"Keister" etymology (valise=turkey?)

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sun Dec 11 16:18:50 UTC 2005

> > >Any updates on "keister"?
> >
> > HDAS derives it from German "Kiste" ....
> >
> > Here's a spelling variant (from N'archive):
> >
> > ----------
> >
> > _Evening Democrat_ (Warren PA), 27 Nov. 1894: p. "2":
> >
> > <<He [the baggageman] approaches you with a smile, goes away with
> > twenty-five cents and ties your bruised and battered kister with a tow
> > string.>> ....
>Then, how is the timbre of the /i/ in "keister" to be explained? That is,
>why [kiystr] and not [kIstr]," if the source is German "kiste" [kIst@] or
>Irish "ciste" approx. [kISCI] or English or Scots "kist"?

I don't know.

BTW: The "Concise Scots Dictionary" shows pronunciation /kIst/ but also
'obsolete' pronunciations /kist/, /kEst/. The Irish cognate is/was also
written "cisde". The above spelling variant "kister" might suggest the
existence of /kIstr/ in pre-1900 English ... unless it's just a typo. The
spelling "keyster" also appeared pretty early.

Pre-1900 words spelled "keister"/"kiester"/"kister" apparently were most
often surnames, of which "Kiester" and "Keister" were more frequent than
"Kister" judging from a glance at the newspaper archive (I'm not sure what
the pronunciations were ... I guess probably variable). So one (entirely
speculative) possibility would be that a spoken word like "kister"/"kista"
was taken to be an eponym or otherwise pronounced "Keester" following a
surname. Of course another possibility is that the word really did have an
eponymous origin, but I don't find any evidence for one at a glance.

-- Doug Wilson

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