As a pendant to my recent post on historical linguistics, here’s a charming epigram by the 17th-century poet Jacques de Cailly (also known anagrammatically as d’Aceilly):

Les Dérivations
Alfana vient d’equus sans doute,
Mais il faut avouer aussi
Qu’en venant de là jusqu’ici
Il a bien changé sur la route.

(‘[The Spanish word] alfana comes from [Latin] equus, no doubt, but one must admit that in getting from there to here it has changed quite a bit along the way.’ The alleged derivation, proposed by Gilles Ménage, is of course entirely spurious.)


  1. I was taught that sans doute meant ‘probably’. ‘No doubt’ is sans aucune doute. This rather changes the meaning of the poem…

  2. Interesting point, but of course one would have to check on what the phrase meant in the 17th century, which I don’t have the resources to do at the moment. Anybody have access to a historical dictionary, or know from personal immersion in texts of the period?

  3. The Robert says “sans doute” is the older equivalent of the modern “sans aucun doute”, meaning “certainement”.

  4. Thanks!

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