[Ads-l] Toxic WOTY

Mark Mandel mark.a.mandel at GMAIL.COM
Thu Nov 15 13:53:14 EST 2018


As distinguished from *tocsin*, which is necessary in cases of mass toxin.

Mark Mandel

On Thu, Nov 15, 2018, 1:22 PM Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu wrote:

> Not our WOTY, but Oxford’s:
>
>
> https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/14/arts/toxic-oxford-word-of-the-year-2018.html
>
> The most interesting datum from this piece for me was the reanalysis-based
> etymology, which I hadn’t been aware of:
>
> “Toxic” derives from the Greek “toxikon pharmakon,” meaning “poison for
> arrows.” (The part of the phrase meaning arrows, rather than poison, became
> the basis for the word.)
>
> Here’s the OED’s (hopefully not pharmaceutically enhanced) stab at the
> history:
>
> ==========
> Latin toxicum ‘poison’, originally ‘poison for arrows’, < Greek τοξικὸν
> ϕάρμακον poison (ϕάρμακον) for smearing arrows (τοξικός, τοξικόν, < τόξα
> plural arrows, transf. < τόξον bow). Τοξικόν = ‘of or pertaining to the
> bow’, and had originally nothing to do with poison. But the effect of using
> τοξικόν, toxicum as short for the Greek phrase was to transfer the sense
> ‘poison’ < ϕάρμακον to toxicum, first as ‘poison for arrows’ and at length
> as ‘poison’ generally, = Latin venēnum.
> ==========
> Apparently even the ‘arrow(s)’ part arises by reanalysis from the earlier
> meaning ‘bow’.  Now we know why toxin is so easily transferred…
>
> LH
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>

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