Thursday, 27 December 2007

viper, whisky, zodiac

The Proto-Indo-European root is *gʷeih₃- "to live". The suffixed zero-grade form *gʷi-wo- became Latin *uīuipera "having live young", and this became uīpera "snake" - in the mistaken belief that snakes do not lay eggs, I guess. (And as pointed out in the comments, they sort of don't.) uīpera became English viper thru Old French.

This form also became Old English cwicu "alive", and Modern English quick.

The form *gʷī-wo-tūt became Old Irish bethu "life", and this combined with uisce "water" to form Irish Gaelic uisce beatha "water of life". This was borrowed into English as usquebaugh, and this was altered to whiskey.

The suffixed zero-grade form *gʷih₃-o- became Greek βίος bios "life", and this gives us words like biotic and amphibian.

The suffixed form *gʷyō-yo- became Greek ζῷον zōion "animal", giving us the words zoo and zodiac.


Linca said...

vipers actually are ovoviviparous, which is quite close to being viviparous :

Jangari said...

That quick bit is interesting (as is of course all of it), since I'd always wondered why they call it quickening when the mother first feels her unborn child move.