Latin nominatives and animal names (cf. Bossie)

Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Sat Apr 29 15:26:44 UTC 2006

That romantic notion of "English-speaking cowherds of the
Dark [sic] Ages" seems neither necessary nor useful as a
hypothesis in the present case.  All that had to happen was
for somebody--perhaps as late as the 18th century, perhaps
an American--on whatever basis, to have called a
cow "Bossie," and the name, for whatever reason, "caught on"
(to borrow Page Stephens's phrase), whether as a proper
noun, an epithet, or a generic term. Maybe the original
namer, the "coiner," was thinking of the Latin noun; maybe
it "caught on" because of its perceived affinity with the
Latin noun.  Who can know?  (I notice that Bartlett in 1848
gave Latin "bos" for the etymology of
American "boss" 'buffalo'.)

>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-
>Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
>Subject:      Re: Latin nominatives and animal names (cf.
>Yes, *we* do, but that is a modern, learned derivation that
has nothing to
>do with whether English-speaking cowherds of the Dark Ages
were familiar
>enough with Latin to derive a nickname for a cow
>from a word that referred to oxen as much as to cows.

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