Friday, 8 May 2009

verdigris and ooze

The beautiful word verdigris evokes a greeny-grey colour due to its association with the French words vert "green" and gris "grey", but this is a folk etymology. It was originally Old French vert de Grece literally "green of Greece". The OED says "The terminal syllable at an early date was no longer understood and hence underwent various corruptions of spelling and pronunciation." In other words, the last element was interpreted as something that people understood, so vert de Grece became vert de grice then vert-de-gris.

Old French vert, verd "green" is from Latin uiridis "green, blooming, vigorous". This is related to Latin uireō "to be green", from Pokorny 1. u̯eis 1133 "to sprout, grow". This possibly became German Wiese "meadow" and Old English wīse "shoot, sprout" which according to the OED is related to wāse "mire, mud" and English ooze "soft mud or slime". The AHD places ooze with another homophonous root.

No comments :