Fårö = Sheep Island?

Warning for Sheep

Linguists are wary of false friends – false cognates – which is when two words in different languages seem very similar, but have no common history. One example is Arabic “sharif” which is a tribal title for someone who protects their tribe, and English “sheriff” a law man who protects a district. Related? Nope, just a coincidence.

In historical linguistics there is a problem when two words from different times in the history of a languages seem to be the same, but the latter really didn’t evolve from the first one.

My friend Andreas told me about this cool “false friend” in Swedish. We have this island off of Gotland called “Fårö”. Får = sheep, ö = island. Så sheep island, right? Noo, Får was originally far – as in farväg “road for travel” or farvatten “water for travel”. So “travel island”.

A clue in this is that, unlike on the mainland, the Gotlanders say “lamm” for sheep, and not “får…



Celebrate language change!

Language change is awesome.  Got this quote…

“The language most likely to continue long without alteration, would be that of a nation raised a little, and but a little, above barbarity, secluded from strangers, and totally employed in procuring the conveniencies of life; wither without books, or, like some of the Mahometan countries, with very few: men thus busied and unlearned, having only such words as common use requires, would perhaps long continue to express the same notions by the same signs, But no such constancy can be expected in a people polished by arts, and classed by subordination, where one part of the community is sustained and accommodated by the labour of the other. Those who have much leisure to think, will always be enlarging the stock of ideas, and every increase of knowledge, whether real or fancied, will produce new words, or combinations of words. When the mind is unchained from necessity, it will range after convenience; when it is left at large in the fields of speculation, it will shift opinions; as any custom is disused, the words that expressed it must perish with it; as any opinion grows popular, it will innovate speech in the same proportion as it alters practice.”

… from this article: http://www.economist.com/blogs/johnson/2012/07/plurals-0