Folk Etymology


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.

Folk Etymology

 

the reinterpretation and transformation of obscure words (for the most part, of foreign origin) through their association with similar-sounding words or meaningful parts of words in one’s native language. Folk etymology is based on purely fortuitous, external sound correspondences. For example, in Russian, the substandard word poluklinika (literally, “semiclinic”) is used instead of its standard literary counterpart, poliklinika (“polyclinic”), owing to the association of the unfamiliar poli- with the familiar Russian form polu- (“half-,” “semi-,” “hemi-”). The English word “crayfish,” derived from Middle French crevice, is another example of folk etymology.

References in periodicals archive ?
Although the transformation of a Calo term into flamenco may represent a folk etymology on the part of Castilian patrons and publics of Gypsy music, I judge it more likely that it was the interaction of Gypsy entertainers with tavern-owners, their initially lower class publics, horse traders, the bull-fighting community, in short, the speakers of germania or cant, that effected the final shaping of the word, and this through a conscious and jocosely cryptolalic appeal to a known ethnonym, flamenco, "Flemish.
And indeed, it is the rarebit and not the rabbit that represents folk etymology, or more precisely etymythology.
I would like to propose now to slightly extend this definition and to define folk etymology more generally as any kind of better motivation of a word, motivated or unmotivated.
Technically speaking, the term folk etymology is not entirely correct because we are not dealing with etymology.
According to linguists the names are motivated by the red or reddish-brown feathers of the birds, even though folk etymology sometimes associates them, erroneously, with the alder tree (Suolahti 1906 : 141-142; Mager 1967 : 166-167).
An alternate explanation is that it is a folk etymology of gyros (pronounced yee-roh; phonetics experts and those fluent in Greek may feel free to pick at my representation of the proper pronunciation.
back-formation) IV Semantic pseudo-loan from +/- -(-) 0 another language or variety V Partial folk etymology, - + - blending, truncation (incl.
In common practice, folk etymology attributes to jiu, homophonous with the word meaning "nine," the sense "nine birds," because the left and right components of the graph can be separated out as "nine" and "bird" But this equivalence need not detain us.