"puss" in Icelandic ? Swedish ?

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Tue Aug 23 21:02:38 UTC 2005

Thanks, Peter. This complicates things.  The chief difficulty in seeing the English word as a contribution of Viking umculture is that there is no written evidence for its existence till 1699 - and nothing again for another 150 years.  After that, no problem.

By way of contrast are the occasional appearances of "cunt" as far back as the 13th C., and "fuck" as far back as about 1500. Not even the intentionally vulgar Earl of Rochester (17th C.)uses the P-word.

Of course, if the "Viking" word is known to have existed, it's difficult to imagine it not persisting in the Danelaw.  It may even have had an unrecorded cognate in OE.

On still another hand (making three at least), the Viking/OE word/s may have been restricted to a "medical" register and died out in Middle English.

Rather a puzzle all around. It's difficult to decide which etymology (ancient or "modern") is the more parsimonious, but for the moment the weight of the evidence seems to be with the cats and hares.



"Peter A. McGraw" <pmcgraw at LINFIELD.EDU> wrote:
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Subject: Re: "puss" in Icelandic ? Swedish ?

I don't have a dictionary of Modern Icelandic handy, but we can rule out
American tourists or the U.S. military as a source of "pussa," since the
word is older than either of these, or America itself, for that
matter--though conceivably it might have been uttered in Vinland. It
appears in Cleasby/Vigfusson, An Icelandic-English Dictionary, which is
actually a dictionary of Old Icelandic. It is defined as "cunnus, of a
beast, a mare, cow." Whether it might have been extended to the human
anatomy in Modern Icelandic, I don't know. Unfortunately,
Cleasby/Vigfusson doesn't give any etymological information on the word,
but an etymological link with English "pussy" in the anatomical sense seems
at least plausible. It's phonologically a possible cognate, or it could
have been a loan TO English FROM the "Scandinavian military" more commonly
known as Vikings.

Peter Mc.

--On Saturday, August 20, 2005 2:25 PM -0400 "Douglas G. Wilson"

>> If Modern Ice. "pussa" is from English, one would expect it to be
>> regarded as "slang" or "vulgar," or whatever. Is it?
> I would expect this either way, but I don't know for sure. Maybe the next
> time I get over to the big library I can check.
>> Moreover, the only *likely* English-Icelandic vectors would be anglophone
>> tourists, making it a very recent import.
> There has been a significant US military presence in Iceland for over 50
> years, I think. I don't know how many US-ans are stationed there but I
> reckon it must be more than 1% of the entire Iceland population.
> -- Doug Wilson

Peter A. McGraw Linfield College McMinnville, Oregon
******************* pmcgraw at linfield.edu ****************************

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