WORDS DISGUISED IN FORM.
When a word is imported from a foreign language into our own, there is a natural tendency among the people who use the word to give it a native and homely dress, and so to make it look like English. This is especially the case with proper names. Thus the walk through St James’s Park from Buckingham Palace to the House of Commons was called Bocage Walk (that is, shrubbery walk); but, as Bocage was a strange word to the Londoner, it became quickly corrupted into Birdcage Walk, though there is not, and never was, any sign of birdcages in the neighbourhood. Birdcage is a known word, Bocage is not—that is the whole matter. In the same way, our English sailors, when they captured the French ship Bellerophon, spoke of it as the Billy Ruffian; and our English soldiers in India mentioned Surajah Dowlah, the prince who put the English prisoners into the Black Hole, as Sir Roger Dowler. The same phenomenon is observed also in common names—and not infrequently. The following are some of the most remarkable examples:—
Alligator, from the Spanish el lagarto, the lizard. The article el (from Latin ille) has clung to the word. Lat. lacerta, a lizard. (The Arabic article al has clung to the noun in alchemy, algebra, almanac, etc.)
Artichoke (no connection with choke), from Ital. articiocco; from Arabic al harshaff, an artichoke.
Atonement, a hybrid—atone being English, and ment a Latin ending. Atone = to bring or come into one. Shakespeare has “Earthly things, made even, atone together.”
Babble, from ba and the frequentative le; it means “to keep on saying” ba.
Bank, a form of the word bench, a money-table.
Belfry (nothing to do with bell), from M.E. berfray; O. Fr. berfroit, a watch-tower.
Brimstone, from burn. The r is an easily moved letter—as in three, third; turn, trundle, etc.
Bugle, properly a wild ox. Bugle, in the sense of a musical instrument, is really short for bugle-horn. Lat. buculus, a bullock, a diminutive of bos.
Bustard, from O. Fr. oustarde, from Lat. avis tarda, the tardy or slow bird.
Butcher, from O. Fr. bocher, a man who slaughters he-goats; from boc, the French form of buck.
Butler, the servant in charge of the butts or casks of wine. (The whole collection of butts was called the buttery; a little butt is a bottle.)
Buxom, stout, healthy; but in O. E. obedient. “Children, be buxom to your parents.” Connected with bow and bough. From A. S. bugan, to bend; which gives also bow, bight, boat, etc.
Carfax, a place where four roads meet. O. Fr. carrefourgs; Latin quatuor furcas, four forks.
Carouse, from German gar aus, quite out. Spoken of emptying a goblet.
Caterpillar = hairy-cat, from O. Fr. chate, a she-cat, and O. Fr. pelouse, hairy, Lat. pilosus. Compare woolly-bear.
Causeway (no connection with way), from Fr. chausée; Lat calceata via, a way strewed with limestone; from Lat. calx, lime.
Clove, through Fr. clou, from Lat. clavus, a nail, from its resemblance to a small nail.
Constable, from Lat. comes stabuli, count of the stable; hence Master of the Horse; and, in the 13th century, commander of the king’s army.
Coop, a cognate of cup; from Lat. cupa, a tub.
Cope, a later spelling of cape. Cap, cape, and cope are forms of the same word.
Costermonger, properly costard-monger; from costard, a large apple.
Counterpane (not at all connected with counter or with pane, but with quilt and point), a coverlet for a bed. The proper form is contrepointe, from Low Lat. culcita puncta, a punctured quilt.
Country-dance, (not connected with country), a corruption of the French contre-danse; a dance in which each dancer stands contre or contra or opposite his partner.
Coward, an animal that drops his tail. O. Fr. col and ard; from Lat. cauda, a tail.
Crayfish, (nothing to do with fish), from O. Fr. escrevisse. This is really a Frenchified form of the German word Krebs, which is the German form of our English word crab. The true division of the word into syllables is crayf-ish; and thus the seeming connection with fish disappears.
Custard, a misspelling of the M. E. word crustade, a general name for pies made with crust.
Daisy = day’s eye. Chaucer says: “The dayes eye or else the eye of day.”
Dandelion = dent de lion, the lion’s tooth; so named from its jagged leaves.
Dirge, a funeral song of sorrow. In the Latin service for the dead, one part began with the words (Ps. v. 8) dirige, Dominus meus, in conspectu tuo vitam meam, “Direct my life, O Lord, in thy sight;” and dirige was contracted into dirge.
Drawing-room = withdrawing-room, a room to which guests retire after dinner.
Dropsy (no connection with drop), from O. Fr. hydropisce, from Gr. hudōr, water. (Compare chirurgeon, which has been shortened into surgeon; example, into sample; estate, into state.)
Easel, a diminutive of the word ass, through the Dutch ezel; like the Latin asellus.
Farthing = fourthing. (Four appears as fir in firkin; and as for in forty.)
Frontispiece (not connected with piece), that which is seen or placed in front. Lat. specio, I see.
Gadfly = goad-fly (sting-fly).
Gospel = God-spell, a narrative about God.
Grove, originally a lane cut through trees. A doublet of groove, and grave, from A. S. grafan, to dig.
Haft, that by which we have or hold a thing.
Hamper, old form, hanaper; from Low Latin hanaperium, a large basket for keeping drinking-cups (hanapi) in.
Handsel, money given into the hand; from A. S. sellan, to give.
Hanker, to keep the mind hanging on a thing. Er is a frequentative suffix, as in batter, linger, etc.
Harbinger, a man who goes before to provide a harbour or lodging-place for an army. The n is intrusive, as in porringer, passenger, and messenger. (The ruins of old Roman villas were often used by English travellers as inns. Such places were called “Cold Harbours.” There are fourteen places of this name in England—all on the great Roman roads.)
Hatchment, the escutcheon, shield, or coat-of-arms of a deceased person, displayed in front of his house. A corruption (by the intrusion of h) of atch’ment, the short form of atchievement, the old spelling of achievement, which is still the heraldic word for hatchment.
Hawthorn = hedge-thorn. Haw was in O. E. haga; and the hard g became a w; and also became softened, under French influence, into dg.Haha, older form Hawhaw, is a sunk fence.
Heaven, that which is heaved up; heavy, that which requires much heaving.
Horehound (not connected with hound), a plant with stems covered with white woolly down. The M. E. form is hoar-hune; and the second syllable means scented. The syllable hoar means white, as in hoar-frost. The final d is excrescent or inorganic—like the d in sound, bound (= ready to go), etc.
Humble-bee (not connected with the adjective humble), from M. E. hummelen, to keep humming—a frequentative; the b being inorganic.
Humble-pie (not connected with the adjective humble), pie made of umbles, the entrails of a deer.
Husband, (not connected with bind), from Icelandic husbuandi, buandi, being the pres. participle of bua, to dwell; and hus, house.
Hussif (connected with house, but not with wife), a case containing needles, thread, etc. From Icelandic, húsi, a case, a cognate of house. The f is intrusive, from a mistaken opinion that the word was a short form of housewife.
Hussy, a pert girl; a corruption of housewife.
Icicle, (the ending cle is not the diminutive) a hanging point of ice. The A. S. form is isgicel, a compound of is, ice, and gicel, a small piece of ice; so that the word contains a redundant element. (The ic in icicle is entirely different from the ic in art-ic-le and in part-ic-le.)
Intoxicate, to drug or poison; from Low Lat. toxicum, poison; from Gr. toxon, a bow, plural toxa, bow and arrows—arrows for war being frequently dipped in poison.
Island (not connected with isle) = water-land, a misspelling for iland (the spelling that Milton always uses). The s has intruded itself from a confusion with the Lat. insula, which gives isle.
Jaw, properly chaw, the noun for chew. Cognates are jowl and chaps.
Jeopardy, hazard, danger. M. E. jupartie, from O. Fr. jue parti, a game in which the chances are even, from Low Lat. jŏcus partītus, a divided game.
Jerusalem artichoke (not at all connected with Jerusalem), a kind of sunflower. Italian girasole, from Lat. gyrus, a circle, and sol, the sun. (In order to clench the blunder contained in the word Jerusalem, cooks call a soup made of this kind of artichoke “Palestine soup!”)
Kickshaws, from Fr. quelquechose, something. There was once a plural—kickshawses.
Kind, the adjective from the noun kin.
Ledge, a place on which a thing lies. Hence also ledger.
Line (to line garments) = to put linen inside them. (Linen is really an adjective from the M. E. lin, just like woollen, golden, etc.)
Liquorice (not connected with liquor), in M. E. licoris; from Gr. glykyrrhiza, a sweet root. (For the loss of the initial g, compare Ipswich and Gyppenswich; enough and genoh; and the loss of ge from all the past participles of our verbs.)
Mead, meadow = a place mowed. Hence also math, aftermath, and moth (= the biter or eater).
Nostrils = nose-thirles, nose-holes. Thirl is a cognate of thrill, drill, through, etc. (For change of position of r, compare turn, trundle; work, wright; wort, root; bride, bird, etc.)
Nuncheon, a corruption of M. E. none-schencke, or noon-drink. Then
this word got mixed up with the provincial English word lunch, which means a lump of bread; and so we have luncheon.
Nutmeg, a hybrid compounded of an English and a French word. Meg is a corruption of the O. Fr. musge, from Lat. muscum, musk.
Orchard = wort-yard, yard or garden for roots or plants. Wort is a cognate of wart and root.
Ostrich, from Lat. avis struthio. Shakespeare spells it estridge in “Antony and Cleopatra,” iii. 13. 197, “The dove will peck the estridge.” (Avis is found as a prefix in bustard also.)
Pastime = that which enables one to pass the time.
Pea-jacket (not connected with pea), a short thick jacket often worn by seamen; from the Dutch pije, a course woollen coat. Thus the word jacket is superfluous. In M. E. py was a coat; and we find it in Chaucer combining, with a French adjective, to make the hybrid courtepy, a short coat.
Peal (of bells), a short form of appeal; a call or summons. (Compare penthouse and appentis; sample and example; scutcheon and escutcheon; squire and esquire; etc.)
Penthouse (not connected with house), in reality a doublet of appendage, though not coming from it. O. Fr. appentis, from Lat. appendicium, from appendix, something hanging on to. (Pendēre, to hang.)
Periwinkle, a kind of evergreen plant; formed, by the addition of the diminutive le, from Lat. pervinca, from vincīre, to bind.
Periwinkle, a small mollusc with one valve. A corruption of the A. S. pinewincla, that is, a winkle eaten with a pin.
Pickaxe (not connected with axe), a tool used in digging. A corruption of M. E. pickeys, from O. Fr. picois; and connected with peak, pike, and pick.
Poach = to put in the poke, pocket, or pouch. So poached eggs are eggs dressed so as to keep the yoke in a pouch. Cognates are pock, smallpox (= pocks), etc.
Porpoise (not connected with the verb poise); from Lat. porcum, a pig, and piscem, a fish.
Posthumous (work), a work that appears after the death of the author; from Lat. postumus, the last. The h is an error; and the word has no connection with the Lat. humus, the ground.
Privet, a half-evergreen shrub. A form of primet, a plant carefully cut and trimmed; and hence prim. (For change of m into v (or p), compare Molly and Polly; Matty and Patty, etc. V and p are both labials.)
Proxy, a contraction of procuracy, the taking care of a thing for another. Lat. pro for, and cura, care.
Quick, living. We have the word in quicklime, quicksand, quicksilver; and in the phrase “the quick and the dead.”
Quinsy, a bad sore throat, a contraction of O. Fr. squinancie, formed, by the addition of a prefixed and strengthening s, from Gr. kynanchē, a dog-throttling.
Riding, one of the three divisions of Yorkshire. The oldest form is Trithing or Thrithing (from three and ing, part; as in farthing = fourth part, etc.) The t or th seems to have dropped from its similarity and nearness to the th in north and the t in east; as in North-thrithing, East-trithing, etc.
Sexton, a corruption of sacristan, the keeper of the sacred vessels and vestments; from Lat. sacer, sacred. But the sexton is now only the grave-digger. (In the same way, sacristy was shortened into sextry.)
Sheaf, a collection shoved together. Shove gives also shovel; and the frequentatives shuffle and scuffle.
Soup, a cognate of sop and sup.
Splice (to join after splitting), a cognate form of split and splinter.
Squirrel, from O. Fr. escurel; from Low Lat. scuriolus; from Gr. skia, a shadow, and oura, a tail. Hence the word means “shadow-tail.”
Starboard, the steering side of a ship—the right, as one stands looking to the bow.
Stew, the verb corresponding to stove.
Steward, from A. S. stiward, from the full form stigweard; from stige, a sty, and weard, a keeper. Originally a person who looked after the domestic animals.
Stirrup, modern form of A. S. stigrap, from stigan, to climb, and ràp, a rope. Cognates are sty, stile, stair.
Straight, an old past participle of stretch. (Strait is a French form of the word strict, from Lat. strictus, tied up.)
Strong, a nasalised form of stark. Derivatives are strength, strengthen, string, etc.
Summerset (not connected either with summer or with set), or somersault, a corruption of Fr. soubresault, from Lat. supra, above, and saltum, a leap. (There is a connection between the b and the m—the one sliding into the other when the speaker has a cold.)
Surgeon (properly a hand-worker), a contraction of chirurgeon; from Gr. cheir, the hand, and ergein, to work.
Tackle, that which takes or grasps, holding the masts of a ship in their places. The le is the same as that in settle (a seat), girdle, etc.
Tale, from A. S. talu, number. Derivatives are tell and till (box for money), but not talk, which is a Scandinavian word.
Tansy, a tall plant, with small yellow flowers, used in medicine; from O. F. athanasie; from Gr. athanasia, immortality.
Thorough, a doublet of through, and found in thorough-fare, thorough-bred, etc. (The dr, thr, or tr is also found in door, thrill, trill, drill, nostril, etc.)
Treacle, from M. E. treacle, a remedy; from Lat. theriăca, an antidote against the bite of serpents; from Gr. thērion, a wild beast or poisonous animal. Milton has the phrase “the sovran treacle of sound doctrine.” (For the position of r, compare trundle and turn; brid and bird; etc.)
Truffle, an underground edible fungus; from Italian tartufola; tar being = Lat. terræ, of the ground, and tufŏla = tuber, a root. Trifle is a doublet of truffle.
Twig, a thin branch of a tree. The tw here is the base of two, and is found also in twin, twilight, twice, twine; and probably also in tweak, twist, twinkle, etc. (Twit is not in this class; it comes from atwitan, to throw blame on.)
Verdigris (not connected with grease), the rust of brass or copper. From Lat. viride aeris, the green of brass. (The g is intrusive, and has not yet been accounted for.)
Walrus, a kind of large seal; from Swedish vallross = a whale-horse. The older form of ross is found in Icelandic as hross, which is a doublet of the A. S. hors. The noise made by the animal somewhat resembles a neigh.
Wassail, a merry carouse; from A. S. wes haél = Be well! Wes is the imperative of wesan to be (still existing in was); and hael is connected with hail! hale (Scand.), whole (Eng.), and health.
Whole, a misspelling, now never to be corrected, of hole, the adjective connected with hale, heal, health, healthy, etc. The w is probably an intrusion from the S. –W. of England, where they say whoam for home, woat for oat, etc. If we write whole, we ought also to write wholy instead of holy.