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 Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!

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nordmann
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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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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Fri 05 Apr 2013, 00:29

I thought "Penelope" was derived from the Widgeon?
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Fri 05 Apr 2013, 07:55

You think that because Linnaeus decided to classify the Eurasian Wigeon as such in the 18th century. He knew his Greek and saw that they tended to put -elops at the end of anything predatory and that at some time in the past they must have had some such animal in mind when they invented the girl's name Penelope. This harks back to the penis worm conundrum and the dangers of arbitrary nomenclature in taxonomy. But it also shows the danger of regressive attribution in etymology. Thanks to Linnaeus there are many who now think that the ancient Greeks named Penelope after that particular bird instead of the other way round.

In a similar vein, Phyllis spent a brief period as the genus name for the hazelnut, causing all sorts of similar confusion at the time as the original story in the appropriate myth hinted at almonds and it seems to have been a case of English monks substituting the nut they knew and grew for the the nut they only knew of by repute. She has now been expunged by taxonomists - Linnaeus himself decided that the association with any nut was too contentious and simply wrote her out of the taxonomy. Thankfully therefore we do not hear these days that Phyllis is a name derived from nutcases.
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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Fri 05 Apr 2013, 13:55

One Greek girl associated with a plant who really got beaten up en route through the various languages into English was poor Daphne.

=

The initial mangling happened when the Romans got wind of her. For reasons we have never understood, words that made an early migration from Greek into Latin often had their "d" substituted by an "l". This used to be called the "Sabine L" on the grounds that the reason was always the same and that it had to do with that primitive time in Rome's history - we now suspect this was always ever just a self-serving theory with no real evidence to support it. However we do know that it happened with certain words. "Odor", the root word we still use as "odour" in English, somehow became "olor" in Latin (hence "olfactory" etc today). "Odysseus" became "Ulysses" by the same token.

Daphne, we think, became "Laphne" or similar. But the Romans weren't finished with her yet. Another problem they had was with the Greek "f" sound - represented through various means to signify subtle pronunciation changes distinguishable from each other to Greek ears, but totally meaningless to Romans, for whom an "f" was an "f" was an "f", end of story. Having an "n" immediately after it simply sent them into ga-ga land. So what did they do? They dropped all three of the offending letters and stuck in an "r" instead!

Daphne had now become "Lare" which in time became "laurus" and so she stayed for many centuries, in fact right up to the end of empire. The French took over at this point and rechristened her "laurer" and it was in this guise that she entered English.

Which is where the last mangling occurred. It appears that the English had a problem at that time with having two "r"s in the same word separated by a vowel sound (seems they didn't have much call for "carers" or "bearers" in those days) and had got into the annoying habit of changing one of these to an "l" in a process we now call "dissimilation". "Laurer" duly became "laurel" and so has she remained.

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PostSubject: Re: Norange Ewts in Naprons? We Need a Nonper!   Tue 09 Apr 2013, 19:47

Pulling together the food and the fabric strands, 'seersucker' it seems derives from the Persian shīr o shakkar literally milk and sugar, which somehow became a thin cotton fabric with a crinkled finish and usually striped.
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