Wordplay: origins, meanings, and usage of the English language
University of Toronto Press, 1996 - 244 sider
Folk etymology, that charming process of word formation that substitutes a familiar sound or idea for an archaic one ('rod-iron' for wrought iron), has worked overtime in our fields, forests, and gardens. Samuel Johnson and a lot of others thought gooseberry derived naturally from the fact that its sauce commonly accompanied a roast goose; later etymologists discovered that it earlier had been called a groseberry, after the French groseille, and that there was nothing anserine in its background except wishful tinkering. Similarly, asparagus was, and often still is, called 'sparrow-grass', and for nearly two centuries the cucumber bore the bovine name of 'cowcumber'... The dandelion is a straightforward phonetic rendition of French dent de lion, or 'lion's tooth.' It's curious that, while we borrowed a French expression based on the weed's appearance, the French settled for a name related to quite another characteristic. The French word is pissenlit, which reflects the diuretic properties of the dandelion roots that used to be dried, ground up, and mixed with coffee. In fact, pisse-abed is given as an English alternative by John Gerarde in his 1597 Herball, or General Historie of Plants, and pissabed salad, containing dandelion greens, was once popular in the United States.
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adjective alternative American anagrams ancient Anglo-Saxon apple back-formation became began Bible called Canadian Chevrolet church column common denoted derived describe dismal Dutch earliest early England English language English word etymological etymologists eventually expression fourteenth century furore Globe and Mail going golf Greek Indo-European Indo-European root Italian Klingon known language later Latin letters literally lollapalooza meaning meant mention merry metaphor midden Middle English misandry mistletoe modern narcoterrorism nicknamed nineteenth century noun obsolete okay Old English Old French once Ontario originally Oxford English Dictionary paralipsis pejorative person phrase pike plural popular porch posh prepositions probably reader reference rhyme Roman Scottish seamy semantic sense Shakespeare's signified singular sixteenth century SkyDome slang sleighs someone sometimes spelling sports talkers spring story subjunctive synonym term there's things thought Toronto treacle usage usually verb virtually Word Play write wrote