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Dinsdag and Donnerdag

Since this column appears on a Monday it seems appropriate to look at why we call it that - and not Workday or Spleenday.

For once, we don't have to thank the Romans. Unlike the months, the days of the week are all of Teutonic origin (with one exception), even if they are translations of the Roman names.

Monday is simply the day of the moon - from the Old English "monan daeg". It is echoed in the Afrikaans Maandag, and even the Italian equivalent "Lunedi" clearly shows the moon root from the Latin "luna."

Tuesday is not so obvious. It takes its name from the Norse god of war called variously Tiw, Tiu, Tyr. The variations come from a much older Indo-European root which also gave the Greeks their god Zeus.

Another Norse god - take your pick from the variants Woden, Wodin or Odin - lent his name to the English Wednesday.

Afrikaans, perversely, used him for Dinsdag (Tuesday) while the Italians and the French opted for his Roman equivalent Mars to give Martedi and Mardi.

In Italian, Wednesday is dedicated to Mercury and the day is called "Mercoledi."

The Norse god Thor is self-evident in Thursday and the thunder of his hammer is heard in the Afrikaans Donnerdag. The Italians prefer their own ancient Roman gods and name the day "Giovedi" after the deity we know in English as Jove.

Just in case the feminists start protesting about all-male chauvinist exclusivity, the ladies get a look-in on Friday - Old English "frige daeg" - which is named after the Norse goddess known as Friya, Frigga, or Freyja.

The only genuine Roman interloper in the English week is Saturday, from the god Saturn who was transmogrified in Old English to "saetan."

The Italians can also be perverse if they want to, and instead of retaining the only Roman god who makes into English weekdays, they call Saturday "Sabato."

This corresponds to Sabbath - originally "Shabath" the ancient Hebrew word for rest. After the Reformation it came to be used for the Christian day of rest (Sunday rather than Saturday).

Sunday itself is equally self evident, deriving from the Old English "sunnen dag" - the day of the sun.

Which brings us back to today, Monday and the start of a new week. And if there were any successful leap-year proposals on Saturday, it could even be Honeymoonday for some - which is another story. Watch this space.

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