we newts are cross-disciplinarian, aware that our discourse is but one thread of a densely woven fabric, and aware too of the value of being aware of what’s going on in the surrounding threads. so now and then, there’ll be guest scholars to deepen and widen our senses of our contexts. today we have, ta da, ta dah…
word gizzards, with ms etty mology
i’ve dissected so many words it just isn’t funny.
i’ve mounted them on polyporous pith, with silvered pins stuck right through them and detailed notes in indelible ink on tiny card micro-pinned to each one – thousands of ’em, all regimented into phyla, orders, families, genera and species.
i’ve got dozens pickled in 70% alcohol, more pressed between the pages of books and not a few thinly sectioned and dyed with strange effects on microscope slides. been doing it for years. know all about ‘em, and i’m willing to share my encyclopedic knowledge and day to day findings with the rest of you.
but first it’s only natural that you would want to know a little bit about me. i’m thin, sharp, and nasty. i wear nasty coloured knitted things, no stockings and flat shoes. i wear my hair in a nasty tight little knot on top of my hard, pointy little head, and i eat children with a knife and fork after roasting them with the flames of my nostrils. go away, timmy!
in a word, i’m grimm, and my spirit guides are grimm and my work is grimm and my findings are as grimm as all get out.
here are my observations concerning words i encounter as i learn the languages i scrutinise to tousle etymology from. to understand me you have to
1. set aside what you or anyone else already believes
2. take a deep breath
3. read a statement – any you encounter in any text explaining the origins of or history of or derivations of words. mine or yours or anyone’s. make sure you understand just what it means.
4. apply a veracity rating to the statement according to whatever critically considered and frequently revisited and updated criteria you consider most relevant (not necessarily what it says in some book). is it factual and if so is it true? is it an opinion and if so is it supported by your own knowledge, or are reasons and are those reasons sound, unsound, not enough to go on…
5. compare with accepted dogmas, and prevailing academic opinions, as to all these points of veracity. be scrupulously fair or have bad dreams for a week or until you repent. snark. snark.
6. say in as many different accents as you can manage all words in quotation marks. really push the envelope there, exaggerate. satirical, mocking, comic, whatever, all the way to the very outer limits of possibility. e.g., sheep can be anything from ship, shoop, shuwp to shape, shipe and shoipe. savour each one. who would say it like that? can you locate a particular pronunciation with a particular region, dialect, ethnic group, school? refer to your OED where it says there’s only one or at most two pronunciations for each word – the one (or ones) native to a few of the politically dominant ethnic minorities and people under their influence. apply a veracity rating to that, earthling. is it true? obviously not. is it an opinion? yes. supported by argument? no. it is therefore not an academically acceptable statement. oxford scholars don’t know, they’re just making mis-educated guesses grossly impaired by outmoded traditions. you can make better ones from your own bases, and i’m showing you how to beginning building one.
7. consider deeply the letters. remember that ‘u’ can be for ‘ah’ for ‘umbrella’, oo for oops, oo for oolong, eu, y, v and even f, schwa, or ‘yoo’ for ‘universe’. remember that every establishment had its own spelling conventions and often their own alphabets. we see a diversity of similar scripts mostly mutually intelligible but no doubt getting dicey as geographical and cultural distance increased, across britain and ireland. then as now it is reasonable to assume that some spelt phonetically, or mixed more than one style inconsistently, while others used traditional spellings that no longer reflected current pronunciations. remember that most of what was written was lost, and the few texts we have preserved are not very likely to be typical, but rather exceptional, and that texts often fetch up far from their point of production with nothing to explain where they’re from. some texts in languages that resemble german more than english, given that the two languages have influenced each other greatly, are quite as likely to have been been written in germany as in britain. anyway, the whole area is a mess and needs revision. they’re not doing it so i will.
8. repeat for all lines.
9. review the logic.
10. take three deep breaths.
e.g. ‘taobh’ is irish for ‘side’.
1. set aside pre-existing belief
3. read the statement: ‘taobh’ is irish for ‘side’
• fact ( yes, it’s in the dictionary, and many native speakers can confirm it. )
• probability: (n.a.)
• possible: high? medium? low? (n.a.)
• opinion: well-supported? feebly supported? unsupported?
5. compare with accepted dogma (dogma means teaching).
• concur? ( yes )
• veracity rating on accepted dogma. ( high – can be verified)
6. say it in all funny foreign and fantastic accents, out loud, if possible into a microphone and play back, listening intently, noting which ones sound like other words in the same or other languages with similar or different meanings are pronounced.
7. spell all these pronunciations in as many different ways as you can think of, noting any which are now or ever were in use, and what other pronunciations the same spellings might have.
8. get it in context, and work through the contexts in the same way. get quick at it, a few seconds very effective thought, stash it away in your personal cranial database.
9. review it’s logic (not poss. if it’s the first line. you need to look at the logical connections between each line and all others in a paragraph, and so on up, and then let you mind travel along all logical threads to acquaint yourself thoroughly with the whole array of possibilities, ramifications, implications and so on, so that when you come to selecting the likeliest of hypotheses to follow up – and it’s very unwise to ignore any that can be sustained logically, especially when you ignore them in favour of hypotheses that can’t, like the academics do, irresponsible cads they are, and like i never would ).
10. take three deep breaths and check to see if you’ve turned into a newt yet or not. if you have, be grateful, you have evolved in a positive way. if not, keep paddling.
here’s the second statement and the third:
‘tu’ is cornish for side.
cornish ‘tu’ is related to the irish ‘taobh’
i’ll leave you to try those ten steps to more realistic etymology, and for extras, you can tousle out (explicate) some of the implications, subjecting each step of each logical sequence of thought to the ten tests, with reference to all the other similar words discovered in steps six and seven, after each one of them has been subjected to the same ten tests and supplementary logisticative procedures.
if after having done so you’re still believing that sound etymological processes have gone into the lexicography of old and middle irish, cornish and the so-called anglo-saxon texts, i’ll cast spells on you… really nasty ones involving toads.
thank you ms mology. you’ve certainly given us a lot to think about…