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Anatoly Liberman’s column on phrase origins, The Oxford Etymologist, seems on the OUPblog every Wednesday. Subscribe to Anatoly Liberman’s weekly etymology articles by way of e mail or RSS.
This previous summer season we skilled a extreme drought. Even clover didn’t develop near the place the place I stay. Nor did my correspondence with the world burst into bloom. Or maybe the prevailing spirit of the time brought on by the pandemic is at fault. I needed to skip the August gleanings for lack of fabric, however by now I’ve sufficient tidbits to take care of. I’ll deal with them within the order of look, starting with the earliest one.
The origin of circulation. My indomitable opponent who retains discovering Greek sources of multifarious English phrases prompt pléo because the etymon of circulation and predicted that I might reject his etymology. He was proper. I’ll ignore his reference to the info that allegedly clarify when the ancestors of Germanic-speaking individuals may decide up so many Greek phrases. That truth is irrelevant. However I hasten to notice that the verb pléo meant “to swim; float; sail, navigate; progress; swing” (thus, “transfer alongside,” not “circulation”) and had a brief vowel within the root. The Outdated English for “circulation” was flōwan (with lengthy o). Pléo is an inconceivable cognate or supply of circulation.
By the best way, amongst my correspondents one writes me virtually after each publish and exhibits that the phrases I focus on return to Hebrew. I love his ingenuity however stubbornly refuse to grasp how the connections may come about, although he normally gives a proof. I’ve seen works tracing English to Greek, Latin, Arabic, and Irish and have little enthusiasm for these theories (excuse my understatement). The true drawback right here, as I wrote two months in the past, is that Latin fluere, which, in dictionaries is diplomatically stated to have influenced the English verb, can’t be its cognate. One is compelled to confess that fl- was a sense-symbolic group evoking the thought of transferring with or alongside the stream. Nevertheless, plainly pl- may additionally discuss with water: examine Greek plēo (cited above) and Latin pluit “it rains,” with instantly recognizable reflexes within the Trendy Romance languages.
One of many posts was in regards to the phrases ninepence and 9. I made a ridiculous mistake and wrote that the attraction of three, 7, and 9 may be in the truth that they had been prime numbers. It’s curious how we provide you with such statements and stay blind to what we’ve got produced. Don’t I do know that 9 = 32? However numerology stays one of many hardest issues in folklore reconstruction. I’m positive I’m not the primary to suppose so, however couldn’t the near-universal attraction of 9 be defined by the mysterious indisputable fact that being pregnant lasts 9 months? Even in such an archaic poem because the Finnish Kalevala the creation of the world lasts 9 lengthy epochs, on the finish of which the nice singer Väinamöinen is born.
In my dialogue, of monkey as slang (monkey “mortgage”), I requested whether or not anyone had concepts about this unusual sense of the phrase. However first I wish to name our readers’ consideration to my publish for 23 January 2013 with its punning title “Wrenching an etymology out of a monkey.” In it the origin of the phrase monkey was mentioned, and I expressed my sturdy disagreement with the derivation supplied in On-line Etymology Dictionary, the one supply of inspiration for tons of of readers. However extra essential than the publish are the quite a few feedback, a few of which had been added a number of years after the publication of that essay. I’ve written greater than as soon as that anybody who needs to say one thing about an previous publish ought to add a remark after the latest one, just about the unique date, for in any other case, how can I do know that some additions had been made a lot later? I discover one conjecture in regards to the origin of monkey extraordinarily attention-grabbing, however I came across it by probability, whereas consulting my previous publish for the good thing about this one. The OED means that monkey enterprise goes again to a phrase in Bengali. If that’s the case, our reader’s proposal that the phrase monkey is a borrowing from the Gypsy language will get further help. Gypsy showmen usually traveled with performing animals.
Within the feedback on the current publish, it was identified that monkey lends itself effectively to such phrases as monkey’s uncle on account of the interior rhyme. The concept appears to be like believable. One other reader wrote that monkey was slang for £500 and prompt a attainable connection. I additionally marvel: didn’t the proximity of the phrases cash and monkey play a job within the coining of some phrases and phrases talked about above?
Mom “sediment” (the publish on homonyms). I agree with the remark that in mom of pearl, reasonably than in mom of vinegar, it’s arduous to resolve which sense is supposed. However that’s in all probability the rationale English and another Germanic languages so readily accepted the conflict of such seemingly irreconcilable homonyms. Mom as “the bottom layer” and mom as “producer” are likely to get into one another’s means fairly naturally.
The historical past of henchman. This was the topic of two consecutive posts. Based on one suggestion, German Henker may be akin to the English phrase. Henker is expounded to the verb dangle, that’s, German hängen, and means “executioner.” Nevertheless little we all know in regards to the early duties of the henchman (attendant? useful servant?), these weren’t associated to hanging, even when that servant was his grasp’s hanger-on. Dutch (om)heining (each had been talked about in a remark) has a clear etymology: its root is expounded to English haw (remembered primarily from hawthorn and the identify Hawthorn) and hedge, German Hecke, and many others. In the identical remark, Finnish hangas was talked about. How may the English and the Finnish phrases work together?
Whereas discussing henchman, I discussed the truth that no identify of an English attendant or servant begins with horse or its synonym. Equerry got here up in a remark. This phrase surfaced in English texts solely within the sixteenth century and meant “royal or princely stables,” later “an officer in control of such stables,” and nonetheless later “an officer of the royal family in attendance on a prince.” The foundation of the phrase could be seen in Medieval Latin scura ~ scuria “secure” (French écurie “secure”). The origin of the Latin phrase is unknown. The sense “officer in control of stables” appears to rely on Outdated French escyer d’escuyrie “squire of the stables.” Nevertheless convoluted the historical past of English esquire and its aphetic type squire could also be, each phrases return to the French phrase cited above, although the trendy spelling and the pronunciation of the phrase had been influenced (once more influenced!) by Latin equus “horse.” Thus, the reference to horses is even right here a product of folks etymology.
P.S. Walter W. Skeat (1887) on the cutting-edge: “The exceptional article on this phrase [icicle in Notes and Queries] is of nice curiosity, as exhibiting the decided means through which Englishmen choose guess-work [sic] to investigation after they need to do with a phrase belonging to their very own language. …with regards to English, …hypothesis turns into a pleasure and delight to the author. I can solely say that some readers at the least really feel a most humiliating sense of disgrace and indignation at seeing such speculations in all of the ‘glory’ of print.” (The good James A. H. Murray additionally used to say that he wanted info, not opinions.)
Anatoly Liberman is the creator of Phrase Origins And How We Know Them in addition to An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on phrase origins, The Oxford Etymologist, seems on the OUPblog every Wednesday. Ship your etymology query to him care of [email protected]; he’ll do his finest to keep away from responding with “origin unknown.” Subscribe to Anatoly Liberman’s weekly etymology articles by way of e mail or RSS.
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Anatoly, you write
“I’ll ignore his reference to the info that allegedly clarify when the ancestors of Germanic-speaking individuals may decide up so many Greek phrases. That truth is irrelevant. ”
That truth could be very related! Because it exhibit a mechanism by which historical Greek roots entered into English and different Germanic languages.
And it wasn’t by way of “borrowing”. However by way of language assimilation from the prehistoric individuals to the current. Ignor at your peril!
Additional you write,
“However I hasten to notice that the verb pléo meant “to swim; float; sail, navigate; progress; swing” (thus, “transfer alongside,” not “circulation”) and had a brief vowel within the root. The Outdated English for “circulation” was flōwan (with lengthy o). Pléo is an inconceivable cognate or supply of circulation.”
Once more you selectively change and deform the which means and sound for the Greek “πλεω”. For those who “float” in a transferring stream you may be “flowing”!
Additional, in Thucydides, this phrase can be attested as “πλω”! Greek phrase endings could be richly diversified so as to add nuence and rhythm. Your objection to the “brief vowel within the root” is a distraction!
However what in regards to the Greek “π” reworking into the Germanic/English “f” that previously you made such a vital determinant of “true” etymology? Why abandon it right here now?!
“πλω” -> “circulation”
No etymology could be extra clear!
As in your frequent correspondent who “exhibits that the phrases I focus on return to Hebrew”, ask them to publish these within the open, as I at all times do, for public scrutiny, as you at all times do of mine. In any other case it’s a meaningless false equivalence!
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