Wiktionary:Etymology scriptorium/2013/August

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discussion rooms: Tea roomEtym. scr.Info deskBeer parlourGrease pit ← July 2013 · August 2013 · September 2013 →

friend with benefits[edit]

RFV of the etymology. Seriously, coined by Alanis Morissette? I just find it hard to believe it's not older, but I haven't checked. —Μετάknowledgediscuss/deeds 17:33, 5 August 2013 (UTC)

She may not have coined it, but she may well have popularized it. I'm having difficulty finding anything on b.g.c. that's from before 1995. This book from 1983 apparently uses it, but it doesn't appear in the visible snippet. This book from 1988 uses the phrase but it seems to have a different meaning there. —Angr 21:53, 7 August 2013 (UTC)
The above links were from searching for "friends with benefits". Searching for "friend with benefits" and "friendship with benefits" came up with nothing useful pre-1995 either. —Angr 22:03, 7 August 2013 (UTC)


The etymology here confuses me a bit. It seems to imply that the Latin word dexter was borrowed and the English affixes ambi- and -ous were attached simultaneous with borrowing. That seems a little implausible somehow. Why is this not straightforwardly ambi- + dextrous? There are other etymologies like this as well, where a word was borrowed and then immediately affixed, in English entries but also in other languages. —CodeCat 20:05, 6 August 2013 (UTC)

Here are some more: malencontre, protobrosis, bicameral, bithchron, orthoclase, orthoclastic, tree-chroamatagh, bicycle, fo-vasheengunn, bith-heirm, bruthimbrít, înfra-rouoge, multilîndgisme, fo-leftenant, iseanóimeacht, fo-note, neoplasma, réamaiteolaí, iseatóp, fo-hropickagh, bioturbation, pedoturbation. And there are probably more still. Some of these are more likely calques. Others were probably borrowed and then partially calqued; it seems very implausible that something like fo-vasheengunn did not have masheengunn as an intermediate stage considering the semantic connection. And some are just obvious borrowings, like iseatóp. —CodeCat 20:18, 6 August 2013 (UTC)


I've listed this, the Lower Sorbian word for "chair", as a loanword from Low German, but I wonder if it's actually an inherited word from Proto-Slavic *stolъ (table) (cf. Polish stół, Russian стол (stol), etc.) with a semantic change under Germanic influence. Is there any way of finding out for sure? (I also see that OCS столъ (stolŭ) means "seat, throne" rather than "table", so maybe Sorbian has actually retained the oldest Slavic meaning.) —Angr 16:07, 10 August 2013 (UTC)

It's hard to know for sure. Sorbian could have easily retained the original meaning because of its continued proximity to Germanic speaking areas. Sorbian speakers must have been (and still generally are) bilingual in Sorbian and German, which would have prevented any semantic shift from occurring in any borrowed words. A kind of mini semantic sprachbund, so. On the other hand, if OCS had the word, it might be much older, but it could also be an independent East Germanic borrowing (like Gothic 𐍃𐍄𐍉𐌻𐍃 (stōls)).
There is also a phonetic argument, though. Proto-Slavic still preserved the Balto-Slavic vowel length distinctions, and the Germanic vowel ō was long, but the Slavic o was short. That would speak against a borrowing because in most borrowed words, long ō from various sources ends up as either a or y in Slavic, and also as u later on; a, y and u were all originally long. So if you start with the assumption that the short vowel is original, and that this is not a borrowing, then Sorbian does not preserve the original meaning but shifted the meaning towards that of the German equivalent. —CodeCat 16:19, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
ru:стол also mentions a Lithuanian cognate stalas (table), also with a short vowel: short a became o in Slavic, so this is a perfect cognate. That means that the resemblance to the Germanic word is not a result of borrowing, but of a shared (post-)PIE inheritance. —CodeCat 16:24, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
So Proto-Slavic *stolъ isn't a loanword, but Lower Sorbian stoł still could be, though the timing is crucial: it would have to be late enough that Germanic long ō is borrowed as Slavic short or duration-neutral o rather than as a, but early enough that Germanic l is borrowed as ł rather than as l; since German /l/ is always clear, and since Sorbian ł has shifted to [v~w], German l is always borrowed as l in relatively recent loanwords. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think that the ł makes it most likely that this is an inherited word that either acquired or retained the meaning "chair" under Germanic influence rather than that it is a straight loanword from nds. —Angr 17:22, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
That's more or less what I'm saying. Its resemblance to the Low German word made it rather confusing for a word to mean "table" in one language and "chair" in another. A false friend, sure, but such false friends do have a tendency to be eliminated in multilingual speakers. Having been cut off from the other Slavic languages through German rule, there would not have been any pressure to maintain the "table" meaning, unlike what you might see in contact areas like Belgium or Switzerland where neither language is really isolated from its relatives. So the pressure from Low German eventually caused the Sorbian word to adopt the meaning of the Low German word which it resembled. —CodeCat 17:30, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
Either adopt it or retain it. Bulgarian did manage to retain the "chair" meaning without any significant influence from Germanic, so maybe Sorbian would have retained that meaning too even if no Germanic language had been anywhere around. Many linguistic changes (semantic as well as phonological) don't affect the periphery of a language area, so maybe the shift from "chair" to "table" just never reached the far northwest and southeast of the Slavic Sprachraum. —Angr 17:45, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
The Bulgarian (and OCS, which was written primarily in that area) meaning is strange, but I think that it would have to be an innovated meaning. Both the Lithuanian and the Prussian words mean "table" alone as far as I can tell. So that would have been the meaning in Balto-Slavic too, and thus the meaning that was inherited into all the Slavic languages. How it ended up changing in Bulgaria, so far from any Germanic influence, is strange, but I do think that it must have changed rather than retained. —CodeCat 17:53, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
But maybe Germanic influence wasn't so far away from OCS. Wasn't Gothic spoken in the area of modern Bulgaria? If Gothic and OCS were in contact, maybe OCS shifted the meaning of its word from "table" to "chair" under Gothic influence, and then Bulgarian retained that innovation. —Angr 18:02, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
It's possible, but the situation in Bulgaria was the opposite from the one in Germany. The Slavs were in the majority there, and the Goths were a minority without much cultural influence. —CodeCat 18:10, 10 August 2013 (UTC)


How does Russian handle nasal borrowings? Can I be sure that this is from English, or could it have come from French? —Μετάknowledgediscuss/deeds 00:09, 21 August 2013 (UTC)

They put an -н after. This word is said to be from Latin planus, but that does rule out an intermediate language such as French. Russian has borrowed a great deal from French, rather less from Dutch and German, and only recently from English. —Stephen (Talk) 12:38, 22 August 2013 (UTC)

knish and books[edit]

Can anyone expand this etymology? Is it related to Ukrainian книга (Appendix:Proto-Slavic/kъniga)? DTLHS (talk) 21:55, 21 August 2013 (UTC)

That seems awfully unlikely, but I'm not convinced by the "from Turkic" currently there either, since AFAIK Turkic languages don't allow consonant clusters at the beginnings of words. —Angr 09:41, 22 August 2013 (UTC)
Vasmer says, Объяснение заимствованием из нем. Knitsch "anything compressed, crumpled" (Бернекер 1, 531) отвергает Брюкнер (KZ 45, 50), который видит в польск. слове заимств. из укр. и относит вост.-слав. слово к *kъnъ (см. кнея). Ошибочно предположение о заимствовании из греч. κνῖσα "жир" (Фасмер, Гр.-сл. эт. 90); нем. Knust "горбушка хлеба" тоже не может считаться источником, вопреки Горяеву. —Stephen (Talk) 12:42, 22 August 2013 (UTC)
I removed the "from Turkic" part. It was added by a contributor known for adding bad information to etymologies, and is suspiciously vague. Chuck Entz (talk) 12:51, 22 August 2013 (UTC)
Maybe the Brothers Grimm have heard of a German word Knitsch; Duden hasn't. —Angr 15:43, 22 August 2013 (UTC)
Dialect. They’ve heard of it in the Rhenish dictionary. —Stephen (Talk) 16:22, 22 August 2013 (UTC)

Indo-European and Semitic words for "earth"[edit]

Somebody told me recently that PSem *ʾarṣ́- and PIE *er- are cognate. I know that there are a few borrowings between the protolanguages, but is this real? (Our pages don't document it or refute it.) —Μετάknowledgediscuss/deeds 03:31, 28 August 2013 (UTC)

The reconstruction PIE *h₁er- (earth) is uncertain, and its origin is obscure. Couldn't find anything on the Semitic borrowing hypothesis. --Ivan Štambuk (talk) 08:51, 28 August 2013 (UTC)


RFV of the etymology. Hello, I'm afraid the etymology you provide for attorney (namely, "Old French atornee, feminine past participle of atorner (to prepare, to ready), compare attorn") is both bizarre and wrong:

  • The claim at atornee that is the "Feminine singular past participle of atorner" is flat-out wrong: French past participles of verbs in -er (Old and Modern) are always (masculine) and -ée (feminine), both pronounced the same. The whole page atornee should of course be atornée.
  • The claim at attorney that it would come from a feminine participle is both bizarre (women didn't hold offices then) and wrong. The actual origin is the Old French atorné, a participle that became a noun meaning "someone who has been prepared (to serve the State)", that is a civil servant or civil officer, and especially a civil judge. (In French, the old noun atorné has mostly been replaced with the current équivalent noun préposé.) It is that noun atorné that was later derived into attorney.

Sorry, but the current attribution to a non-existent and feminine atornee is half nonsense. HTH, 21:11, 28 August 2013 (UTC)