English Words and Their Background

By George H. McKnight | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XI
BLENDING OF THE VARIOUS ELEMENTS

Coming as they do from such varied sources, the words of the English vocabulary offer some curious phenomena. In connection with the French words of Latin origin, and in connection with words of Arabic origin, mention has been made of the doublets, that is to say, independent words springing from one word owing to different modifacations undergone on different routes into English. The various routes that have led to the English language have produced some strange transformations. The word that coming through Anglo-Saxon English produces shirt, a garment for the upper part of the body, coming through Scandinavian channels produces the skirt for below the waist. In the same way the word that in native English becomes wain, comes through the Dutch as wagon. From the Persian word for 'turban,' dulband, have come not only English turban, but tulip. The native English thatch comes directly from a Teutonic word which through the Dutch yields deck. One Persian word for ruler, through its use as the name for the 'king' in the game of chess, and through the migrations of that game, has yielded the common English verb check; imported directly in more recent time, the same word appears as shah. What is nothing less than a linguistic freak is the pair of words, names for related musical instruments, coming from the Greek pandoura, one coming through Italian and French in the form mandolin, the other through the Italian, but with Negro modifications, as banjo.

The possibility of the multiplication of words is mani

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