Thursday, May 21, 2009

Kánikula conversation

One of my favorite words in Hungarian is kánikula. It means heatwave, so I like it for both the meaning and the sound, which is not very Hungarian.

A couple days ago I was talking with my contact teacher about the decidedly non-kánikula weather (despite the promises of the weather service, it was only medium-warm and pouring buckets) and I mentioned the word. My apparently odd pronunciation of the word made her smile and say, "каникулы." I looked puzzled and she explained, "In Russian we have the word kanikuly. It means the summer holidays."

I mulled over this bit of information for a while, then asked if one was derived from the other.

"Yes. Well, no. They both come from Latin. You know, 'canis,' it means dog."

"Ah ha!" You could probably see my lightbulb. "In English we say the dog days of summer."

"Because the dogs are, what do you call it, panting?"

"Erm, yeah."

Although I've since remembered that that's not true, it has nothing to do with dogs panting, but... that'll be a conversation for another day.

Wikipedia has quite an interesting, if somewhat questionable, article about Dog Days here. I especially love the uncited statistics like "The term "dog days of summer" also derives from the fact that in America 44% of all hot dogs are sold in the summer time." Hm...