more seat-of-the-pants etymology for our delectation

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Nov 17 18:38:31 UTC 2008

At 1:22 PM -0500 11/17/08, Doug_Harris wrote:
>I'm curious why you feel that's a 'trap'. If he )Blount perceives something
>sensual in such words, more power to 'em, I say. <smile>
>I imagine that trap _might_ be if he were to assume others for whom he
>might be writing will feel the same sensations (or whatever) when they
>read his, um, turn-on words.

Well, if Blount (and not just Shafer) is really claiming that, say,
_vim_ came into being *because* its sound patently echoes its meaning
or essence, which is how I read Shafer at least, is the claim that
the essence is really shared both by the English [vIm] and the Latin
[wim] from which it descended?  If so, seems like a rather fuzzy
essence for a word as "strong" as _vim_ to bear.  Or maybe [wim]
didn't represent its meaning, but providentially it evolved into
[vIm], which does?  Seems like just-so etymology to me.


>Blount does, however, fall into the trap of thinking that words he's
>fond of -- "queasy", "rickety", "zest", "sluggish", "vim" -- "somehow
>sensuously evoke the essence of the word".
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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