GODSPEED.

Ben Slade has a post at Stæfcræft & Vyākaraṇa with a very interesting suggestion, that godspeed (first attested in Tyndale’s 1526 Bible translation, 2 John 10 : “Yf ther come eny vnto you and bringe not this learninge him receave not to housse: neither bid him God spede”) was originally “a compound word, formed of good+speed, which was later reanalysed as God+speed, whence back-formations like God spede (ye), with spede being reanalysed as a causative (i.e. ‘may (he) cause you to be successful’).” This depends on a phonological change in Middle English whereby long vowels in nonfinal close syllables were shortened (e.g. sheep: shepherd, wise: wisdom, Christ: Christmas). Ingenious and, to me, convincing, but I’ll be interested to see what others say.

Comments

  1. Webster, among others, derived it that way.
    Tyndale also wrote, “LORde God of my maſter Abrahã, ſend me good ſpede this daye, & ſhewe mercy vnto my maſter Abraham.” And so it ends up in the KJV.

  2. An interesting example of vowel shortening is in “don’t,” proving that the contraction was in common use before the vowel shift occurred.

  3. I always felt that ‘Godspeed!’ sounded like ‘May God hurry you away!’
    The etymology revealed by Slade makes much more sense.

  4. J. W. Brewer says:

    Perhaps cutting the other way, the first few google hits on the phrase “God speed the plow” claim it can be traced to a song extant in the 14th or 15th century.
    One also sees at least folk etymologies going the other direction with God -> good, as e.g. “good-bye” supposedly from “God be [with you]” and at least some of the inconsistent theories of why English (uniquely, I think) calls it “Good Friday.”

  5. This reminds me that the past tense of to pee should be peeed (11,300 g.h.). “Peed” gets 6.3 million, but I’m boycotting it.

  6. That’s where I’ve always thought godspeed came from — I don’t think this is a new idea!

  7. AJP, I think that should be pee’d.

  8. pee’d gets 839,000.

  9. Fascinating. Goodspeed is my mother’s maiden name (and my middle name) — I was always under the impression that it derived from godspeed, rather than vice versa.

  10. @MMcM: Thanks for the references. I didn’t know that Webster had glossed “Godspeed” as “Good Speed”.
    @dale: I had actually thought about this etymology a year or two ago (I think I was intending to use it as an example in class), and had assumed that this would be the accepted etymology of “Godspeed”.
    But the OED, at least, doesn’t make any mention of it as deriving from “Goodspeed”, and I couldn’t find any other sources which said anything more than the OED. So I forgot about it for a while — until I watched the Izzard video where he has his brief “Godspeed” bit.
    Maybe it’s not a new idea—I wouldn’t be surprised—, but I haven’t come across anything else yet (aside from the Webster entry MMcM posted above).
    @BenZimmer: Interesting – I hadn’t heard “Goodspeed” as a surname before. Of course, the reanalysis could be cyclic (e.g. Good-speed > God-Speed > Good-speed)….

  11. Bathrobe: pee’d gets 839,000.
    Crown: peeed (11,300 g.h.)“Peed” gets 6.3 million
    On the high seas of popular orthography, the waves of opinion are in permanent motion. When I checked just now, “pee’d” yielded 838,000 hits. There were 11,400 hits for “peeed”, and 6,250,000 for “peed”. I’m not sure we can afford to dismiss these narrow margins of deviation. After all, George Bush was elected by one such in 2004.

  12. I mean 2000.

  13. Thank you, D.G. On my blog I have a link to some bird photographs you might like. (Sorry, Language.)

  14. Who is D.G. ? Wherein consists the sorrow ?

  15. Wherein consists the sorrow ?
    Yeah, I’m confused too. I have nothing against bird pictures; in fact, I’m quite fond of them. But that Kakapo is ugly as sin. (Sorry, Kakapo.)

  16. Re: first occurrence and not etymology. What about Scots and with a space? Robert Henryson used it in a couple fables.

  17. Oh, DG is Dressing Gown. “Bathrobe” as he likes to be called. He’s very interested in birds and has a website about them. The kakapo is a cross between an owl and a parrot in looks. It reminds me of the dodo. I can’t stop you finding it ugly, I suppose; there are six other delightful bird pictures at that link, though.
    (And I’m sorry for interrupting the thread with a digression about my blog.)

  18. Trond Engen says:

    The kakapo is a cross between an owl and a parrot in looks. It reminds me of the dodo. I can’t stop you finding it ugly, I suppose
    When birds are called names like cacapoo and dodo, you’d think they’d take the hint and stay away from the camera!

  19. Digressions are half the fun!

  20. C’mon Grumbly, tell us what Kakapo means to an infantile German.

  21. I am confused too – what was first, Good or God?

  22. Oh, so that’s why he calls himself “be_slayed”! I’d always wondered why it wasn’t “be_slain”.

  23. C’mon Grumbly, tell us what Kakapo means to an infantile German
    I blush to relate that Po is the rear end of a human bean.
    That puts me in mind of a favorite expression of my father’s for an ugly or unkempt person: “they look like the south end of a north-bound goat”.

  24. Probably on its way to my house.

  25. When birds are called names like cacapoo and dodo, you’d think they’d take the hint and stay away from the camera!

    Well, the dodo certainly took your advice.

  26. C’mon Grumbly, tell us what Kakapo means to an infantile German.
    You’re thinking of kackepopo.

  27. The 1923 American Translation of the New Testament was made by Edgar J. Goodspeed. His multi-part introduction is on line.

  28. Bathrobe aka DG says:

    Thanks for the link, AJP Kakapo.
    After our run-in with the ‘sheep-biting parrot’ some time back, I was quite curious to know what the kakapo is called in Chinese. Thanks to Wikipedia, we find that it’s called the 鸮鹦鹉 xiāo yīngwǔ or ‘owl parrot’.
    Google Translate gives 卡卡波 kǎkǎbō, but a quick search only turned up the Chinese translation of a German children’s book called “Der Vogel Kakapo” and a couple of sites using the term 卡卡波鹦鹉 kǎkǎbō yīngwǔ (kakapo parrot).

  29. And Japanese calls it the フクロウオウム fukurō-ōmu ‘owl parrot’ or カカポ kakapo.

  30. So they’d made it into a children’s book in German before I’d even heard of it. I don’t like “owl parrot”; “dodo parrot”, maybe.

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  32. John Emerson says:

    The trolls have become far too sycophantic. Off with their heads, I say.

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