My brother sent me a link to this NY Times story by C. J. Chivers about an American, Isaiah (Cy) Oggins, who became a spy for Stalin and was murdered in a Soviet prison camp. (The author mentioned in the story, Andrew Meier, wrote an excellent book on Russia, Black Earth, and I’d like to read his book on Oggins sometime.) My first question was “What kind of name is Oggins?”; since according to this NPR story he was born to Lithuanian immigrant parents, it’s presumably a Lithuanian name (Agins? Ogins? anybody know?).
But in one of those lexicographical detours I so often find myself on, I came across an odd nautical slang word for ‘the sea,’ oggin, that’s only attested from 1945; the OED says “Origin uncertain; perhaps variant of NOGGIN n. with metanalysis (see N n.). Compare DRINK n. 6.” Noggin was originally “A small drinking vessel” and came to mean “A small quantity or measure of alcoholic liquor” (first attested 1690; the modern slang sense “The head” dates back to 1769: Stratford Jubilee II. i. 28 “Giving him a stouter on the noggin, I laid him as flat as a flaunder”). The comparison to drink (as in “into the drink”) is reasonable. As for the metanalysis, here’s the relevant section of the N entry:
From the beginning of the Middle English period, the coexistence of two forms of the indefinite article (an before vowels and a before consonants) often led to metanalysis (the same phenomenon occurs in other languages where the indefinite article ends in –n, e.g. French, Italian, etc.). Variants arising by metanalysis sometimes alliterate with words with initial n– in alliterative verse, and in some cases have become established as the regular modern forms (so that e.g. Middle English a nadder became an adder; compare also apron, auger, etc.), while conversely some vowel-initial forms have gained n– (so that e.g. Middle English an ewt became a newt; compare also nickname).