etymology of "etymology"
aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Apr 14 21:32:07 UTC 2010
Tom, if you are going to post something like this, would it be too
much to offer a citation to the source? I know, it can be found rather
easily. But, if you think it is interesting and copy a rather
substantial portion of the piece (like, 100%), it's only common
courtesy to provide a citation or a link.
Turns out, this is from About.com. Personally, I never cite Above.com
as an authoritative source (although it provides quite a few citations
for misuse). And even without reading the whole piece, I've spotted
one thing I disagree with.
Joyce might have "coined" the original noun "quark" (I don't think he
did--see below). But the noun "quark" means something entirely
different today and the two uses are almost entirely unrelated (I am
only saying "almost" because there is a superficial underlying
metaphor that underlies the coinage). Murray Gell-Mann, who actually
proposed the quark model for the "particle zoo", became the one to
have actually coined the term as it is in use today. Depending on whom
you believe, he either based the name itself on Joyce's passage (which
makes little sense until you look at the original model), or he coined
the term first but did not settle on the spelling until he came across
"quark" in Finnegans Wake. Wiki says (yes, I know--another
authoritative source; but this one is actually closer to the truth):
Gell-Mann originally named the quark after the sound made by
ducks. For some time, he was undecided on an actual spelling for
the term he intended to coin, until he found the word quark in James
Joyce's book Finnegans Wake:
Three quarks for Muster Mark!
Sure he has not got much of a bark
And sure any he has it's all beside the mark.
—James Joyce, Finnegans Wake
To make matters worse, it appears, Joyce did not even coin the word in
the first place!
>From FreeDictionary.com (which claims to have copied it from AHD4)
Word History: "Three quarks for Muster Mark!/Sure he hasn't got much
of a bark/And sure any he has it's all beside the mark." This passage
from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, part of a scurrilous 13-line poem
directed against King Mark, the cuckolded husband in the Tristan
legend, has left its mark on modern physics. The poem and the
accompanying prose are packed with names of birds and words suggestive
of birds, and the poem is a squawk against the king that suggests the
cawing of a crow. The word quark comes from the standard English verb
quark, meaning "to caw, croak," and also from the dialectal verb
quawk, meaning "to caw, screech like a bird." It is easy to see why
Joyce chose the word, but why should it have become the name for a
group of hypothetical subatomic particles proposed as the fundamental
units of matter? Murray Gell-Mann, the physicist who proposed this
name for these particles, said in a private letter of June 27, 1978,
to the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary that he had been
influenced by Joyce's words: "The allusion to three quarks seemed
perfect" (originally there were only three subatomic quarks).
Gell-Mann, however, wanted to pronounce the word with (ô) not (ä), as
Joyce seemed to indicate by rhyming words in the vicinity such as
Mark. Gell-Mann got around that "by supposing that one ingredient of
the line 'Three quarks for Muster Mark' was a cry of 'Three quarts for
Mister . . . ' heard in H.C. Earwicker's pub," a plausible suggestion
given the complex punning in Joyce's novel. It seems appropriate that
this perplexing and humorous novel should have supplied the term for
particles that come in six "flavors" and three "colors."
Then, of course, there is the quark cheese, which predates Joyce by a
few hundred years. The cheese is something between cream cream cheese
and heavy yoghurt. But its consistency is completely irrelevant--the
point is, no matter how you slice it, Joyce did not coin the word.
I am not even going to bother with the rest of it--perhaps it's all
accurate, perhaps not. But I have no interest in deconstructing it any
On Wed, Apr 14, 2010 at 10:50 AM, Tom Zurinskas <truespel at hotmail.com> wrote:
> Interesting post I've copied below:
> Introduction to Etymology: Word Histories.
> What's the Difference Between a Definition and an Etymology?
> A definition tells us what a word means and how it's used in our own time.
> An etymology tells us where a word came from (often, but not always, from another language) and what it used to mean.
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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