Wednesday, 11 June 2008

radish and licorice

Proto-Indo-European *wreh₂d- "branch, root". The Latin derivative, rādix "root" was borrowed into Old English as rædic which became radish.

Greek had the almost identical ῥάδιξ rhadix. Another Greek derivative is possibly ῥίζα rhíza "root" (as in rhizome). This combined with γλυκύς glukús "sweet" (as in glycerine, from PIE *dlkú- "sweet") to create γλῠκύ-ρρῑζα glŭkú-rrīza "sweet root, licorice", borrowed into Latin as glycyrrhiza, which became late Latin liquiritia, becoming Anglo-Norman lycorys, and then English licorice. Modern Italic languages have metathesized forms: French réglisse, Italian regolizia.

But ferst he cheweþ grayn and likoriȜe
To smellen swoote or he hadde kembt his here
(But first he cheweth cardamom and licorice / To smell sweet, ere he had combed his hair)
- Chaucer, The Miller's Tale, c1390

While looking up licorice I found lickerish, a word from the 16th century meaning "dainty, greedy, lecherous". It was formed from the 13th century word lickerous by replacing the -ous suffix with -ish. The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology tells us that it was "Perverted to liquorish (XVIII) to express fondness for liquor."

lickerous was borrowed from Anglo-Norman *likerous, a variant of lecheros "lecherous", which was borrowed from Proto-Germanic *likkōjan "to lick". (lick is from the same source.) The Proto-Indo-European root is *leigʱ- "to lick". One of the Greek cognates, λίχν-ευμα (líkhn-euma), also meant "dainty".

And sikerly sche hadde a likerous yhe
(and surely she had a wanton eye)
- Chaucer, The Miller's Tale, c1390

liquor is unrelated to either licorice or lickerish.

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