ELVER AND ALBUM.

Just a couple of words whose etymology I found interesting:
1) Elver ‘a young eel’ is a variant of eelfare ‘the passage of young eels up a river; a brood of young eels’; the first OED citation shows nicely the phonetic development:
1533 Act 25 Hen. VIII, c. vii, Any frye, spaume, or brode of yeles, called yele fares, or Ell vares.
2) Album is from Latin album ‘a white tablet or notice-board, esp. that on which was inscribed the edict of the praetor’ (the definition of the Oxford Latin Dictionary, more up-to-date than the OED’s ‘blank tablet’) which is itself the neuter singular form of the adjective albus ‘white’ (from Proto-Indo-European *albho- and thus perhaps related to both elf and oaf). I’m sure I had read this etymology before, but it had slipped right out of my mind; perhaps thinking of the Beatles’ White Album will help keep it there.

Comments

  1. David Waugh says:

    At the risk of pointing out the obvious to your readers a few points about ELVER. The change of V > F strongly suggests a South Western origin of the word elver. To this day the pronunciation vather instead of father may be heard from people in Devon and Cornwall. Some of the quotations in the OED seem to be of eastern origin (Thames and Norwich). Compare also Vixen and Vat which also began with F in OE and in non SW dialects.
    As for the IE root albho-, it may also be represented in the word Alp (white mountain) and Albion (island with white cliffs) and the Gaelic name for Scotland, Alba/Albainn which was once the Irish name for the whole island of Britain.

  2. I’m not so sure. The change you refer to involves initial f- (as in father); the voicing of medial f is much more common (in fact, it’s manifested in the plural of elf, elves).

  3. “the voicing of medial f”: is there a word for the cockney treatment of “th”, as in the chap who’d been to the Highlands and thought that “the evver was lovely”?

  4. The same ancestor – Latin albus, alba, album – has issue in several English scions: alb, albedo, albescent, albumen, etc. Less obvious though are auburn (through mediaeval Latin alburnus), daub (from dealbare, to whitewash), and albatross (where albus is implicated as modifying English’s absorption of Spanish alcatraz).

  5. David Waugh says:

    Re ELVER – the /f/ is initial in the second half of the compound eel-/f/are. The word is not attested until the 16th c., though it may of course be earlier. In any case the compound seems to be later than OE in which all intervocalic or spirants were voiced.

  6. Yes, it’s obviously later than OE and thus not part of the same change, but it seems to me the same tendencies are applying. With respect, when you make a word the second element in a compound its initial consonant is no longer an initial, by definition; in the sentence “the eel fares well” the f- is initial, but in eelfare it’s not, and different rules apply.

  7. Alcatraz is an arab loan in spanish, from *qaṭrás.
    And spanish albatros is a loan from english:)It is a kind of ouroboro :)

  8. Noetica: add alba – a genre of French medieval poetry, the word originally meaning “break of day”. The poem would describe how hard it is for a lover to go away from his lady at dawn (but he has to, because his aide waiting outside warn him that the lady’s legitimate husband is approaching).

  9. “alba” in spanish stands for the break of day, “al rayar el alba”, and albo is “white” used in a poetical context.
    “Tú me quieres blanca. Tú me quieres alba, Me quieres de espumas,
    Me quieres de nácar” ( A. Storni)
    Spanish and french received “blanco”, “blanche” from germanic blank, as english “white” derives from germ. hwz, wz
    http://www.bartleby.com/61/roots/IE249.html
    albescent, from latin albescens and french and spanish forms alba/albo seemed to have remained only for poetical usage :)

  10. Silmarillion:
    Many of the alb-words are of course quite rare, or only in specialized* use, in English: albata ["white metal, German silver", SOED]; albugo ["=leucoma"; note Greek leukos, white]; albaspine ["whitethorn, hawthorn"]; and albite ["Min. A sodium-rich plagioclase, usu. white, occurring widely in silicate rocks; sodium feldspar."]. Perhaps Albion deserves mention [supposedly from a Celtic origin cognate with Latin alb-, probably with reference to the White Cliffs of Dover, says SOED]. Albino too, of course. And Australians will know dealbata: in full, Acacia dealbata, the silver wattle.
    Sredni:
    Yes, alba. Nice details. Spanish also has albada, parallel to French aubade [note aube, dawn] and Italian albata. These all mean a song or other musical piece (or suite of such pieces) proper to dawn. What you get the morning after the serenade. (Sigh.)
    *I spell this word with a “z” only because LH’s system bars the string “ciali|s”! A new kind of orthographic evolutionary pressure in English?

  11. Noetica:
    There are two “albadas” in spanish.
    albada form lat. albare, and “albada” from hispanic arab albáyḍa,from clasic ar. bayḍā’”the white”. :)

  12. There are two “albadas” in spanish.
    Silmarillion, that is a beautiful fact – if fact it be. You have made my morning; for morning it is, in the broad brown land of Australia.

  13. Investigating further, using Diccionario de la lengua española, Real Academia Española, 2nd edition, 2003, we find that each of the two albadas has its immediate source (or immediate cognate) in another Spanish word synonymous with it:
    alborada. (De albor, luz del alba). 1. f. Tiempo de amanecer o rayar el día. 2. f. Música al amanecer y al aire libre para festejar a alguien. 3. f. Composición poética o musical destinada a cantar la mañana. 4. f. Acción de guerra al amanecer. 5. f. Toque o música militar al romper el alba, para avisar la venida del día.
    albaida. (Del ár. hisp. albáyḍa, y este del ár. clás. bayḍā’, blanca). 1. f. Planta de la familia de las Papilionáceas, de seis a ocho decímetros de altura, muy ramosa, con las ramas y las hojas blanquecinas por el tomento que las cubre, y flores pequeñas y amarillas que se abren en la primavera.
    Whence these:
    albada[1]. (Del albāta, de albāre, blanquear). 1. f. alborada (ǁ composición poética o musical). 2. f. Hues. alborada (ǁ música al amanecer y al aire libre).
    albada[2]. (De albaida). 1. f. jabonera (ǁ planta cariofilácea con tallos erguidos).
    “…y flores pequeñas y amarillas que se abren en la primavera.” Be still, mi corazón.

  14. Rae 1726:
    albada:la música que en las aldeas dan los mancebos a las doncellas, cantándoles algunas coplas al romper el alba: por que este festejo se hace de ordinario a esta hora, se dijo Albada. Es voz usada en Aragón y corresponde a lo que en Castilla se dice Alborada.
    “al marchar hácia casa del enfermo, va cantando un coro de voces é instrumentos el Tantum Ergo, y al regresar á la parroquia el Te Deum, como tambi n en la puerta de la casa, y durante la ceremonia, un motete. Tambi n hasta 1840 ha venido saliendo la Aurora, especie de procesion para despierta, con música y letrillas de albada (práctica de los árabes en ciertos dias, y que siguieron los mudejares, sustituyendo la letra. Los gitanos usan aún de albadas como éstas en las madrugadas del dia de bodas de sus más distinguidos jefes), con cuyo canto se despertaba á los cofrades del mismo título, para asistir á la misa del alba en el altar de Nuestra Señora de la Aurora en Santo Domingo; únicamente queda de aquella costumbre cierto coro de voces acompañadas por el toque de una campanilla, cuyo coro cantan los cofrades, y la música conserva un original gusto y ritmo árabe; á consecuencia de excesos,
    1872
    AUTOR: Fuentes y Ponte, Javier
    TÍTULO: Murcia que se fue
    CORDE

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