Archive for the ‘Etymology’ Category

Zwicknames

June 28, 2022

On 6/26, this query from genealogist Randi Zwickel-Patrick (hereafter, RZ), offered as a comment on one of my very many postings on people named Zwicky (there’s a Page on this blog chronicling these postings):

Was the Zwicky family’s name originally Zwickel or another variation?

The query has no particular relevance to my posting “A Swiss thread in Paris”, from 6/24/18; that posting just happens to be about some Zwickys (and their thread company). So I’ve detached the query from that posting, to give something of an answer here.

But the briefest response is to say that a family name often has a number of histories (names are changed, inadvertently or intentionally, in ways small and large; names get mixed up with one another), but in any case almost never has something identifiable as the original name, and even for one version or variant of the name, we almost never have access to the first use of a name, to the circumstances surrounding that version’s choosing, an event or events that happened very long ago, far away, involving people who not only didn’t keep records of these things but were, most of them, illiterate.

So I can’t answer RZ’s query as it stands, and I don’t think anyone could. Even a much less ambitious query — what’s the history of the Zwicky name in the male line going back just from me? (forget about all those other people with the surname Zwicky) — runs aground 5 to 7 centuries ago, still in the same part of what is now Switzerland (a village in the canton of Glarus) that serves as Zwicky Central. (Brazil, where the nuts come from; Mollis, where the Zwickys come from.)

I have, however, looked at Zwicknames — not just Zwicky, but also Zwickey, Zwicki, Zwicke, Zwickie, Zwick, Zwicker, Zwickel, Zwickl — and also at Zwicky-adjacent names, like Zawicky, Swicky, Sowicky, and, oh my, Tsviki. This is all about names, not actual (genetic) ancestry, and given the naming conventions in Anglophone countries, it’s also all about descent in the male line, disregarding entirely all the female ancestors.

And going back 500-700 years ago is going back about 20-28 generations ago (with each generation about 25 years), so there are 20-28 ancestors in the male line, but (in principle) 2^20 to 2^28 ancestors total (1,048,576, or about a million, to 268,435,456, or about 300 million).

In either case, I can’t imagine much in this that could be actually relevant to Arnold Arnoldson. Swiss people can generally peg me as of Swiss ancestry from my facial features, but they also peg me (like my father but unlike my grandfather) as American, from my gestures, facial expressions, postures and gaits, speech, grooming, ornament, and dress. As for character traits, I (b. 1940) do have Swiss stubbornness, but I got that from the models of Arnold Melchiorson (b. 1914) and Melchior Johannson (b. 1879).

So this genealogical stuff, though entertaining, offers nothing revelatory. On to some of my postings on the subject.

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The cadenza and the coda

April 29, 2022

Morning names for today (4/29), set off by a cadenza in a Mozart piano concerto that was playing when I got up just after midnight for a brief whizz break. The word cadenza led me immediately to coda, both musical bits coming at the end, also both sounding sort of Italian (which, in fact, they once were), indeed sounding very similar at their beginnings (/kǝd/ vs. /kod/) — but it turns out that though their etymologies both go back to Latin, a cadenza is a falling (or, metaphorically, a death) and a coda is a tail.

(#1) A tv ad: Help me! I’m in a cadenza and I can’t get up!

(#2) A linguistic Tom Swifty: “Coda, my ass! That’s a coati or a koala, I don’t know which”, quoted Cody in Kodiak.

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velour

February 26, 2022

Another too-cold day, no going outside, because it hurts too much for me to breathe (that’s been a problem for 40-50 years, it’s why I moved from Ohio to California, but now it’s much worse because I have some chronic respiratory thing, all sinus and bronchial distress, that might be long Covid, or just my body giving up), so I bundled up at 4 a.m. — breakfast time — in my excellent blue velour bathrobe, sweetly worn, smelling a bit like me, warming to my body, pleasing to the touch, bearing the satisfying luxurious name velour. A delicious word. Velvety amour.

I mused on the word. And its fabric family: velour, velvet, velveteen, plush.

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Cruising in his long johns, take 2

November 16, 2021

(Men in various states of undress, visibly tumescent while minimally clothed, looking for sex with other men — so not for everyone.)

Yesterday’s mail ad from Daily Jocks, a carefully composed, even elegant, presentation of a muscular young man posing in fashionable form-fitting long johns that highlight his weighty package, while he fixes us with an intense gaze that gay men use in cruising for sex with other men (in another context, it’s the intense, fixed smoulder that straight men use in trolling for sex with women):


(#1) Call him Helgi (it’s Scandinavian and heroic); he’s posing in the trendy bathing room from two other recent appearances of his — on 11/12 in a much cruder pose but still in Helsinki Athletica long johns; and then on 11/3 in very brief white DJX Signature briefs, apparently contemplating the excellent penis contained within

I’ll revisit those two appearances (with notes on the sociosexual worlds of gay men) and then turn to the English garment lexicon, focusing on long johns, tights, leggings, and the union suit.

But first, a bit more about the presentation of Helgi in #1.

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Nobody expects the Yinglish interjection

September 29, 2021

An e-mail exchange on 9/28 between Richard Vytniorgu and me, thinking out loud together on various topics, including the prejudice within the LGBT community against  the twinkish, the sexually receptive, the submissive, and the effeminate amongst us queers — all, apparently, on the grounds that such men are wanting in conventional masculinity and so are defective even as queers; they’re just too gay-acting, in the view of some of our number. Richard is an effeminate submissive sexually receptive twink, so he’s got a huge emotional investment in the matter; I am merely a bottom by preference, but I’ve been becoming increasingly militant and outspoken in this arena, moving towards the view that Richard and his kind should be seen as central to the larger community, not as peripheral misfits.

But that’s not what I’m after in *this* posting. Instead, it’s what happened in this exchange between us:

RV: I feel for Tannor [Reed] as I do for all twinks in the [gay porn] industry. Gays can be so hypocritical sometimes: they love to watch us, but will publicly punish or shame us when it suits them. You may have heard of [twink X; his story isn’t the point here, just his being treated with contempt]

AZ: Oi.

RV: What does this mean?

Here’s where I need to remind you that Richard is British and I am American.

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Zippy exits, pursued by a board

August 16, 2021

(Warning: high fecality content, which some may find unpleasant.)

Todays Zippy strip, in which Zippy is subjected to stoner / surfer verbal abuse:


(#1) Zippy and his surf iron

As usual, there’s a lot here — I admire Beavis’s one wave shy of a wipeout (see Mark Liberman’s 7/14/05 LLog posting “A few players short of a side” on the Snowclone of Foolishness {small quantity of essential items} short / shy of a {desirable collection}) and the laundry-musician pun in the title “Bleach Boy” — but I’ve picked out the mildly abusive expression iron my shorts for full-bore scrutiny.

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News from the rose garden

May 12, 2021

Mail from the Park of Roses in Columbus OH a few days ago, to say that the variety in the rose bed dedicated in my man Jacques’s memory had recently been replaced by a new variety, with an interesting name:


(#1) Grandiflora rose ‘Cardinal Song’ (from the Dave’s Garden website)

It’s all about that shade of red: the color of the bird whose song provides the name for the flower. Both the bird and that shade of red get their name from the color of a cardinal’s robes in the Roman Catholic Church.

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Z & G tumble into a thesaurus

April 10, 2021

Yesterday’s Zippy strip has Zippy and Griffy falling into a delirium of word attraction, savoring a smorgasbord of colorful synonyms, plundering the Rogetian treasures:

(#1)

592 is the compendium section of Peter Mark Roget’s 1852 Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases. If we’re to trust Bill Griffith, the 1st edition had numbered subsections, and 592.4 had the words thesaurus, index, archive, and idioticon (yes, idioticon; see below). The successor edition that I have (the 4th, billed as “Americanized”) has a quite different 592, focused on words for abbreviated compendia, like resumé and summary — but the volume does have the word thesaurus, in four different sections. Details below, after I give you some background.

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dildo, the insult

April 1, 2021

A Twitter comment on yesterday’s posting on dildos, the sex toys — entitled “Mitch is always DTF”  (Mitch is a dildo) — reminded me that the word dildo has developed a use as a slur or term of abuse, and that — despite this blog’s long-standing attentions to dildos as sex toys, to slurs in general, and to the development of vocabulary in the sexual domain into terms of abuse — I hadn’t previously recorded this development here. So here comes a gang of fuckin’ stupid dildos.

From GDoS:

1 a general term of abuse: a fool, an incompetent [clear examples are 20th century; in American slang dictionaries in the 1960s, e.g. College Undergraduate Slang Study 1967-8 Dildo A person who always does the wrong thing; 1998 what a pair of fuckin dildos] …

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All about -ette

March 28, 2021

Diminutive, feminine (in some sense), both. In the One Big Happy strip of 3/4, in my comics feed on 3/36:

(#1)

In modern English — that’s important — the suffix -ette has two relatively productive — that’s also important — functions: as a literal diminutive, referring to a small version of the referent of the base to which –ette is attached (“diminutive” suffixes can have a variety of other functions, notably as expressing affection towards this referent); and as a literal feminine, referring to a female version of the referent of the base to which –ette is attached (“feminine” suffixes can have a variety of other functions, notably as markers of grammatical gender (ggender), as opposed to natural, or sex, gender (ngender); English doesn’t have ggender).

The big generalization about modern English is that –ette attached to bases with inanimate reference (like disk) tends to have the literally diminutive function (diskette), while attached to bases with human (or, more generally, higher-animate) reference (like usher), –ette tends to have the literally feminine function (usherette). Novel formations follow the generalization: a spoonette would be a small spoon, not a spoon in female shape, or a spoon intended for use by girls and women; while a guardette would be a female guard (perhaps viewed dismissively or derogatorily), not a miniature guard.

Ruthie’s brother Joe apparently fails to appreciate the big –ette generalization, and takes a bachelorette to be a miniature bachelor, rather than the female counterpart of a bachelor (in Joe’s terms, a grown-up girl — a woman — who isn’t married yet).

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