Wednesday, 13 August 2008

fractal, sassafras, brioche

Our Proto-Indo-European root is *bʰreg- "to break". The zero-grade nasalized form *bʰr-n-g- became Latin frango "to break", pp. fractus "broken", giving us words like fractal, frangible, fragile.

The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology says sassafras is from Spanish sasafrás or Portuguese sassafraz, of unknown origin. But the AHD says the Spanish is from Late Latin saxifragus "rock-breaking" (from its being found in rock crevices), a combination of frango and saxum "rock" (from PIE *sek-). The plant genus Saxifraga is so named for the same reason.

*bʰreg- became Proto-Germanic *ƀrek- and English break and breach. The Proto-Germanic form was borrowed into Old French, becoming brier "to knead", then brioche.


komfo,amonan said...

This reminds me of an old teacher I had, named Frangipani ("bread breaker"). Wikipedia tells of a medieval Roman family by that name, one of whose members invented a perfume using flowers of a plant which now bears the same name.

goofy said...

I know frangipane is an almond filling. I didn't know it was a name too!