when Greenlandic-speakers talk about a glacier "calving" an iceberg?
    3. The OED traces the English verb "to calve" (of an iceberg) to an 1837 translation from Danish.
    Is there an explicit document (book) showing that the Danish borrowed the metaphor from the Greenlanders?
     
  2. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I am not quite sure I understand your question. The verb to calve in the sense of to give birth to a (cattle) calf is much older than the Norse colonization of Greenland. I don't understand why it should matter, if there are cattle in Iceland. The Scandinavian settler will simply have brought the word with them and applied it to icebergs as a figurative expression.
     
  3. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    Is the meaning of "calving" same as in "removing portion or part of object? If that is the case, Calving is not related to calf.I found one word in Tagalog read as "Ukab" (the act of removing part or portion of bigger object using metal or sharp metallic object.
     
  4. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    The literal meaning of calving means giving birth to a calf. That is crystal clear.
     
  5. NorwegianNYC Senior Member

    New York, NY, USA
    Norwegian
    It is unlikely that "to calve" (Da: at kælve; No: å kalve) is a loan translation from Inuit. The phenomenon of calving, especially from glaciers, is something Scandinavians must have observed for a very long time. As a matter of fact - smaller islets or skerries next to bigger formations is often referred to as a kalv (calf) in Norwegian. Since this almost always describes bodies surrounded by water, it is tempting to draw a parallel to whales, since whales are referred to as bulls, cows and calves in English as well as Scandinavian.
     
  6. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    Sorry, I guess I showed only the tip of the iceberg :) with my question.
    In another forum a question about "ice calving" came up. Let me repeat my posting from that thread:
    The American author in 1892 made it seem that the "calf" metaphor belonged to the "Esquimaux" (and he even seemed to ridicule them for it).
    So my question should have been, Did the Danish and the Greenlanders invent the metaphor separately, or did one give it to the other?
     
  7. NorwegianNYC Senior Member

    New York, NY, USA
    Norwegian
    I think the Scandinavians (because the same term is used in all descendents of Old Norse) and Eskimos/Inuits, and probably many other languages around the world, came up with similar phrases.
     
  8. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    I entertain the hope that it may be an empirical question.
     

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