Story witch doctor
Recently I’ve been working with a really smart researcher in computational linguistics and, as is happening with increasing frequency with my colleagues, he happened upon my blog. The Icelandic connection with my last name (Tolva = “number witch doctor” = computer) was particularly interesting to him. He writes:
You’re right about the aversion to foreign words in Icelandic. I observed that there. The Icelandic “tala” for “number” appears to be related to the words “tal” in Danish and “Zahl” in German for “number”. “Tala” may also be related to “tell” and “tale” in English, because these English words go back to an Indoeuropean word “del” that means “count” or “recount”. There seems to be a semantic etymological connection between telling (a story) and counting. German “zählen” means “count”, and “erzählen” means “tell”. Danish “tælle” is “count”, and “tale” is “speak”. In English we can “recount” a story or give an “account” of some event(s). Maybe the semantic connection is that as you’re telling a story, you’re counting off the events?
So not only is my surname the made-up word for computer, but it has etymological connections to storytelling. Computers and narrative. Counting and recounting. It’s all so clear to me now. I suppose I am doing what I was destined to do.
(Of course, I’m not Icelandic at all.)