Monday, June 02, 2008

A is for a Nadder

The word adder brings me to a class of words that I find quite interesting. They illustrate how languages evolve, not only through growth but by corruption and deterioration. For example, the original form of the word adder in the Old English was a nædre. In Middle English a naddre became an addre. Once used generically for any snake, its meaning has been narrowed to a particular type of serpent.

Other words in this class formed by a process known as false splitting or juncture loss are apron (a napron from Old French naperon), umpire (from Middle English a noumper, originally French noumpere), and orange (see the dictionary entry for the fascinating story of how this word came to us from Dravidian through Sanskrit, Persian, Italian, and French through a similar process of false splitting).

Examples of false splitting occur in the opposite direction as well. A nickname derives from an eke name, which was "an additional name" in Middle English.

A newt comes to us from an eute in Middle English being mistaken for a neute.

Apparently the opposite of a billy goat originally was an anny goat, which became a nanny goat, whether through the process of false splitting or because nanny is a nickname (an eke name) for Anne.
Orig: 6/2/08


Bonnie said...

That orange definition was fascinating !

Actually, this whole post was fascinating !!

I can see how false splitting could happen. You know, Alia does it all the time. I can't think of any specific words at the moment but I'm sure I will as soon as I publish this comment !! She often puts the consonant from the word before (like at or an ) onto the beginning of the other word. It's interesting. I wish I could think of an example !!! I'll have to pay attention and write them down as I hear them ...

cKc--aka Kathy said...

Well! I remember when the Sesame Street guys were named 1)Bert 2)Nernie! I can see where the splitting gene is passed on to another generation! Mom