Hey everyone! It's been a while since I've written here because I've been busy with a lot of things, but I'm back now and look forward to writing much more frequently in the near future!
Among spellers, German is usually something that’s loved or hated, without much in between. Personally, German is one of my favorite languages of origin. I struggled with it when I first started learning German, but I grew to love it over the years--the guttural sounds and the consonant clusters make it uniquely beautiful. One of my personal favorite German words has always been “schnurkeramik,” a word for a type of Neolithic pottery decorated with imprints of string. This word, which first drew me to it simply because it was fun to say, is made up of the German words schnur meaning “string” and keramik meaning “ceramics.” Literally, that translates to “string ceramics,” which, after all, is pretty much what it is. I was thinking about this word the other day, and I decided to dig around on Merriam-Webster Unabridged to find a couple more German pottery words that were just as intriguing.
One of the first words I came across was “bandkeramik,” which shares the word keramik with “schnurkeramik.” “Bandkeramik” is defined as “a European Neolithic pottery with banded decoration.” In addition to keramik, this word is also derived from the German word band (originally the Old High German bant), which simply means “band.” The literal translation is “band ceramics,” which, again, is exactly the definition. The letter D in this word is pronounced as a \t\ sound, which demonstrates a phenomenon that’s rather common in German-derived words.
Another German pottery word that I love is “urfirnis”--like the other words I’ve talked about, it just has a fun sound. This isn’t actually a type of pottery, but it still relates to pottery--it’s a black or red paint that was used on some prehistoric Greek pottery. Ur in German means “primitive” or “original,” referencing the fact that this paint was used in ancient times. Firnis means varnish, but it comes from the Middle High German vernis, which in turn came from the French vernis, also meaning “varnish.” The French word “vernissage,” which is defined as “a day before the opening of an exhibition of paintings reserved for the painters to varnish or put on finishing touches,” is also derived from the French vernis. I love that two words like “urfirnis” and “vernissage,” which don’t look similar to each other at all, can be closely related. It’s truly one of the best things about words--they’re all deeply connected, whether it’s visible on the surface or not.