Monday, September 10, 2007

Cutty Sark...

So, it's not often that you discuss Burns' poetry, the history of clippers, scotch, sable fur coats, Indo-European roots, and the etymology of the word forty (сорок) -- all in five minutes! If you were wondering, here are some of the elements that went into my whirlwind etymology of the word сорок...

First, what's a sable (соболь)?
What does a forty-sable-fur coat look like?
Poor sables!

Now, what's a "cutty sark"? From Burns' "Tam O' Shanter"

There was ae winsome wench and waulie
That night enlisted in the core,
Lang after ken'd on Carrick shore;
(For mony a beast to dead she shot,
And perish'd mony a bonie boat,
And shook baith meikle corn and bear,
And kept the country-side in fear);
Her cutty sark, o' Paisley harn,
That while a lassie she had worn,

In longitude tho' sorely scanty,
It was her best, and she was vauntie.

"Cuty sark" here means basically a short chemise or top... That's all she's got on -- the chemise from when she was a "lassie." It's the best she has, but in "longitude" it's become "sorely scanty"... Vauntie witch, indeed! (Burns' "English" is wonderful, no?)

Then they named a ship (the last tea clipper!) in this young witch's honor:
And a scotch whiskey after the ship (see the clipper!)...
So, now, when you need to remember what FORTY is in Russian (сорок), just think of good ol' Tom stumbling on a wicca ceremony where a scantily clad witch, drunk on Scottish whiskey (blech!), dances in her sexy sark... made from Russian sable coats (ok, I made that up), which come conveniently packaged in sets of сорок, forty... and arrived at Scotland on a clipper...

See? Easy.

No comments: