CALVERT WATKINS, RIP.

A correspondent has sent me the sad news that Calvert Watkins passed away in his sleep last night. I met him only once, forty years ago or so, on a memorable evening when the Harvard Indo-Europeanists (of whom he was the fearless leader) came to New Haven to visit the Yale Indo-Europeanist contingent (of which I was an aspiring acolyte); he was so much fun to hang out with that I envied my Cambridge counterparts. The general dictionary-reading public knows him for his appendix of Indo-European roots for The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (an abridged version of the introduction is available here); his more specialized work is described briefly in the Wikipedia article I linked to his name, and hopefully an appropriate obituary will be provided by one of those who knew and worked with him. Meanwhile, I doff my hat to the memory of a fine scholar.

Comments

  1. The link is not to an abridged version of the introduction. It’s an abridgement of “The Indo-European Origin of English”, which appears on pages xix-xx, and “Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans”, which appears on pages 1496-1502, both in my (today seldom-used) hard-copy AHD.
    Wiki says the second edition, published in 1980, omitted the Indo-European etymologies and that they reappeared in the third.
    I presume my copy is of the first edition, even though the last of the many copyright dates is 1981.

  2. J.W. Brewer says:

    Vechnaya Pamyat. As I’m sure I’ve said before on this blog, that IE stuff in the back of the AHD (which I got as some sort of academic prize in junior high circa 78 or 79 – I still have the same copy floating around my house) was one of the key causal factors that led me to wind up with a B.A. in linguistics, in which context I had the good fortune to be taught historical linguistics by Stephanie Jamison, hat’s onetime grad school classmate and Prof. Watkins’ wife.

  3. Our paths intersected briefly 11 or 12 years ago when I emailed him with a query about the Hittite word for “beer”: the fact that he was happy to reply politely and at length to a complete stranger who was clearly an etymological idiot showed to me what kind of a man he was.

  4. I enjoyed very much his introductory course on historical linguistics, which I took probably in 1964, or it could have been 1963. It was so interesting that I thought for a time I’d like to do historical linguistics. But I don’t think I ever actually met or talked to Watkins.
    Coincidentally, just a couple of days ago in a discussion of “wage slavery”, I recalled dimly a lecture Watkins gave on a reconstruction of IE laws governing the recovery of escaped slaves, and I looked about the web a bit, but couldn’t find anything. Maybe one of you has a reference? The term I recall is “laws of sodality”, but actually, “sodality” seems to mean something quite different. So I remained puzzled.

  5. Johan Anglemark says:

    Sorry to hear that. I read and enjoyed his “How to kill a dragon” only a couple of months ago.

  6. dearieme says:

    ‘the Hittite word for “beer”‘ would be an excellent title for a short story.

  7. the fact that he was happy to reply politely and at length to a complete stranger who was clearly an etymological idiot showed to me what kind of a man he was.
    Well, yours may have been one of the better enquiries. He was probably relieved it wasn’t some idiot wanting a tattoo of the Hittite word for ‘beer’.

  8. marie-lucie says:

    dearieme: I would love to read it.

  9. The Bartleby.com version of AHD’s appendix on IE roots (with the Watkins intro) is archived here. (I pointed this out when Bartleby’s licensing deal with AHD came to an end, and fortunately the Wayback Machine still obliges.)

  10. Oh. This is… We all say that we’ve read various dictionaries cover-to-cover but the AHD appendix/ stand-alone Indo-European Roots dictionary is probably the only dictionary I’ve actually read every single word of (that and Streitberg’s Gothic). How to Kill a Dragon was extremely readable as well. Cornerstones of my linguistic consciousness. RIP.

  11. Greg Lee: I think the term you want is “noxality”. Noxal surrender was a Latin legal rule whereby if a son, a slave, or a wife in her husband’s power damaged a third party, the father/owner/husband could hand over his legal rights in the culprit as an alternative to paying for the damage. The name of the Watkins article is “Studies in Indo-European Legal Language, Institutions, and Mythology” (1970); it doesn’t seem to be on line.

  12. Have you ever had your morning toast prepared by a Michelin chef? Neither have I, but Calvert Watkins taught my core (i.e. for non majors) introductory linguistics class, which even then I recognized as an obscene intellectual luxury. [I also received a walking tour of Tallinn from Jaan and Martin Puhvel, but that’s another story].

  13. marie-lucie says:

    JC: if a son, a slave, or a wife in her husband’s power damaged a third party, the father/owner/husband could hand over his legal rights
    What happened if a daughter was the culprit? or a widow? And if it was a wife, what was her new status?
    a wife in her husband’s power
    Is this phrase still part of English legal language? There is a similar phrase in French: une femme en puissance de mari, but I don’t know if it is still part of the legal code (which was revised in the 1970’s to remove the most misogynist aspects of Napoléon’s work).

  14. J.W. Brewer says:

    m-l: Anglo-American law used to use the Law French jargon-word “coverture” to describe the condition of a married woman (she was “covered” by her husband and as a feme covert lacked, considered as an individual, various rights related to contract and property that an unmarried adult feme sole, whether spinster or widow, would possess). Both the word and the practical inequalities it represented were so far gone from American law that you wouldn’t have learned either by the time I started law school in the late 1980’s unless for some reason you were taking a class with enough of a historical perspective that you had to read a lot of very old court decisions and be able to understand what they were talking about.

  15. I came across How to Kill a Dragon in a bookstore a few months ago, and was seriously tempted to get it on the title alone, but in the end I left it on the shelf because I suspected it’d be hopelessly over my head.

  16. The first OED citation for noxal “Of or relating to damage or injury done by a person or animal belonging to or in the power of another” is:
    1606 S. Daniel Queenes Arcadia iii. i. sig. E4v, I ouer-whelme My practise too, with darknesse, and strange words, With..Codicilles, Acceptilations, Actions rescissorie, Noxall, and Hypothecall.
    Which seems appropriate.

  17. J.W. Brewer says:

    Alas, the legal profession (at least in the U.S. – which antique jargon has been retained and which discarded varies considerably among Anglophone legal systems) seems to have lost noxality along with acceptilations, although we certainly still have codicils and hypotheticals. It would be odd to actually say/write “actions rescissory” instead of “actions for rescission,” but the meaning of the older phrase remains transparent.

  18. Black’s Law Dictionary has an entry for noxal:
    adj. Archaic. Of or relating to a claim against a father or owner for damages done by a son, a slave, or an animal.
    Also noxal action:
    [fr. Latin actio noxalis “injurious action”] 1. Roman law. The claim against a master or father for a tort committed by a son, a slave, or an animal. [The dictionary inserts a bullet here.] The head of the family could be sued either to pay a penalty due or to surrender the tortfeasor to the victim. Roman law also provided for the surrender of animals that caused damage under actio de pauperie. 2. hist. A person’s claim to recover for damages committed by a person’s son, slave, or animal.
    No mention of daughters.

  19. Black’s also has entries for coverture, acceptilation and actio rescissoria.

  20. Greg Lee says:

    Thanks, John, yes, it must be “noxality” I was misremembering. I did find a relevant footnote on line, from a book “Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition”, by Harold Joseph Berman:
    http://books.google.com/books?id=9-8fIBVgCQYC&pg=PA567&lpg=PA567&dq=noxality+watkins&source=bl&ots=cJi7XFkepJ&sig=nWvJY3ShokOVkABMxjHOBf9X8bM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ytFMUfDPHqOXiALmiYCoBQ&ved=0CDUQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=noxality%20watkins&f=false

  21. marie-lucie says:

    son, slave, or animal
    So no mention of a wife or daughter having committed the wrongful act. She would no doubt have become a potential sex slave of the wronged man. But “slave” could imply a woman as well as a man. What is the Latin, servus or serva?

  22. “Calvert Watkins” = vast rectal wink.

  23. Note that noxal surrender was never part of the common law, and was very archaic even in the civil (Roman) law. English ecclesiastical law and admiralty law as well as Scots law incorporated Roman elements, though, so there was some study of the civil law even in England. There was a vaguely analogous common-law institution of deodand, by which an animal or inanimate object that caused a person’s death was forfeited to the Crown.

  24. Paul (other Paul) says:

    Looking up Actions recissorie, mentioned above, I found it in the Dictionary of the Scots Language at http://www.dsl.ac.uk/.
    This is the “electronic editions of the two major historical dictionaries of the Scots language: the 12-volume Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (DOST) and the 10-volume Scottish National Dictionary (SND). DOST contains information about Scots words in use from the twelfth to the end of the seventeenth centuries (Older Scots); and SND contains information about Scots words in use from 1700 to the 1970s (modern Scots). Together these 22 volumes provide a comprehensive history of Scots, and a New Supplement now (2005) brings the record of the language up to date. These are therefore essential research tools for anyone interested in the history of either Scots or English language, and for historical or literary scholars whose sources are written in Scots or may contain Scots usages.
    “In the DSL, these two dictionaries are being published together in their full form for the first time. Thus, information on the earliest uses of Scots words can be presented alongside examples of the later development of the same words. By making the DSL freely available on the Internet, we also aim to widen access to the source dictionaries and to open up these rich lexicographic resources to anyone with an interest in Scots language and culture. Its educational uses range from university research to help with the production of Scots materials for young children.”

  25. Trond Engen says:

    Old Indo-Europeanists never die, they acquire an asterisk.
    In his work on law, did he discuss Gmc. *þew-d-? I suspect that to have been the basic unit of society, the family or household.

  26. While it may be possible to reconstruct Watkins, there was definitely nothing hypothetical about him — except his hypotheses, obviously.

  27. David Marjanović says:

    I suspect that to have been the basic unit of society, the family or household.

    Why, when the attested forms both in- and outside of Germanic mean “people” or “tribe” or something?

  28. Trond Engen says:

    I’ll have to admit that I was sleepy and lazy and didn’t bother to be precise. I know that the word meant “tribe, nation”, but there’s a number of apparently root-related words in Germanic, and to me it looks as they might be united around “household”. In ON there’s þý f. “female slave” &lt *tew- “member of household”, þjá v. “enslave” &lt *tewjan- “take into the household”, þýða v. “seek support; interpret” &lt *tewdijan- “make friendly, – familiar”, þjóta v. “howl, weep, talk loosely, chatter” &lt *tewtan- “be homely”, þeysa v. “be goofy” &lt *tawsijan- “make homely”. (All reconstructed senses are my speculations.)

  29. m-l: Both servus and serva are attested in Latin; as usual, the masculine is the generic. Same story for filius/filia ‘son/daughter’.

  30. Ack, saved too soon. In noxal surrender, a surrendered child would become a child, not a slave, of the recipient. In terms of private rights, the distinction was in theory small: the father as well as the owner had the power of life and death over his dependents, and all lesser powers that went with that, whether or not they were routinely exercised. But politically and maritally a son was a citizen and potential husband independent of his father, whereas a slave had no political or marital rights at all.
    In practice, noxal surrender of children was considered too harsh a consequence for both children and parents, and was abandoned fairly early.

  31. Trond Engen says:

    Ouch. As you probably have noted my second attempt was phonologically sloppy. Being torn between PIE and PG forms, I ended up mixing them, but I don’t think it’s important the general point, so I won’t bother to clean them up now.
    Instead a couple of additional point:
    I forgot to mention þjá prep. “in the abode of”. In my ON dioctionary this is simply glossed as «= hjá». The word hjá (modern Nynorsh hjå) &lt *hía “of the dwelling”. The glossing implies an orthographic variant form, but it could also be a conflated parallel formation &lt *þýa “of the household”.
    The root *taw-t/s-/*tew-t/s- of þýta and þeysa is said to be ultimately onomatopoietic, but I don’t like that when it conforms so well to the general pattern. But it may well have acquired connotations from onomatopoetry.
    There’s an English word thew n. “strength, vitality; muscle, sinew”, «of obscure origin» according to my OED. M-W online connects it to OHG thau “custom”. It’s an obvious weakness that I don’t know how to work them in.
    Unless… the “enthrall” meanings of þý/þjá could also point to something like “bind” as the original sense of the verbal root, but I still think we need “household, family” to unite all ON forms.

  32. marie-lucie says:

    Thanks JC.
    Trond: we tend to think of “family, household” as referring to the “nuclear family”, but it is more likely to be the “extended family”, perhaps including “clan” and even larger units.
    There’s an English word thew n. “strength, vitality; muscle, sinew”
    I once met a woman whose last name was Thew, surely not a very common name.
    Dictionaries (unless etymological ones) list meanings starting with the most common ones, while the uncommon ones may be closer to the originals. In very ancient cultures, as in still existing cultures which maintain very old techniques, sinew is a very valuable product because of its strength and elasticity, and is often used for tying or binding things together permanently. (Query: is *tew related to English (to) tie?)
    the “enthrall” meanings of þý/þjá could also point to something like “bind” as the original sense of the verbal root
    Very likely. In my experience with another language family, the oldest roots are usually verbal, not nominal.
    The root *taw-t/s-/*tew-t/s- of þýta and þeysa is said to be ultimately onomatopoietic
    Onomatopoiea refers to words based on imitation of sounds heard, such as “cuckoo” or “chickadee”.
    I think the term is overused in a lot of historical explanations. I fail to see how *taw or *tew brings to mind any natural sounds, let alone the idea of ‘binding’ and ultimately of ‘human group bound together by descent, marriage or other defined customary ties, occupying the same house, compound or territory’.

  33. I once met a woman whose last name was Thew
    That surname is from theow ‘slave, bondman, thrall’ (Old English ðíow, þéow, þéo, strong masculine, beside Old English þeow, strong feminine, which is cognate with Old Norse þý, mentioned above).

  34. Seemingly not: the PIE root is *teuta for the tribal words, *deuk- for the tie. The d in Deutsch etc. comes from the general change of interdental fricatives to stops in all Germanic languages save English, Icelandic, and Faroese.

  35. Trond Engen says:

    John: I’m so sloven that the ‘tie’ connection didn’t strike me until now, and I agree that it doesn’t fit. Though I think there’s a small number of doublegrimmed words that some want to attribute to interdialect loans while the shift was in progress, others to an already shifted substrate, and others again to hypercorrection by the ungrimmly masses.

  36. Trond Engen says:

    Oh, and I should probably also apologize for not having quoted cognates outside ON.

  37. marie-lucie says:

    JC, oops, you are right about *t and *d, I should have thought a little longer before writing my “query”.

  38. David Marjanović says:

    In my experience with another language family, the oldest roots are usually verbal, not nominal.

    Most PIE roots are traditionally reconstructed as verbs. But there’s this:

    – Invited speaker 2: Frans Plank on the direction of derivation, mostly nouns adjectives and comparison of direction of derivation [in Maltese, I think] with English and German within specific semantic classes. Poor (present) Michael Spagnol got blamed for most of errors.
    A comment (from the discussion) by Frans Plank a propos basic vs. derived forms: “In Proto Indo-European, what we see as basic is actually derived. Etymological dictionaries of Indo-Euroean list roots as verbs which is probably more science-fiction than science.”

    From here. In the comments, I asked for details or a journal to watch; Bulbul hasn’t answered in 1 1/2 years. 🙁

    the general change of interdental fricatives to stops in all Germanic languages save English, Icelandic, and Faroese

    Arguably two separate changes: what is now called German and Dutch turned both of these fricatives into /d/*, while Frisian and Scandinavian merged [ð] into /d/ and [θ] into /t/. There’s a temporal gap between them as well: while the southern change spread from south to north even within High German, taking 100 or 200 years IIRC, the use of th in written Frisian ceased hundreds of years after that in Old Dutch – only in the 14th to 15th century, sez teh Pffft! of All Knowledge.
    * A new phoneme in High German, merged with the existing /d/ in Low.

    doublegrimmed words […] ungrimmly masses

    Thread won.

  39. David: Well, okay, but the use of th in written German did not cease until 1901. I agree about there being two separate changes, but I’m doubtful about the dates.

  40. marie-lucie says:

    David: bulbul’s quote from Frans Plank: “In Proto Indo-European, what we see as basic is actually derived. Etymological dictionaries of Indo-Euroean list roots as verbs which is probably more science-fiction than science.”
    I agree with the first sentence but would take the second one with a large grain of salt in the absence of relevant quoted data.
    I agree that many forms listed as “roots” (but longer than the typical CVC roots, and especially ending in vowels) are either derived or borrowings, listed for the proto-language because they are reconstructed from several attested families but showing traces of foreign origin or demonstrably borrowed from other languages.
    For the second sentence, I am not sure what Plank is objecting to. In most dictionaries of known languages nouns are more common than verbs. In the Swadesh lists (variations on 100- or 200-word lists of basic vocabulary meanings presumably common among humans everywhere, which are often used in trying to determine relationships between languages)*, there are about three times as many nouns as verbs, with a few adjectives thrown in*, in addition to other categories with very few members such as pronouns and negative words, while a dictionary of reconstructed roots might have mostly verbal roots and only a few nouns and adjectives.
    (*See Wikipedia history and word lists).
    Beyond the root, nouns derived from verbs are more common than the opposite. See for instance the numerous nominal derivatives of the verbal root *tew (probably ‘bind’) quoted above. This abundance of nouns derived from a single verbal root, with a wide range of meanings among the nouns, is not at all unusual.

  41. I see Plank is another of those monosyllabic Indo-Europeanists.

  42. Trond Engen says:

    I suppose one way to explain the origin of the ablaut system might be as derivations from a simple root form, and with that much hypothesizing done, one might as well assume that the roots were nominal.

  43. marie-lucie says:

    JC, What’s wrong with those monosyllabic Indo-Europeanists? The ones I am not too happy with are those who list many bi- or polysyllabic forms as “roots” rather than reconstructions of complete words.
    Trond, I don’t understand the reasoning behind your assumption.

  44. Trond Engen says:

    Not much reason, I’m afraid. I meant that making a hypothesis about the origin of the verbal root system is such a leap in itself that postulating nominal ur-roots is no big deal.

  45. m-l, by “monosyllabic Indo-Europeanists” I only meant those with monosyllabic names, like Jones, Grimm, Rask, Bopp, Frisk, Hamp, Pott, Schmidt, etc.

  46. marie-lucie says:

    JC: Grimm, etc: Since we were discussing “roots”, I confused monosyllabic with monosyllabist, if such a term exists. Not coincidentally, they were/are all of Germanic origin. That helped them in recognizing ablaut.

  47. David Marjanović says:

    Well, okay, but the use of th in written German did not cease until 1901.

    But that th never appeared in the place of early Old High German th. It was an ornamental flourish, possibly Hellenizing, on t.

  48. marie-lucie says:

    Trond: I meant that making a hypothesis about the origin of the verbal root system is such a leap in itself that postulating nominal ur-roots is no big deal.
    Perhaps, but I don’t think that the two hypotheses are equally defensible.

  49. Trond Engen says:

    m-l: It’s perfectly legitimate to explore the intricacies of the PIE verbal system. And it has indeed been done. But I also think that, perhaps, if your particular reconstruction says that the different ablaut forms are derived from something more basic, then it’ may be natural to assume that those basic somethings were nominal. But I don’t actually know anything of Plank or his work, so it’s not worth much.

  50. marie-lucie says:

    Trond: perhaps, if your particular reconstruction says that the different ablaut forms are derived from something more basic, then it’ may be natural to assume that those basic somethings were nominal
    I don’t see that this assumption follows. Take my earlier example of English sing/sang/sung/song where the first three are forms of the same verb and the last one a noun. I don’t know the details of the evolution of those four forms and what the most “basic” form of the root has been determined to be (most likely none of the above forms, but one from which these forms can be derived), but to my knowledge there is no reason to assume that the single noun song is more basic than the multiple verbal forms.
    As pointed out by David M before, the German equivalent of song is not *sVng (where V is yet another vowel), but Gesang, which is derived from a verbal root through the addition of the prefix ge-. If the basic root was nominal, it should not have needed an extra prefix to form a noun while the verb forms remained unprefixed.

  51. It’s clear in the case of song that it is a differentiated form of sang. In OE, sang was more common than song as the noun. In Dutch, the reverse happened: zang is the noun, zong the preterite. On the gripping hand, sang does double duty in Danish, as it did in Old High German.

  52. Trond Engen says:

    m-l: I don’t mean picking one of the ablaut forms and claiming it to be original because it’s nominal. I imagined a hypothesis deriving all the forms from some even deeper root and some worn-down additional morphemes. Depending on the function and semantic origin of those morphemes, nominal roots might make sense. But, as I tried to say, identifying such morphemes and etymologizing them is quite a leap.

  53. In the first OED quotation for noxal above, the word hypothecal also appears, which JWB not unnaturally read as hypothetical. The two words are different, though; a hypothec is the civil-law (that is, modern Roman law) analogue of the common-law mortgage. Civil-law institutions and concepts mostly have English names at all because of Scots law, which (unlike English law) had a “reception” of the civil law in the 15th century as a supplement to its own customary law, itself a mixture of Celtic, Norse, and early English customary law. Scotland still recognizes a list of specific textbooks of Roman law as a direct source of law.
    Acceptilation is also a purely civil-law term meaning a free release from repayment of a debt. (I could use a few of those right about now, thanks; I suspect many of us could.) Robert Louis Stevenson studied to be a “writer to the Signet”, the old Scots name for a solicitor, and in his essay “Virginibus Puerisque” delivered himself of the following sentence anent scraps of things he remembered from his education: “I still remember that Emphyteusis is not a disease, nor Stillicide a crime.” Emphyteusis was a form of land-tenure, characterized particularly by the payment of a rent that was fixed over a long term such as thirty years, that arose in late Imperial but pre-feudal times; stillicide is a servitude, the civil-law equivalent of an easement, consisting of the right to collect the rain that drips off a neighbor’s roof onto one’s own property.

  54. Janice Fukushima says:

    I was saddened to learn, belatedly, of Calvin Watkins’ passing. I took his course in historical linguistics in my first year of graduate school at Harvard. It was fascinating, but what I remember best is that, to my horror, one whole hour of the final exam was devoted to historical changes in Irish (if I remember correctly–this was back in the early 1960s). Since my main interest was the linguistics of far eastern languages, I had not paid enough attention to the single lecture in which Watkins discussed those changes. I fully expected to have failed the course, but happily, he allowed me to pass with a good grade.

  55. Ouch! I can imagine being in the reverse situation, since I was fascinated by Old Irish and would doubtless have gobbled up that lecture, but if he had devoted an hour of the exam to the linguistics of far eastern languages I probably would have been in trouble.

  56. David Marjanović says:

    Jones, Grimm, Rask, Bopp, Frisk, Hamp, Pott, Schmidt, etc.

    Other than the recently mentioned Siebs, there are Stang and neither last nor least Rix. I think I’ve seen yet more but can’t remember them right now.

  57. Fick certainly, and more marginally Kott (a Semitist, but also with European interests).

  58. Sorry, that should have been Kopp, not Kott. Hopefully this does not represent a generalized backing trend.

  59. Oots!

  60. David Marjanović says:

    If you mention Fick, you’ll have to mention his occasional coauthors Falk and Torp! I didn’t bring these three up because I don’t know if they ventured beyond the Germanic languages.

  61. I hereby declare them honorary Indo-Europeanists. Nomen ist omen.

  62. Don’t forget the (Emil) Sieg and (Wilhelm) Siegling, the pioneers of Tocharian studies (Sieg and Siegling 1908 was the first of their several joint publications). The duo sound like a pair of minor war deities out of a Germanic saga.

  63. ist

    Typo, or bilingual (but monoetymological) pun?

  64. Typo, but now that you’ve pointed it out I kind of like it.

  65. Man ist was man est.

  66. Man ist was man est or …was man isst.

  67. marie-lucie says:

    Gary is right: man ist was man isst

    (ist : 3rd sing of sein, isst : 3rd sign of essen).

    = French On est ce qu’on mange.

  68. Latin did something similar, with edere possessing optional 2ps, 3ps, 2pp and infinitive forms (ēs, ēst, ēstis, ēsse) which converge with esse if you ignore vowel length.

  69. Boring old English You are what you eat, with not a phoneme in common. But Walter de la Mare made poetry of it:

    It’s a very odd thing —
    As odd can be —
    That whatever Miss T eats
    Turns into Miss T.;
    Porridge and apples,
    Mince, muffins and mutton,
    Jam, junket, jumbles[*] —
    Not a rap, not a button
    It matters; the moment
    They’re out of her plate,
    Though shared by Miss Butcher
    And sour Mr. Bate;
    Tiny and cheerful,
    And neat as can be,
    Whatever Miss T. eats
    Turns into Miss T.

    Perhaps they all lived in the same boarding-house. For whatever reason, I see Miss T. as a schoolteacher.

    [*] “A kind of fine sweet cake or biscuit, formerly often made up in the form of rings or rolls”, says the OED, and gives a doubtful etymology < gimbal, gimmal ‘ring that can be divided into two parts horizontally’.

  70. Gary is right: man ist was man isst

    Yes, yes, I was making a little bilingual joke. Sadly, it flopped.

  71. David Marjanović says:

    Sieg and Siegling

    😀

    I presume their hypotheses immediately advanced to unchallenged textbook status?

  72. I presume their hypotheses immediately advanced to unchallenged textbook status?

    They deciphered Tocharian and discovered that it was more than one language. Any monograph on things Tocharian has to begin with a small ritual offering to the divine pair. Moreover, Siegling was a former student of Sieg, which explains the etymology of his name.

  73. Trond Engen says:

    It didn’t flop with me.

    Also, good thing I read to the end before making the comment about Siegling being a lesser name in IE linguistics.

  74. For whatever reason, I see Miss T. as a schoolteacher.

    I can’t see her as anything except very chesty.

  75. David Marjanović says:

    Moreover, Siegling was a former student of Sieg, which explains the etymology of his name.

    Come on. That’s too good to be true!

    (Seriously, I’ve been laughing for half a minute, with no end in sight.)

  76. David Marjanović says:

    I told my sister, and she got cute overload.

  77. As a teenager, I once read one of Thurber’s stories from My Life and Hard Times (possibly “More Alarms at Night”) and taped myself laughing: the laughter ran for 4m30s without a break. I used to play it back when I was feeling low.

  78. David Marjanović says:

    Wow. If you still have it, you should upload it on YouTube and watch it compete with Gangnam style within weeks.

  79. Don’t have the tape, don’t have a cassette player (or perhaps a micro-cassette player, I’m not sure). See the Dead Media Project (itself apparently dead since 2001).

    Just think, another three seconds and I’d be competing with John Cage!

  80. From Wikipedia I add Hirt, Sag, and honorable mentions de Hoz and de Vaan. Mair is also placed in the “Indo-Europeanist” category by WP, but I think that must be an error.

  81. 4′ 29″ where laughter used to be. That’ll keep the critics busy for decades.

  82. Well, Arlo Guthrie was told by President Carter’s son at the inauguration that Alice’s Restaurant was already in the White House record collection, which gave him a whole new idea about the famous 18½ minute gap on the Nixon tapes ….

  83. From Jespersen, that stubbornly trisyllabic Indo-Europeanist, I add Rapp, but after that we get into sesquisyllabic names like Schleicher and Müller, who clearly should have changed their names to Schleich and Moll for professional purposes.

  84. marie-lucie says:

    JC: sesquisyllabic names like Schleicher and Müller

    ????

  85. Literally, a word of one and a half syllables. In Southeast Asian linguistics it means a word where the second syllable is a full syllable, perhaps with a complex onset, diphthong or coda consonant, that bears the stress, but the first syllable is constrained to the form CV, typically Cə, and often but not always reduplicates the initial letter of the second syllable. Sesquisyllabic words are an areal feature of Southeast Asia, including Sino-Tibetan, Mon-Khmer, and Austronesian language families, though they are also found elsewhere in the world. I’m somewhat abusing the term here for words with full first syllables and unstressed final /ɐ/ or /ə/, which abound in German.

    Moll is an actual German surname probably unconnected with Müller; I don’t know its etymology. It also means ‘minor’, in the musical sense; Bach’s “Mass in B minor” is the “Messe in h-moll” in German, because the German note B is English B flat (French si bémol), whereas English B (French si) is known as H.

    Y’know, bémol (the word for ‘flat’ in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Albanian, and Russian, with varying orthography) sounds suspiciously like German b-moll, though it’s bemolle in Italian.

  86. The history of musical scales and notation is long and complex, but at one stage in the middle ages B denoted the position in the scale that was most often lowered and raised, and it was accordingly written as ♭ b rotundum/molle (bémol) and♮b quadratum/durum (bécarre) — thence the B and H of German notation. ♯ is yet another variant.

    Some centuries later, after several changes in both practice and theory, the signs came to denote flat and natural in general and the molle/durum part became German Moll/Dur. WP about accidentals gives you more detail than you probably wanted to know.

    So actually bémol as the name of the flat sign does have the same source as German B and Moll, but B-Moll is a recombination of the parts and denotes something that the people who came up with b molle would almost certainly not recognize.

  87. marie-lucie says:

    Thank you, JC and Lars for your explanations of “bémol” and its avatars. Italian”bemolle” surely has the same origin as French “bémol”. And I had no idea of the origin of “bécarre”. Now it all makes sense.

    JC: sesquisyllabic: Not having studied the Asian languages you refer to, I don’t think I had run into this word before, although I had seen sesquipedalian in some literary contexts. If “sesqui-” means ‘half’, I am still at a loss about the meaning of the latter word.

  88. No, sesqui means ‘one and a half (times)’; it’s rather beautifully from semis ‘half’ + –que ‘and.’

  89. Horace speaks of sesquipedalia verba ‘words 1 1/2 feet long’, thus neatly illustrating the fault he is criticizing, and Thomas Urquhart (the Scottish translator of Rabelais) of sesquihoral graces, meaning a prayer that lasts for an hour and a half.

    Similarly, the Latin word sestertius (anglicized sesterce) meant a coin originally worth 2 1/2 times the as, the smallest unit of Roman money, and therefore 1/4 of a denarius (= 10 asses). Originally the as was a certain weight (of bronze, when used as money) and was divided into 12 unciae ‘twelfths’, the ancestor of both inch (borrowed directly into Old English) and ounce (via Old French). This could be compounded to produce quincunx ‘5/12’, septunx ‘7/12’, nonuncia ‘9/12’, deunx ’11/12′; there was also semiuncia ‘1/24’. Other small fractions were triens ‘1/3’, quadrans ‘1/4’, dodrans ‘3/4’, sextans ‘1/6’.

    Added: German halb drei ‘half past two o’clock’ is analogous to (and may be a calque of) Latin ses-tertius. British English half three, however, means ‘half past three o’clock’. Which must be confusing.

  90. marie-lucie says:

    Thank you all. Actually I had some idea that sesquipedalian (in verse) means something too convoluted to be elegant, but could not fit the meaning of “ped-” ‘foot’ with the unknown “sesqui-‘.

    Juha, a fantastic plant and even more fantastic insect!

    JC, what a “convoluted” system! Do you know what the “dodr-” stem for ‘3/4’ is?

  91. de-quadrans ‘lacking a quarter’.

  92. I thought that sounded familiar: dodrans at LH four years ago.

  93. marie-lucie says:

    Thanks LH. No wonder the 175th anniversary is not very commonly observed.

  94. ♭ b rotundum/molle (bémol)

    Just heard a Russian joke based on visual similarity of ♭ with a Russian soft sign ь, which the aficionados here might appreciate.
    It goes like this, a band is rehearsing with photocopied sheet music which is faded near the edge of a page, and they can’t even figure out one note. After trying this and that, they agree that that it’s “G”, and one of the musicians, a Southerner, leaves behind a sheet with many corrections made and scratched, and a bold inscription over it: “СОЛ” (which would have been SOL ~~ G, except it has the “dark” unpalatalized L of the Georgian accent). A bit later, another band member frowns at the misspelling and adds a soft sign “Ь”, making it a properly palatalized СОЛЬ.
    Fast forward to the next rehearsal, and switch on your best Georgian accent. “Didn’t we argue about it last time until we figured that it was SOL? Well, look, somebody changed it in my sheet to SOL BEMOL!!” (Вчэра спорили, гаварили, рэшили что это СОЛ. Сэводня сматрю, кто-то мне исправил на СОЛ БЭМОЛ!!!)

  95. January First-of-May says:

    In the first OED quotation for noxal above, the word hypothecal also appears, which JWB not unnaturally read as hypothetical. The two words are different, though; a hypothec is the civil-law (that is, modern Roman law) analogue of the common-law mortgage.

    Whence Russian ипотека, a kind of real estate mortgage (fairly common, and fairly commonly discussed).

    Added: German halb drei ‘half past two o’clock’ is analogous to (and may be a calque of) Latin ses-tertius. British English half three, however, means ‘half past three o’clock’. Which must be confusing.

    Russian пол-третьего is equivalent to the Latin (not really to the German and English – it’s more like “half third”), and like the German means “half past two o’clock”.

  96. marie-lucie says:

    In French, a mortgage is une hypothèque.

  97. Von Bladet of the Desert, NM says:

    Added: German halb drei ‘half past two o’clock’ is analogous to (and may be a calque of) Latin ses-tertius. British English half three, however, means ‘half past three o’clock’. Which must be confusing.

    Dutch, inexplicably, follows German in this. They tell me that it is logical, whatever that is, and I taunt them in return that “half februari”, which is perfectly cromulent, should therefore mean half-way through January (which it doesn’t, because that would after all be stupid).

    A mortgage, meanwhile, is “een hypotheek”.

  98. If you think of halb drei as “halfway to three o’clock”, or “halfway point of the third hour”, it is easier to understand.

  99. If you think of halb drei as “halfway to three o’clock”, or “halfway point of the third hour”

    Especially if you know that dreivieltel Drei is 2:45.

  100. For some reason, I’ve always found that more natural than the British usage.

  101. l’m a low-context American and like half past best.

  102. Especially if you know that dreivieltel Drei is 2:45.
    But that is a regional variant – the standard has Viertel vor drei, which I grew up with. My parents have a friend from Hessen, and when I first heard her say dreiviertel drei or viertel drei (= Standard Viertel nach zwei) when I was a child, I didn’t know what time she meant.

  103. Danish still has halvanden in general and halv et and so on for times — and more famously has preserved the common Scandinavian base-twenty numbers that the other countries have cowardly forgotten and repressed all memory of, with halvtreds = 50, halvfjerds = 70 and halvfems = 90.

  104. Trond Engen says:

    We don’t count in Danish, God forbid, but forms like halvtredje, halvfjerde , etc. still have some dialectal currency. My father told about the time he got to meet and play with his halvfjerdemenning, i.e. his third cousin once removed.

  105. marie-lucie says:

    Hans: (Especially if you know that dreivieltel Drei is 2:45).
    – But that is a regional variant – the standard has Viertel vor drei, which I grew up with

    I was exposed to instruction in German in my teenage years (in the 50’s) and learned halb/viertel/dreiviertel before the next number, like the lady from Hessen said.

    (I say “exposed to instruction” because my teacher for the first two years, a native speaker of Alsatian, had no idea of the difficulties of German for French speakers, and as a result we learned very little).

  106. Alsace is not on this map, because it only shows Germany and not the German-speaking areas outside, but as Alsace borders on the viertel / dreiviertel corridor in the middle, it seems likely that Alsace belongs to that region and your teacher taught you what she used herself. These different ways of telling the time belong to a kind of regionalism that is typical for Germany – while there is one “official” form, the other forms are strong contenders and are not counted as “dialect”, but as regional variants of the standard (other cases are Samstag / Sonnabend for “Saturday” or the different words for “sidewalk” or “butcher”).

  107. marie-lucie says:

    Hans, I am pretty sure that Viertel 3 etc were also in the textbook.

    I am not sure if our teacher (a man) was old enough to have been schooled in German rather than French (he looked very old to us, but on the other hand he had a son who was in my class, so he might have been a little older than my parents’ generation). He also had a degree in German (and one in English).

  108. Well, I don’t know what was in your textbook, but the Duden (which is the standard authority used by schools and has quasi-official status) calls viertel X etc. landschaftlich (“regional”). Perhaps your textbook was an older one, based on a regional standard; I don’t know when exactly the education ministries of the states (education is a state matter in Germany) began to unify the way German is taught.

  109. marie-lucie says:

    It was so long ago, I haven’t seen the book for many decades!

  110. The British “half four” is not the same as the American “a quarter of eight”.

    In Boethius sesqui- is “and one over” rather than “and a half”
    * sesquialter/sesquialteral 3:2
    * sesquiterta/sesquitertan/sesquitertia/sesquitertial/sesquitertian/sesquiterce 4 : 3
    * sesquiquarta/sesquiquartan 5 : 4
    * sesquiquintan 6 : 5
    * sesquisextal 7:6
    * sesquiseptimal 8:7
    * sesquioctave/sesquioctava/sesquioctaval 9 : 8

  111. January First-of-May says:

    IIRC, sesqui is fairly well accepted to come from semis qui (i.e. “half and”), regardless of whatever it actually ended up meaning.

    On referring to time – in Russian, 2:15 would normally be четверть третьего (literally “quarter third”, i.e. something like “quarter [of] third [hour]”), while 2:45 would be без четверти три (literally “without quarter three”).
    A phrase like три четверти третьего (the literal translation of dreiviertel Drei) would probably be understood as referring to 2:45 (and I think I’ve even seen a similar construction in some old book), but it would be very unusual (OTOH, something like сорок пять минут третьего, i.e. “forty five minutes third”, would be at most only slightly unusual – and when the minutes are substracted, they often aren’t even mentioned as such, so we get gems like без пятнадцати три “without fifteen three” for that same 2:45).

  112. David Marjanović says:

    From Wikipedia I add Hirt, Sag, and honorable mentions de Hoz and de Vaan. Mair is also placed in the “Indo-Europeanist” category by WP, but I think that must be an error.

    Also, now that mainstream German is non-rhotic, Mair ( = Maier = Meier = Meyer etc. ad nauseam) is resolutely di- or arguably sesquisyllabic.

    (So are the surnames Baur and Knaur.)

    Russian пол-третьего is equivalent to the Latin (not really to the German and English – it’s more like “half third”), and like the German means “half past two o’clock”.

    Polish does the same, but in the nominative: półpierwsza = half past 12 = the half-first (hour).

    But that is a regional variant – the standard has Viertel vor drei

    In Austria, viertel vor is not standard – it’s Tyrolean. I first encountered it when I was 18.

    Hans, I am pretty sure that Viertel 3 […] were also in the textbook.

    That does surprise me. (In Austria it’s Viennese.)

  113. I seem to recall reading that a Latin American beauty pageant contestant, who had been disqualified for being under the age limit, was reinstated after arguing that, in her culture, age was traditionally calculated to the *nearest* birthday rather than to the previous birthday (as in most anglosphere contexts) or next birthday (as in life insurance).

  114. Age conventions can be weird, because ages are introduced to children when they are very young, long before they grasp the distinction between natural numbers for counting discrete objects and real numbers (which may be rounded or truncated to integer values) of measuring continuous quantities. Some people apparently never grasp the distinction, which is why you occasionally see peevers saying that “fewer than three days” is preferable to “less than three days.”

  115. marie-lucie says:

    mollymooly: a Latin American beauty pageant contestant … in her culture, age was traditionally calculated to the *nearest* birthday

    This is also the French tradition. After half a year you can start start anticipating the next birthday, especially as the date gets closer. It seems ridiculous to still say for instance “I am 39” two days before your 40th birthday, as Americans do.

    But if the beauty contestant had been for instance still 3 or 4 months away from her 18th birthday, I think that she would still have been disqualified in France.

  116. Trond Engen says:

    It just struck me that Piotr’s recent turn from Proto-Indo-European linguistics into Pro-European politics could have been forced by a highly disadvantageous personal syllabicity.

  117. What?? Was that mentioned here?

  118. I knew nothing about it! Come back, Piotr!

  119. Trond Engen says:

    The politics, you mean? His political engagement these days is no secret, though I’ll confess I mentioned it for the wordplay.

  120. Well, it may be no secret, but this is the first I’ve heard of it. I move in unpolitical circles.

  121. Trond Engen says:

    The unfortunate polysyllabicity of his surname is no secret either.

  122. Trond Engen says:

    But it was probably out of line here. I won’t protest if you remove it.

  123. He didn’t quit linguistics though, did he? That would be astonishing.

  124. Trond Engen says:

    No, I didn’t mean to give that impression — not for real, anyway. He’s just got more important things to do right now than leisurely lecturing laymen like me as much as I’ve come to appreciate.

  125. He is on sabbatical until September 2016. He seems to be concerning himself with opposing racism, xenophobia, and logging the remaining first-growth forest in Poland, to judge from his Facebook page. I’m sure he will return to the Older Germanic Languages in due course.

  126. Bathrobe says:

    German halb drei ‘half past two o’clock’ is analogous to (and may be a calque of) Latin ses-tertius. British English half three, however, means ‘half past three o’clock’. Which must be confusing.

    I always felt that this British usage showed a remarkable indifference to European solidarity. Brexit is just a matter of time.

  127. Rodger C says:

    For a moment I thought Piotr was out chopping down ancient trees.

  128. For a moment I thought Piotr was out chopping down ancient trees.
    Well, that’s what you have to do in order to find ancient roots.

  129. Ha!

  130. Dreiviertel Drei: I once heard someone say fünfviertel Drei (as a joke) to mean 3:15

  131. shows a remarkable indifference to European solidarity

    What it shows is that English, like French, is a peripheral member of the European Sprachbund.

    opposing racism, xenophobia, and logging

    As an Oxford commatist, if Piotr were in favor of the last, I would have had to write opposing racism and xenophobia, and logging. But I should have written the logging of in order to mark a clear gerund function rather than a possibly participial one.

  132. Some log while others blog.

  133. David Marjanović says:

    What it shows is that English, like French, is a peripheral member of the European Sprachbund.

    In all I’ve read about this, French and southern German are considered the very core. English is indeed peripheral.

  134. Yes, I don’t know why I mentioned French. The peripheral members are English, Ibero-Romance, Insular Scandinavian, East Slavic, western Uralic, maybe Maltese and Georgian. Celtic, Basque, Armenian, Indo-Iranian, eastern Uralic, Afroasiatic, Northeast and Northwest Caucasian are definitely excluded.

  135. What about Gothic, Avar, Slovatchko, Romanou, and Vlox?

  136. Core, I should think. It’s quite likely, too, that the Triune Monarchy constitutes a Sprachbund of its own within the Balkan Sprachbund. We don’t know, however, what the (Pannonian) Avars spoke, not even whether it was a Turkic or Iranian or Caucasian or even Mongolic or Tungusic (!) language.

  137. In some special contexts, ages can be calculated in somewhat weird ways. For example, I believe that in the context of American election laws it might be important who is 18 on the day of main election (first Tuesday after first etc.) even if the election at hand (primary) is the best part of the year earlier.

  138. All thoroughbreds age up on January 1 (in the northern hemisphere).

  139. It’s so nice to know that one’s Avram Davidson jokes will be appreciated.

  140. marie-lucie says:

    D.O., for official purposes age can most simply be calculated in complete years, but for practical, social purposes the definition can be more elastic.

  141. marie-lucie says:

    core and periphery

    If you look at the map, France and Southern Germany are indeed the geographical core of Western Europe. Through France you can draw two straight lines, North-Northeast (England, Belgium, Netherlands) to South-Southwest (Spain) and West (Brittany) to East, the latter continuining into Germany and points further East. This central position also means that waves of invaders went through the country at different times, most notably the Celts in pre-Roman times. Now endangered languages (Celtic, Basque) have survived because of their very peripheral situation in the West (helped by mountainous terrain and coastal habitat).

  142. David Marjanović says:

    What about Gothic

    Too old. Ideologists have tried to connect the European Sprachbund to Charlemagne, but even that is too old.

    or Tungusic (!) language.

    There’s that golden bowl from Hungary with Greek letters on it that make sense if you read them as a translation from Greek into something close to Manchu. But the best answer almost certainly is “all of the above, and then some”.

    In some special contexts, ages can be calculated in somewhat weird ways. For example, I believe that in the context of American election laws it might be important who is 18 on the day of main election (first Tuesday after first etc.) even if the election at hand (primary) is the best part of the year earlier.

    In some states, people are indeed allowed to vote in primaries if they’ll be 18 on the day of the general election.

  143. Ah, but we are not talking 8C Wulfilan Gothic here, but the Gothic of Scythia in the 19C (and presumably today as well).

  144. David Marjanović needs to read some Avram Davidson.

  145. J.W. Brewer says:

    Wait, so Dr. Gąsiorowski is not chopping down trees? Isn’t preserving old-growth forests unique to a particular corner of Europe arguably kind of over-particularistic and crypto-xenophobic?

    I don’t think anyone thinks of 17-year-olds allowed to vote in US primary elections as being constructively 18, by the way. Partial parallel: the typical age (it’s not 100% uniform) at which one is eligible to legally drive an automobile on public roads in the U.S. is 16, but many states will let you get what’s called a “learner’s permit” when you are 15 years and X months old, the idea being to put you in a position where you have satisfied all the prerequisites to receive your actual driver’s license on your 16th birthday. That isn’t generally taken to mean you’re an honorary 16-year-old during that earlier phase. Similarly, the constitutional requirement that U.S. Senators be at least 30 years old does not mean that 29-year-olds are ineligible to be candidates for election as U.S. Senators, it just means that they must be old enough to be eligible to serve in office if elected, with someone whose 30th birthday will fall after the date of the election but before the known date (approximately two months later) when the term of office of the newly-elected officials will begin thus being a qualified candidate.

  146. Trond Engen says:

    In Norway voting follows cohorts. You can vote (and are eligible) the year you turn 18.

  147. Etienne says:

    @John Cowan, Hans and J.W. Brewer: Piotr Gąsiorowski? Chop down trees? Surely you jest. This would be entirely incompatible with his job description: as a historical linguist he is duty-bound to make trees, not destroy them. Now, I am aware of the need to search for roots, but since roots can be found far more easily without destroying trees, I believe I am on safe ground in saying that an ax won’t be a tool he will be needing now or in the near future.

  148. Yes, I think Occam’s razor should suffice to avoid Buridan’s ax.

    For arcane reasons, in England one reaches their majority not exactly N years after birth, nor even on at midnight of the Nth anniversary day of one’s birth (in accordance with the common-law doctrine that neglects fractions of a day), but at midnight on the day before. If, however, it is a question of which of two persons reaches their majority first (or any other two events), the actual moment of birth is taken into account. Most Acts of Parliament are retrospective to midnight on the day when they receive the Royal Assent, but the Act changing the succession whereby the abdication of Edward VIII became effective was prospective to midnight of the following day, to avoid the paradox of the King signing a bill which would make him no longer king as of when he signed it.

  149. I’ll be damned! The things you learn around here.

  150. marie-lucie says:

    JC: Yes, I think Occam’s razor should suffice to avoid Buridan’s ax.

    In French I have always heard of l’âne de Buridan – Buridan’s ass, or donkey if you prefer. Same as Balaam’s.

    I think that Buridan was the author, not the owner. The animal died of hunger and thirst between a sheaf of hay and a bucket of water, not being able to decide which one to start with.

  151. It’s definitely Buridan’s ass; I assume JC was making a joke/pun.

  152. marie-lucie says:

    I thought so too, but I don’t think I have ever encountered this animal in English, spoken or written.

  153. Buridan’s ass it is, as Hat says, even in varieties of English that mostly prefer donkey. The version I know has the ass equidistant between two identical piles of hay. In either case it is a parable about the limits of rational decision-making: sometimes you have to introduce an irrational factors (asses can’t flip coins).

  154. marie-lucie says:

    Oh yes, it is a parable, not a true anecdote!

  155. David Marjanović says:

    Most Acts of Parliament are retrospective to midnight on the day when they receive the Royal Assent, but the Act changing the succession whereby the abdication of Edward VIII became effective was prospective to midnight of the following day, to avoid the paradox of the King signing a bill which would make him no longer king as of when he signed it.

    An interesting alternative to the French solution, whereby such things are instantaneous (le Roi est mort, vive le Roi) and Louis XIX, if you accept that French kings can abdicate, was king for about twenty minutes.

  156. This is equally true in the UK for natural succession: “the king is dead, long live the King” (note the capitalization pattern). But technically speaking Edward did not abdicate. Rather, after he had signed documents expressing his irrevocable intent to abdicate, Parliament prospectively altered the rules of succession so as to exclude both Edward and his heirs forever in favor of his younger brother. The other Dominion legislatures followed suit, most on the same day but Ireland the following day and even later (but retrospectively) in South Africa.

    The nearest precedent was the parliament of James II and VII, which in 1688 decided that his actions to date constituted a constructive abdication, and that the throne was thereby vacant. The Prince of Wales was passed over on the (specious) ground that he was not the King’s son, and the monarchy was settled on James’s daughter and her husband, the Prince of Orange, but the monarchical power to be exercised by him alone.

  157. marie-lucie says:

    David: the abdication of Edward VIII became effective was prospective to midnight of the following day, to avoid the paradox of the King signing a bill which would make him no longer king as of when he signed it. –
    An interesting alternative to the French solution, whereby such things are instantaneous (le Roi est mort, vive le Roi)

    The two situations are not the same, since Edward VIII did not die.

    and Louis XIX, if you accept that French kings can abdicate, was king for about twenty minutes.

    I don’t remember hearing about this king. The last Louis was Louis XVIII, the brother of Louis XVI, and he was followed by their brother Charles X since Louis XVIII was childless. There was no Louis XVII, because this title would have been that of Louis XVI’s son if he had not died still a child during the Revolution, so the next king (his uncle) took the title of Louis XVIII to acknowledge the fact. But Louis XIX??? another child?

  158. David is referring to the fact that after the abdication of Charles X in 1830, his son Louis Antoine, Duc d’Angouleme, did not sign the abdication papers for an additional twenty minutes while his wife pleaded with him not to do so. Consequently, he was technically Louis XIX during that time. He then abdicated in favor of his nephew, technically Henri V for a few days until the proclamation of Louis-Philippe.

    Similar cases include the 2nd Baron Stamp, who was killed along with his parents in the Blitz. He is presumed to have survived his father by a split-second; consequently, the family had to pay death taxes twice. The 3rd Duke of Suffolk outlived his brother the 2nd Duke by about an hour in 1551; they died of the same disease.

    Legitimist royalists hold that that the current king of France is the heir male of Charles X, considering the abdications invalid. There are two flavors, those who do and those who don’t hold that the Spanish Borbóns have surrendered their claim to the throne of France. There are also Orléanist royalists, who have converged with the non-Spanish Legitimists, and Bonapartist royalists, who also come in two flavors, depending on whether they accept the 1997 will of Napoleon VI, who disinherited his son in favor of his grandson.

  159. marie-lucie says:

    JC, very interesting! The things I did not learn in school about French history!

    A few years ago I consulted Wikipedia about the French royal descendants. When I was young the “prétendant au trône” was known as “le Comte de Paris”, whose wife was “Isabelle d’Orléans-Bragance”, doubly descended from French and Spanish royals. They had eleven children, so the succession was assured, and they provided a lot of material for popular magazines, especially once they were of age to get married and did so with appropriate pump and circumstance, renewing linkages with European nobility. I understand that after the death of the patriarch his oldest son was hardly a model of royal behaviour (at least the post-Revolution concept), although the rest of the family was rather subdued.

    As for the Napoléons, I knew there was someone called “le Prince Napoléon”, but never heard of any numbered ones beyond the IIIrd. As far as I knew the only modern Bonaparte with any claim to fame was Marie Bonaparte, who became a psychoanalyst.

  160. The current Comte was born in 1933 and acceded to the title in 1999 on the death of his father, the Comte you remember. His title in pretense is Henri VIII, King of France, on both Legitimist and Orléanist views. These views assume that Philip V (a grandson of Louis XIV) successfully renounced his claim to the French throne by the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) which ended the War of the Spanish Succession and established him as King of Spain.

    On the ultra-Legitimist view, this renunciation was also invalid, and the present king is Louis Alphonse (Luis Alfonso), styled by courtesy Duc d’Anjou. He was born in 1974 and assumed his present title in pretense of Louis XX in 1989; he is a second cousin of the present King of Spain, Felipe VI.

    All the Bonapartes have used Napoléon as a formal name, so that until 1997 the pretender was Napoléon VI Louis; since then the two competing claimants are Napoléon VII Charles (born 1950, the son of Louis) and Napoléon VII Jean-Christophe (born 1986, the son of Charles).

  161. David Marjanović says:

    Thanks for the link to the Wikipedia article! I found it last night, read the entire list of shortest-reigning monarchs, and was then too tired to include the link in the comment. 🙁

    He is presumed to have survived his father by a split-second; consequently, the family had to pay death taxes twice.

    WTAF.

  162. marie-lucie says:

    JC: His title in pretense is Henri VIII, King of France

    What a fantasy life those people live!

  163. He is presumed to have survived his father by a split-second; consequently, the family had to pay death taxes twice.

    I join David Marjanović in his response to this. Was there some actual reason to presume that, or was the government just being greedy and cruel?

  164. SFReader says:

    I learned on Wikipedia that


    Simultaneous death is a problem of inheritance which occurs when two people, at least one of whom is entitled to part or all of the other’s estate on their death (usually a husband and wife) die at the same time. This is usually the result of an un-natural death occurring from events such as an accident, a homicide, or a murder-suicide.
    The common law of England and Wales (also Australia) does not accept the possibility of simultaneous death. Where there is no satisfactory medical evidence as to the order of death, the elder of the two is deemed to have died first.

  165. Thanks. Also, sheesh.

  166. Apart from the taxation issue, it’s a pretty sensible approach to take. If parent and child die at the same time, there may be no provision in the parent’s will for what happens to (part of) their estate if their child/heir is also deceased. The legal fiction that the child died later allows the child to officially inherit and then pass on their inheritance according to their own will. It may have been even more important in Britain before entails were abolished in England in the 1920s.

  167. Ah, that makes sense. I withdraw my sheesh.

  168. What a fantasy life those people live!

    Well, they have the money for it. But the connection between the verb pretend and the technical terms pretender and pretense is not exactly an accident. The verb once meant simply ‘claim’ in English as in French, but now generally has a strong element of fantasy in it. The two Napoléons pretend to be Napoleon in more than one sense.

    Baronies descend to the heirs general, so they always exist, although if the heirs general of equal degree are all female and there is more than one (normally sisters), the barony goes into abeyance until there is just one line of descent, potentially for centuries. Higher peerages, however, are lost if there are no heirs through male lines, which can happen when sons predecease their fathers.

  169. J.W. Brewer says:

    The sheesh-inducing difficulties of the common law have in the U.S. almost entirely been set aside by statute, even though we don’t have to worry about the inheritance of titles of nobility: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniform_Simultaneous_Death_Act.

  170. January First-of-May says:

    For the last few years, I’ve been researching (very amateurishly) a few genealogical lines in pretense which never (or, at least, not after the first 1-2 generations) actually involved any actual pretenders. (Regnal Chronologies has a section detailing them; some of the lines they had turned out to be almost certainly wrong.)

    One nice but completely meaningless line I researched was “heirs of William the Conqueror under modern (no-preference primogeniture) succession rules”… Talleyrand, apparently (but he had no legitimate kids, so after his death that particular line continued in a different branch of the family).

  171. Trond Engen says:

    By now I’d have expected a mention of John Steinbeck’s The Short Reign of Pippin IV.

    Steinbeck’s only work of political satire turns the French Revolution on its head, as amateur astronomer Pippin Heristal is drafted in to rule the unruly French. Enchanting comedy ensues as Steinbeck creates the most hilarious royal court ever around the brief, bold reign of the corduroy-clad Pippin, his social-climbing wife Maria, his star-struck daughter Clotilde and her Californian beau, Todd.

  172. David Marjanović says:

    Fascinating.

  173. My brief writeup of it. As far as I know, there are no royalists in France today who claim the throne on Carolingian, Merovingian, or Vercingetorian lines.

  174. marie-lucie says:

    Thanks JC. I should definitely hunt for the book.

    I have never heard of any “Vercingetorians”, but they would probably want their king to be called le Roi des Gaules, on the model of the main Catholic title in France, le Primat des Gaules (presumably the Archbishop of Paris – I am too lazy to look it up right now).

  175. SFReader says:

    Surely they would prefer proper Gaulish title which I believe is rix.

    As in Vercingetorix or Asterix

  176. January First-of-May says:

    As far as I know, there are no royalists in France today who claim the throne on Carolingian, Merovingian, or Vercingetorian lines.

    Regnal Chronologies offers two possible Carolingian lines – one that joins with the Legitimist succession, and one that ends up in the Hohenzollern family. (I hadn’t yet checked either.)

    IIRC, some Merovingian descendants are known, but the early genealogy is too unclear to figure out any specific heir. (Just checked Medieval Genealogy – there are perhaps two reasonably traceable paths past the 8th century at all; one of them goes directly to the Carolingians and might be a later invention, and the other is only known from a 18th century genealogy that is apparently known for lots of general errors but did not seem to intend to deceive specifically.).

    It does not appear that enough is known about the Vercingetorian family to even trace the succession past that one guy.

  177. In fact, the title of le Primat des Gaules has been attached to the Archbishop of Lyon since 1076. Oddly, given that a primate is primus inter pares ‘first among equals’, France actually has another primate: the Archbishop of Rouen is the Primate of Normandy. Somewhat similarly, in the Anglican Church the Archbishop of York is the Primate of England, whereas the Archbishop of Canterbury is the Primate of All England. By the same token, the Catholic and Anglican Archbishops of Dublin are Primates of Ireland in their respective churches; the Archbishops of Armagh are Primates of All Ireland.

    In general, the primate (when there is one) holds office in the city which was the capital when the country was Christianized, even if it is no longer the political capital today. Thus the Archbishop of Toledo in Spain now bears the title Primate of Spain; formerly he was Primate of the Visigoths. Similarly, Armagh was thought to be founded by St. Patrick, Dublin by the Danes (and therefore not an Irish city at all, in the beginning). Primacy is now a title rather than a function; most of the former functions of primates have been transferred to the (normally elected) president of the council of bishops for a country, or to the Pope.

    Stephen Jay Gould once said that whenever he saw these titles, he always pictured a gigantic gibbon sitting on a throne and wearing regalia: however, the biological term primate has an unreduced FACE vowel in the unstressed second syllable, whereas the ecclesiastical term is fully reduced.

  178. David Marjanović says:

    and one that ends up in the Hohenzollern family

    Oh… dear.

  179. Somewhat similarly, in the Anglican Church the Archbishop of York is the Primate of England, whereas the Archbishop of Canterbury is the Primate of All England.

    !

    There’ll always be an (All) England, I guess.

  180. (Though not in Euro 2016…)

  181. January First-of-May says:

    After careful checking of just about everything possible, there seem to be three reasonable descents from the Merovingians: one to the early Carolingians, likely made up by slightly later Carolingians to provide a Merovingian descent; one to assorted Visigoths, perhaps made up by the rulers of Asturias to provide a Merovingian descent; and one to the rulers of Kent, which is the most likely to be true early on but kind of breaks down into incoherence circa late 8th century.

    Essentially, it is suspected that Egbert of Wessex, also of Kent, perhaps had some ancestry from the previous Kent royal family (it is noted, as far as I understand, that the name Egbert appears in that family, but not in his traditional Wessex ancestry). His descendants, of course, became the ruling dynasty of Anglo-Saxon England; if we follow that line, we end up with either the Godwinsson brothers (if their ancestry claim is true, which it just might be), or with Edgar the Atheling.

    The following result depends on the chosen model of succession (male-preference primogeniture, or Semi-Salic).
    Either line from Edgar follows (vaguely) Scottish succession until the Maid of Norway; the confusing rules of Semi-Salic make it unclear which of her distant relatives would inherit (if the Norwegian ones do, it ends up with the Mecklenburg family until 2001, and perhaps later).
    Semi-Salic from the Godwinsson brothers gets us the rather obscure descendants of Tostig Godwinsson… obscure, that is, until one of them ends up King of Norway. Same descent as the above (Mecklenburg until 2001, perhaps later).
    Male-preference primogeniture from the Godwinssons gets us the heir of Vladimir Monomakh; I’ve checked this line up to the 18th century, by which point it is in the Potocki family of Poland, and apparently made a mistake around that point. I’m not sure of the current heir. (Jan Josef s Koszelca Pogorski – not sure of spelling – whom I thought was the heir as of the early 1940s, appears to be from a junior branch of the family.)
    As for male-preference primogeniture from Edgar, the line ends up with three sisters of very uncertain order, Cecily, Ada, and Alianora. The line of Ada ends up in 18th century French royalty, so whatever succession you prefer from that; the heirs of Cecily and Alianora appear to be Lady Camilla Osborne, daughter of the 11th Duke of Leeds, and Alexander Leith, 8th/10th Baron Burgh, respectively.
    (Yes, the Semi-Salic line from Edgar might also, with some clarifications, end up with the same three sisters. I’ve tried to figure out their Semi-Salic heirs as well, but that was when the main French genealogy website I used decided to suddenly paywall on me, and I couldn’t figure out why.)

  182. I’m not sure whether to vote for Cecily (for Oscar Wilde’s sake), Ada (for Nabokov), or Alianora (for just being a great name).

  183. I once got a Trivial Pursuit question which went “What word designates both an animal and a cleric in the Catholic Church?” “Primate!” I said, feeling clever, but the answer on the card was cardinal.

  184. Some obscure neuron in your brain was probably signaling you that you’ve seen it before in romantic circumstances: Alianora is the name of the swan-may (the swan analogue of a selkie, werewolf, or some kinds of mermaid) who is Holger Carlsen’s girlfriend in Poul Anderson’s classic fantasy Three Hearts and Three Lions.

    WP’s summary of sources shows how much he could pack into one short book: “The novel is a pastiche of interwoven stories. It draws on the corpus of Northern European legends, including Ogier the Dane, the Matter of France, Arthurian romance, Oberon (Duke Alfric in the novel), Germanic mythology, and traditional magic. It uses related literary sources such as Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, William Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, Robert Burns’s Tam o’ Shanter, and Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. It also shows influence of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit with references to Mirkwood and wargs. It has some similarity to C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” To which we can add World War II and the Cold War.

  185. I never read any fantasy by Anderson. Would you recommend it? I know some of his SF works – fun when I read it in my teens / twenties, but probably not solid enough for my current tastes.

  186. marie-lucie says:

    Alianora (for just being a great name).

    Would it be the origin or the adaptation of Eléonore and Eleanor/Ellinor (among other variants)?

  187. Yes, I would, bearing in mind that tastes differ. I find Anderson to be a multilevel author: as I have reread him throughout my life, new depths and subtleties appear. 3H3L is at one level a romp, “lighthearted, quickworded, and soon over” — but bear in mind that that is an Entish description of Elvish poetry, and there are deeper themes in both. I particularly enjoy stories that cross over fantasy tropes with engineering realities, and 3H3L is the prototype. Of course, this also means (what is not Anderson’s fault) that what was completely novel in 1953, and entirely fresh to me in 1970 or so, may look weary, flat, stale, and unprofitable in 2016. In any case, the book says what it has to say in 123 pages; it is no doorstop. PDF packed in RAR archive.

  188. Though not in Euro 2016… My taxi driver yesterday stubbornly maintained that Iceland had beaten Great Britain, not England. Lucky for him that I am neither a Scots- nor Welshman.

  189. I always wanted to like Anderson, but even as a youth thirty years ago, his work seemed boring, and I haven’t read that much of it. (Of course, as my brother pointed out, I would probably express the same opinion about Jack Vance, yet I have read nineteen of his novels.) The last thing I read by Anderson was Fire Time, which seemed almost unique in its capacity to introduce interesting ideas and go absolutely nowhere with them. I don’t think I have ever read any of his fantasy, and I specifically have avoided Three Hearts and Three Lions, because so much of its content was explicitly lifted by Dungeons & Dragons, and my years of playing that game have seen paladins and regenerating trolls done to death.

  190. Sure. It’s one of the books listed in Appendix N, the “further reading” section of the D&D manuals. But as I say, this is not Anderson’s fault. Moorcock grabbed the Law vs. Chaos trope, and Gygax et al. ran with it.

  191. marie-lucie says:

    Alianora again

    I had forgotten that in French Eleanor of Aquitaine (who married an English king, bringing him half of France) is called Aliénor.

  192. I now add two more sesquisyllabic Indo-Europeanists, D. Gunkel (“he of Munich”) and G. Dunkel (“he of Zurich”). Clearly an instantiation of the Heavenly Twins.

Speak Your Mind

*