10.0479 wordplay

WILLARD MCCARTY (willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Wed, 27 Nov 1996 22:42:11 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 10, No. 479.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Joseph Wilson <jwilsona@ruf.rice.edu> (9)
Subject: Re: 10.0470 wordplay (Marchand's humor)

[2] From: Jim Marchand <marchand@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu> (39)
Subject: etymologies

[3] From: Steve Taylor <ussjt@emory.edu> (7)
Subject: Re: 10.0470 wordplay

[4] From: "Sarah L. Higley" <slhi@troi.cc.rochester.edu> (5)
Subject: Re: 10.0470 wordplay

Date: Tue, 26 Nov 1996 14:43:44 -0600 (CST)
From: Joseph Wilson <jwilsona@ruf.rice.edu>
Subject: Re: 10.0470 wordplay (Marchand's humor)

Jim Marchand was joking when he wrote the following:

>>> Being in a kind of political (?) mood, as I notice, perhaps I should
>>>also mention syllabic etymologies, such as Gestapo, also found in the Middle
>>>Ages, where _cadaver_ was known to derive from CAro DAta VERmibus `meat
>>>given to worms' (this may be the origin of our `food for worms').
>>> As pointed out, acronymic etymology goes back a long way; every
>>>schoolchild in the Middle Ages knew that _flos_ `flower' came from its
>>>function: Fundens Late Odorem Suum `pouring abroad its odor'.

joe wilson

Date: Wed, 27 Nov 96 09:43:00 CST
From: Jim Marchand <marchand@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu>
Subject: etymologies

I was surprised to find that my Isidorian (lucus a non lucendo) etymologies
were not universally accepted. I am sure that avis `bird' comes from `a
via' (no path), because the bird flieth the untrammeled pathways of the sky.
Seriously, not to press too hard upon a point, discussions such as those
about ticked off, etc. show how hard it is to nail down an `etymology' in
these / those ephemeral times. Ask a friend the origin of `on the Q.T.'
(meaning `on the sly'), or read what's his name in the Sunday Times, or try
to make sense out of `mind your P's and Q's'. Again in a serious vein,
since you cannot always use humor on the net, even if you are into those
little emoticons (e.g. (|-); doesn't look humorous to me), I should be
surprised if any of the Isidorian etymologies of the Middle Ages turned out
to be `true', but they killed people and cats because of them, so they were
As to the origin of Nazi, you had to be very close and sensitive to
understand what was going on, and there are few alive who lived through it.
I think I could probably make a fair case for the following scenario.
German had a few words in it like Schatzi `boy friend, lover' (not a real
bad word), Schmutzi `dirty boy', Butzi `no-account boy'. In fact, in his
review of Des Knaben Wunderhorn (a kind of sort of poem/song book), Voss
wrote that Arnim and Brentano had filled it with _Allerlei schmutzige,
butzige, nichtsnutzige Gassenhauer_ `all kinds of dirty, lascivious, useless
street songs,' so you can see where Schmutzi and Butzi came from. When the
NSDAP began to get started, it's biggest supporters were street gangs who
roughed up the opposing party gatherings. They were called Nazis (Short for
`national,' spelled `nazional', or perhaps for NAtional SoZIalist, etc. etc.
Anyway, as often happens, the Nazis adopted the opprobrious name as their
Voltaire is said to have said (though as far as we know he didn't):
`Etymology is a field of study (une science) in which the consonants count
for very little and the vowels for nothing at all.' And to trace popular
expressions and abbreviations you have to have been there; even then you can
argue. In the Middle Ages, where you could be censured for giving the
attributes of God in the ablative rather than the nominative case, etymology
was important, but how many of you watched the OJ case when Marcia censured
Johnny for being a male chauvinist oinker when he called her hysterical,
using the etymology of the word as her proof? Notice how many of the TV
people approvingly picked up on this. Etymology is a grand tool; if Derrida
can use annominatio, we all ought to be able to.
Jim Marchand.

Date: Wed, 27 Nov 1996 08:50:21 -0500 (EST)
From: Steve Taylor <ussjt@emory.edu>
Subject: Re: 10.0470 wordplay

Don't know if this was already mentioned, but no collection of
acronym-derived words could exclude "radar," derived from "RAdio Detecting
And Ranging" equipment.

Steve Taylor
Faculty Information Technology Center
Emory University

Date: Wed, 27 Nov 1996 10:01:08 -0500
From: "Sarah L. Higley" <slhi@troi.cc.rochester.edu>
Subject: Re: 10.0470 wordplay

Just an addendum to David Goldsteen and Pamela Cohen-- whose posting I
found very amusing: I have students who swear that our most common four-
letter obscenity derives from an army term: "for unlawful carnal knowledge,"
and other variants of that. What you've told me about cadaver and flos
would help put this in perspective for them.

Sarah Higley