Tuesday, 11 December 2007

pecorino and fee

Pecorino is an Italian sheep's cheese that goes well with fava beans. The word comes from Italian pecora "ewe, sheep", from Latin pecus "cattle". The Proto-Indo-European root is *peḱu- "wealth, movable property, livestock".

In Proto-Germanic, *peḱu- became *fehu, then Old English feoh "cattle, goods, money", and then English fee.

The suffixed form *peḱu-l- became Latin pecūlium "riches in cattle, private property", borrowed into Middle English as peculier "personal", becoming English peculiar.

The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots has an interesting note on *peḱu-. The Indo-Europeans differentiated between two-footed and four-footed wealth: *wī̆-ro- "man" referred to slaves, and *peḱu- referred to livestock. The two words were used together to refer to one's total movable wealth. Sanskrit वीरप्श vīrapśa "abundance of men and livestock" (from earlier *vīra-pśva from *wīro-pḱw-o-) corresponds to Latin pecudēsque uirōsque "both men and livestock", Umbrian uiro pequo "men and livestock", and Avestan pasu vīra "men and livestock".


mskitkat said...

So that's why the Brits call arugula "rocket". It still tastes yucky.

B said...

Incidentally, the word "vee" is still used in Dutch to denote cattle.