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July 24, 2006
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weorcwryðe = work worthy...bryce = breachunhydig = un+heedycystig = 'custy' NE England dialect for nice/ great
None of the words on the left, with the possible except of the last one, are the actual etymons of the words on the right.
"worthy" is from ME wurði, worði from OE weorþ. The "y" in weorcwryðe would seem to be i-mutation in this particular construction.
"Breach" is from ME breche - OE bryce, brice gave ME bruche, and the OED explains that modern "breach" is by analogy with "speak, speech".
heed is from OE hēdan. The "y" in unhydig would again seem to be i-mutation.
I'm not familiar with "custy", but if it's the same as "cushty" meaning "good, wonderful", then it's borrowed from Romani.
No, I'm not kidding. I'm talking about historical linguistics. Yes, it's complicated but there are some things we can be reasonably certain about. Trevisa probably pronounced "cloos" with a long /o/ (as in modern "home"). The modern pronunciation of "oo" as in "hoop" arose with the great vowel shift. The Old French borrowing is attested from c1275 in the OED:c1275 (1200) Laȝamon Brut (Calig.) (1963) l. 4867 Wel heo closden [c1300 Otho tunde] heore ȝeten.
AnWulf, This isn't just about spelling, it's about spelling *and* pronunciation. Simply saying that the two words are not far apart in pronunciation is not enough, you need to provide evidence that a pronuncation change from /yː/ to /o/ is a reasonable one. And it isn't, we already know that /yː/ changed to Modern English /aɪ/. "close" is not a continuation of OE "clȳsan" because it violates well-understood regular sound changes. If you think the OED should change their etymology, you should take it up with them, but be prepared to provide evidence.
AnWulf, that etymology of "close" is not wrong. Here is what the OED says about "close":
"Middle English close-n (13th cent.), < Old French clos- stem (close present subjunctive) of clore < Latin claud-ĕre to shut, close. Old English had already the vb. clýs-an , < clús(e , < late Latin clūsa = clausa ‘shut or enclosed place’. This came down to 13th cent. in form cluse-n (ü ), and probably close-n was at first viewed simply as a frenchified pronunciation of this earlier word: compare biclusen , beclose v."
Yes, Old English had "clȳsan" but it didn't survive. It was replaced or subsumed by "close" which is a borrowing from Old French. If it had survived it would have become "clise" - long "i" is the usual Modern English reflex of Old English "ȳ".
Hairy Scot, DA Wood said that English does not exist in a vacuum, but that we must look to other languages take input from them on how they do things. This was in response to my question "If the fact that good English writers do it doesn't make it correct, then what does make it correct?"
To me, it seems like DA Wood was saying that we must look to another language entirely in order to determine how modern English works. This is the etymological fallacy.
I have studied linguistics. Not once have I read of linguists appealing to other languages to determine what is prescriptively correct in English. This is not what linguists do.
The idea that we should consider how things work in other languages when we are talking about how English works sounds very much like the etymological fallacy to me.
DA Wood, both "everybody" and "everyone" are syntactically singular but notionally plural. "Did everyone leave early because he wasn't enjoying himself?" might make sense to you, but it is standard English to write "Did everyone/everybody leave early because they weren't enjoying themselves?"
The idea that singular "they" is incorrect is based on the mistaken notion that syntax and semantics must line up exactly.
But they don't. Here is an example that shows that semantic number and syntactic number don't have to match.
Everyone knows each other.
In this sentence, "everyone" is syntactically singular but semantically plural, and "each other" is semantically plural. "Each other" requires a semantically plural antecendent: we can say "they know each other" but we can't say "*He knows each other." So how is this any different from
Everyone knows themselves.
English grammar was not taught until the 1800s, I think. So the fact that Shakespeare didn't adhere to prescriptive rules is not relevant - there was no such thing as prescriptive grammar at the time.
If the fact that good English writers do it doesn't make it correct, then what does make it correct? Why does an ipse dixit prescription have more weight than centuries of usage by good writers who presumably knew what they were doing?
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