Tuesday, 6 April 2010

pretzel and mirth

I love pretzels.

Pretzel was borrowed from German Bretzel, borrowed from 12th century Latin bracellus "kind of cake or biscuit", from Latin brāchiātus "having arms" plus the suffix -ellus. According to the OED, the biscuit was so named "on account of the resemblance to folded arms".

The OED also notes "The English form with initial p- probably represents a perception of the unaspirated pronunciation of b- in regional German (south.)." But that doesn't explain how we get the aspirated /p/ from an unaspirated /b/.

Latin brāchium "arm" was borrowed from Greek βραχίων "arm", the comparative of βραχύς "short", also "upper arm" as opposed to the longer forearm.

βραχύς is from Proto-Indo-European *mreǵʰ-u- "short".

The zero-grade form *mr̥ǵʰ-u- became Old English myrge and English merry, altho the semantic development is obscure to me. With the Proto-Germanic *-þō suffix it became Old English myrgð "joy", and English mirth. So the pair merry/mirth was formed the same way as foul/filth, heal/health, strong/strength, slow/sloth, etc.

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The Baranxtu National Review said...
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