Tileni Revisited—Tom Patterson SpecGram Vol CLXXXIX, No 4 Contents Fables of Linguistics—The Tale of the Dysfunctional ⟨h⟩ Family—The Tale Teller of Tollerton Town

Good Enough for Folk EtymologyPart XIII

A. Pocryphal & Verity du Bius
X. Quizzit Korps Center for Advanced Collaborative Studies

The SpecGram Archive Elves recently made another large collection of documents available to the XQK Directorate, leaving them on our doorstep in black plastic sacks in the middle of the night. In order to avoid any more unfortunate incidents involving a cucumber, a marmot, or the Director’s favorite coffee mug, we were given the task of cataloging these documents. Going through the collection, we have found again that, while apparently lacking provenance (which the Archive Elves still attribute to a bizarre set of circumstances obscurely alluded to in editorials passim), they shed unexpected light on the origin of several well known words and phrases. Note that some entries contradict others. Etymology is like that.

Here we publish the thirteenth (and hopefully final) half of our collection of excerpts.

From The Undiscovered Country of Academic Words:

Tim Baxter was a budding historical linguist. He was also a practical joker. He was so good at both that no-one could tell the difference. Hence, people would seek to verify his tales of how words came to exist by first doubting their veracity, often with the sarcastic question “yeah, Tim?” The long process of checking his work soon turned into a typical game for naive undergraduates, who got their revenge by trying to get class credit for their “yeahTimology” duties. As the students concerned were yod-droppers, this was soon shortened to its current form.

From Soup!:

Carbohydrates have historically had an important role in improving soup. For example, pasta was the missing element in the otherwise forgettable “yourstrone”. It is important to strike the right balance of carb to broth. Some grains soak up large quantities of liquid, making the stew-like final product barely a soup at all. One popular example, “beef barely soup”, eventually lent a variant of its name to its constituent cereal.

From Almost Everything You Need to Know About Agricultural Safety:

In the early days of the hay baler, it was unfortunately common for careless farmhands and even-more-careless bystanders to get bundled up in the hay-y mass. Such a predicament was described as “baleful,” and the trapped victim had to be “baled out.”

From Queasy Cuisine:

During his campaigns in Scotland, Edward III catapulted parcels of offal into a besieged castle, hoping to spread disease. However, the starving garrison were desperate enough to actually eat it. Each soldier tried to claim a portion, with cries of, “Ha, gi’s some o’ that!”

More from The Undiscovered Country of Academic Words:

... and given what passes (haw, haw) for research in some places, we all know how theses got their name.

From The Medymological Compendium:

A strong sneeze can cause one’s head to nod forward and back severelya stern nutation, indeed.

More from Soup!:

A warm bowl of soup sustains the soul as much as the body. Lifting the ladle with one’s fellow man cements a bond that is almost familial. It is no coincidence that one’s sibling is known as a broth-er. (Despite the apparent similarity, “sister” does not derive from subsistence.)*

* In traditional English-speaking communities, female siblings were always encouraged to collaborate on all sorts of endeavors and support each other through hard times. Whence the term “sister,” a corruption of “assist her.”

From Diaries of an Old Linguist:

Some of my colleagues had an awful habit of correcting the grammar of their informants, even while they were studying the language. One, a chap by the name of Doctor M’Paye got a reputation for saying to informants “Obviously, you meant [completely different phrasing], leading to him getting the moniker of Doc “you meant”. Annoyed informants would therefore call our work linguistic Doc “you meant”ation.

From The Undiscovered Country of Academic Words yet again:

... The earliest investigations were of course centred on improving farm yields, providing the foundations of modern scythe-ence.

From The Gentleman Philologist’s Companion:

Many a philologist, when attempting to trace the origins of a word through a labyrinth of often contradictory sources, has been tempted to call down curses on the entire discipline of etymology. Such intemperate language, however, would never escape the lips of a gentleman, and so the invective is often bowdlerised to “folk etymology”.

Tileni RevisitedTom Patterson
Fables of LinguisticsThe Tale of the Dysfunctional ⟨h⟩ FamilyThe Tale Teller of Tollerton Town
SpecGram Vol CLXXXIX, No 4 Contents