Armenian Language Corner

“Eat! Eat!” 

One of the symbolic moments in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” a movie with which many Armenians probably felt identified, was when the bride’s mother encouraged the xeno groom-to-be, Ian, to do the most characteristic action of the film: “Ian, eat! Eat!”

Sociolinguistics states that all most common words in the language are always short –the same goes with this word.

It is not. The word “eat” derives from Old English etan “to consume food, devour, consume,” which at its turn came straightforwardly from Proto-Germanic *etan, and all started with the Proto-Indo-European root *ed (“to eat”).

The only particular detail in the case of Armenian is that the verb ուտել (oodel), whose root was pronounced oot in Classical Armenian, came from a variant of the same root, *od.

The Armenian word, like the English, is an irregular verb, but unlike its English counterpart, which has a phonetic change (I eat > I ate), the Armenian verb changes completely from the present to the past tense (ես կ՚ուտեմ > ես կերայ “I eat > I ate”).

The root ood has given birth to interesting words. For instance, the days of not fasting in the Armenian Church are called ուտիս (oodis) in opposition to the days of պաս (bas “fast”).

More interestingly, the different species of moths (ցեց / tsets) are characterized for eating clothes and food. Therefore, you should not be surprised that a synonym for tsets in Armenian is ուտիճ (oodij), where the root ood is, of course, related to the favorite activity of moths…