Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Horizontal and vertical

The Norwegian words for 'horiztonal' and 'vertical' are 'vannrett' and 'loddrett' respectively. I noticed right away that 'vannrett' means 'water direction', which is pretty cool. In English, our word 'horizontal' is based on 'horizon', the direction of the horizon. It's a little funny that the horizon is less important in Norway, a mountainous country where most people would not see a nice level horizon. Water, on the other hand, is horizontal no matter where you live.

'Lodd' in 'Loddrett' means 'plumb', a lead weight on a string. It's original usage was to find water depth, so we have a nice connection in Norwegian between these two words, and they both trace to the sea. In English, "vetical" means "relating to the vertex, or highest point".

Here's an etymological tangent: in olden times, anyone who worked with lead was called a "plumber". After a while, most people used lead only for water pipes, so the meaning shifted to mean someone who works with pipes. (Yeah, I know, can you imagine having your drinking water come through lead pipes?) The chemical symbol for lead is Pb, for 'plumb' I had always wondered about that one – didn't you?

No comments:

Post a Comment