Wednesday, 20 October 2010

shinen, shined, shone

Gabe's excellent post on shined and shone prompted me to investigate the claim in the Huffington Post article:

Shine is one of those “strong verbs” that had an irregular past tense and past participle (shone) but later acquired a regular form ending in -ed as well.

If they mean that the past participle was shone first and then shined later, then no. A quick look in the OED tells me that shone only came to be used as the past participle in the second half of the 16th century. Before that the past participle was shined.

In fact, the verb has had three past participles.

sinen, from earlier *scinen - presumably this is the earliest past participle, compare the German past participle geschienen and Dutch geschenen:

Ðe leun ne stireð he nout of slepe Til ðe sunne haueð sinen ðries him abuten. - Bestiary, c1220

shined - as Gabe says, this was the most common past participle between 1300 and 1700:

The mone is alway halfe shyned of the sonne. - Trevisa, Bartholomeus (de Glanvilla) De proprietatibus rerum, 1398

We are sure, the good-will of Him who dwelt in the Bush has shined upon us. - Oliver Cromwell, Letters and speeches, 1648

And shone, originally the strong preterite form, started to be used as the past participle in the mid-1500s:

The aultars where the sacred flames haue shone. - George Gascoigne, Jocasta, 1566

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

shine, squirrel, tinsel

Proto-Indo-European *skeh₂i- "to gleam" in the suffixed zero-grade form *skeh₂i-no- became Proto-Germanic *skīnan and English shine.

It's thought the word also meant "shadow", or maybe its sense changed to "shadow" in some cases? Anyway the Greek derivative is apparently σκιά "shadow". This combined with οὐρά "tail" to form σκίουρος "shadow-tail, i.e. squirrel". This was borrowed into Latin as sciūrus, and diminutivized to scurellius, becoming Old French esquireul, escureul (whence modern French écureuil), becoming Anglo-French esquirel, borrowed into English as squirrel.

Possibly there was a suffixed form *skeh₂i-nto- which became Latin scintillāre "to sparkle, glitter". This became *stincillāre by metathesis, becoming Old French estinceler "to sparke, to sparkle as fire; to twinkle as a starre or Dyamond; to set thicke with sparkles" (Cotgrave). The past participle estincelé "sparkled, sparked, also powdered or set with sparkles" found its way into English as tinsel, tincel.

Sunday, 3 October 2010


I've trudged my way thru China Miéville's Kraken - I say trudged because altho I enjoyed it, I found his idiosyncratic prose style hard to get past. I don't remember having this problem with Perdido Street Station or The Scar. Anyway, the book's about a Neverwhere or King Rat-style magical London where various weird groups are fighting over a zombie squid. What's not to like? I learned a new word in this sentence about the Chaos Nazis:

Their symbol was the eight-pointed Chaos star altered to make a Moorcock weep, its diagonal arms bent fylfot, a swastika that pointed in all directions.

He's referring to the eight-armed symbol of Chaos used in the Elric novels. The fylfot or fylfot cross, tho, is a real thing, it's another word for swastika. The generally accepted etymology is simply fill-foot, as in a design to fill the foot of a painted window. The OED provides this citation from the Landsdowne manuscripts:

Let me stand in the medyll pane..a rolle abo[ve my hede] in the hyest..[pane] vpward, the fylfot in the nedermast pane vnder ther I knele

The OED notes that it might have been a nonce word in this citation, a word created for this particular purpose.

In French the design is cramponné "cramped", in German it's Hakenkreuz "hooked cross", and in Greek it's γαμμάτιον/γαμμάδιον (gammadion) because it's formed from the letter Γ gamma. In Sanskrit, svastika means "lucky or auspicious object".