[Ads-l] Quote: In etymology vowels count for nothing and consonants for very little. (Attributed to Voltaire)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Mar 28 06:11:05 UTC 2019

Back on February 7, 2019 there was a discussion thread concerning a
humorous quotation about etymology attributed to Voltaire. It is a
complex topic, so I decided to write only a short piece with some key
citations for the Quote Investigator website:

In Etymology Vowels Count for Nothing and Consonants for Very Little

[Begin acknowledgement]
Great thanks to David L. Gold whose inquiry led QI to formulate this
question and perform this exploration. Special thanks to those who
supplied valuable citations. Ben Zimmer pointed to “Essai Analytique”
in 1800, “Oriental Fragments” in 1834, and “The Foreign Quarterly
Review” in October 1836. Stephen Goranson pointed to Hodgson’s
translation in 1807. Peter Reitan pointed to “The Athenaeum” in March
1834. All errors are QI’s responsibility.
[End acknowledgement]

Feedback welcome

On Thu, Feb 7, 2019 at 5:22 PM ADSGarson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> Wonderful! Thank you all for the great citations. With your help I
> located an interesting French citation from 1775 that lists some
> principles for tracing word origins.
> Year: 1775 (MDCCLXXV)
> Title: Monde Primitif, Analysé Et Comparé Avec Le Monde Moderne,
> Considéré Dans L'Histoire Naturelle De La Parole;
> Ou Origine Du Langage Et De L'Écriture
> Quote Page 47 and 48
> https://hdl.handle.net/2027/nyp.33433001047368
> https://hdl.handle.net/2027/nyp.33433001047368?urlappend=%3Bseq=87
> [Begin excerpt]
> Les voyelles ne sont rien dans la comparaison des mots.
> [End excerpt]
> [Begin excerpt]
> Les Consonnes correspondantes ont été sans cesse substituées les unes
> aux autres, sur-tout celles du même organe.
> [End excerpt]
> [Begin Google translate]
> Vowels are nothing in the comparison of words.
> [End Google translate]
> [Begin Google translate]
> The corresponding consonants have been constantly substituted for each
> other, especially those of the same organ.
> [End Google translate]
> Garson

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

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