Friday, April 21, 2006

Happy Paste

Today is Good Friday according to the Orthodox calendar, and hence part of paste. Paste is the Romanian word for Easter. I don't know if today is referred to as "Good" Friday by Romanians, or something else, as all I have seen is various invocations to enjoy my paste. Obviously paste (or Húsvét as it's known in Hungarian) was last week here, so it's one of those odd days which may or may not be a holiday. Anyway, I'd like to wish all my Romanian readers a happy Paste.

I was intrigued to find out the etymology of the word Húsvét, but have so far drawn a blank. My interest lies in the fact that the first syllable Hús is the Hungarian word for meat, and I wondered if Húsvét was a kind of celebration of the end of Lent, which would have amused me a lot, since I've noticed that the beginning of lent is often marked by massive blowouts which doesn't seem to fit in with the whole spirituality of the thing. However, I can't find out what Húsvét might mean. It did lead me into a discovery that "easter" is derived from the same root as "oestrogen", though, which I found vaguely interesting (it's all about springtime and fertility y'see). Paste, like similar words in various other Latin-based languages is taken from Passover, which at least makes sense.

Someone the other day asked me which European countries were orthodox, which, by a convoluted mental process led me to a realisation that all European countries which don't use the Latin alphabet are Orthodox Christian, and all the ones that do are not. With only one exception to this rule - Romania. Fascinating huh? (Well, it's actually two because there's Moldova too, but that's just decaffeinated Romania, so it doesn't really ruin this enthralling piece of information). Feel free to use this factoid down the pub next time you have a gap to fill in the conversation. I won't ask for any money.


Marius Popescu said...

Yes, there is a name for this Friday in Romanian, it is Vinerea Mare or The Great Friday.
Btw, I enjoy your blog.

Michael Furey said...

The simplest answer is normally to look in the Hungarian Wikipedia. From which the word is described as originating from the period after the 40 day fast. 'Big Week' ('Nagyhét' hence Nagyszombat) being the week before the fast is broken and the week following called 'Buy Meat' ('Húsvét') on which people would again buy and eat meat.

Actually, this article doesn't really explain anything, as the etymology of the word Húsvét isn't tackled. For this it gets ugly.

Over at the "Az iNteRNeTTo nyelvújító fóruma" is a discussion dating back 8 years where they offer various explanation for the 'vét' in Húsvét. It's pretty long, but the main ideas for the possible origins are:

1. The words "Húsvét" és "részvét" (Easter and compassion) are related.

2. There is a possible origin in the word vétel, meaning purchase or receiving. Or elvétel as in withdrawal (similar to megvonás).

3. Others claim the model is one similar to:
lesz -> lét
tesz -> tét
vesz -> vét
hisz -> hit
So vesz as is purchase.

4. Another suggestion is a link to the word 'vétek' meaning transgression or sin, but this is doubted.

5. Yet another suggestion is that the origin of the vesz-vét is from a word-for word ('mirror') translation into Hungarian from a Slavic word.

So, take your pick! Lots of ideas there.

On the background to Easter and further discussion of the relationship between Jewish and Christian festivals you could also try: Word Doc
There is a detailed discussion of the origins of many of the words and rituals associated with Easter here.

Noting that the Jewish celebration of their escape from Egypt with the symbol of a lamb and for Christians the rising of Christ.

To me this just sounds like an excuse to celebrate the obvious - the arrival of Spring, renewel, but hey what do I know.

On the word Paste, I wonder if this isn't related to the Jewish word for their festival 'Pészah', Passover, or 'Pesach.

There is also a Hungarian Boys name Paszkál, which is given as originating in the same meaning as húsvét