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 Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Mon 25 Mar 2013, 12:44



We are led to believe - for whatever it's worth these days - that there exists a "high" English, the pronunciation and use to which we should all of us aspire. For reasons not generally understood by the bulk of that city's general population Oxford is often singled out as the natural home of this aspirant tongue and the city's eponymously titled dictionary the natural repository for this speech's "approved" vocabulary.

Yet even this weighty tome (its full version contains over 250,000 separate entries), thanks to its penchant for not only explaining its contents but also allowing us a brief glimpse of their journey into the English language from embryonic spores scattered throughout almost all the known languages in the world (and many now sadly defunct), actually gives the lie to any pretensions of its home town's version of the language to being "perfect". Some words, it seems, exist in their current form due to plain bloody-minded mispronunciation amongst the ranks of the language's users - and the Oxford English Dictionary tells us which ones.

Take an orange, for example. Here the mistake is an ancient one - English inherited a mispronunciation which may have been French or Italian in origin, depending on which you like least I suppose (the root words seem to have originated around the same time in both languages). Anyway, both "melarancio" and "pume orenge" have the same error in common. When lifting the word from its Dravidian source they somehow neglected to bring the first letter along. Tamils, Persians, Arabs and Malaysians managed a little better. They at least kept the initial letter "N", even if they did end up with a bewildering array of naarinjas, narangs, naranjes and naarangas along the way. Some think that the "N" actually did fare better than the written record suggests and initially had actually managed to clamber up onto Italian, French and English tongues. However its elisional crash against the "uno", "un" and "an" in each case spelled its doom.

But then the "N" has always been problematic for certain people. Or else maybe we have the famous English inherent sense of fairness to thank. Either way, having robbed one word of its initial "N" English has very generously assigned it to another in a perverse reversal of the original robbery. Take the "ewt" or, as the OED now tells us it must henceforth be referred to, a "newt". Here we can absolve the French and Italians of any hand in the felony - this one is the English getting their own language wrong without any outside help! The word was originally "efte" (the newt's baby for some reason keeps this moniker) which, over time, hardened into an "evete". Nothing too drastic there, until people began writing it down. That was when the "V" became a "W" - the two were often intechangeable in Middle English - and pronunciation began alternating likewise. It seems the "ewts" won out, but this only presented speakers with a new challenge. "An eft" is natural usage of the indefinite article for use before vowels. However "an ewt" isn't (there's an implied "Y" consonant in the sound). Yet everyone was still saying it for some reason so now when it was written the "N" was forced to hop over the gap and meet the poor ewt head-on. Not an elision this time, more a collision, and one that stuck.

As the title suggests "a napron" went the opposite way, this time the "N" doing a "norange" and hopping back over to the article.

Which brings us to "nonper" - an obvious borrowing from the French for "without peer". This time both of the poor "N"s got it in the neck, though in two different ways. The first "N" did the by now familiar backward somersault over to the indefinite article. However the second "N", for reasons best known to the English (though I bet there's no point in asking any of them) became an "M". This peerless figure who you would want to adjudicate in any dodgy issues relating to bones of contention suddenly, for no apparent reason, stopped being "a nonper" and became "an umpire". Go figure.

Any others we get wrong even when we're saying them right?
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Mon 25 Mar 2013, 13:21

We've still hung on to an 'eft' though. I wonder why it didn't become a 'neft'?

I assume it's because 'orange' is feminine in Spanish that it's still got its 'n' - una naranja.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Mon 25 Mar 2013, 13:26

The eft survived intact because it does not create confusion after the "an" form of the indefinite article - however as stated above "ewt" contains an implied "Y" in its pronunciation, which ordinarily would take the "a" form of the article. What is a mystery is why the "eft" now applies only to the young newt when it once described the animal at all stages of its life? I cannot think of any other such cases.

You could be right about the Spanish. Also I imagine they were more au fait with Arabic than other Europeans for a period to hear it being pronounced correctly often enough to remember!
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Mon 25 Mar 2013, 13:52

Nasprin plese.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Mon 25 Mar 2013, 14:19

I am informed that "pea" is another one which we all get wrong while saying it correctly. Apparently the word was originally "pease" (the use of which has been preserved in children's nursery rhymes and in "pease pudding"). English speakers had no difficulty understanding that this was a collectively singular and plural word (wheats and sheeps anyone?). Well, up until the mid 17th century when Cromwell's Commonwealth apparently disapproved of the peasey-weasey version and decided to shorten it. That must be why they're now so small.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Mon 25 Mar 2013, 15:08

@ferval wrote:
I assume it's because 'orange' is feminine in Spanish that it's still got its 'n' - una naranja.

In Spanish naranja would not be pronounced as in English, as the j has a h pronounciation in Spanish?

Bitter oranges in Greek are called nerantzi (no j in Greek so a tz is used as a substitute), and with the confused workings of gender in the Greek language the tree is feminine but the fruit is neuter. Anyway nerantzia are used in a preserve which undergo a lengthy and tortuous process of various soakings to take the bitterness out first, before being flavoured in a syrup with honey and cinnamon.

Sweet oranges are called portokalia here though.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Mon 25 Mar 2013, 15:19

Alligator - another one where ignorance of the language from which it came seems to have played a role in the coining of the word.

The Spanish identified it first and called it "Lagarto de Indias", with of course the definite article "El" before it (The Lizard of the Indies). Cue the English speakers - this time some stray boboes coming south from the Carolinas - who encountered "el lagarto" and got hopelessly tongue-tied in the process of pronouncing it. Their garbled concatenation of the article with the word is the one that stuck however, and thanks to English speakers also being the ones to officially define the genus later their garble is now repeated in several languages, even Spanish where their quite correct "lagarto" is often substituted with "aligator" or "aligador", depending on how into zoology and how out of grammatics the Spaniard happens to be.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Mon 25 Mar 2013, 17:23

Britain's only venomous snake is the adder. Which, like napron, was originally "nadder" to our hirsute Old English forebears. No idea where the word comes from originally, but the old spelling survives in a handful of place names, such as Nadder Bank in these 'ere parts.

I've probably done this one before, but one of Cumbria's most famous mountains is the Old Man of Coniston. Unlike the Old Man of Helsby, a small cliff which leers at motorists on the M56, no-one could look at the Coniston version and say to their lady friend "I say, Flossie, doesn't that blasted, ice-streaked peak look like a kindly old gentlemen who is about to be put on a register for brandishing a Werther's Original at some wide eyed chiddly?"

Reason being that Old Man is an Anglicization of Allt Maen, which is basically Old Welsh for "rocky slope".

Regards,

AR
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Mon 25 Mar 2013, 18:48

Well, nadder does survive, sort of, in the form of the natterjack. Both nadder & Natter derive, supposedly, from "naedre"
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Tue 26 Mar 2013, 07:54

I didn't know about the nadder, AR.

In Norway a jokey or pet name for someone is an "økenavn". "Øke" means "growth" though opinion is divided as to whether the term originated with that meaning (as in "extended name") or whether "øk" came from a much older forgotten semantic root. In any case this apparently found its way into Old English as "ekename", which in turn did the business with the "N" in the indefinite article and became "nickname".
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Tue 26 Mar 2013, 12:47

On the subject of weird etymologies I came across one which, although not a mispronunciation in the slightest, still deserves an honourable mention just because of the semantic shift en route to modern parlance. In Robert Waterfield's book "Why Socrates Died" he recounts the origin of the word "sycophant" in English. The term is phonetically rendered from the Greek "sykophantes" which literally means "tale-teller about figs" and relates to a law in Athens around the 6th century BCE. This forbade the exporting of food with the sole exception of olives (upon which the Athenian economy was almost solely reliant and which was zealously the preserve of a state-run monopoly). However there was huge demand for Athenian figs and under the law as it applied it was completely encouraged by the authorities that neighbours and associates should "squeal" (for a small reward) on those who might be tempted to smuggle a few cartloads of the banned fruit out for sale to bordering lands. This method of ingratiating oneself with the authorities may have been extremely product-specific but - as we know - while figs might no longer be in such great demand today the tendency on some people's part to behave like these ancient whistle blowers is as strong as ever.

And while we're at it, what would one be likely to do with a can of "flesh preserver"? Answer: Paint a fence with it.

When the German chemist Carl Ludwig, Baron Reichenbach, patented his new antiseptic lotion in 1832 he used "kreas" (Gr. flesh) and "soter" (derived from Ger. "soizein" save or preserve) to make sure that everyone got the point when they bought the newly christened "Creosote". History does not tell us how, by whom or why it so quickly became daubed on almost every external surface imaginable - except, that is, for skin.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Tue 26 Mar 2013, 23:25

A creosote facial? You might be on to something there, nordmann..... on the other hand, perhaps not. And I assume the ancient backhander for tale (tail)telling was called Syrup of Figs?

I should keep out of this thread. I may not be a vicar's daughter - well,mum never said - but the word blindness runs as deeply.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Thu 28 Mar 2013, 14:13

The elimination of "god" from polite speech has led to some diverse expressions of exclamation in the past - for example "zounds!" (god's wounds), "blimey!" (god blind me) and "strewth!" (god's truth).

But the latter has also thrown up a rather interesting example just recently of how ignorance of a word's original meaning can lead to fundamental semantic shift, and a very sudden one at that. It also shows how very very careful we have to be when assessing historical events.

The English word for "relating to an ostrich" is "struthious", and as such it has often been used as an adjective to describe quite un-ostrich but very human activity which mimics the erroneous belief that said bird will bury its head in the sand when faced with peril. As far back as the 18th century therefore there is written evidence of "struthious government policy", "struthious law" etc etc.

In Australia the "strewth" exclamation is quite commonly used, and in particular as a reaction to something which beggars belief. In the build-up to Kevin Rudd's abortive attempt to become Labour's new leader last week a supporter excitedly and rather passionately declared that Julia Gillard's policy decisions were getting more and more struthious as time had gone on. Now, whether he meant it in the time-honoured sense or not (and I suspect not), all the newspapers printed it as "strewthious" - and I doubt that anyone in Australia failed to understand the term as written, or realised that they were communally participating in the establishment of a radical semantic departure.

This might appear to be a small event - however it is a good indication of how complex retrogressive analysis of the past can become purely because a word's meaning has strayed from its root. If an Australian now hears Winston Churchill's dire warning to Neville Chamberlain upon the latter taking office as prime minister "not to pursue the struthious policy of his predecessor with respect to the menace growing in Europe", there is a fair chance that they will first and foremost assume that Churchill was simply flabbergasted at the prospect. Whether he was or not, this assumption is bound to influence any subsequent historical theory concerning Churchill based on it. A new historical "truth" is born - and all out of one simple semantic sideways shunt based on a misapprehension.

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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Thu 28 Mar 2013, 18:47

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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Thu 28 Mar 2013, 19:37

What about the gnota gnica gnu?
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Thu 28 Mar 2013, 20:03

In our Dutch common day language "struisvogel politiek" (politics of an ostrich bird) in the Churchill's sense is still alive and kicking...no misunderstandings...
Cheers, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Thu 28 Mar 2013, 23:24

The following examples might be more of pure pronunciation changes than etymological ones and perhaps sometimes a dialectic difference more than anything deliberate or from ignorance. But jaunty seems to be a different spelling and pronunciation of gentle or genteel and not connected to 'jaunt'. Porridge is the same as pottage and follows it.

My etymological dictionary (which is not an Oxford One) says 'hunch' is a nasalised form of hook. The Shorter Oxford doesn't mention 'hook' though does say one meaning of hunch may really be a different word 'hunk'.

Balcony apparently till the 18th C used to be pronounced as bal-coh'-ny and the new pronunciation was condemned as wrong and ignorant.

And I gather the American form of tidbit is closer to the original form than the titbit of the UK (and which I use). It was tyd bit, and the Oxford Dic thinks the newer spelling and pronunciation may have been influenced by the word 'tit' for young horse or girl.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Fri 29 Mar 2013, 11:49

Pronunciation changes, often for no better reason than that a particular community feels more "comfortable" using the mispronounced version of an imported word, can have a profound etymological effect - even leading at times to both versions of the word surviving but with two different and distinct meanings. Dual names for the same concept, another thing that happens with sudden importation, can also lead to the same effect.

After the Norman conquest, for example, the new regime set about appointing their own people to positions of authority, including within the church in England. One result of this was that French religious observance and its own idiosyncratic elements suddenly became the official form regulated from on high, and French terms for established rituals and feasts were the ones used in correspondence and edicts dispatched from the archbishoprics. In England (and Rome) the festival marking the end of Christmas was still referred to using a version of the old Greek term "epiphaneia". However for reasons lost in time the Gallic church had retained an older Greek term "theophaneia" which, in French, had been rendered "theofanie" when written. Both were semantically similar, one meaning "manifestation" (with god implied) and the other simply an explicit
refinement of the concept to "manifestation of a god".

Not the stuff from which schisms start, but sufficient to have caused some consternation in England when introduced. While the bulk of the population celebrated the Epiphany, their new religious masters up in the cathedrals were celebrating something which - to the English - was a strange foreign ritual called the Tiffany. This at the least excited some curiosity and a great scrutiny was brought to bear on what might be going on at this event. Of course what was going on was exactly the same as what had been going on before - the observation of the day was identical in every respect. Except one - the mass celebrants were now attired in gloriously colourful and expensive silks, the Gallic church and its political masters having always adopted the principle that extreme ostentation was demanded of high church, another tradition the Normans had now suddenly imposed on their newly acquired society.

Tiffany - a word sufficiently removed from its cousin "epiphany" in pronunciation to go out on its own - duly did just that in the English language. It was not long before the traditional "epiphany" had reasserted itself as the word for the festival, while "tiffany" remained, but now applied chiefly to the silks and finery, and later to anything sumptuous and desirable (and approved of by god). Its cultural link with January 6th remained when the French custom of naming girls born on this date after the festival was adopted in England too, and by the 12th century this name had graduated also to that of a surname, first attested in Cumberland when the children of Guy Lessant's second marriage were given their mother's name to distinguish them from their half-siblings. One of their descendants, Charles Lewis Tiffany, was to unwittingly reassert the association between his surname and opulence when he founded the famous goldsmiths and jewellery store in New York in 1837.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Sat 30 Mar 2013, 13:45

Another etymological puzzle I came across just yesterday concerns the word "success". Were you, prior to 1580, inclined to parrot clichés and to tell your fellow "there is nothing succeeds like success" you would most likely have received in return a rather blank stare as your interlocutor grappled with the concept of "there is nothing that comes after like that which comes after". We still use the word in that sense, especially when discussing the holders of office or title, and after all that was always the root meaning of the word anyway, all the way back to its birth in Latin. But the sense in which we infer accomplishment of a goal or of attaining good fortune or a victory is a relatively new one, it appears, not much predating Shakespeare in fact.

Which begs the question - how did people express that sense beforehand? Roget's Thesaurus doesn't help much either. Look up modern day synonyms for "success" and what you'll find is a list of words, all of which could better be described as facets of success, not success itself. "Achievement", "Attainment" and even "Bed of Roses" are to be found there, but no synonym which encapsulates the totality of meaning contained in the word as we now use it. Was pre-1580 mankind unable to envisage success in such totality of meaning - only in its parts? And if so, what does that tell us about the attitude to being successful prior to Elizabeth's reign? And of course that other question begged by this dilemma; why, after identifying the requirement for a term, and of all the words to choose from, was an expression meaning "to come after" or "to ensue" the one for which we eventually plumped?
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Sat 30 Mar 2013, 14:11

Ah, nothing succeeds ..... like a budgie with no teeth! Basketball

Seriously though I had a strange anglo-american-german- french conversation this morning, albeit all in English, about deer.

Living in an old hunting lodge I have a fine set of antlers (false actually) above the door to the dining room. They're antlers of a red deer, or in french un cerf. But the American present pointed out that in the US a red deer is called an elk. No countered the German surely in English an elk is the very big animal with huge palmate antlers that you find in Sweden. No replied the American that's a moose!

We than rambled on as to what Bambi was a supposed to have been (in France there seems a strange widespread understanding that Bambi is a chevreuil - ie a roe deer, whilst his ill-fated father was a red deer, a biological impossibility), and whether Rudolf was really a reindeer or a red deer. But I reckon I trumped eveyone when I pointed out that a North American red deer/elk is also known as a wapiti, from the native american word.

But how is it that identical words can end up referring to completey different, although related, things?
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Sat 30 Mar 2013, 14:18

I'm not sure the American was speaking for all his countrymen there. John Williams's beautiful "Cavatina" was not, as far as I know, used as the theme for "The Elkhunter".
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Sat 30 Mar 2013, 14:25

But perhaps he was hunting the American white-tailed deer, a species which is similar to, but distinct from the red deer/elk/wapiti animal.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Sat 30 Mar 2013, 14:30

It's notoriously difficult, I believe, to get white-tailed anythings to partcipate in Russian Roulette - but as you can see I've only a hazy recollection of the details in that film.

Still, it's news to me that Americans call deer - of any sort - elks. I do know that an American visitor some years ago was very impressed by the bones of the Irish Giant Elk in the Natural History Museum in Dublin and said to me that she thought Tolkien had "just made them up". Even after ten minutes of questioning I was no nearer getting to what the hell she was talking about. I think it must have been "ents" she meant, but I was afraid to go there.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Sat 30 Mar 2013, 19:23

And that's another mis-named beast, dear to my heart ... the so-called Irish 'Elk', now extinct, is actually a close relative of the fallow deer Dama dama, itself re-introduced to Britain by the huntin', shootin' Norman aristocracy, and not closely related to either red deer (the American "elk") nor the Scandinavian moose/elk.

Oh dear - how confusing!
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Sat 30 Mar 2013, 20:10

The crossword I did yesterday asked what breed of American deer was imported here and the answer was wapiti which is the name it is generally known by here. Not necessarily an asset to our ecology but very desirable to hunters.

Interesting to me that you mentioned tiffany, Nordmann. While I was checking out the dictionary I just happened to notice tiffany, which I just associate with a girls' name, and not one that is particularly classy these days. Or connected with a particular day. There's an amazing array of materials in the world, even if most of us think of cotton, wool and polyester and not much more. I was interviewing someone for our museum records about children's dresses she had donated, and neither of us were very aware of what the materisls were but I saw later Broderie Anglais mentioned and Viyella and organza.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Sat 30 Mar 2013, 23:16

@Meles meles wrote:

But how is it that identical words can end up referring to completey different, although related, things?

So many expressions, so few vowel/consonant combinations. My wonder is reserved for just how many disparate and distinct words we have managed to construct given the tools to hand. It's a delicate business, maintaining these disparities, and even more it seems protecting their semantic applications from being altered between separate communities who speak the same language but who in isolation from each other soon allow the semantic sense to evolve in different directions. The classic "fanny" as expressed and understood in the USA and in the UK is a good example.

@Caro wrote:

There's an amazing array of materials in the world, even if most of us think of cotton, wool and polyester and not much more.


Fabrics can be a fascinating journey through ancient atlases, and some not so ancient. Viyella was named after the Via Gellia near Matlock in Derbyshire where its inventors had their factory (now more prosaically referred to on atlases as the A150). Organza and organdy are reckoned both to have been named for their town of origin, Urgench in modern day Uzbekistan. Silk can be traced back to the ancient Greeks who called it "serikon" after the Seres people from whom they imported it (the "r" was replaced by an "l" by Slavs and by the time it re-arrived in England via the Baltic trade routes had been shortened to its present form). However there is also reason to believe that the Greeks had called the Seres people after their product, the Chinese word for it is still "si". At that point it gets lost in time and all very confused. As does humble cotton, which can be traced back to the ancient Egyptian "qutn" but whose true origin is vague. Wool, not surprisingly, is probably even more ancient still. Variations of the word with surprisingly little change can be traced right back to Proto-Indo-European and beyond. Linen has also retained its form rather robustly over the millennia, its origins lost in ancient Scythia and a non-Indo-European tongue now unknown to us (the same people, language and subsequent route from which we also acquired hemp).
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Sun 31 Mar 2013, 07:52

Even with modern synthetic yarns/fabric for which there is no longterm cultural association, there is no certainty any name will become universal. Many at Dupont Chemicals didn't like the name nylon, after New York - LONdon, preferring instead Dupro, apparently derived from: Dupont Pulls Rabbit Out of Hat.

The official launch of nylon in California, 15 May 1940 - although within a year, when the US entered the war, parachutes had taken preference over stockings:

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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Sun 31 Mar 2013, 08:29

@nordmann wrote:
Silk can be traced back to the ancient Greeks who called it "serikon" after the Seres people from whom they imported it (the "r" was replaced by an "l" by Slavs and by the time it re-arrived in England via the Baltic trade routes had been shortened to its present form). However there is also reason to believe that the Greeks had called the Seres people after their product, the Chinese word for it is still "si".

I'm a bit confused with the ancient Greek words for silk, I can't find 'serikon' in the online ancient Greek dictionaries. There is the word 'metaxi', which is still the word used today for silk, although one site did give 'metaxi' as a translation for raw silk. Mmm, was 'serikon' used for the finished product possibly? Woodhouse's gives 'sinthon' for silk, as fine cloth.

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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Sun 31 Mar 2013, 13:01

This link from Smith's "Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854)" explains not only the confusion regarding the identity of the people from whom the Greeks obtained silk but also the adaptation of the word by the Greeks so that it would later be assimilated in Latin (sericum) and thus further into English.

Perseus: Smith

This link lists the residue words still used in English for terms associated with silk from that ancient Greek root.

Serico-, Seric-, Seri-

The Greek word "metaxi" would appear to have come into Greek via Turkish or another Semitic route and relates to the broad Arabic root "mshah" or "mshatsa" (with further variations). It is interesting that the Arabs alone devised a word not obviously phonetically connected to the root "si". In all other languages its progress from a non-Indo-European source with only minor variation is evident.


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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Sun 31 Mar 2013, 13:16

Interestingly, embedded deep within that Perseus link above you'll find "currants" and "pheasants" traced back to their geographical origin and namesakes - namely the city of Corinth and the river Phasis in Colchis.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Sun 31 Mar 2013, 13:25

@nordmann wrote:
Interestingly, embedded deep within that Perseus link above you'll find ... pheasants traced back to their geographical origin and namesakes - namely ... the river Phasis in Colchis.

..... and this connection is now preserved in the species name for the common pheasant: Phasianus colchicus.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Sun 31 Mar 2013, 14:23

A nod to Pliny there - not necessarily accuracy. Taxonomists have rarely had much regard for etymological accuracy - or even scientific accuracy sometimes - in favour of forming a distinctive species, class, group or genus name. When genus names were arrived at in antiquity and taxonomy attempts to later subdivide them then it gets even hairier. Priapulids (penis worms) are a case in point. It turns out not only that they aren't as uniquely penis-shaped as all that (other worms can claim that distinction) but that they're only worms when it comes to their anuses. A recent paper published by Bergen University has caused taxonomists to go all neurotic since it might mean that the classical distinction between protostomes and deuterostomes has been wrong all along. Either that or the evolutionary assumptions relating to protostomes has been wrong all along. In any case, whatever might result from further research, several thousand variations of these animals will now have to be completely reclassified and renamed, bringing a lot of non penis-shaped genuses into the penis bracket, thereby exposing the fallacy (phallusy?) of the original assumption based on hasty naming after faulty observation.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Tue 02 Apr 2013, 09:14

Words as class signifiers are interesting, and their usage can change over time, becoming (to those for whom such things matter) traps for the unwary.

"Pudding" is an example.
pudding (n.) c.1300, "a kind of sausage: the stomach or one of the entrails of a pig, sheep, etc., stuffed with minced meat, suet, seasoning, boiled and kept till needed," perhaps from a West Germanic stem *pud- "to swell" (cf. Old English puduc "a wen," Westphalian dialect puddek "lump, pudding," Low German pudde-wurst "black pudding," English dialectal pod "belly," also cf. pudgy).

Other possibility is that it is from Old French boudin "sausage," from Vulgar Latin *botellinus, from Latin botellus "sausage" (change of French b- to English p- presents difficulties, but cf.
purse). The modern sense had emerged by 1670, from extension to other foods boiled or steamed in a bag or sack. German pudding, French pouding, Swedish pudding, Irish putog are from English.

So, pudding dates back to around the 13th century and referred originally to savoury dishes - usually, but not always, meat chopped and stuffed into something unspeakable (what would indeed be called today a sausage rather than a pudding). Black pudding - which definitely *is* a particularly revolting sort of sausage - survives. But there's also Yorkshire pudding, of course, and steak and kidney pud - all examples of good, solid, filling, plebeian grub - food for the workers.

But "pudding" used - or not used - as a name for sweet food eaten at the end of a meal can cause problems and disputes even today.

I was recently in a rather posh (very posh actually) restaurant in the Cathedral Yard, Exeter (not Pizza Express). One of my companions, an American lady whom I did not know very well, looked terribly uneasy when I asked the waiter for the "pudding menu". "Surely it's dessert, not pudding," she queried. "No," I replied, "dessert is fruit; pudding is pudding."

The American looked unconvinced, so I appealed to the waiter. "Have I embarrassed you, asking for pudding?"

The young man - who could have got a bit part on Downton Abbey - managed to keep a straight face. "Not at all, madam," he reassured me, "Lady Devon, when she dines here, always says pudding."

Phew - what a relief! Lady Devon (see below, no relation to the Cavendish lot, but husband related to Richard III) obviously knows her Nancy Mitford! And it could have been worse - at least I didn't ask to see the sweets trolley or wonder what was on offer for "afters"...

But pudding people in their places is very snobby and unkind. Here's John Betjeman:

How To Get On In Society by John Betjeman
Phone for the fish knives, Norman
As cook is a little unnerved;
You kiddies have crumpled the serviettes
And I must have things daintily served.

Are the requisites all in the toilet?
The frills round the cutlets can wait
Till the girl has replenished the cruets
And switched on the logs in the grate.

It's ever so close in the lounge dear,
But the vestibule's comfy for tea
And Howard is riding on horseback
So do come and take some with me

Now here is a fork for your pastries
And do use the couch for your feet;
I know that I wanted to ask you-
Is trifle sufficient for sweet?

Milk and then just as it comes dear?
I'm afraid the preserve's full of stones;
Beg pardon, I'm soiling the doileys
With afternoon tea-cakes and scones.


PS The Earl and Countess of Devon live up the road in the house that their family have occupied since the Conquest. It is now, sadly, a theme park, with jousts and mini-railways and such. One of Edward IV's daughters, a niece of you-know-who, married a Courtenay. The heir is now a lawyer and lives in L.A. He probably says - and even eats - "dessert", and I bet it's with sauce anglaise and not custard.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Tue 02 Apr 2013, 09:50

Quote :
sauce anglaise and not custard

Which was originally 'crustade' " Formerly, a kind of open pie containing pieces of meat or fruit covered with a preparation of broth or milk, thickened with eggs, sweetened, and seasoned with spices, etc." OUD.


I didn't know the Betjeman so thanks. It's so clever and cruel and it's so sad that that I find it so funny.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Tue 02 Apr 2013, 10:12

The U non-U kerfuffle some years ago highlighted a feature of English that is not shared by many other languages - in which terms have evolved with absolutely identical meanings, and the suitability or unsuitability of the term used by any individual is dictated by factors completely outside simple comprehension issues. Other languages may have a "high" vocabulary which indicates to some extent social class, though its use is also employed to indicate general educational level. Oxford English has served this dual purpose in the past, but it is most definitely not Oxford English that dictates which terms indicate a person's social class through their use. In short there are two separate criteria being employed at all times in English to determine what is the "correct" word to use in all circumstances.

To the etymologist this is a very important feature indeed when examining some words' evolution in English. In most languages the equation to determine semantic application is rather straightforward and a safe assumption can be made from the popularity of a term at a given time regarding the exact semantic definition applied by its users. When a divergence appears it can be equally safely assumed that this always reflects a growing difference in the semantic character of each resultant term.

But not so in English, at least not necessarily so. In some cases several words can be used to express the same basic concept and while nuanced differences abound there are also almost as many instances where no difference at all exists. The divergence has evolved as a social marker and little more.

This ability to accommodate several terms for the same meaning in English has been put down historically to the "dual-language" imposed on society after the conquest. And while this seems eminently plausible it still seems strange that other cultures which underwent a similar social reconstruction have not reacted in quite the same way. Nor does it explain why all cultures (including English) which accommodated Latin as the source of dual expression for many centuries did not develop in that direction either.

It has also been described by Norman Lewis in the past as proof that all English citizens are qualified to become the Vicar of Bray, and this could well be true. The impulse to obfuscate through use of multiple terms for the same expression - that which lies at the heart of the U non-U analysis - arose from a self-preservatory desire to keep the oppressors guessing (security through obscurity) back in the late 11th century and just never went away.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Tue 02 Apr 2013, 11:00

I think the English just like mucking about with words.

A lot of British Raj/public school expressions are back in vogue at the moment - tuck, tiffin, doollaly and pukka are examples. I overheard someone say "pukka f*cker" the other day which, to my shame, rather amused me.

Lavatory is a word like pudding. It's actually the posh word to use, but is now considered vulgar. Loo or toilet are OK words these days, I suppose, but never bathroom, as the Americans say. "Going to the bathroom" just sounds ridiculous, especially if you are in a café.


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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Tue 02 Apr 2013, 11:13

feerval wrote:
... and ..... 'crustade' " Formerly, a kind of open pie containing pieces of meat or fruit covered with a preparation of broth or milk, thickened with eggs, sweetened, and seasoned with spices, etc." OUD.
.... and thus very much like the original 'blancmange', a refined savoury dish of meat or fish pieces cooked in cream and rice and left to set ... and nothing like the vile sickly sweet pink matter we got served at school.

Temp I'm impressed by your name-dropping Wink but surely your polite waiter should have addressed you ma'am rather than madam - and that's "mam as in ham, not marm as in farm", although of course a lady should never correct a servant's pronunciation.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Tue 02 Apr 2013, 11:33

I'm not the bloody Queen, MM!

I'll have you know that the Courtenays had a tortoise called Timothy, whom I knew very well. I had the honour of feeding Timothy a tomato just before she died (Timothy was a girl) - in fact, I've always been afraid it was my bit of salad that killed her. But that said, Timothy was very old - about 165 - and she had been slowing down for some time before her demise in 2004.

http://www.urbanghostsmedia.com/2011/09/the-incredible-heroic-tale-of-timothy-the-tortoise/

Sorry, off-topic *again*.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Tue 02 Apr 2013, 11:45

@Meles meles wrote:
feerval wrote:
... and ..... 'crustade' " Formerly, a kind of open pie containing pieces of meat or fruit covered with a preparation of broth or milk, thickened with eggs, sweetened, and seasoned with spices, etc." OUD.
.... and thus very much like the original 'blancmange', a refined savoury dish of meat or fish pieces cooked in cream and rice and left to set ... and nothing like the vile sickly sweet pink matter we got served at school.


EDIT: Overcome with guilt, so have removed off-topic nonsense about Angel Delight.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Tue 02 Apr 2013, 12:19

Junket, which is also a custard or blancmange type dish, has an interesting origin - rush baskets and mats, of all things. It came to mean also a feast or merrymaking, hence the modern meaning of a grand day out.

late Middle English: from Old French jonquette 'rush basket', from jonc 'rush', from Latin juncus. Originally denoting a rush basket, especially one for fish (remaining in dialect use), the term also denoted a cream cheese, formerly made in a rush basket or served on a rush mat. A later extended sense, 'feast, merrymaking', gave rise to junket (sense 2 of the noun)
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Tue 02 Apr 2013, 12:35

"Beano" used to mean something similar but it's not as popular these days, I don't think. It was simply a shortening of "bean fest" which, especially in the Midlands and South Yorkshire, was the name given to an annual dinner for employees paid for by a landlord or an employer. Free drink in other words - so a rowdy party.

"Binge" had a rather more respectable beginning. It was a Lincolnshire word for the process of soaking staves during barrel-making. It didn't take much imagination however to adopt the term for soaking of another kind and its use in that sense can be traced back to the 1750s.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Tue 02 Apr 2013, 19:00

Well if you're mentioning junket, binge and beano together in the sense of, "a bit of a do", then I feel I need to throw in the word "jamboree".

Now I'd always assumed this was some sort of old Hindi term co-opted into British by the Raj, but it seems not. To quote from our trust-worthy wiki friend Wink :

"According to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, the etymology is "19th century, origin unknown". Poet Robert W. Service used the term well before the first Scouting jamboree. It appears in the poem "Athabaska Dick" in his Rhymes of a Rolling Stone, which was published in 1912. At the time, the word meant a rowdy, boisterous gathering. Baden-Powell was once asked why he chose "jamboree". He replied, "What else would you call it?", a response that makes sense if the word already means a boisterous gathering.

Nonetheless, it is popularly believed within the Scout Movement that the word was coined by Baden-Powell. It is said that the word has several possible origins, ranging from Hindi to Swahili to Native American dialects. It is also said that the word is related to corroborree, a term corrupted by the European settlers of Australia from the Aboriginal word caribberie meaning a ceremonial meeting of Aboriginals involving singing and dancing.

Baden-Powell chose the name as rally, meeting and gathering did not fully capture the spirit of this then-new concept. It is said that the name is derived from the Swahili for hello, jambo, as a result of the considerable amount of time he spent in the region. At the first world jamboree at Olympia in 1920, Lord Baden-Powell said "People give different meanings for this word, but from this year on, jamboree will take a specific meaning. It will be associated to the largest gathering of youth that ever took place."



And just to go back to words for fabrics for a moment ... Why should Tiffany have become a popular personal name, whilst say Denim, Arras and Cambric haven't? Personally I think Organza would be a wonderful name for a child - although I accept it is does rather sound like something from Ghormengast or Harry Potter. Whatever. As names I accept they'll probably never catch on, although I do still think Organza, and perhaps Fustian too, would make great names for children. Which is probably just another reason why everyone, including my formidable great-aunt Bombazine, always say it's a good job I never had any!
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Tue 02 Apr 2013, 21:05

I don't think Fustian would be so good, but Organza certainly has a ring to it. One of my names books, Cassell's Dictionary of First Names says that its use would definitely have been popularized by the film Breakfast at Tiffany's and was specially used by black Americans. (It does talk of its etymological origins as well and giving girls the name Theopliana. I feel it should be ph and not pl, but I have checked several times and that's what it says.)

I know people say the lack of coincidents is much more common than coincidents butI can't think of the last time (before this week) that I had thought of Viyella and what should turn up in the crossword but a question asking what was a mixture of wool and cotton. And in fitted Viyella.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Wed 03 Apr 2013, 08:48

And then there's always Joseph Cotton ...

Theoplania is news to me. The most celebrated Theophania however was born niece to the Byzantine emperor John I Tzimiskes and at age 12 was betrothed to the heir to the Holy Roman Empire, Otto II. Otto duly became emperor but died young leaving their three year old son, Otto III, as the new top man. Theophania duly stepped in as the boy's regent and not only reigned over the empire until her death eight years later but successfully foiled several attempts by her mother-in-law Adelaide to depose her, while in the meantime concluding several peace treaties with long-standing enemies of both of the previous Ottos which brought stability and even some expansion of the lands she administered. No shrinking violet when it came to power she signed herself "Caesar Augusta" and several of her writs she was shrewd enough to get co-signed by the pope so that they held papal imprimatur and could not be overturned by her son (or anyone else. including Adelaide) later. A smart and formidable woman she was described by a chronicler of the time as "though of the weak sex she possessed moderation, trustworthiness, and good manners. In this way she protected with male vigilance the royal power for her son, friendly with all those who were honest, but with terrifying superiority against rebels."

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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Wed 03 Apr 2013, 10:41

Deleted.


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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Wed 03 Apr 2013, 11:05

Quote :
But perhaps the photo is from last year.

In which case it's not only off-topic and possibly in breach of copyright but potentially defamatory in depicting living people in a way designed to expose them to ridicule.

Just saying ...
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Wed 03 Apr 2013, 11:11

Point(s) taken, especially the bit about ridicule. I was being unkind and snobby.

I can't do anything right, can I? Oh well.

(But I still think Chiffon goes rather nicely with Chardonnay...)
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Wed 03 Apr 2013, 11:37

It's just I'm not a rich man ...

Speaking of etymology, names, and being naughty however does lead nicely on to "Gregory". This is now a very respectable name and has been since the first pope of that name in the 6th century CE - son of a wealthy Roman christian family who fancied it would be rather daring to go out on a limb and concoct a new name from the Greek root "egrḗgoroi" (watchers) "grēgorein" (to watch) when little Greg was born. Devout christians and all as they allegedly were, we can only assume that they were more au-fait with the New Testament than the Old. Otherwise they might well have understood why the name hadn't exactly been a rip-roaring success in the five previous centuries when indeed it was fashionable to construct new Latin monikers from Greek names and terms denoting the better virtues.

A glance at Enoch in the Greek version of the bible however would have probably curbed their enthusiasm a little. The "grigori" were, according to the book describing the adventures of Noah's grandpa, a bunch of particularly nasty fallen angels indeed. Having been sent to the earth as "watchers" over humanity (hence their name) they had "gone native" and with a vengeance! Not content to marry mortals they soon graduated to more scurrilous activities with them and it wasn't long before the place was plagued with their destructive, sex-crazed offspring. It took a lot of divine intervention and letters of protest from Enoch before the whole sorry mess was sorted out.

This association would have been well known at the time of his appointment as Bishop of Rome, which is probably why there was such a flurry of chronicles from the period which pointed out that his odd name must be derived from "watching over sheep" etc etc. However, knowing Romans, I imagine the graffitists had a field day (uniting "sheep" and "Greeks" in the same concept was probably an even worse move!). His parents, Gordianus and Silvia, most probably just kept their heads down.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Wed 03 Apr 2013, 12:11

What have I missed? Dammit, I enjoy a bit of unkind, snobby ridicule with my coffee - which is instant. Oh, the shame........
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Thu 04 Apr 2013, 08:13

And as for Penelope ...

... who in their right mind would name their daughter "Some Kind of Predatory Bird"? (Unless of course they are being unusually prescient)
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