Thursday, 24 March 2011

dekko and tarragon

But now there was a listlessness about her, not the listlessness of the cat Augustus but more that of the female in the picture in the Louvre, of whom Jeeves, on the occasion when he lugged me there to take a dekko at her, said that here was the head upon which all the ends of the world are come.
- PG Wodehouse, Jeeves in the Offing

A dekko/dekho/decko is a look. It was borrowed as army slang in the late 1800s from Hindi देखो dekho, the imperative of देखना dekhanā "to look". This is derived in some fashion from Sanskrit द्रक्ष्यति drakṣyati, the future of दृश् dr̥ś "to see". And dr̥ś is from Proto-Indo-European *derḱ- "to look".

I've written about this root before. It's thought that it gives us tarragon thru a convoluted series of borrowings - Greek δράκων drakōn "dragon" to Arabic طرخون ṭarẖwn then back to Greek as ταρχών tarkhōn, then Latin as tragonia/tarchon, then English tarragon. Tarragon is also known as dragonwort, and its Latin name is dracunculus.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

qindarka and decussate

qindarka is a unit of Albanian currency.

Albanian qindarka (the q represents the palatal stop /c/) is the definite form of qindarkë, which is qindar plus a diminutive suffix. qind is "hundred", from Proto-Indo-European *dḱm̥-tom "hundred". This is the source of Latin centum, Sanskrit śatam, and English hund-red.

*dḱm̥-tom is a zero-grade suffixed form of *deḱm̥- "ten". This became English ten, Latin decem, Sanskrit dasa, etc. Latin decussis was the number ten, hence X, and a kind of coin.

decussate means "To cross, intersect, lie across, so as to form a figure like the letter X".

Thursday, 3 March 2011

geezer and twit

The OED tells us that geezer is a dialectical pronunciation of guiser "one who guises, a masquerader, a mummer".

1893 R. O. Heslop Northumberland Words, Geezer, a mummer; and hence any grotesque or queer character.

guise "to go about in disguise, or masquerade dress" was derived from the noun guise "manner, method, way, fashion, style", borrowed from Old French guise, which was borrowed from Proto-Germanic *wīsōn- "appearance, form, manner" from Proto-Indo-European *weid- "to see" (AHD).

Old French guise plus the des-/de- prefix became desguisier, borrowed into English as disgisen/disguise "to alter the guise or fashion of dress and appearance" (OED).

*weid- became Old English wītan "to blame, reproach". This plus the prefix æt- became atwite "to cast an imputation upon, reproach". This became twite thru aphesis, then twit "a (light) censure or reproach; a taunt; a fool; a stupid or ineffectual person" (OED).