"troll" and other words with two mommies?

Charles C Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Sat Oct 5 14:12:11 UTC 2013

Yes, there exists a fairly extensive category of words that, historically, have uncertain, confused, multiple, folk, facetious, or otherwise recoverable or reanalyzable etymologies, available for the enrichment of their signification by poets and wits and (sometimes unconsciously) ordinary speakers.  Besides "ass" and "duct/duck tape" (as WB points out), there's "island."  And we may think of Milton's narrator's use of "astonished"/"astounded"/"stunned" in reference to the devils in _Paradise Lost_--recently hurled from heaven by the Almighty's thunderbolts.

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of W Brewer [brewerwa at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Saturday, October 05, 2013 5:21 AM

GN: <<How many other words ... that have two (or more?) distinct etyma
simultaneously present to speakers, each of which actively influences its
meaning. >>
WB: For a punster, more than for a non-punster. Formal similarity induces
semantic association to varying degrees in different people.

ass 'donkey, fool' (Latin asinus) <= ass 'buttocks' (Old English ears).
duct tape <= duck tape.
cache 'stash' [cash, cash-SHAY] <= cachet [cash-SHAY].

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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