Monday, March 06, 2006

Take a Break!

AkvavitJoe N. at ¡No Pasaran! put up a post on the Bloody Borders Project. Noting how long it had taken us, he suggested we take a break. This was the link he sent us to, and what a nice surprise! A chance to relax, buy Danish, and ramble on about the etymology of the word Aquavit (it seems to be Akvavit in Denmark). If we natter on long enough, you won’t notice how fast the level in the bottle in dropping.

Here’s the etymology of the word, which will end us up in Gaelic, as well it should.

Of course everyone knows that “aqua” and “vit” are Latin for “water of life.” But did you know that “uisge” (Scots-Gaelic) which Old English formed to make “usque” are also cognate with water? Or that “beatha” (Scots-Gaelic) or “baugh”(Old English borrowing) were cognate with “vita”?

So we go from aquavit to uisgebeatha to usquebaugh to…ta da: whiskey. It helps if you’re an etymologist to be slightly squiffed when making these connections.

Oh, and by the way, you know “vodka”? That’s just a diminutive for water: “little water” is the favorite Russian drink.

In other words, when it comes to booze, it’s all essentially the same word.

If you follow Joe’s link you will arrive at a page full of Danish goodies. At least if you haven’t given up alcohol for Lent…which I haven’t, but some of us have.



kepiblanc said...

OK, whiskey stems from gaelic "uisge". But it doesn't stop there. In Danish the word "væske" (or vaeske, for those who can't display those Danish characters) means fluid. Try to pronounce it - or better yet - drink it.

Kiddo said...

Ahh, Linguistics, take me away!

Wally Ballou said...


Glad to see you've picked up another hobby (and one you are certainly predisposed to as a daughter of the auld sod).

I prefer ale to spirits myself, and it has an interesting etymology as well. According to etymologyonline:

O.E. ealu "ale, beer," from P.Gmc. *aluth- (cf. O.S. alo, O.N. öl), perhaps from PIE root meaning "bitter" (cf. L. alumen "alum"), or from PIE *alu-t "ale," from base *alu-, a word with connotations of "sorcery, magic, possession, intoxication." The word was borrowed from Gmc. into Lith. (alus) and O.C.S. (olu). Ale and beer were synonymous until growing of hops began in England early 15c.

My vote is for the second suggested root - "alu" - "sorcery, magic, possession, intoxication."

jfreddd said...

What a nice 'synchronicity. I just chanced upon a bottle of Aalborg Jubilaeums Akvavit--8 proof and brought it home this evening and was sipping away (a little dab will do 'ya) when I came across this post.

As 'eau de vie' goes, it is a real keeper. Deceptively soft. The backside label mentions dill and coriander flavors. It reminds me of the wonderful Christmas cookies with bas-relief scenes impressed thereupon that I loved as a child -- 'Pennsylvania Dutch' name now forgotten.

Mmmm, good! Highly recommended. Go, Denmark!