What started out as a hobby-project intended for fellow students, accidentally turned into a successful first edition with reprint. We’re happy to tell you some more about the Etymology Calendar’s story, and about its authors!

Students of linguistics get to hear plenty of interesting linguistic trivia during their lectures. Teachers will bring up some interesting traits of a specific language, or throw in a fun etymology or six. But how do you make sure you won’t forget all these precious fun facts? Nearly two years ago, we came up with the perfect way to bundle all of our own favourite historical language trivia: a calendar which would discuss one etymology for every day of the year.

We did not expect to find much enthusiasm for the project outside our own academic circle. However, as time went on, non-linguists around us turned out to be surprisingly interested. Parents suddenly understood where our infatuation with this obscure scientific field came from. Friends discovered a new-found interest in languages which they never heard of until that moment, and, to our big surprise, even complete strangers ended up on the Calendar’s order list. This meant that our first print ultimately did not consist of the planned one hundred, but six hundred copies! The madness didn’t end there: as orders kept coming in, we could even afford to order a reprint. There we were – a bunch of baffled students in the attic of a student house, along with 735 calendars.

The Calendar project of 2019 has thus taught us two important life lessons. One: even with five people, it is a real challenge to transport 150 calendars to a postal office by bike (even if the people in question are Dutch). Secondly, an interest for language history is much more widespread than we ever imagined.

After a flood of positive feedback on 2019’s Calendar, there was really only one thing we could do: make another Calendar for 2020! Our main aim for this edition is to introduce as many people as we can to the surprising, funny and fascinating ways in which our languages have changed over the course of centuries and millennia. This year, we will be assisted by Brill Publishers, so that we won’t have to deliver our calendars to the postal office ourselves anymore.


The Etymology Calendar’s Team

The team behind the Etymology Calendar 2020 consists of five young linguists, all students from

Team Etymologiekalender 2020
Left to right: Pascale, Gerard, Vera, Lotte, Laura

Leiden University (either from the Bachelor Linguistics or Research Master Linguistics). We would love to introduce ourselves shortly!

Pascale Eskes (23, ResMA Linguistics): Pascale, who is capable of writing about 30 new entries within the time it takes to, say, plan a team meeting – preferably about Polish or German, her favourite languages – does not only have a passion for slightly obscure rock bands, but also has a love for the colour black (with red), red (with black), her collection of nearly a thousand different flavours of tea, dancing, vampires, and sentences so long they end up being close to unreadable.

Gerard Spaans (24, BA Linguistics): Gerard is our spreadsheet-wizard, molding anything from order lists to the planning of team meetings into formulas. He is responsible for the layout of the calendar and has made sure every hieroglyph and superscript is properly fitted on the pages. On top of this, Gerard is our undisputed authority when it comes to obscure birds and their etymologies, so if you ever wonder why the Polish kingfisher is called zimodorek, and what this has to do with eggs in riverbanks: Gerard is your man. On his spare days, Gerard enjoys hopping on board of trains for adventures on the Dutch or European railways.

Vera Zwennes (21, BA Linguistics): Vera has opinions about photography ánd she owns a proper camera. Our luck, because that combination infinitely improves our visual material. Vera enjoys planning – her planner almost seems to need its own planner… Other hobbies of hers include eggplants, avocados and couscous, which the other members of the team can only encourage. In a perfect world, Vera would live at Ikea; for now, she spends her time creating an abundance of lists on her phone, among which a list of nice Dutch words she wishes would be used more often.

Lotte Meester (23, ResMA Linguistics): Lotte is our cuddly communications expert. With an enthusiasm ranging from here to the Chinese Tarim Basin, she composes each and every text used in our media outings, whipping up websites in the blink of an eye. Meanwhile, she functions as the group’s mom, making sure all of us eat enough risotto, drink enough tea and get a nudge (or seven) in the right direction from time to time. Finally, Lotte has a big heart for books and cooking, and her kitchen table is always covered with supermarket magazines that have been thoroughly ripped apart.

Laura Dees (21, ResMA Linguistics): coordinating 735 transactions, shippings and associated email correspondences, without losing track of even a single calendar? You can leave that up to Laura, no problems. With a perfect blend of “Zeeuwse” thoroughness and Spanish passion, she manages to keep our administration and mailbox in an impressively orderly state. Laura enjoys working at the beach during summer days and loves listening to soul, R&B and hiphop. Another genre which has her favour is metal, or as she would call it herself, soft-rock (or actually, make that regular pop).