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Please get your e(n)tymology right OOPS

Posted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 5:10 pm
by Sophia
So far this season which is my first doing this seriously, I have logged an interesting number of false entymologies which circulate in Re-enactment circles. One or two of which I have heard repeated to the public and to newbie re-enactors. :roll:

I am not going to quote or name names as this strikes me as petty.

However I would like to point out that it is now possible for you to consult the complete Oxford English Dictionary on-line in almost all public libraries. :D

For English this is the best source for the origin of words and the history of their usage and it is set out in such a form that you do not have to have taken a Historical Linguistics exam to understand it. :!:

If you are interested in other languages you would have to consult e(n)tymological dictionaries for the relevant language at a major reference library or University library as they are not cheap. Though if anyone is interested in Dutch/Middle Dutch I can assist at a basic level as I have the more modest editions of the relevant dictionaries. :roll:

I hasten to add here that while I have a more than passing interest in this (promoted first by my Mum who is in Linguistics and then by doing the Historical Linguistics paper for my language degreee) I am not an expert.

Sophia :D :oops: :oops:

Posted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 5:14 pm
by MJ
Go on, give us some examples!

Posted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 5:14 pm
by DomT
You dont have to name names but give us examples please?

Posted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 5:18 pm
by craig1459
"Entymology" as in the study of insects or

"Etymology" as in the study of words :D

Posted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 5:19 pm
by sally
Um, do you mean Etymology (words) or Entymology (insects)?

Posted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 5:20 pm
by sally
sorry Craig, posted at the same time as you :D

Posted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 5:23 pm
by DomT
I'm glad I wasnt the only one thinking that Sally and Craig!

I was just waiting for the examples to be sure.......however I still would like to see the examples.

Posted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 5:23 pm
by craig1459
Great minds...

Posted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 5:25 pm
by sally
Course, we could all be misquoting stories about lice, nits and fleas, in which case both are probably correct :lol:

Posted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 6:07 pm
by gregory23b
it believe the word is


you guys are getting at - study of insects


sophia has neatly combined the two ;-)

but i would like to know what she is getting at though.

Posted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 6:16 pm
by guthrie
reenectors- not only are we pedants, we're well armed and armoured pedants!

Posted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 6:18 pm
by Sophia
Apologies it should have been Etymology, but then one could claim that Entymology is right if I am going to nit pick.

The most recent example is as follows:


Well educated re-enactor had understood chafing to be derived from same early root as turf meaning peat turfs to burn. They were somewhat concerned when I correct them to say the least and I have provided them with the relevant source.

I am not attaching blame but showing how important it is too check your sources, and if I am wrong in anyway and you can show me how please please do so!

The mistake in question showed a misunderstanding of the sound change rules and a mixing up of words including one not at all related (drawn I regret to say from a lyric from a song sung by Medieval Baebes, not sure which one). What follows here is based on my Concise Oxford English Dictionary [COD], plus what I remember of my Historical Linguistics, my knowledge of modern and medieval french (fluent to almost native in one, can read Rabelais without not too much reference to footnotes in other).

COD entries - For these purpose I assume you know the meaning so the importat bit the one in the square brackets at the end. I have expanded their abbreviations for those not familiar with them.


chafing-dishn. ... [from obsolete sense of CHAFE = warm + -ING + DISH]

chafev. + n. ... [Middle English from Old French chaufer from inferred Romance calefare from Latin calfacere (calere be hot, facere made)]


turf n. (pl. ~s, or turves pr. -vz) ... [Old English, =Old Saxon turf, Old Norse torf(a), Old High German zurf, zurba from inferred Germanic turbh- from inferred Indo-European drbh-]

torrefyv.t. ... [from French torrefier from Latin torrefacere (torrere scorch; see -FY]

Best transcription I can give of the confusion causing word in lyrics is torrefen (never seen it written down).

People are aware that both initial and intermediate consonents have changed. Good examples are Vater (German) Vader (Dutch) and Father (English) or Loefel (German) Lepel (Dutch) and Ladle (English). However there are rules that seem to govern these changes which have to do with where the sound is made in the mouth.

The derivation involved a confusion of meaning and sound change if that makes sense.

As and when I can remember anymore specific examples or come across any new ones I will post them for those interested.

Sophia :D

Posted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 6:34 pm
by gregory23b
I like this subject, more please Sophia.

Similar convos re braies/breeches have arisen as with pollaxe, the latter having two possibles, but one liklihood of relating to pole>pale rather than poll although there is a convergence.

Didn't we mention Kirtles too?

But I want more of what you were getting at Sophia, I don't think anyone would be put out if you put some common offenders in the frame, words not people.

Posted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 6:43 pm
by sally
I think its a very interesting topic too, and the best way to correct any little misunderstandings is to offer a quick 'word of the moment' now and then complete with origin, changes etc. Fascinating stuff. I'll play if I can actually think of anything relevant (used to know loads but my degree was a lot of years ago and the gin addles things somewhat)

BTW Jorge, I have a printing press book for you, very tatty, but goes with your Adanas :D

Posted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 6:51 pm
by Sophia
I feel a trip to the library coming on as I can't manage everything off my small collection of dictionaries at home.

For poleaxe a quick glance at my COD would suggest that poll + axe is the preferred root among specialists.

Kirtle also has an entry in my COD - no relation to kilt for your information though would like to double check that in the big beast. Both root words are Indo-European

Advantage of OED is that gives first written context and source so is very useful.

Sophia :D

Posted: Thu Aug 10, 2006 9:07 am
by Marcus Woodhouse
I understand the "vegetarian" comes from an ancient latin word that means "really crap at hunting".

Posted: Thu Aug 10, 2006 9:50 am
by gregory23b
Sally, yes please, I am currently bidding for one on Ebay, how coincidental.

Sophia, Eric Partidge*, is of the pale/pole school of thought, is he still held in high regard?

Certainly the break down he gives shows a fair reasoning. The poll aspect is certainly convergent as it is part of an axe, but a poll axe is a long hafted weapon, a normal axe is an axe yet it has a poll on it and is not called a poll axe.

*Origins of words, an old one but a good one.

Posted: Thu Aug 10, 2006 11:07 am
by Adam R
gregory23b wrote:Certainly the break down he gives shows a fair reasoning. The poll aspect is certainly convergent as it is part of an axe, but a poll axe is a long hafted weapon, a normal axe is an axe yet it has a poll on it and is not called a poll axe.
Poll axe could well mean an axe as tall as a head. Is poleARM a modern term? Does pole refer to a shaft over a certain length? - certainly I don't think of pole meaning a two and a half foot length of wood - that would be a stave or stick...?

Perhaps a pole is simply a word for a length of wood about 6ft in length though...

Just as long as nobody pronounces it "pol ax" it's all academic to me.


Posted: Thu Aug 10, 2006 11:12 am
by Steve Stocker
If you are into etymology of words, here is a site that deals with phrases..
I like to dip into this one and it rarely lets me down.

Posted: Thu Aug 10, 2006 11:25 am
by Tuppence
For the record and for clarity's sake (and cos I'm pedantic too), etomology is the study of words, entomology is the study of insects etc.
Other spellings are variations on those, and debatable as to the correctness or otherwise of their use.

But to get to the point - what are you arguing here?? I don't get it.

That we should only use words according to their roots when we're talking in a modern context?

But that's a misapplication of the function of language. Language changes, new meanings emerge, old meanings become archaic - that's what makes up a living language - to attempt to stifle that is to atempt to kill your language.

Or that we should only use historical words when re-enacting?

If so half the public wouldn't understand us, and surely there's only a point if you're doing first person LH.


PS - apparently (according to word of mouth yesterday), the word poleaxe is a modern misnoma that originally had lots to do with heads and very little to do with axes. (apparently it was originally pollax, meaning something completely different - don't know what though, cos wasn't really listening :oops: ).

Posted: Thu Aug 10, 2006 11:54 am
by Tamsin Lewis
For the record and for clarity's sake (and cos I'm pedantic too), etomology is the study of words,

To be really pedantic, the OED spells it etymology...(from the greek etumologia)

Posted: Thu Aug 10, 2006 6:35 pm
by Sophia

To All - I got my original spelling wrong so mea culpa to you all :oops:

Debs and Tamsin - I tend to use OED style spellings because that's what I was brought up with.

Debs - What I am talking about is being accurate when explaining origin of words, i.e. if there is a dispute about origin then say so. People are often intrigued by where names for things and terminology originated. Also etymology can be used to show the evolution of the living language. Your average mono-linguist cannot necessarily see the connection between historically related words in their own language let alone understand the loan words. In fact they are more likely to believe the language is set in stone as both spelling and grammar are taught only in the prescriptive mode in schools. You have to reach University level teaching before most students event get a whiff of the descriptive grammar as a tool in the study of language.

Steve - Thanks for the link, seems to be an on-line version of Brewers Phrase and Fable, have bookmarked it and am sure it will come in handy.

In general, I would like to point out that people get upset about dodgy costume where there are often very limited sources and yet ignore the language and terminology whatever the level of LH they are doing, despite the fact that for this area we have a larger pool of information available and it has been studied for longer.

Sophia :D

Who is now going to the pub for a well earned drink :P

Posted: Fri Aug 11, 2006 11:49 am
by Cat
If you want a real owch moment, yours truly, Sunday, Balcombe, on the field shouting somebody to 'lower your pike'. I have never done Civil War either, so there is doubly no excuse!

On a seriouser note, don't forget that some objects will have several different regional names, so several etymological routes of development
-from different linguistic stock depending on where in our sceptic Isle the word is from. Some roots in Old Norse, some in Latin, OE or Norman French.
I love etymology, but dictionaries and their associated shorthand confuse my squirrel-like brain.

One for the melting pot-do 'Chaufre' and 'Gaufre' have a similar root?

Posted: Fri Aug 11, 2006 12:25 pm
by gregory23b
Gaufre OF of OG wafer (waffer), batter cakes. You then get goffering irons in the 18thC for crimping hair (all related to the pattern made by wafering irons - criss cross)

And beleive it or not there is a link to Wasps too.

Nice one cat, the waffle/weave entry is quite big and very interesting, no mention of chaufre, what is that?

Posted: Fri Aug 11, 2006 12:35 pm
by guthrie
I thought goffering irons were the wee poker like things with their stands, used to shape starched things, so I have trouble seeing how you get a cross hatched pattern.
Or maybe used to shape non starched things, I'm not too sure, my costume knowledge is minimal outside kilts and the medieval period.
I seem to have inherited my grans goffering iron though, but I never asked where she got it from.

Posted: Fri Aug 11, 2006 1:51 pm
by gregory23b
Sorry goffering irons were used to create the honeycomb pattern in some fabrics, they imprinted patterns over dampened starched cloth, and looked like glove stretchers for one finger. There is a hair connection too in that making a wave an 18thC thing in at the back of my mind too.

An excellent word methinks, goffering ;-)

Posted: Fri Aug 11, 2006 2:22 pm
by RottenCad
Hmmm - as a lovely Frechwoman of my acquaintance once put it:

"What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Multilingual."

"What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual."

"What do you call someone who speaks one language? English..."

Etymological construction is a fascinating area, and I think Sophia's absolutely correct. We'd be horrified if we heard someone explaining that plate armour was so called, because it was originally made from pewter, and so were plates (Courtesy same MOP dad at Berkeley who denied a bodkin arrow could be armour-piercing); likewise an explanation in language terms of the the origins of commonly used terms in LH circles, such as "pottage", "greives", "hosen" or "thenty" should be as sound as possible.

The Cad

Posted: Fri Aug 11, 2006 2:32 pm
by Sophia

Chaufre would seem to me to be a mispelling/pronounciation of chaufer (also spelt chaufer, chauffer). Alternatively it could be a mistranscription or spelling in which case the ch should probably read hard as in Loch.

The following from COD might be of interest:

goffer from French gaufrer stamp with patterned tool (gaufre honeycomb, cognate with WAFER, WAFFLE

wafer Middle English from Anglo-French (think this means Norman French) wafre, Old Norman French waufre, Old French gaufre (cf. GOFFER) from Middle Low German wafel waffle cf. following.

waffle from Dutch wafel, waefel[/] from Middle Low German wafel cf. preceding.

To which my Dutch etymological dictionary (pocket edition) can add the following:

wafel Middle Dutch wafel(e) cf. Low German wafel, waffel (gives Modern High German waffel). In dialect also has the meaning of honeycomb and originally weave inferred from Germanic weblo (n.b. I cannot represent the diacritics properly here this 'b' is written with a slash across the stem indicating a softening and is an intermediate from the aspirated type 'b' sometimes written 'bh') related post ablaut to weven meaning to weave.

This may or may not make sense to you folks depending on how much you know about linguistics. For information ablaut is an accent and stress related vowel change which survives in Modern English strong verbs,
e.g. sing, sung, sang. Umlaut which you may have come across in relation to Modern German is a vowel change due to an i, j, etc. in the following syllable, generally now lost or altered. Modern English example would be man, men where Old and Middle English case/plural suffixes have disappeared.

Sophia :D

Hoping she hasn't blown too many peoples heads up with dictionaryese :roll: :lol:

Posted: Fri Aug 11, 2006 2:50 pm
by Sophia
Missed a couple of things from earlier posts

Jorge - in reply to your question never come across Eric Partridge but did most of my serious etymology as part of the Historical Linguistics paper in my Dutch degree. For English we tended to just consult my Mum's SOD and later the OED either in Library or on-line once she hasd subscription. Also she used to haul things up out of university reference books or would simply recite things (she has Old Norse, Old English, Middle English, Old High German, Middle High German and Modern German plus a more than passing acquaintance with Latin, Classical Greek and Medieval and Modern French - Scary isn't it). Her first degree was in English and Philology (predates the Linguistics degree by some time), her second degree is a Magister (German Masters) which she did before they had equivalents for UK degrees and she only had a BA she had to start from scratch and read German Language and Literature, English Language and Literature and Psychology specialising in Linguistics both Modern and Historical. Thesis was on preposition use by small children and those talking with them. She is currently working on PhD. :roll: Now you know where Iam coming from.

Cad -

Definition of a Luxemburger (where my parents have lived since 1979 and I went to school) - someone who speaks at least three languages by the time they go to secondary school. This is a country where even a quite junior customer service job will expect you to speak Luxemburgish, French and German. Anything seriously senior and you will probably have English, Italian, Spanish or an other language as well.

Sophia :lol:

Posted: Fri Aug 11, 2006 3:07 pm
by Alan E
I thought Poleaxe was derived from its usefulness for striking Poles ... in their sleds, on the ice ... :twisted: