Language names based on incomprehension

Riverplatense

Senior Member
German — Austria
Hello!

Are there more examples like Greek βάϱβαϱος 'barbarian' or Slavic нѣмъ-('mute'-)derived expressions meaning 'German' or also 'foreign'? I mean, names for languages or language concepts whose origin consists in incomprehension or maybe also in a pejorative attribution to a given language?
 
  • rushalaim

    Senior Member
    русский
    Slavic [nemets] meant any "stranger" not German exclusively.
    Finnish/Estonian "mustalainen" means literally "dirty" (English "gypsy").
    Slavic [zhyd] is neutral a "jew" from Italian "giudeo", but today Jews are perceiving it as a curse.
     
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    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    The Arabic term ʻajam means people who do not speak Arabic, but it is usually used specifically for “Persians”. In mediaeval times it was used even as a self-designation of the Persians without negative implications.
     

    Perseas

    Senior Member
    Greek
    In Modern Greek "βάρβαρος" means "savage", "brutal", "uncivilized". It does not mean someone who speaks an incomprehensible (foreign) language.

    I mean, names for languages or language concepts whose origin consists in incomprehension or maybe also in a pejorative attribution to a given language?
    I don't think we have such names for foreign languages, as far as I know. Of course, there are generalized opinions about languages: Chinese is one of the most difficult languages, Italian is nice and easy, English have irregular spelling, German grammar has similarities with Ancient Greek grammar (because of dative, maybe?)...
     

    ahvalj

    Senior Member
    Finnish/Estonian "mustalainen" means literally "dirty" (English "gypsy")
    Mustalainen means "black (person)". That's just descriptive.

    By the way, Slavs must have had really strong feelings to Germanics, as even the word "alien" (Reconstruction:Proto-Slavic/ťuďь - Wiktionary) probably comes from the Germanic self-appellation (Reconstruction:Proto-Germanic/þeudō - Wiktionary).

    An interesting case is Androphagi - Wikipedia if indeed it is the same word as Mordvins (the ethnonym is first attested as Mordens in the 6th century AD: https://people.ucalgary.ca/~vandersp/Courses/texts/jordgeti.html): the meaning “man-eaters” may be a Scythian folk etymology (perhaps based on observations, who can tell now?).
     
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    rushalaim

    Senior Member
    русский
    Mustalainen means "black (person)". That's just descriptive.

    By the way, Slavs must have had really strong feelings to Germanics, as even the word "alien" (Reconstruction:Proto-Slavic/ťuďь - Wiktionary) probably comes from the Germanic self-appellation (Reconstruction:Proto-Germanic/þeudō - Wiktionary).

    An interesting case is Androphagi - Wikipedia if indeed it is the same word as Mordvins (the ethnonym is first attested as Mordens in the 6th century AD: https://people.ucalgary.ca/~vandersp/Courses/texts/jordgeti.html).
    Finnish/Estonian [mustalainen] literally means "dirty" (of English "gypsy") because it does not differentiate between "dirty" and between "black", those are the united notion. For example, [must tee] is "black tea", or [mustad kaed] is "dirty hands". So, Gypsies in Finnish/Estonian mentality are black because of dirty.
     

    ahvalj

    Senior Member
    Finnish/Estonian [mustalainen] literally means "dirty" (of English "gypsy") because it does not differentiate between "dirty" and between "black", those are the united notion. For example, [must tee] is "black tea", or [mustad kaed] is "dirty hands". So, Gypsies in Finnish/Estonian mentality are black because of dirty.
    And what does the word чёрные “blacks” applied to all brunet nations mean in spoken Russian?
     

    Torontal

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Mustalainen means "black (person)". That's just descriptive.

    By the way, Slavs must have had really strong feelings to Germanics, as even the word "alien" (Reconstruction:Proto-Slavic/ťuďь - Wiktionary) probably comes from the Germanic self-appellation (Reconstruction:Proto-Germanic/þeudō - Wiktionary).
    Interestingly the now archaic name of Slavs* in Hungarian is tót, which also comes from this Germanic self-designation. One explanation I heard theorizes that originally it could be the self-designation of a Germanic people in the Carpathian basin (maybe the Gepids?), which then could pass onto the Slavs living there, as an exonym.

    *the word tót was originally the equivalent of Latin Sclavus in old and middle Hungarian, and until the 19th century it was used on Slovaks, Slovenes and Slavonians too, but then in the 19th century it started to be restricted on Slovaks. It is still frequent in toponyms and family names, in fact Tót(h) is the 1st or 2nd most common Hungarian family name, but it has a rather pejorative, derogative sense if used on Slovaks now.
     

    purasbabosadas

    Senior Member
    English-USA
    In Spanish there's the word "algarabía",meaning "gibberish".This is derived from the name for the Arabic language in Arabic.
     

    rushalaim

    Senior Member
    русский
    And what does the word чёрные “blacks” applied to all brunet nations mean in spoken Russian?
    "Spoken" Russian not official. Moreover, that spoken slang appeared in Russian no more than 30 years ago and before was none. Otherwise in Finnish/Estonian official language where Gypsies are named as "Dirty" ("Mustalainen") officially in dictionaries.
     

    bearded

    Senior Member
    Italian
    In Αncient Greek βάρβαρος means both, the uncivilized and also the man who speaks an incomprehensible language.
    I was taught that AG 'barbaros' was originally an onomatopeic name (bar-bar - today we would say 'blabla') to indicate incomprehensible sounds.
     

    momai

    Senior Member
    Arabic - Syria
    In Classical Arabic بربر barbara [v] means to raise your voice and talk gibberish (ununderstood talk/nonsense things). This became hawbar in Syrian Arabic. Apart from that al-barbar specifically refers to the Berbers in north Africa in Arabic.
     

    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    In Classical Arabic بربر barbara [v] means to raise your voice and talk gibberish (ununderstood talk/nonsense things). This became hawbar in Syrian Arabic. Apart from that al-barbar specifically refers to the Berbers in north Africa in Arabic.
    Indeed, but the noun "barbar" is a loan from Greek, and the verb barbara is denominal.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Zaza: an Indo-European language of eastern Turkey.

    "[Zaza] appears to be a pejorative name designating the language as a form of jibberish." (Wikipedia)

    'Zaza' appears to be an 'exoterm': one that is used by outsiders and not by the speakers of the language: Avedis Hadjian, Secret Nation: The Hidden Armenians of Turkey (reproduced by Google Books).
     
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    sotos

    Senior Member
    Greek
    My grandma was using the word "arvAno", i.e. "albanian speaker", for my sister when she was little and she couldn't speak well yet. There are indications that greeks (and possibly others) would easily call "albanian" someone speaking an incomprehensible language of the balkans (like vlach, serbian, or mixed languages).
     

    Perseas

    Senior Member
    Greek
    I was taught that AG 'barbaros' was originally an onomatopeic name (bar-bar - today we would say 'blabla') to indicate incomprehensible sounds.
    Yes, this is what I know too. This "bar-bar" represented the way foreign words sounded to 'Greek ears'. Homer (8th c. BC) used the compound adjective βαρβαρόφωνος, i.e. he who speaks a foreign language. The word took on the pejorative meaning of "savage" after the Persian Wars (5th c. BC).
     

    Torontal

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Zaza: an Indo-European language of eastern Turkey.

    "[Zaza] appears to be a pejorative name designating the language as a form of jibberish." (Wikipedia)

    'Zaza' appears to be an 'exoterm': one that is used by outsiders and not by the speakers of the language: Avedis Hadjian, Secret Nation: The Hidden Armenians of Turkey (reproduced by Google Books).
    I'm not so sure if it is true, if it is pejorative or if we can know for certainity that it originally meant "jibberish". What is certain, Zazas use that name on themselves as a self-designation in their own language (happen to know some Zazas) and they also call their language Zazaki.

    In Spanish there's the word "algarabía",meaning "gibberish".This is derived from the name for the Arabic language in Arabic.
    This one is interesting, just looking at the word i would guess that algarabía could be rather related to the Arabic غريبة ghareeba ~ "strange". But i don't doubt your etymology as i have no idea about sound changes in Arabic loanwords to Spanish, so you can be correct.
     

    Delvo

    Senior Member
    American English
    In the USA, along a line from Pennsylvania to Missouri, there are scattered small Anabaptist communities (the most famous being the Amish and the Mennonites) speaking a type of German (or more than one types). Because they are surrounded by English-speakers for hundreds of miles in any direction and don't travel much, they practically never interact with outsiders who aren't English-speakers, and now their word for "English" serves as their word for any & all outsiders anywhere in the world.
     

    djmc

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    In the UK "double dutch" is used to mean gibberish. One also hears comments such as "he was talking foreign". It is assumed that anything that is not English and the English are loth to admit that English of the US is really English can be ignored.
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    Walloon, Gaul and Welsh come from Proto-Germanic walhaz, meaning foreigner.

    Another word with w turning into g.
     

    Ansku89

    Member
    Finnish
    Finnish/Estonian [mustalainen] literally means "dirty" (of English "gypsy") because it does not differentiate between "dirty" and between "black", those are the united notion. For example, [must tee] is "black tea", or [mustad kaed] is "dirty hands". So, Gypsies in Finnish/Estonian mentality are black because of dirty.
    This may be true for Estonian (I don't speak it) but definitely isn't true for Finnish. Musta=black, likainen=dirty. At least in modern day Finnish it's that simple. For today's Finnish speakers mustalainen only refers to the darker skin and hair of Roma people. Obviously they aren't black in the same way Africans are black, but when Roma people / gypsies came to Finland, probably nobody here had seen any African people so they were the closest thing to black people that we knew about. But today, mustalainen isn't really a polite word to use and we would normally call them romani.
     

    danielstan

    Senior Member
    Romanian - Romania
    And the people called Vlachs (by which are referred today the Aromanians in Balkan Peninsula).
    Their ethnic name must have come from Slavic intermediary as it suffered the Slavic metathesis AL -> LA
    (from a hypothetical *valh > vlah)

    By the way, neither Romanians refer to themselves as Wallachians, nor the Aromanians as Vlachs. These are exonyms by which the South Slavs refer them.
     

    Perseas

    Senior Member
    Greek
    By the way, neither Romanians refer to themselves as Wallachians
    I know that Wallachia is just a part of modern Romania, with Moldavia and Transylvania making up the rest. Don’t even the residents of Wallachia refer to themselves as Wallachians?
     
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    danielstan

    Senior Member
    Romanian - Romania
    No.
    Before 1859 (when Wallachia and Moldova got united) the inhabitants of Wallachia called themselves 'munteni' ("mountaineers") in contexts where they wanted to be distinguished from the 'moldoveni' = inhabitants of Moldova.
    Also the word 'rumân' was used as ethnic name or, sometimes, as social status of peasant.
    In Middle Ages the country itself was named Țeara Rumânească or Țeara Muntenească or simply Muntenia.

    The oldest surviving document written in Romanian (1521) attests the country name Țeara Rumânească ("Romanian Land"):
    Neacșu's letter - Wikipedia
     
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