Sunday, 14 March 2010

torpedo and starve

Proto-Indo-European *(s)ter- "stiff" in the extended zero-grade stative form *tr̥-p-eh₁-i̯e- became Latin torpēre "to be stiff". Torpēdo "stiffness, numbness" was applied to the electric ray, genus Torpedo, family Torpedinidae, because

Torpido is a fisshe, but who-so handeleth hym shalbe lame & defe of lymmes that he shall fele no thyng.
- Lawrens Andrewe, The noble lyfe & natures of man

In the 18th century, torpedo was used for an underwater bullet, and then later for a self-propelled underwater missile.

The extended form *ster-bʰ- became Old English steorfan "to die", as in "become stiff", becoming English starve.

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