Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Eric Partridge and the meaning of death

More from Eric Partridge's Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English that may interest crime readers:

1) Dead, dear, death, debased, and debauched are close enough (about a quarter of a column apart) to suggest any number of hard-boiled story possibilities. Noir, even.

2) Kill is probably related to quell, which, in turn, is akin to German quälen, to grievously torment.

3) Mystery is akin to Greek mustēs, literally close-mouthed.

4) For murder (n,v ), murderer, murderous, see MORTAL

5) Partridge's sly humor at some of his predecessors' expense:
"The transliteration of Greek words, in particular, has been more exact than in several dictionaries one might, but does not, name."
6) And, finally, an enlightened attitude to swearing that heads the dictionary' entry for a word familiar to readers of current hard-boiled and noir writing, emphasis mine:
"f**k, v hence n, is a standard English word classed because of its associations as a vulgarism."
© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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3 Comments:

Blogger RT said...

I think that no one really knows the definition of death until it is too late. And those who knows (the dead) aren't talking. Or are they?

March 12, 2014  
Blogger RT said...

Correction: "know" NOT "knows"

I need a copy-editor! Help!

March 12, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I suppose any lexicographer ought to place an asterisk, for "unattested" or "hypothesized' before any attempts at defining death.

March 12, 2014  

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