Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all of you, Happy Thanksgiving! Forgive me if this is really nerdy, but I feel I have a duty to fellow word-nerds, and a debt to the etymologists who did all the heavy lifting, to try to capture the thought in a more creative way. What can I say — words are my provender. What do you think? :)


  1. Thanks!

    A minor correction: "E thank" should be "E thanks", as the singular noun no longer exists in Modern English; the verb thank is denominal.

  2. I’m going to differ with you there, John.

    The singular noun is certainly obsolete in today’s English, but I don’t think it’s correct to say it “no longer exists in Modern English” (emphasis mine). Samuel Johnson and Noah Webster both included it in their dictionaries, alongside the plural, and they certainly spoke Modern English. Of course, by “Modern English”, you mean English as used in the present day; whereas, I mean English as it has been used since the middle of the 16th century.

    I’ve seen examples of thank as a singular noun as late as the 1890’s. It was certainly in use at the time of the first American Thanksgiving. Just because it has fallen into desuetude over the last century or so doesn’t mean my diagram needs correction.

    And by the way, a “Happy Thanksgiving to you too” wouldn’t be unwelcome. You may prefer to quibble; I prefer to gobble. ;)

  3. How wholesomely nutritious! A great gift for the holiday; thank(s).

    I could figure out all the language name abbreviations; I wonder how many other non-linguists could?

  4. Thank you, David. And your “thank(s)” reminded me — I don’t know how I forgot this — that I went through a phase back in college where I insisted on spelling it thancs, in reference to the word’s Old English origins. Just the silly affectations of an budding philologist. :)

    I’m glad the abbreviations posed you no problems. But now you’ve got me wondering, too. If anyone out there has any trouble with the abbreviations, or wants to make guesses where uncertain, don’t be shy. I could just include a legend here in the comments, but in case you want to try decoding them yourselves, I’ll put that off.

  5. You know about, right?

    PS - Modern English was a musical group in the 1980s.

  6. Harm J. Schelhaas11/24/2010 9:59 PM

    Let’s try off the top of my head ...

    Old English
    Middle English
    (modern) English
    Old Norse
    Old High-German
    Vulgar Latin
    Old French

    No, I don’t think I need the list —
    and I’m not a linguist either, except amateur ...

  7. Logan: I do! Her etymologies don’t tend to go much deeper than surface-level — much like the rest of her? — but still, what red-blooded lexicographer wouldn’t enjoy her, er, presentations? :)

    Harm: Absolutely right! Thanks for providing a key for anyone who might have gotten lost.

  8. Shouldn't L de have a macron? (Though this is not the reason dêbêre has a long first syllable anyway. As a preverb it's shortened before a vowel, and then the contraction makes it long again. I can see that saying dê + habêre > dêbêre could be confusing, but to be precise you can quote the older, uncontracted form dehibêre attested in Plautus.)

    Also, pre should be prae (a form praehibêre also appears in Plautus).

    Sorry, it'a bad habit I have. Great post :)

  9. Thanks, Hlaford. And yes, you’re right on both counts. I’ll try to make those two small corrections when I get a chance. I don’t always use macrons in Latin, since it is more tedious to produce them than it is most of the other diacriticals I use. Then, when I do decide to use them, I always seem to miss one. And of course, pre for prae was just a slip. I also omitted the intermediate stages of both those Latin words because I was having trouble with spacing them appropriately. I did originally plan to show them.

  10. PS. Nice boldface on habit. That didn’t escape my notice. :)

  11. Going back to find this chart, I just realized that the link from habere to habban must be wrong, unless Grimm's Law has been abolished when I wasn't looking. No, the Latin reflex of habban must be capere 'grasp, seize' < *kap-.

    And indeed, EtymOnline confirms this.

  12. Ah, yes, you’re right, John. Goodness, what would I do without you, ever vigilant about correcting my slips? And so snarkily too. Still, it must be some kind of compliment that you were coming back to this post almost a year later. And I see you can comment again. Hooray! :)