False Etymology


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False Etymology

 

an explanation of the origins of a word which does not correspond to its actual history. In contrast to scholarly etymology, false etymology is based not on the laws of language development but on a fortuitous similarity between words. (For example, deriving Russian derevnia, “countryside,” “village,” from derevo, “tree,” whereas derevnia originally meant “a place cleared of trees for plowing.”)

Collective false etymology, or popular etymology, reflects the tendency on the part of speakers to invent maximum semantic justification for linguistic signs. Popular etymology can lead to changes in the meaning or phonetic structure of words, most often of foreign origin. For example, Russian verstak, “carpenter’s bench,” from German Werkstatt, received its form by analogy with Russian versta’, “to arrange typeset pages in order for printing”; Latin vagabundus (“strolling”) became, in Spanish, vagamundo (under the influence of the Spanish word mundo, “world”) and was construed as “he who wanders/goes around the world.”

References in periodicals archive ?
Hamlet is not so disconnected: a series of puns and other pointers that de Grazia unearths keeps the dirt, stage space, and empire over which Hamlet conflicts with the gravedigger, Laertes, and Claudius in our faces: for example, mole and mold (29), moor as an insult for Claudius and as a place (33), hide as a unit of land (35), plot (36-37), groundlings (44), the false etymology of clown as colonus "a tiller of the soil" (44, 132), and even such phrases as Hamlet's "my wit's diseased.
A false etymology is a false belief about the historical origins of
The word "real" was a perfectly good Old French word meaning "royal" (as it does in today's Spanish); Brown's error in translation springs from his vast ignorance of the history of the medieval Grail legend, not false etymology.
The word etymythology refers to false etymology that is associated with a myth or story "explaining" the origin of a word or phrase.
No support is provided for the declaration of "Ruzante's false etymology of his own name" (65), nor does Ferguson report other scholars' views on the issue.
And Taussig's contempt for scholarship leads him into lengthy absurdities, as when he hooks an entire section discussing the impact of cars on the Latin American landscape on a false etymology for the word chevere: "The expression chevere that came to signify 'wonderful' was in fact derived from the Chevie.