Monday, August 22, 2005

Long Lost Word-Relatives

There’s a totally fascinating and fun little exercise posted over at Tenser, said the Tensor, and I can’t wait to see what people post in reply. This current blog post was originally going to be a reply, but quickly got a little large and unwieldy, so I thought I’d just link.

The long and short of it is this: Tensor is looking for words that have two different pronunciations, which mean two different things, and are not simply morphologically-meaningful variations on essentially the same word (like record: REH-cord vs. re-CORD) ... and yet come ultimately from the same etymological source. In other words, he wants two long-lost relatives that still look related after all these years. Below are some possibilities, although I don’t know how recently he’s looking for. (At least one of the words below has to go back to an Indo-European root to explain its divergent meanings.) I used the online American Heritage dictionary for etymologies I didn’t know.


1. PRO-cess (A series of actions, changes, or functions bringing about a result): Middle English proces, from Old French for development, from Latin processus, from past participle of procedere, to advance.
2. pro-CESS (To move along in or as if in a procession): Back formation from procession, from Middle English, from Old French, from Late Latin processi.


1. DE-zert (like the Sahara): Middle English, from Old French, from Late Latin desertum, from neuter past participle of deserere, to desert.
2. de-ZERT (to abandon, leave empty): French déserter, from Late Latin desertare, frequentative of Latin deserere, to abandon.


1. BOH (for shooting arrows): Middle English bowe, from Old English boga, from Indo-European bheug-.
2. BOW (rhymes with OW!): Middle English bowen, from Old English bugan. These are the Old English noun and verb forms of essentially the same word. But there’s a third, possibly from a different Germanic source:
2A. BOW (front of a ship): Middle English boue, probably of Low German origin, from Indo-European root bheug-.


1. mi-NUTE (tiny): Middle English, from Latin minutus, past participle of minuere, to lessen.
2. MIN-ute (60 seconds): Middle English, from Old French, from Medieval Latin (pars) minuta (prima), (first) minute (part), from Latin minuta, fem. of minutus, small.

1. at-TACH-ez (verb): Middle English from Old French attachier.
2. æt-tæ-SHAYZ (unaccented plural of attaché): from Modern French, from Old French attachier.
Attachier is itself an alteration of estachier, from estache, stake, of Germanic origin.

1. BAY-seez (plural of basis): Middle English basis, from Latin, from Greek.
2. BAY-siz (are belong to us): Middle English base, from Old French, from Latin basis, from Greek.

1. FEE-nay (end of a piece of music, e.g.): from Italian, from Latin finis, end, supreme degree.
2. (rhymes with wine): Middle English fin, from Old French, from Latin finis, end, supreme degree.

(This one goes way back!)
1. TAX-eez (plural of taxi): short for taxicab, short for taximeter cab. Taximeter: French taximètre, alteration of taxamètre, from German Taxameter: Medieval Latin taxa, tax, from taxare, to tax, from Latin, to touch, reproach, reckon, frequentative of tangere, to touch, from Indo-European root tag-.
2. TAX-iss: Greek, arrangement, from tassein, tag-, to arrange, from Indo-European root tag-.


Either from verb put (place) or from verb putt (as in golf), which was originally a variant of put.

Should I count refuse? The noun and the verb both come from French refuser, to refuse, where the relationship is the same as the two pronunciations of reject, but both forms were subsequently imported into English, where the relationship is not exactly the same.

Also, if proper names count, then we have the adjective august and the month of August, named after the man, named after the adjective.

If you have any others, go over and post them here.


Derek the Ænglican said...

Driving around PA this weekend I was wondering about Pike (the road) and Pike (the fish). There's two pretty different things...but I can't believe they're not related somehow...haven't tracked 'em down, though...

Caelius said...

You're right, but it seems to be a far-off relation. Pike (or pyk as it was spelled in the 14th century) referred to anything pointed, like a pike (the weapon). Peak, as in mountain peak, used to be pyk, too. The pike-fish has a pointed mouth.

Pike in the sense of a road is short for turnpike, which the OED defines as "a spiked barrier fixed in or across a road or passage, as a defence against sudden attack, esp. of men on horseback," i.e. the bellicose ancestor of the modern tollgate. The turnpike was called a pike because of its spikes (spike being yet another meaning of pyk).

Thus, if Derek was driving along Bethlehem Pike or Germantown Pike (or any other Pike), he was driving along a road that once was barred with a turnpike so that folks traveling on it would pay a toll before using the road. The extension of the use of turnpike to refer to the road as well as the gate that guarded it dates to the 18th century (Defoe is the first OED reference).

Oddly, I've never heard anyone in PA or NJ speak of the NJ and PA Pikes. A turnpike seems to become a pike when tolls cease being collected.