Insufferable.

Short but sweet; courtesy of Grant Barrett’s Facebook feed, I present this snippet from James McQuade’s The Cruise of the Montauk to Bermuda, the West Indies and Florida (1890):

But everywhere we hear the insufferable abbreviation of “pants” for pantaloons. Abbreviated pantaloons are breeches. Then it is not a solid English word, but an Italian derivative, and although the use of pantaloons is permissible, the cutting short is reprehensible.

It’s from the top of page 217; if that link works for you, you can see the rest of his rant, which goes on to complain about the “vulgarism” of calling a game-cock a fighting rooster: “A cock is a cock and a hen is a hen, and both are roosters.” To quote Grant: “Just one time travel vortex plz to visit this 1890 peever and explain how it turned out.” Don’t let this happen to you! Stifle your peevery!

Comments

  1. To a peever, it doesn’t matter how it turned out, that’s mere empirical evidence. To the deepest of peevers, it doesn’t matter if 100% of anglophones, including himself, use word construction X: if it’s wrong, it’s Wrong.

  2. I wonder if there are still peevers who object to “pants.”

  3. Trond Engen says

    I know some who pant to “objects” Does that help?

  4. Are those objects in the pantry?

  5. I object to this punnery.

  6. Samuel Butler (the more recent one), “A Psalm of Montreal” (1878, emphasis added)

    Stowed away in a Montreal lumber room
    The Discobolus standeth and turneth his face to the wall;
    Dusty, cobweb-covered, maimed and set at naught,
    Beauty crieth in an attic and no man regardeth:
                              O God! O Montreal!

    Beautiful by night and day, beautiful in summer and winter,
    Whole or maimed, always and alike beautiful—
    He preacheth gospel of grace to the skin of owls
    And to one who seasoneth the skins of Canadian owls:
                              O God! O Montreal!

    When I saw him I was wroth and I said, “O Discobolus!
    Beautiful Discobolus, a Prince both among gods and men!
    What doest thou here, how camest thou hither, Discobolus,
    Preaching gospel in vain to the skins of owls?”
                              O God! O Montreal!

    And I turned to the man of skins and said unto him, “O thou man of skins,
    Wherefore hast thou done thus to shame the beauty of the Discobolus?”
    But the Lord had hardened the heart of the man of skins
    And he answered, “My brother-in-law is haberdasher to Mr. Spurgeon.”
                              O God! O Montreal!

    “The Discobolus is put here because he is vulgar—
    He has neither vest nor pants with which to cover his limbs;
    I, Sir, am a person of most respectable connections—
    My brother-in-law is haberdasher to Mr. Spurgeon.”
                              O God! O Montreal!

    Then I said, “O brother-in-law to Mr. Spurgeon’s haberdasher,
    Who seasonest also the skins of Canadian owls,
    Thou callest trousers ‘pants,’ whereas I call them ‘trousers,’
    Therefore thou art in hell-fire and may the Lord pity thee!”

                              O God! O Montreal!

    “Preferrest thou the gospel of Montreal to the gospel of Hellas,
    The gospel of thy connection with Mr. Spurgeon’s haberdashery to the gospel of the Discobolus?”
    Yet none the less blasphemed he beauty saying, “The Discobolus hath no gospel,
    But my brother-in-law is haberdasher to Mr. Spurgeon.”
                              O God! O Montreal!

  7. J.W. Brewer says

    Some (but not all) 19th-century peevers might have tolerated poetic license to use “pants” if the more respectable “pantaloons” would have, in the poet’s professional judgment, presented metrical problems. The same way “‘neath” is acceptable as a shortened variant of “beneath” in poetry but not otherwise.

  8. Concerning the Discobolus: which kind of vest hath he not on?

  9. Both “pants” and “vest” are underwear nowadays in UK English, right?

  10. David Eddyshaw says

    Interesting that the Peever implies that “rooster” is (or was, or should be) sex-neutral. I’ve always supposed that “rooster” for “cock” is American prudery (like throwing rocks instead of stones, as we profane Goddams do) but hadn’t appreciated that the word originally did mean “unisex chicken.” It would certainly make more sense that way.

    That’s making the quite possibly unjustifiable assumption that the Peever is, in fact, correct. Has anyone over there ever actually called a hen a rooster?

    Malcolm Muggeridge (at the time himself a malignant child, virtually) did a hatchet job on Erewhon Butler so vicious as to make you feel almost sympathetic toward the man. It was called “The Earnest Atheist.” It passed a moderately interesting hour or so once for me once when I was skiving in the university library’s stacks as a youth instead of improving my brain.

  11. Lars (not the regular) says

    Surely, if they come home to roost, they must be roosters?

  12. Surely, if they come home to roost, they must be roosters?

    …It’s apparently one of those transparent etymologies that I didn’t realize at all until someone pointed them out directly.

  13. Marja Erwin says

    In past usage, man used to mean any human being, but in present usage, it’s restricted to wermen or guman. Similarly, in present AmE usage, rooster’s restricted to cocks.

  14. @Hat I wonder if there are still peevers who object to “pants.”
    @Keith I Both “pants” and “vest” are underwear nowadays in UK English, right?

    Yes in BrE, “pants” is short for “underpants”. This was always good for a snigger when I was a kid watching imported American TV.

    BrE is “trousers”. “Pants” has remained stubbornly in the underwear sense; notwithstanding “cargo pants” and “pantsuit”.

  15. I grew up (Melbourne) with “pants” in the trousers sense, “pantaloons” in the Drama Club wardrobe inventory sense, and “trousers” in the BBC comedy sense. Then I came to Japan and found that “pants” were even more firmly entrenched as underwear here, having arrived in advance of the American Century. So I am sniggered at in two languages, since my L1 pants sometimes show beneath my L2 pants, so to speak.

  16. The OED says that rooster is typically AmE, AusE, and NZE, and gives some HibE citations as well. It also says it was formerly English regional, but gives no citations. If I had to guess, it would be East Anglia, where the Puritans mostly came from. There is also a second sense ‘that which roosts’, with citations for hens, bats, starlings, and unspecified tree- and cavity-roosting birds.

  17. Scrolling up, he’s at least an equal opportunity peever. Calling your servants “the help” is reserved for the people who have not left the “ignorant past”. Okay then.

  18. African American riddle, known for having once been mangled to unintelligibility by a standardizing transcription:

    Why are hens only hens in the daytime?

    Because [dɛj rustəz] at night!

  19. That’s making the quite possibly unjustifiable assumption that the Peever is, in fact, correct. Has anyone over there ever actually called a hen a rooster?

    Checking the OED again, no, of course he isn’t. There is one and only one quotation in the OED for rooster in the sense ‘hen’, and it postdates references to rooster in the ordinary sense; furthermore, the author is Irish, presumably Anglo-Irish. Peever (who by the way is an American and writes in American English) has simply assumed that at one time rooster meant ‘unisex chicken’ based on its etymology.

    Here’s the citation in question: “1811 M[ary] Leadbeater Cottage Dialogues Gloss. 313 It will be advantageous to make a hen house over the sty, the warmth of the lower apartment being found peculiarly advantageous to the roosters in the attic.” (Her name is pronounced “Ledbetter”, as Wikipedia informs us.) It seems to me that “Roosters in the Attic” would be a fine name for something, perhaps a blog, with an allusion to “bats in the belfry”.

    As for help, it was used for the same reason that Americans called, and call, their supervisor the boss; because the English terms servant and master were applied in America to slaves and slaveowners respectively. And when you do slave-work as a free person, you have to take care that you don’t insensibly slip into slave status, as many a free Englishman found himself doing between 1066 and John Ball’s revolt of 1381. By 1890, the language of (non-)slavery was no longer needed in the U.S., and help was dying out. Here are some helpful OED citations:

    1807 C. W. Janson Stranger in Amer. 87 I am Mr ——’s help. I’d have you know..that I am no sarvant.

    1815 Massachusetts Spy 23 Aug. Our lady and gentleman ‘hired helps’ do not understand who is meant when their master is inquired for.

    1818 H. B. Fearon Sketches Amer. 80 Servants, let me here observe, are called ‘helps’. If you call a servant by that name they leave you without notice.

    Alas, I fear I must add that Peever may not even be an honest peever, for in earlier pages we find the sort of humor typified by asking the residents of Trinidad who the mayor of Utica (N.Y.) is, and denouncing them for “Cimmerian ignorance” when they don’t know. He therefore may simply be cracking wise all along.

  20. In the Leadbeater quote, “the roosters in the attic” is surely just a compressed expression, and maybe not a well-thought-out one, for “those that roost in the attic.”

  21. Alas, I fear I must add that Peever may not even be an honest peever, for in earlier pages we find the sort of humor typified by asking the residents of Trinidad who the mayor of Utica (N.Y.) is, and denouncing them for “Cimmerian ignorance” when they don’t know. He therefore may simply be cracking wise all along.

    Oh dear. Well, I’d tentatively apologize to the galumphing humorist (if such he was), but if you quack like a peever, you have to expect to end up as canard à l’orange.

  22. Mark Twain, as always, did it better.

    Concerning The American Language
    –[Being part of a chapter which was crowded out of “A Tramp Abroad.”– M.T.]

    There was as Englishman in our compartment, and he complimented me on — on what? But you would never guess. He complimented me on my English. He said Americans in general did not speak the English language as correctly as I did. I said I was obliged to him for his compliment, since I knew he meant it for one, but that I was not fairly entitled to it, for I did not speak English at all — I only spoke American.

    He laughed, and said it was a distinction without a difference. I said no, the difference was not prodigious, but still it was considerable. We fell into a friendly dispute over the matter. I put my case as well as I could, and said:

    “The languages were identical several generations ago, but our changed conditions and the spread of our people far to the south and far to the west have made many alterations in our pronunciation, and have introduced new words among us and changed the meanings of many old ones. English people talk through their noses; we do not. We say know, English people say nao; we say cow, the Briton says kaow; we–”

    “Oh, come! that is pure Yankee; everybody knows that.”

    “Yes, it is pure Yankee; that is true. One cannot hear it in America outside of the little corner called New England, which is Yankee land. The English themselves planted it there, two hundred and fifty years ago, and there it remains; it has never spread. But England talks through her nose yet; the Londoner and the backwoods New-Englander pronounce ‘know’ and ‘cow’ alike, and then the Briton unconsciously satirizes himself by making fun of the Yankee’s pronunciation.”

    We argued this point at some length; nobody won; but no matter, the fact remains Englishmen say nao and kaow for “know” and “cow,” and that is what the rustic inhabitant of a very small section of America does.

    “You conferred your ‘a’ upon New England, too, and there it remains; it has not traveled out of the narrow limits of those six little states in all these two hundred and fifty years. All England uses it, New England’s small population —
    say four millions — use it, but we have forty-five millions who do not use it. You say ‘glahs of wawtah,’ so does New England; at least, New England says ‘glahs.’ America at large flattens the ‘a’, and says ‘glass of water.’ These sounds are pleasanter than yours; you may think they are not right — well, in English they are not right, but ‘American’ they are. You say ‘flahsk’ and ‘bahsket,’ and ‘jackahss’; we say ‘flask,’ ‘basket,’ ‘jackass’ — sounding the ‘a’ as it is in ‘tallow,’ ‘fallow,’ and so on. Up to as late as 1847 Mr. Webster’s Dictionary had the impudence to still pronounce ‘basket’ bahsket, when he knew that outside of his little New England all America shortened the ‘a’ and paid no attention to his English broadening of it. However, it called itself an English Dictionary, so it was proper enough that it should stick to English forms, perhaps. It still calls itself an English Dictionary today, but it has quietly ceased to pronounce ‘basket’ as if it were spelt ‘bahsket.’ In the American language the ‘h’ is respected; the ‘h’ is not dropped or added improperly.”

    “The same is the case in England — I mean among the educated classes, of course.”

    “Yes, that is true; but a nation’s language is a very large matter. It is not simply a manner of speech obtaining among the educated handful; the manner obtaining among the vast uneducated multitude must be considered also. Your uneducated masses speak English, you will not deny that; our uneducated masses speak American it won’t be fair for you to deny that, for you can see, yourself, that when your stable-boy says, ‘It isn’t the ‘unting that ‘urts the ‘orse, but the ‘ammer, ‘ammer, ‘ammer on the ‘ard ‘ighway,’ and our stable-boy makes the same remark without suffocating a single h, these two people are manifestly talking two different languages. But if the signs are to be trusted, even your educated classes used to drop the ‘h.’ They say humble, now, and heroic, and historic etc., but I judge that they used to drop those h’s because your writers still keep up the fashion of patting an before those words instead of a. This is what Mr. Darwin might call a ‘rudimentary’ sign that as an was justifiable once, and useful when your educated classes used to say ‘umble, and ‘eroic, and ‘istorical. Correct writers of the American language do not put an before three words.”

    The English gentleman had something to say upon this matter, but never mind what he said–I’m not arguing his case. I have him at a disadvantage, now. I proceeded:

    “In England you encourage an orator by exclaiming, ‘H’yaah! ‘yaah!’ We pronounce it heer in some sections, ‘h’yer’ in others, and so on; but our whites do not say ‘h’yaah,’ pronouncing the a’s like the a in ah. I have heard English ladies say ‘don’t you’ — making two separate and distinct words of it; your Mr. Burnand has satirized it. But we always say ‘dontchu.’ This is much better. Your ladies say, ‘Oh, it’s oful nice!’ Ours say, ‘Oh, it’s awful nice!’ We say, ‘Four hundred,’ you say ‘For’ — as in the word or. Your clergymen speak of ‘the Lawd,’ ours of ‘the Lord’; yours speak of ‘the gawds of the heathen,’ ours of ‘the gods of the heathen.’ When you are exhausted, you say you are ‘knocked up.’ We don’t. When you say you will do a thing ‘directly,’ you mean ‘immediately’; in the American language — generally speaking — the word signifies ‘after a little.’ When you say ‘clever,’ you mean ‘capable’; with us the word used to mean ‘accommodating,’ but I don’t know what it means now. Your word ‘stout’ means ‘fleshy’; our word ‘stout’ usually means ‘strong.’ Your words ‘gentleman’ and ‘lady’ have a very restricted meaning; with us they include the barmaid, butcher, burglar, harlot, and horse-thief. You say, ‘I haven’t got any stockings on,’ ‘I haven’t got any memory,’ ‘I haven’t got any money in my purse; we usually say, ‘I haven’t any stockings on,’ ‘I haven’t any memory!’ ‘I haven’t any money in my purse.’ You say ‘out of window’; we always put in a the. If one asks ‘How old is that man?’ the Briton answers, ‘He will be about forty’; in the American language we should say, ‘He is about forty.’ However, I won’t tire you, sir; but if I wanted to, I could pile up differences here until I not only convinced you that English and American are separate languages, but that when I speak my native tongue in its utmost purity an Englishman can’t understand me at all.”

    “I don’t wish to flatter you, but it is about all I can do to understand you now.”

    That was a very pretty compliment, and it put us on the pleasantest terms directly — I use the word in the English sense.

    (Later — 1882. Esthetes in many of our schools are now beginning to teach the pupils to broaden the ‘a,’ and to say “don’t you,” in the elegant foreign way.)

    Note that Twain’s claim that English people say for hundred ‘400’ shows that the NORTH=FORCE merger was in effect in England, but not in America, or at least not in Twain’s own accent.

  23. marie-lucie says

    JC, I am surprised by this:

    You [English] say, ‘I haven’t got any stockings on,’ ‘I haven’t got any memory,’ ‘I haven’t got any money in my purse; we usually say, ‘I haven’t any stockings on,’ ‘I haven’t any memory!’ ‘I haven’t any money in my purse.’

    I would have said the opposite about the two dialects.

  24. Of course I haven’t has meanwhile been replaced by I don’t have. I wonder what “alike” pronunciations Twain meant to represent with the spellings nao and kaow.

  25. I wonder if the “a” was meant to to represent a schwa-like vowel, since the first part of the “goat” diphthong in British English is often identified with that sound.

  26. David Eddyshaw: …American prudery (like throwing rocks instead of stones, as we profane Goddams do)…

    This is still not a thing: http://languagehat.com/herta-muller-and-romanian/#comment-674563

  27. Eli Nelson,

    A Tramp Abroad was published in 1880. The “Received” [əʊ] in the GOAT set was not yet very widespread at the time. Judging from the fact that it sounded like the MOUTH vowel to Twain, it may have been the [ʌʊ ~ aʊ] type sound produced by the southestern diphthong shift. In the accents that have it, the MOUTH vowel has a front starting point, [æʊ ~ æə ~ æː], but I doubt if an American non-specialist (even as smart as Twain) would have appreciated the difference. Note that the characteristic broad Australian GOAT diphthong [æ̈ʏ] sounds like the KITE vowel (of all things) to some British people (whose general familiarity with Australian English is superficial).

  28. Australian GOAT diphthong [æ̈ʏ]

    I remember hearing it as unrounded, ending with an [ɪ].

  29. Squiffy-Marie van 't Blad, Dutchman-at-large says

    We observe in passing that British English has developed a sense of “Rubbish; something worthless” for “pants”, as in “That article is utter pants”.

    (My old boss was an imported American professor who took to using that sense with relish.)

  30. When Peever wrote “both are roosters”, he had already mentioned the term “rooster”. Perhaps he was referring to what “roosters” would mean if it were a word, viz its compositional meaning, without claiming that it has a meaning independent of its structure. After all Mary Leadbeater used it with its compositional meaning, as Rodger C pointed out.

  31. Yes, but she was alone, all alone in the known history of the use of the word.

  32. “The Earnest Atheist.” […] passed a moderately interesting hour or so once for me once when I was skiving in the university library’s stacks as a youth instead of improving my brain.

    If reading in a library counts as wrong, I definitely don’t want to be right. But I have just read the parts of “The Earnest Atheist” that Google Books exposes, and I find it just another tedious Internet rant before its time, complete with “haters gotta hate” cliches. But perhaps “moderately interesting” is one of those Briticisms like “hilarity ensues”?

    As for help […]. Here are some helpful OED citations:

    Aw, nobody commented on this!

  33. Apropos hens, roosters, and the names they are called.

    A new paper on domestication of chicken is mostly archaeological but part-linguistic. They argue that the chicken bones occasionally found in the trash heaps of Harappa civilization were wild gray junglefowl, and that domesticated chicken only appear en masse in the Indo-European times, brought from SE Asia where the wild red junglefowl apparently took liking to the humans’ rice and millet and moved in with the Ban Non Wat farmers.

    They cite an observation that the 3 branches of the Dravidian languages use very different hen-words, supporting the idea that chicken domestication in South Asia post-dates the split.

    They also claim that the hens are late arrivals in the Vedic texts.
    https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2121978119

  34. Interesting, thanks!

  35. Trond Engen says

    Yes, thanks! As the authors acknowledge, earliest dates are likely to be antedated by new eidence. Still, a strikingly coherent picture of domestication and dispersion. And that come with a warning. Much evidence was evaluated out of the timelin, so the study is sensitive to the evaluation criteria.

    Anyway, a lot of hypetheses can be made to test the timeline. If it’s correct, the domestic chicken would have arrived in Germanic and Baltic speaking regions in the late Roman Era. How does that fit the linguistic evidence? How does an introduction to the Niger Basin along with rice cultivation fit? How did the name of the bird spread in the Pacific?

  36. @Trond Engen: The Roman augurs were supposed to take chickens* with them everywhere the legions conquered. So it seems likely that the birds were introduced into Germany no later than the first century.

    * I remember, decades ago, hearing that there was some question of whether those chickens were really the same species as the modern ones. I would imagine this should be easy to determine via DNA testing of Roman-era bones, but I know nothing about the presumed results.

  37. David Eddyshaw says

    The word for “chicken” in Western Oti-Volta (e.g. Kusaal nua) is unrelated to the word found in virtually all the rest of Oti-Volta (e.g. Nawdm kɔrga, Moba kolg); WOV is roughly as diverse as Romance, so the protolanguage may go back to about the same time as Vulgar Latin, though I suspect rather later. (The WOV etymon may derive from a form that means “bird” in general elsewhere in the family, but this is pretty speculative.)

    However, I don’t think one can make too much of that. The WOV word for “water” is unrelated to the word in the rest of Oti-Volta too, and I’m fairly confident that there has been water in the Niger basin for quite some time. And the agreement of the other Oti-Volta branches is enough to set up *koʎga “chicken” for Proto-Oti-Volta, which can scarcely be later than the first millennium BC, probably nearer the beginning than the end. Oti-Volta is a lot more internally diverse than Germanic, for example.

    The word for “rice” goes right back (as *muʎCi, where C was some sort of velar, probably *ŋ or *g) without any problems to Proto-Oti-Volta. The etymon always means “rice” specifically in all the modern languages, though of course that doesn’t absolutely mean that it had to mean “rice” in the protolanguage too.

  38. Dmitry Pruss says

    The Roman augurs were supposed to take chickens* with them everywhere the legions conquered. So it seems likely that the birds were introduced into Germany no later than the first century.

    But that’s what the paper shows, by analyzing shapes and sizes of the bones. Chicken are confidently placed in Italian peninsula by VII BCE and N Europe by I BCE. The question is, are there deeper traces in the language than in the bones?

    In the Middle East, chicken bones and depictions of the chicken generally begin in ~ VIII BCE, and the language apparently concurs … the words for chicken are either completely missing in the Hebrew Old Testament or perhaps there is one occurrence of onomatopoeic “zarzir”. Early CE rabbinical wise men famously disagreed on where exactly the chicken fits in the kosher rules, so in terms of sacred traditions the species may have remained a novelty even then…

  39. PS: another very recent paper on chicken archaeology in the Antiquity confirms the dates of spread in Europe, and adds that in the first centuries of their spread, chicken were typically not kept for food. The skeletons are buried whole, unbutchered, often with people, often of older-age birds, The same is true in the earliest Nan Bon Wat samples, too.
    They say that it looks like the birds were initially a kind of exotica. Maybe ritual? Can keeping them just for the eggs be excluded?
    They mention a chicken-meat tabu in the Roman age British Isles, and the observation that chicken didn’t spread in Scotland until the Viking expansion.
    https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/antiquity/article/redefining-the-timing-and-circumstances-of-the-chickens-introduction-to-europe-and-northwest-africa/0797DAA570D51D988B0514C37C2EC534

  40. in the first centuries of their spread, chicken were typically not kept for food. The skeletons are buried whole, unbutchered, often with people, often of older-age birds

    Fascinating!

  41. David Marjanović says

    chicken didn’t spread in Scotland until the Viking expansion

    Wow!

    I remember, decades ago, hearing that there was some question of whether those chickens were really the same species as the modern ones.

    What else would they be?

  42. Denisovan chickens!

  43. @David Marjanović: Presumably the question was whether they were mostly descended from red junglefowl or gray. Or maybe somebody thought they might have been more distantly related African ground fowl? There doesn’t seem to be much discussion of this question online, so I assume it has been resolved in favor of the Gallus gallus/domesticus.

  44. At what point did wild fowl (pheasants etc.) become insufficiently available in Great Britain (at least to peasants etc.), to the point that raising chickens was less trouble than hunting?

  45. ə de vivre says

    Interesting that Best et al. don’t really discuss the possibility of egg laying as an early use. Perhaps the simple infrequency of chicken remains makes any practical use unlikely?

    We know that many kinds of animals were imported from the Indus Valley to Mesopotamia in the second half of the third millennium (most notably, the water buffalo), but it’s unclear if chickens ever made it over. There’s a bird called a dar{mušen} me-luḫ-ḫa, literally an “Indian francolin,” which is a plausible chicken candidate. We know live birds were imported because there are administrative texts that list the amounts of grain they were fed. But these dar{mušen} me-luḫ-ḫa were never naturalized, and disappear from the record when direct contact with the Indus Valley ceases in the second millennium.

  46. David Marjanović says

    At what point did wild fowl (pheasants etc.) become insufficiently available in Great Britain (at least to peasants etc.), to the point that raising chickens was less trouble than hunting?

    Isn’t any amount of hunting more trouble than raising chickens? They can feed themselves on your trash heap or basically any meadow.

    And if this is about the eggs, no contest.

  47. If you want plentiful eggs, you have to feed them.

  48. David Eddyshaw says

    Interesting.

    Perplexed by the fact that the “chicken” words seem to be much older in Oti-Volta than is consistent with some of the late dates suggested for the introduction of the bird in West Africa, I followed up some of accessible references, like

    https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s10437-013-9128-1.pdf

    from which it appears that the archaeological evidence one way or the other is actually very scanty; they mention also that it is hard to see how chickens became so culturally important in many African cultures if they were really a very late arrival. (Various hand-wavy “explanations” seem to have been offered for this, although not by these sensible authors.)

    This paper in turn refers to Kay Williamson’s Did Chicken Go West?, of which I can only access a bit with Google Books, but the part I can see

    https://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=-t5QAwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA368&dq=WILLIAMSON,+K.+(2000)+Did+chicken+go+west%3F,+in:+BLENCH,+R.M.+&ots=oFvb8XNJEd&sig=JB_ngjQv_LUw0nLLvbMXlRR2JCo&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

    actually cites Gabriel Manessy as reconstructing *ko *kol back to Proto-Central-Gur, which was his name for the (imaginary) node formed by Oti-Volta and the Gurunsi languages (the *kol form is evidently the same as my own Proto-Oti-Volta *koʎ-; the article misses the fact that the Eastern Oti-Volta forms do actually reflect that, but that’s hardly surprising. (Manessy had a bad habit of systematically ignoring non-initial consonants in reconstruction, hand-waving them away as “derivational suffixes.” It certainly helps with finding more “cognates” if you licence yourself to ignore everything after an initial CV-.)

    That would make it very old indeed, if the word were truly inherited by both branches, as opposed to borrowed: the Oti-Volta/Gurunsi relationship is in reality pretty remote (much more so than within any single branch of Indo-European, even Indo-Iranian.)

    However, the word evidently has been borrowed outside “Gur”, and I can’t see any obstacle to supposing that it was borrowed from one group to another within “Gur” too.)

  49. David Eddyshaw says

    I wonder where Hausa kaza “chicken” comes from?

  50. David Eddyshaw: … they mention also that it is hard to see how chickens became so culturally important in many African cultures if they were really a very late arrival.

    Chickens are really good livestock. If you are just raising them for meat, they are probably the most efficient option, pound-for-pound, for turning feed into meat. Moreover, like most stock mammals, the females also produce another product when they are well fed. I haven’t seen explicit numbers, but I’ll bet that chicken egg production is also a more efficient process (in terms of calories and other nutrients) than bovine milk production.

  51. David Eddyshaw says

    By cultural, I meant “incorporated into myth and ritual”, really.

    I must admit that I don’t have any firsthand knowledge of that. The Kusaasi certainly don’t wax mystical about hens (or about anything, much.)

    I’m not altogether sold on the argument myself, to be honest, anyway. West Africans have been just as good at inventing age-old traditions as the Tokugawa Japanese or the Victorian Brits.

    The linguistic objections seem more cogent to me, though there are certainly examples out there where a word reconstructed, perfectly soundly, for a protolanguage, probably actually meant something rather different from what all its descendents now mean. (I just can’t think of any just now.) Moreover, West Africa is full of Wanderwörter

    On the chicken/rice thing, I have just this minute discovered that West Africa has its own species, apparently domesticated about 3000 years ago:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oryza_glaberrima

    (The “rice” etymon *muʎ- quite certainly goes back to Proto-Oti-Volta, but as it refers to all kinds of rice there is really no difficulty there are all.)

  52. @David Eddyshaw: Yes, I knew what you meant. I was thinking, for example, of the famous Azande Benge (“poison oracle”) that answers questions by killing or not killing chickens. It is a very important element of Azande culture, but it could be as little as a couple centuries old. Some folktales suggest that the rubbing board oracle and termite oracle, even though they are considered much less important and reliable than the Benge, might be quite a bit older.

  53. David Eddyshaw says

    Yes indeed; it’s all too easy to attribute unchanging primaeval continuity to “exotic” cultures which in reality have always been adapting themselves and reinventing themselves while being open to incorporating outside elements that appeal on grounds of convenience, or just for the sake of novelty. Just like our culture …

  54. I remember the shock to my mental world when I read that those supposedly ancient genealogies on which colonial powers based their bureaucratic rules and tribal divisions were actually endlessly mutable, changing every generation as relationships changed and the family ties that were supposed to underlie them had to change with them. It was obvious once I thought about it, and it made me realize how inflexible our supposedly superior permanent records are (not to mention that just because it’s written down in documents doesn’t mean it accurately reflects the reality of who engendered who, back in the day…).

  55. Chickens need work. You need to fence them and bring them in at night to protect them from animals. Once you bring them in, you need to keep the coop clean. You need to keep them warm (feral chickens do well in Kaua‘i and Key West, not in Scotland). It’s simple but not trivial.

  56. Trond Engen says

    The paper does say that the initial east-west spread was very rapid, and that the move to northern latitudes very slow. It would be easy keeping the chicken warm by letting them live with the cows. Maybe what it took was the conceptual leap of separating human quarters from livestock.

  57. David Eddyshaw says

    Out of curiosity, I looked at the original source for the Manessy Proto-Central Gur *ko *kol “chicken”, his Contribution à la Classification Généalogique des Langues Voltaïques. He has the *koʎ- form all over Oti-Volta, apart from the Western branch (he’s missed Buli kpiak, which I think actually is derivable from that same protoform, but I don’t blame him for that; it’s hardly obvious.) For Gurunsi, he has *ko forms in just Pana and Winye, which I know nothing about except that they are spoken up in Burkina Faso. I can’t find anything similar in any other Gurunsi language myself, either. So it does look like borrowing or just plain coincidence to me. I think the form is really only reconstructable to Proto-Oti-Volta (and it’s *koʎ-, not *ko.)

    So while I think it pretty much has to go back to the first millennium BCE, and probably earlier rather than later within that, it doesn’t need to be projected back so far as to cause a really serious mismatch with other evidence.

  58. David Eddyshaw says

    There’s also the clearly reconstructable Proto-Oti-Volta *k͡pã̰a(n)- “guineafowl” (the “n” drops, irregularly, in the bare-stem combining form), which I suppose could be at the back of some of these *ko forms; the forms Manessy gives for Winye “chicken”, viz sg ko, pl kweene, bear a suggestive resemblance to Mooré “guineafowl”: sg kãoongo, pl kĩini (Mooré has turned all its labiovelars into plain velars: Kusaal kpan’ʋŋ, pl kpin’ini.)

    In fact, it seems a bit surprising to me that semantic range of “guineafowl” wasn’t simply extended to cover hens as well when those exotic creatures first appeared on the scene. Obviously just too different.

    Pana seems to be very much influenced by the surrounding Mande languages

    https://www.koeppe.de/titel_la-langue-pana-burkina-faso-et-mali

  59. ktschwarz says

    David E: the “chicken” words seem to be much older in Oti-Volta than is consistent with some of the late dates suggested for the introduction of the bird in West Africa … if the word were truly inherited by both branches, as opposed to borrowed …

    Reminds me of the discussion about the Proto-Muskogean word for corn in Muskogean and Lamb’s-Quarters, especially the 2005 comment from David Costa (who would later work with the Miami language revival):

    The presence of a reconstructible word for corn in Proto-Muskogean doesn’t surprise me much. If archaeology has corn present in the southeast at AD 700, it probably was known a few centuries before that. At 500 AD the Muskogean languages probably weren’t that different yet, and they were probably still geographically pretty close together, so it seems entirely possible that some Muskogean dialect borrowed the word and passed it to all the others. If none of the dialects had undergone any of the relevant diagnostic sound changes yet, this borrowing would be indistinguishable from an inherited Proto-Muskogean etymon.

    A similar analog from Algonquian is that Proto-Algonquian has a cleanly reconstructible word for ‘seal’, as in the animal. However, most people are rather uncomfortable locating the Proto-Algonquians anywhere where there were seals — the only candidate locations would be Hudson Bay, Lake Ontario, or the Maritimes, none of which work well for various reasons. So the compromise position now is that most researchers think the word arose at a later time after PA had broken up (but not by too much), and that the word was simply passed around among different sister dialects/languages.

  60. David Eddyshaw says

    Yes, I was pondering something like that myself.

    I don’t think it works out of the box for Proto-Oti-Volta, because the reflexes of the protosegment I somewhat arbitrarily label as *ʎ [it may have been /r/ or even plain /l/, but that would clash with an existing set of correspondences that as yet I can’t completely explain away] are actually very different in different branches, so you would need to assume that the borrowers were also pretty good at comparative linguistics to make them all line up properly, cf Nawdm kɔrga, Moba kolg, Mbelime kɔdikɛ; if the word had existed in Kusaal it would have been *kɔɔg or perhaps *kpɛɛg; as I suggested above, even Buli kpiak (stem kpa-) is conceivably connected: in Buli, *ʎ -> j after any vowel, and the outcomes of the resulting Vj diphthongs are quite variable, with confusing patterns of levelling in different stems: Buli duok and deri “pig/warthog” are the same original stem *doʎ- in two different noun classes (= Kusaal dɛɛg “warthog.”)

    On the other hand, this is in turn to assume that the relevant changes in the different branches were early enough to rule out borrowing rather than cognacy as an explanation, and Western Oti-Volta evidence suggests that this may not have been so, at least for that branch: although *ʎ has mostly disappeared altogether after short vowels (probably via /j/), it’s left traces of sandhi changes like *ʎt -> tt, of which Mooré has lots of examples, to the point that the original *CVʎ-stems really need to have their own microconjugations and microdeclensions; if the relevant changes were that early, you’d have thought that sort of thing would have been almost entirely levelled away (as it mostly has been in Kusaal; the process is visibly continuing over the fifty-odd years that the language has been documented.)

    However, be that as it may, as far as similar forms outside Oti-Volta go, it seems extremely likely to me that the explanation lies in borrowing, at any rate.

  61. David Eddyshaw says

    There’s also the point that the very Oti-Volta branch which has most radically altered Proto-OV *ʎ, Western Oti-Volta, actually doesn’t have a reflex of *koʎ-, using *nooga instead (conceivably a repurposing of a word that originally just meant “bird.”) So the borrowing hypothesis only has to contend with the differing reflexes across Gurma, Yom/Nawdm and Eastern Oti-Volta (assuming that the Buli kpiak is really too much of a stretch, which is possible after all.) That’s not such a challenging prospect, really.

  62. borrowing or just plain coincidence

    Have a look at:

    κότα

    Greek
    Alternative forms

    κόττα f (kótta)

    Etymology

    From feminine form of Ancient Greek κόττος (kóttos, “rooster, cock”). Doublet of κουτός (koutós, “stupid, dumb”).
    Pronunciation

    IPA(key): /ˈkota/
    Hyphenation: κό‧τα

    Noun

    κότα • (kóta) f (plural κότες)

    1. (bird) hen, chicken (female adult Gallus gallus)

    Η κότα και ο κόκορας ζευγαρώνουν.

    I kóta kai o kókoras zevgarónoun.
    The hen and the rooster are mating.

    2. (colloquial) chicken, coward (person who lacks courage)

    Μη φοβάσαι, μωρή κότα. Δε θα σου κάνει τίποτα το σκυλί.

    Mi fovásai, morí kóta. De tha sou kánei típota to skylí.
    Don’t be afraid, you chicken. The dog won’t do anything (bad) to you.

    3. (colloquial, derogatory) ditz, airhead, bimbo (feather-brained or pretentious woman)

    Κοίτα τη φοράει αυτή η κότα!

    Koíta ti foráei aftí i kóta!
    Look what that bimbo is wearing!

    and

    Reconstruction:Proto-Georgian-Zan/katam-

    Proto-Georgian-Zan
    Alternative reconstructions

    (*kat-) (Fähnrich–Sarǯvelaʒe)[1][2]

    Etymology

    A pan-Caucasian cultural word. Compare Chechen котам (kotam), Ingush котам (kotam), Bats ქოთამ (kotam); Bezhta гуьдаь (güdä), Hunzib гудо (gudo); Rutul кӏатӏ (ḳaṭ), Tsakhur кӏатӏе (ḳaṭе); Adyghe чэты (čătə), кьэт (k’ăt), Kabardian джэд (ǯ̍ăd); Abkhaz а-куты (a-ḳ°ṭə), Abaza квтӏу (k°ṭw).

    Fähnrich–Sarǯvelaʒe reconstruct Proto-Kartvelian *kat-,[1][2] however this is rejected by Klimov according to whom Kartvelians were not familiar with this fowl at Common Kartvelian stage and were only introduced to it by around 7-6th centuries BC.[3][4][5]

    Starostin-Nikolayev derive from Proto-Nakh *kōtam, whereas Klimov takes the borrowing in the other direction.[6][4]

    Note also Laz ქორმე (korme).
    Noun

    *katam- (Klimov)[5]

    1. chicken

    Descendants
    Old Georgian: ქათამი (katami)

    Georgian: ქათამი (katami)
    →⇒ Svan: ქათალ (katal)

    Zan:

    Laz: ქოთუმე (kotume)
    Mingrelian: ქოთომი (kotomi)

  63. To those asking the egg and the chicken question, were the hens kept originally just for the eggs.

    Red junglefowl lays eggs only in a specific season. Like all birds, its egg laying is light dependent. Cocks testicles are regulated in the same way too. Domesticated hens gradually lost seasonality due to a disabling mutation in a thyroid regulation gene. But it isn’t clear yet when this mutation occurred.

    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31746479/

  64. David Eddyshaw says

    @juha:

    Very interesting …

    We are driven remorselessly to the conclusion that *kol/kot/kat must be Proto-World for “chicken.” Evidently chickens were there from the very beginning of humanity, so as a corollary we have solved the age-old enigma of which came first, the chicken or the egg …

    Wörter und Sachen, nothing!
    It all fits, I tell you!

    https://languagehat.com/proto-indo-european-fox/#comment-4166311

    The Fox is the deity of war, protection, hats and chickens!

  65. PlasticPaddy says

    @de
    I hesitate to correct you in a field where you are an expert and I am only a humble chicken scratching at the surface…
    But Nsusu is the Kongo word. You have erroneously dismissed *nooga (also the correct reconstruction is probably *nsoosa).

  66. David Eddyshaw says

    True: *kat is probaby, in fact, “guineafowl.” (The protobird.)

    (This is, of course, the origin of our “cassowary.”)

  67. And cassava, the cassowary’s habitual food (when not sampling missionaries), is clearly named after it.

  68. Stu Clayton says

    And catamite, if I have correctly understood juha’s citation “Old Georgian: ქათამი (katami)”.

  69. capra internetensis says

    Chickens were (still are) kept for gladiatorial combat. I wonder if you could find traces of battle-wounds on a chicken skeleton?

    Turkeys were, IIRC, kept for their feathers in North America. Roosters are pretty colourful.

  70. Stu Clayton says

    I wonder if you could find traces of battle-wounds on a chicken skeleton?

    They might be rugby damage: Keel bone injuries are a major welfare problem in freerange laying hens … caused by collisions with other hens, solid objects, and falling from any height.

    I was briefly puzzled by the “falling”, until I remembered the drop kick. Drop, and kick. Drop, and kick the other guy in the nuts. I’ve seen it in martial arts combat in movies.

  71. See? Keeping them in laying batteries is actually for their own protection.

  72. Stu Clayton says

    At that link is a list of alternatives to cages:

    1. Install perches lower to the ground (less than 30 in (77 cm) above the ground)
    2. Design perches so that inter-perch distances are less than 24 in (60cm) apart
    3. Supplementing diet with Omega-3 fatty acids
    4. Using soft perches
    5. Let hens of plenty of daily physical activity during growth, to help them increase their bone strength.

  73. Any mention of cassowary reminds me of my favorite SCP.

  74. Lars Mathiesen says

    There is also an animal welfare concern in Denmark about hens being bred to produce larger and larger eggs, to the point where laying them will cause injuries. I don’t think the “keel bone” has a separate name in Danish, at least what I saw talked about the “breast bone”.

    So anyway, since the price of eggs is more or less proportional to the average weight of the “grade” you get, it’s no skin off my anything to choose a smaller size grade, but it may be in the interest of the producers to get more egg per day. Though the claim was that it was consumer demand that drove the size increase.

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