Why is a swallow called a swallow?

Frye, David dfrye at umich.edu
Tue Sep 11 23:09:10 UTC 2007

The [gh] spellings are my own fault. The OED uses the Old English letter "yogh" (look it up, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yogh, if you want to see what it looks like), which I have no way of representing by email. My understanding is that yogh originally represented a voiced velar fricative. I have only heard the sound in real life when I was in Turkey and heard how "yoghurt" is really supposed to be pronounced; I've also heard it via radio in interviews with people from Gaza (or more properly, Ghazza).
Sorry about the extended off-topic etymologies. I guess my larger point is that sometimes seemingly logical similarities between words are just coincidences, though sometimes these coincidences can be reinforced by folk etymologies (or even by puns, I suppose).


From: ANTHONY APPLEYARD [mailto:a.appleyard at btinternet.com]
Sent: Tue 9/11/2007 6:13 PM
To: Frye, David; nahuatl at lists.famsi.org
Subject: RE: [Nahuat-l] Why is a swallow called a swallow?

The original Common Germanic forms were presumably [swalw-] for the
bird, and [swelg-] for the verb; the rest is Anglo-Saxon vowel-breaking
and umlauting and the [gh] sound gradually changing to [w], and
suchlike. The [gh] spellings above are likely someone's transcription
of the Anglo-Saxon way of writing lowercase g, which in Common Germanic
was pronounced as a fricative [gh].

About Nahuatl [cui:cui:tzcatl] for "swallow" (the bird): there is also
[cui_ca] = "to sing", and swallows sing sometimes.


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