X99Lynx at X99Lynx at
Tue Apr 10 12:46:30 UTC 2001

In a message dated 4/10/2001 3:15:02 AM, acnasvers at writes:

<< The most plausible scenario has PIE *saigw- 'tallow, fat, grease, etc.'
undergoing "pre-Germanic" labialization to *saibw-, yielding PGmc *saip-. If
the pre-Germans learned the technology of soaking wool or hides in an
ash-tallow preparation from PIE-speakers, they might have borrowed the word
in this technical sense, and there is no need to force an etymology on the
basis of "trickling, dripping, resin, etc." >>

In the alternative, PGmc *saip- would simply refer to "boiled down, rendered
down".  See, e.g., Latin, <sapa, -ae> (cf., Grk, hepso:, sunapso:, exepso:).
This would also help account for the mish-mash of etymologies ascribed to
"soup" and "sup" in English - a rendered broth - cf., Latin, <sapio> = "to
taste, to savor."

And it would functionally explain the meaning of "sap", OE, <saep> - tree
resin or sugar to be rendered by boiling down. (But cf. Grk, zo:pissa, zo:e
(boiled) + pissa (pitch).)

Soaking wool in an astringent soap is unnecessary and even damaging unless
the wool is to be dyed.  Other textiles, furs and leathers are dyed without
astringent soaping.   Dyeing wool in northern Europe might be a relatively
recent technical innovation.  (The making of candles would seem to be also.)
Even more recent might be the use of astringent soap to dye one's hair - the
most precise meaning of <sapon> as it was first described.  If we assume that
soap post-dated *PIE substantially, than soap would be a trade word,
circulating with the new technology.

The alternative explanation would be therefore that the technique of mixing
alkali and fat (carefully and correctly, if it touches the skin) created the
need, for the first time, to render down rancid animal parts on a commercial
basis. The language where this change in meaning in the sense of from boiling
to boiling rancid parts occurred seems to be Greek, <sepo:>, rancid (Gr
se:po:n, soap).  This word for the key process in the making of astringent
soap would have travelled with the finished product, which the northern
people (being barbarians) would not only apply to wool but also to their
hair! (Cf, Grk <oisupos>, by the 6th cent BC, the lanolin grease extracted
from wool, used and presumably sold for medicinal puposes.)

Steve Long

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