Duck soup

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Mon Sep 2 11:51:40 UTC 2002

I don't think Ron's lampoon is invalid at all. Of course we all know
the various phonetic and psycholinguistic traps that alter the shape
of the origins of a term, often making it completely opaque (the
French origins of the Picketwire River and Gnaw Bone, IN are easy to
see only after they are pointed out). Such processes range from
well-known phonetic ones through slips of the tongue and ear and
clang associations, to systematic failures of correspondences between
languages, and on and on.
All linguists have these possibilities (even plausibilities) in their
interpretive repertoires, and, given some other triggering
information (and this is the crucial point), are ready to latch onto
one. Careful etymologies, while fully aware of the vagaries of sound
over time and contact, would not, in my opinion, simply exploit,
list-like, those which come to mind first.


>RonButters at AOL.COM wrote:
>>  Or maybe it is a "corruption" of DUST SOUP, which would be easy to
>>  make; or DUK SOOP, the Vietnamese name for a mountain in Wales that
>>  is well known for being easy to climb (this is "Snowdon" in
>>  English); or, even more likely, DUCK POOP, which is certainly an
>>  "easy task," at least for a duck.
>Your underlying point is surely invalid. To put a suggestion forward
>as a possibility is not to leave the gates open to any misshapen cock-
>eyed invention of a misguided mind that happens along. In etymology
>as in science, to be fertile in hypotheses is an invaluable method of
>sensitising one's mind to possible lines of enquiry.
>Michael Quinion
>Editor, World Wide Words
>E-mail: <TheEditor at>
>Web: <>

Dennis R. Preston
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics and Languages
740 Wells Hall A
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1027 USA
Office - (517) 353-0740
Fax - (517) 432-2736

More information about the Ads-l mailing list