[TUHS] Boats (was: Slashes)

John Cowan cowan at mercury.ccil.org
Mon Jul 11 05:22:55 AEST 2016

Johnny Billquist scripsit:

> Uh. I'm no language expert, but that seems rather stretched. English
> comes from Old English, which have a lot more in common with
> Scandinavian languages, and they are all Germanic languages. Which
> means they all share a common root.


> What makes you say then that all the others borrowed it from
> English? 

Because when words change, they change according to common patterns
specific to the language.  For example, a change between Old English (OE)
and Modern English (ModE) is that long-a has become long-o.  Consequently,
the descendants of OE bát, tá, ác are ModE boat, toe, oak.  In Scots,
which is also descended from OE, this change did not operate, and long-a
changed in the Great Vowel Shift along with long-a from other sources,
giving the Older Scots words bait, tae, eik.  However, current Scots
does not use bait, but rather boat, and we can see that because this
breaks the pattern it must be a borrowing from English.

Similarly, there are two Old Norse (ON) words for boat, bát(r) and beit.
The first is the ordinary word, the second is confined to skaldic poetry.
In the modern languages, we have båt (bátur in Icelandic and Faroese),
which is regularly descended from the first word.  But which ON word
is original?  The evidence is clear: beit is native, because words
with á in OE regularly correspond to ei in ON.  For example, OE gát
(ModE goat) corresponds to geit in ON (variously geit, ged, get in the
modern languages), and there are many other words following this pattern.
So native beit was displaced (except in poetry) by the OE word bát,
with the ON -r ending.

Because English is such a prolific borrower, such false relatives
appear within English itself as well.  Nothing looks more obvious than
a connection between the verb choose, which is as native as can be
(cf. archaic German kiesen, Danish kyse, Norwegian kjose), and the
noun choice.  But the "oi" in choice is a dead giveaway: no native word
contains it, and in fact choice is borrowed from French choix, from
the French verb choisir, which is itself borrowed from some Germanic
language, probably Frankish.  Similarly, the d in murderer tells us
that it is borrowed from late Latin or French, which borrowed it from a
Continental Germanic language: the native word, still used by Shakespeare,
was murtherer.

> (I assume you know why Port and Starboard are named that way...)

OE steor 'steering oar, rudder' + bord 'side of a ship'.  Parallel
formations gave us common Scandinavian styrbord from ON stjórnborði,
similarly Dutch stuurbord, German Steuerbord.  Larboard, the other side,
began life as Middle English ladde 'load' + bord, because it was the side
you loaded a ship from, and was altered under the influence of starboard.
Because the two were easily confused, port officially replaced it in the
19C, though it had been used in this meaning since the 16C.

John Cowan          http://www.ccil.org/~cowan        cowan at ccil.org
You annoy me, Rattray!  You disgust me! You irritate me unspeakably!
Thank Heaven, I am a man of equable temper, or I should scarcely be able
to contain myself before your mocking visage.  --Stalky imitating Macrea

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