November 30th, 2007

white horse

Ya learn something new every day

I've known for some time that the English word "walnut" is Walnuß in German, but that didn't tell me what the word actually meant. Today, looking over a list of Old English words for trees, herbs, crops, and whatnot, I discovered that the old Anglo-Saxons called it wealhnutu, which means "foreign nut."

Wealh is also the origin of the name "Wales," which is what the English call the country to the west of England; to the Welsh -- who bitterly resented being called foreigners in their own homeland -- it would be Cymraeg, of course, and themselves the Cymry.

Anyway, the Anglo-Saxons had never seen a walnut before, so they called it what they called it. When the things got exported back to the Continent, the Germans had never seen them, either, so they just made the English word into a native German one. Just to check on this new insight, I looked up Walnuß in my pictorial German-English dictionary, and there, behold, Walnuß was glossed as *drum roll* eine welsche Nuß.

So apparently, lots of people knew that walnuts were considered Welsh in origin -- except I didn't. But I do, now.