Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

For the discussion of language mechanics, grammar, vocabulary, trends, and other such linguistic topics, in english and other languages.

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Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby Felstaff » Fri Feb 01, 2008 10:54 pm UTC

I have a love for the English language, particularly words and their origins. I also love archaic words. If anyone knows the origins of some cracking words, they should post here, or inform me that this topic exists elsewhere, and henceforth direct me to said forum.

First word off of the top of my head: Steward.
The word 'steward' comes from feudal England, where lords of the manor would own most of the land in a certain village. The Lord of the Manor would employ the serfs/peasants/townsfolk. Some would be hired to be the wardens of the pigpens. The old English for [a pig's] pen was stig, or stī, which is today spelt sty. Thus they were 'sty-wardens' or 'sty-wards' and the word has evolved to 'steward' today. So a steward literally means a 'keeper of a pig-pen'. Judging by most budget airlines today, an air-steward's job isn't far removed from that description.

My next word is Sheriff.
Sheriff is the contracted form of 'Shire-Reeve', with the 'reeve' being the archaic word for an administrative officer, and 'shire' meaning, as it does today, a large county. So the Sheriff of Nottingham was the chief administrative officer for Nottinghamshire and its surrounding hamlets. So he was a pretty big deal in Robin 'Ood's time.

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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby liza » Mon Feb 04, 2008 7:11 am UTC

I've always been a fan of the etymology of "shambles":
answers.com wrote:The history of the word begins innocently enough with the Latin word scamnum, “a stool or bench serving as a seat, step, or support for the feet, for example.” The diminutive scamillum, “low stool,” was borrowed by speakers of Old English as sceamol, “stool, bench, table.” Old English sceamol became Middle English shamel, which developed the specific sense in the singular and plural of “a place where meat is butchered and sold.” The Middle English compound shamelhouse meant “slaughterhouse,” a sense that the plural shambles developed (first recorded in 1548) along with the figurative sense “a place or scene of bloodshed” (first recorded in 1593). Our current, more generalized meaning, “a scene or condition of disorder,” is first recorded in 1926.
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby JayDee » Mon Feb 04, 2008 7:37 am UTC

One of the wonderful people in this forum provided this link once, to the Online Etymology Dictionary.
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby phlip » Mon Feb 04, 2008 10:08 am UTC

JayDee wrote:One of the wonderful people in this forum provided this linke once, to the Online Etymology Dictionary.

I, too, have spent much time browsing that site... lots of fun. Most recently:
etymonline wrote:university
c.1300, "institution of higher learning," also "body of persons constituting a university," from Anglo-Fr. université, O.Fr. universitei (13c.), from M.L. universitatem (nom. universitas), in L.L. "corporation, society," from L., "the whole, aggregate," from universus "whole, entire" (see universe). In the academic sense, a shortening of universitas magistrorum et scholarium "community of masters and scholars;" superseded studium as the word for this.

universe
1589, "the whole world, cosmos," from O.Fr. univers (12c.), from L. universum "the universe," noun use of neut. of adj. universus "all together," lit. "turned into one," from unus "one" (see one) + versus, pp. of vertere "to turn" (see versus). Properly a loan-translation of Gk. to holon "the universe," noun use of neut. of adj. holos "whole" (see safe (adj.)).

versus
1447, in legal case names, denoting action of one party against another, from L. versus "turned toward or against," from pp. of vertere "to turn," from PIE *wert- "to turn, wind," from base *wer- "to turn, bend" (cf. O.E. -weard "toward," originally "turned toward," weorthan "to befall," wyrd "fate, destiny," lit. "what befalls one;" Skt. vartate "turns round, rolls;" Avestan varet- "to turn;" L. vertere (freq. versare) "to turn;" O.C.S. vruteti "to turn, roll," Rus. vreteno "spindle, distaff;" Lith. verciu "to turn;" Gk. rhatane "stirrer, ladle;" Ger. werden, O.E. weorðan "to become," for sense, cf. "to turn into;" Welsh gwerthyd "spindle, distaff;" O.Ir. frith "against").

I was trying to figure out what "unversity" (a typo from some spam email I got) would mean... best I could come up with was "something that can't be turned". (Thought I did see that "versity" is apparently an old abbreviation of "university", which later got corrupted to "varsity"... I've never heard either of these before, but the Internet tells me they exist).

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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby Bobber » Mon Feb 04, 2008 11:48 am UTC

Felstaff wrote:First word off of the top of my head: Steward.
The word 'steward' comes from feudal England, where lords of the manor would own most of the land in a certain village. The Lord of the Manor would employ the serfs/peasants/townsfolk. Some would be hired to be the wardens of the pigpens. The old English for [a pig's] pen was stig, or stī, which is today spelt sty. Thus they were 'sty-wardens' or 'sty-wards' and the word has evolved to 'steward' today. So a steward literally means a 'keeper of a pig-pen'. Judging by most budget airlines today, an air-steward's job isn't far removed from that description.


It's funny that the Danish word for pigpen is still "svinesti". As in "svine" = swine, and "sti" = pen.
And there's not much difference between stī and sti :)
I'm sure Norwegian and Swedish have similar words - probably Icelandic too.
It's actually kind of easy to read Icelandic as a speaker of Danish if you read slowly and take your time to pronouce the words our loud. And again, I'm sure that Swedes and Norwegians have similar experiences.
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby JayDee » Mon Feb 04, 2008 10:14 pm UTC

phlip wrote:I was trying to figure out what "unversity" (a typo from some spam email I got) would mean... best I could come up with was "something that can't be turned". (Thought I did see that "versity" is apparently an old abbreviation of "university", which later got corrupted to "varsity"... I've never heard either of these before, but the Internet tells me they exist).
I think varisty is an American term, I hear it from that lot all the time.
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby Felstaff » Tue Feb 05, 2008 10:31 pm UTC

The word cow is quite interesting.

Someone correct me here, as I don't have the correct evolution of the word, but it goes something like:

Iron-Age Germanic tribes (500BC) "Guu" --> Early European (200BC) "Gou" --> Old Frankish/Danish Tribal "Kuu" or "Kuh" --> Old English (c.800) "" --> Middle English (c.1300) "cou" which was pronounced somewhere between "cow" and "coo". Listen to a Cornish person say "cow" and you'll hear the same way Geoffrey Chaucer would have said "cow?".

So if you think about you people in the USA. Your word cow began out in the heart of Germany, where it moved north to the Nether Regions and Denmark, before being dragged over by the Scandinavians to Britain, who brought it to the new world in the 1500s. Nobody elongates the 'o' in 'cow' as much as Americans.
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby liza » Wed Feb 06, 2008 1:32 am UTC

JayDee wrote:I think varisty is an American term, I hear it from that lot all the time.

Huh. Did not know the term varsity wasn't universal (univarsal?). Varsity is our term for the most advanced sports team for an institution, primarily in high schools. To clarify, the best kids in a high school get to be on the varsity team for their sport, whereas the less talented kids can only be on JV (junior varsity).
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby JayDee » Wed Feb 06, 2008 2:07 am UTC

liza wrote:
JayDee wrote:I think varisty is an American term, I hear it from that lot all the time.
Huh. Did not know the term varsity wasn't universal (univarsal?). Varsity is our term for the most advanced sports team for an institution, primarily in high schools. To clarify, the best kids in a high school get to be on the varsity team for their sport, whereas the less talented kids can only be on JV (junior varsity).
I've heard varsity plenty in reference to college sports, I think. I've heard JV recently when I started listening to podcasts. Although it took me a while to realise he wasn't saying juvie (as in Juvenile Detention.)
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby reflectia » Wed Feb 06, 2008 2:16 am UTC

The progression of spam:
etymonline wrote:proprietary name registered by Geo. A. Hormel & Co. in U.S., 1937; probably a conflation of spiced ham. Soon extended to other kinds of canned meat. In the sense of "Internet junk mail" it was coined by Usenet users after March 31, 1993, when Usenet administrator Richard Depew inadvertently posted the same message 200 times to a discussion group. The term had been used in online text games, and it was from the comedy routine in British TV show "Monty Python's Flying Circus" where a restaurant's menu items all devolve into spam.
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby liza » Wed Feb 06, 2008 2:48 am UTC

JayDee wrote:I've heard varsity plenty in reference to college sports, I think. I've heard JV recently when I started listening to podcasts. Although it took me a while to realise he wasn't saying juvie (as in Juvenile Detention.)

Oh, those college sports juvies :) But yeah, unis have varsity/JV teams too. And there are more divisions of sports past these which are irrelevant to the conversation, of course.
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby tetromino » Wed Feb 06, 2008 7:35 am UTC

My favorite etymology story is for the Russian slang word дыбр (dybr).

For those who are not aware, all Russian computer users maintain 2 keyboard layouts: the Russian layout (йцукен), and the English (qwerty) layout (required since one frequently needs to use the Latin alphabet, e.g. for entering URLs). To switch between them, you use a keyboard shortcut (canonically, Alt Shift). And the crucial thing to keep in mind is, the two layouts are completely different.

So, suppose you are typing in the Russian word "дневник" (diary). Except you were just using the qwerty layout to type something in the Latin alphabet, forgot to press Alt Shift to switch back to Russian, and so instead of дневник you get lytdybr.

Well, that sounds like a promising word! Let's transcribe it phonetically, letter by letter, back into Russian: лытдыбр.

Except the syllable "лыт" sounds unnatural in Russian. Let's throw it away.

So we are left with дыбр -- meaning, a blog post or webpage of a diary-like nature and of limited interest to the general public.

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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby Felstaff » Wed Feb 06, 2008 3:32 pm UTC

(collected from one of many of those "random fact" emails you get from well-meaning aunts, co-workers etc.)

The old Sanskrit word for war literally translates as "desire for more cows"

Although I can't source this for accuracy; information is only from about 1,000,000 blogs on the intarweb.

Speaking of war, the word evolution is as follows:

Indo-European werza which became the Old Franco/Gaul word weurre (of which guerre is derived, i.e. guerilla) which entered Middle English as warre, contracted to the WAR we know and love today.

Interestingly, werza literally means "confusion", which appears quite an apt description of war.

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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby Bobber » Thu Feb 07, 2008 11:24 am UTC

Well, the Danish word for war, "krig", doesn't seem to have the same etymology.
I suppose it COULD be a very mangled form of "guerre", but I just don't see it.
Can anyone enlighten me?
For reference, the German word is "krieg", which is pretty similar.
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby Owehn » Thu Feb 07, 2008 1:19 pm UTC

Apparently the cognate to war in German is verwirren, "to confuse". Online Etymological Dictionary says krieg could possibly be related to Greek hybris.
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Feb 07, 2008 7:47 pm UTC

From the article "German Krieg", by Edward H. Sehrt, in Modern Language Notes © 1927 (accessible on JSTOR):

In Latin the expression for a private soldier is mīles grāgarius. Later gregārius was used alone in the same sense. This word is derived from Latin grex, 'herd, troop.' Mīles itself probably had this meaning originally. The initial sonant g in gregārius was changed to the surd k, as for instance Latin Graecos became Gothic Krēkōs, Old High German Kriahha. The original g between vowels remained. The short ě was lenthened....So in a perfectly regular way we get Krieger.... from Krieger were made kriegen and Krieg.

Kluge and Hildegrand believe that 'effort, exertion, struggle' were the original signification, but all of these meanings are easily derived from that of 'war, fight'.


The hypothesis that it comes from grāgarius seems quite a bit more plausible to me than that it might come from a word like "hubris", which doesn't even have the velar stops or any sound that seems likely to mutate into a 'k'.
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby zenten » Thu Feb 07, 2008 8:38 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:From the article "German Krieg", by Edward H. Sehrt, in Modern Language Notes © 1927 (accessible on JSTOR):

In Latin the expression for a private soldier is mīles grāgarius. Later gregārius was used alone in the same sense. This word is derived from Latin grex, 'herd, troop.' Mīles itself probably had this meaning originally. The initial sonant g in gregārius was changed to the surd k, as for instance Latin Graecos became Gothic Krēkōs, Old High German Kriahha. The original g between vowels remained. The short ě was lenthened....So in a perfectly regular way we get Krieger.... from Krieger were made kriegen and Krieg.

Kluge and Hildegrand believe that 'effort, exertion, struggle' were the original signification, but all of these meanings are easily derived from that of 'war, fight'.


The hypothesis that it comes from grāgarius seems quite a bit more plausible to me than that it might come from a word like "hubris", which doesn't even have the velar stops or any sound that seems likely to mutate into a 'k'.


Is there any connection between grāgarius and gregarious?

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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby Bobber » Thu Feb 07, 2008 9:55 pm UTC

Thanks, gmalivuk | kuvilamg, sknahT
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Feb 07, 2008 10:17 pm UTC

zenten wrote:Is there any connection between grāgarius and gregarious?

Yes. The aforementioned root meaning "troop" or "flock", since the latter term was originally used to refer to animals that lived in flocks or other groupings.
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby Izzhov » Fri Feb 08, 2008 10:01 pm UTC

I only know Latin roots, but I always thought the derivation of the word "dominoes" was interesting.
The name of the game dominoes is derived from dominus, meaning master. The hoods worn in the early 1700's by Italian priests—grand figures, considered a type of master—were called dominoes. As they were black with holes cut into them for the eyes, the name got passed on to the black rectangular blocks with white dots.

This one is another favorite, because it makes literal sense: the word "procrastinate" comes from the Latin words pro (meaning "for"), cras (meaning "tomorrow"), and tenere (meaning "to hold"). Therefore, when you're procrastinating something, you're quite literally holding it for tomorrow.

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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby Felstaff » Tue Mar 04, 2008 3:04 pm UTC

Corrosion. From the Latin corrōdere, literally "to gnaw away [by rodents]"

Aggravate. From the Latin aggravere, literally "to add to the weight"

Amateur. From the Latin amator, "to love [in context: a lover of women]"
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby Izzhov » Thu Mar 06, 2008 1:53 am UTC

It's META TIME!
etymology
1398, from Greek etymologia, from etymon "true sense" (neut. of etymos "true," related to eteos "true") + logos "word." In classical times, of meanings; later, of histories. Latinized by Cicero as veriloquium.

Here's a stranger one:
stuff (n.)
c.1330, "quilted material worn under chain mail," from Old French (c. 900-1400 CE) estoffe "quilted material, furniture, provisions" (French étoffe), from estoffer "to equip or stock," probably from Old High German (c.1100) stopfon "to plug, stuff," or from a related Frankish word (see stop). Sense extended to material for working with in various trades (1406), then (1580) "matter of an unspecified kind." Meaning "narcotic, dope, drug" is attested from 1929. To know (one's) stuff "have a grasp on a subject" is recorded from 1927. stuffy "poorly ventilated" is from 1831; sense of "pompous, smug" is from 1895.

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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby deejbot » Thu Mar 06, 2008 2:51 pm UTC

Felstaff wrote:Speaking of war, the word evolution is as follows:

Indo-European werza which became the Old Franco/Gaul word weurre (of which guerre is derived, i.e. guerilla) which entered Middle English as warre, contracted to the WAR we know and love today.

Interestingly, werza literally means "confusion", which appears quite an apt description of war.


late O.E. (c.1050), wyrre, werre, from O.N.Fr. werre "war" (Fr. guerre), from Frank. *werra, from P.Gmc. *werso (cf. O.S. werran, O.H.G. werran, Ger. verwirren "to confuse, perplex"). [Courtesy Etymonline]

From what I can remember, PIE didn't have *z; and old Frankish is very much not the same as Gaul.

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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby evilbeanfiend » Thu Mar 06, 2008 2:58 pm UTC

Izzhov wrote:It's META TIME!
etymology
1398, from Greek etymologia, from etymon "true sense" (neut. of etymos "true," related to eteos "true") + logos "word." In classical times, of meanings; later, of histories. Latinized by Cicero as veriloquium.

Here's a stranger one:
stuff (n.)
c.1330, "quilted material worn under chain mail," from Old French (c. 900-1400 CE) estoffe "quilted material, furniture, provisions" (French étoffe), from estoffer "to equip or stock," probably from Old High German (c.1100) stopfon "to plug, stuff," or from a related Frankish word (see stop). Sense extended to material for working with in various trades (1406), then (1580) "matter of an unspecified kind." Meaning "narcotic, dope, drug" is attested from 1929. To know (one's) stuff "have a grasp on a subject" is recorded from 1927. stuffy "poorly ventilated" is from 1831; sense of "pompous, smug" is from 1895.


makes a lot of sense with stuffing, and knocking it out of someone too.
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby ZLVT » Mon Mar 10, 2008 1:21 am UTC

I loved how the words thorn, thing and thrall are all norse words meaning thorn, meeting and slave respectively.

Also, a little wiki page on why we have multiple words for the same thing i.e. it lists a bunch of words with similar meanings from Germanic and Latin roots
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby Felstaff » Mon Mar 10, 2008 3:53 pm UTC

ZLVT wrote:I loved how the words thorn, thing and thrall are all norse words meaning thorn, meeting and slave respectively.


So enthrall literally means enslave? Figures. We should campaign for the abolition of enthrallery.
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby Number3Pencils » Mon Mar 10, 2008 6:39 pm UTC

tetromino wrote:So, suppose you are typing in the Russian word "дневник" (diary). Except you were just using the qwerty layout to type something in the Latin alphabet, forgot to press Alt Shift to switch back to Russian, and so instead of дневник you get lytdybr.

Well, that sounds like a promising word! Let's transcribe it phonetically, letter by letter, back into Russian: лытдыбр.

Except the syllable "лыт" sounds unnatural in Russian. Let's throw it away.

So we are left with дыбр -- meaning, a blog post or webpage of a diary-like nature and of limited interest to the general public.


I just wanted to point out, as a Russian student, how ironic it is that Russian speakers don't even wink at ungodly words like "nravitsya", "vstat' ", "dnyom", "ssora", "mgla", and "rvaniy", but as soon as an л goes next to an ы instead of an и, they just lose it and trash the syllable.


As far as etymologies go, I like the names of our various pastas. Spaghetti is little strings, strozzapreti is priest-stranglers, vermicelli is little worms, mostaccioli is mustaches, and linguine is little tongues.
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby evilbeanfiend » Mon Mar 10, 2008 6:59 pm UTC

lasagne is even better as it seems to be from the latin for cooking pot, which is from the greek for chamber pot!
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby Sour Apple » Mon Mar 10, 2008 7:12 pm UTC

Oh, I absolutely adore looking at roots of words. I guess Latin did turn out to be useful, after all, because whenever something comes up in political science or history or sometimes philosophy, I can pick apart what it means. Just one of those delightful things.

Anyway, though it's simple, I'm an artiste, and thus the origin of the word music delights me-- it comes from the word muse, of course, referring to those fair givers of inspiration in all sorts of art.
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby Thousand » Mon Mar 10, 2008 8:02 pm UTC

During the course of reading Bill Bryson's Mother Tongue (a recommended read for all language lovers!), I found in it a small section on words that have been misheard so much as to becoming the proper word for it.

For example, Asparagus came from a corruption of 'Sparrow Grass', which is a pretty cool alternate word for it :D

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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby bumpgrrl » Mon Mar 10, 2008 8:20 pm UTC

Thousand wrote:During the course of reading Bill Bryson's Mother Tongue (a recommended read for all language lovers!), I found in it a small section on words that have been misheard so much as to becoming the proper word for it.

For example, Asparagus came from a corruption of 'Sparrow Grass', which is a pretty cool alternate word for it :D


well, actually:

[L., a. Gr. of doubtful origin. In med.L. often sparagus, sparagi (OIt. sparagi, sparaci), found in Eng. c 1000. Thence also mod.It. sparagio, G. spargen, MF. esperage, and Eng. sperage, the common name in 16th and early 17th c., occas., from etymological notions, made sperach (after smallache, smallage, etc.: see ACHE n.2), or sparage.

About 1600 the influence of herbalists and horticultural writers made asparagus familiar, and this in the aphetic form 'sparagus at length displaced sperage, but was itself by popular etymol. corrupted before 1650 to sparagrass, sparrow-grass, which remained the polite name during the 18th c. Botanists still wrote asparagus, but according to Walker Pron. Dict. 1791, ‘Sparrow-grass is so general that asparagus has an air of stiffness and pedantry.’ During the 19th century asparagus returned into literary and polite use, leaving sparrow-grass to the illiterate; though ‘grass’ still occured in cookery books.]


Sparrow-grass is a corruption of asparagus. Incidentally, anytime someone wants clarification on things, when I am at work, my uni subscribes to the Complete Oxford English dictionary online, and I can do research for you/us. :) wheee words.
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby Thousand » Mon Mar 10, 2008 8:28 pm UTC

bumpgrrl wrote:
Thousand wrote:During the course of reading Bill Bryson's Mother Tongue (a recommended read for all language lovers!), I found in it a small section on words that have been misheard so much as to becoming the proper word for it.

For example, Asparagus came from a corruption of 'Sparrow Grass', which is a pretty cool alternate word for it :D


well, actually:

[L., a. Gr. of doubtful origin. In med.L. often sparagus, sparagi (OIt. sparagi, sparaci), found in Eng. c 1000. Thence also mod.It. sparagio, G. spargen, MF. esperage, and Eng. sperage, the common name in 16th and early 17th c., occas., from etymological notions, made sperach (after smallache, smallage, etc.: see ACHE n.2), or sparage.

About 1600 the influence of herbalists and horticultural writers made asparagus familiar, and this in the aphetic form 'sparagus at length displaced sperage, but was itself by popular etymol. corrupted before 1650 to sparagrass, sparrow-grass, which remained the polite name during the 18th c. Botanists still wrote asparagus, but according to Walker Pron. Dict. 1791, ‘Sparrow-grass is so general that asparagus has an air of stiffness and pedantry.’ During the 19th century asparagus returned into literary and polite use, leaving sparrow-grass to the illiterate; though ‘grass’ still occured in cookery books.]


Sparrow-grass is a corruption of asparagus. Incidentally, anytime someone wants clarification on things, when I am at work, my uni subscribes to the Complete Oxford English dictionary online, and I can do research for you/us. :) wheee words.


Bill Bryson lied to me!? :( (admittedly the book was out of date by more than 10 years and still mentioning the Soviet Union, but oh well)

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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby Qwert » Wed Mar 12, 2008 4:13 am UTC

I've always been fond of ambulance.
1809, "mobile or field hospital," from Fr. (hôpital) ambulant, lit. "walking (hospital)," from L. ambulans (gen. ambulantis), from ambulare "to walk" (see amble). Not common until meaning transferred from "hospital" to "vehicle for conveying wounded from field" (1854) during the Crimean War. Ambulance-chaser as a contemptuous term for a type of lawyer dates from 1897.
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby Citizen K » Wed Mar 12, 2008 6:15 pm UTC

World Wide Words is a British gentleman's website all about this sort of stuff. I catch up on the RSS feed once in a while, and I've heard the guy on the Bob Edwards show from time to time. Pretty interesting stuff.
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby Number3Pencils » Wed Mar 12, 2008 11:10 pm UTC

Thousand wrote:Bill Bryson lied to me!? :( (admittedly the book was out of date by more than 10 years and still mentioning the Soviet Union, but oh well)


That book would be excellent if not for the number of inaccuracies and flat-out wrong things in it. I'm sure the vast majority of it is true, but I find all sorts of little (and somewhat big) things. There's the sparrow-grass. There's also the doubtful treatment of the runic letters eth and thorn (ð and þ). The þ is rendered variously as a correct þ but in the wrong font, a p, and even as a Greek rho (ρ). The ð pops up only once or twice, always as a Greek delta (δ). My favorite part, though, was where he was talking about swearing, and said that the Finns, lacking any swear words, oddly started using "ravintolassa", which means "in the restaurant". The restaurant part is right, but it's not used as a swear word (at least, a forum full of Finns I found* had never heard of it), and the Finns have at least one swear word that I know of, perkele, and I'm sure a full set of others too. I'm sure a dedicated scholar could point out several pretty looming mistakes in every chapter. That's just what I saw as a layman with a solid background in languages.

*On the forum full of Finns I found, a Finn said, "Finns find foreigners funny." Fun!
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby bumpgrrl » Thu Mar 13, 2008 4:02 am UTC

Citizen K wrote:World Wide Words is a British gentleman's website all about this sort of stuff. I catch up on the RSS feed once in a while, and I've heard the guy on the Bob Edwards show from time to time. Pretty interesting stuff.


Ah thank you! I had found that guy a couple of years ago and loved his articles, then forgot how to find him. I still use 'pappekak' (Dutch for soft faeces) occasionally as a mild swear word. (According to him, it's the origin for poppycock - another term I love.)
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby steewi » Thu Mar 13, 2008 5:03 am UTC

Number3Pencils wrote:My favorite part, though, was where he was talking about swearing, and said that the Finns, lacking any swear words, oddly started using "ravintolassa", which means "in the restaurant". The restaurant part is right, but it's not used as a swear word (at least, a forum full of Finns I found had never heard of it), and the Finns have at least one swear word that I know of, perkele, and I'm sure a full set of others too. I'm sure a dedicated scholar could point out several pretty looming mistakes in every chapter. That's just what I saw as a layman with a solid background in languages.


I never trust anyone who says that language X has no swearwords. Every language has a way to be vulgar and a way to express anger verbally. They might not do it like we do, but they'll have it. Anyone for a comparative swearing thread? (yeah, I know about the alternative dictionary and urbandictionary, but it's fun to see the creative things some have come up with). I'm off to see if it's already been done.

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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby Ian Ex Machina » Sun Mar 16, 2008 2:27 am UTC

Citizen K wrote:World Wide Words is a British gentleman's website all about this sort of stuff. I catch up on the RSS feed once in a while, and I've heard the guy on the Bob Edwards show from time to time. Pretty interesting stuff.


That site is going to keep me occupied for the next few hours :)
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby überRegenbogen » Sun Mar 16, 2008 8:19 pm UTC

evilbeanfiend wrote:lasagne is even better as it seems to be from the latin for cooking pot, which is from the greek for chamber pot!

Fortunately it is sufficiently delicious to hold up against this mental imagery! :)
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Re: Word Etymology & Origins, &c., &c.

Postby Sour Apple » Sun Mar 16, 2008 9:10 pm UTC

steewi wrote:
Number3Pencils wrote:My favorite part, though, was where he was talking about swearing, and said that the Finns, lacking any swear words, oddly started using "ravintolassa", which means "in the restaurant". The restaurant part is right, but it's not used as a swear word (at least, a forum full of Finns I found had never heard of it), and the Finns have at least one swear word that I know of, perkele, and I'm sure a full set of others too. I'm sure a dedicated scholar could point out several pretty looming mistakes in every chapter. That's just what I saw as a layman with a solid background in languages.


I never trust anyone who says that language X has no swearwords. Every language has a way to be vulgar and a way to express anger verbally. They might not do it like we do, but they'll have it. Anyone for a comparative swearing thread? (yeah, I know about the alternative dictionary and urbandictionary, but it's fun to see the creative things some have come up with). I'm off to see if it's already been done.


Yeah, it's ridiculous to say they have no swearwords... whether or not things were invented to be vulgar, their connotations can turn that way. I mean, it's all about the way the language of a society evolves... take "gay" for example. The latest generation, with whom I am ashamed to associate, says, "That's gay!" to insult the actions of another person. Gay originally started out meaning happy. It wasn't inserted into English, however, long ago, for the sake of insulting people-- it just ended up that way.

So anyway, my point was that someone would have to be an extreme traditionalist in order to claim that there's no swearwords. What I'd like to do, then, is have a dark room with various heavy objects scattered around, then take this person and ask him to walk across the room in bare feet. Then we could really see what he thought about swearwords...
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