or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Ill Wind

As I was idly reading over Tuesday's posting, it occurred to me that speaking of "nightingale", I had teasingly brought up "galingale" as if it might somehow be related, and then it occurred to me that I had neglected to mention two other "-gale" words (the only other two, as far as I know). And fascinatingly, no two of them are related in any way: "-gale" appeared in the language four times from four entirely different sources, which I guess is the linguistic equivalent of the evolutionary commonplace that the eye evolved at least three different times.

The "-gale" from "nightingale", as I mentioned, is related to "gala", and that of "galingale" is from the corruption of a Chinese word. The third word in our quartet is "farthingale"--it's a skirt-hoop--and that has a most convoluted extraction: Middle English "verdingale" or "verdynggale" from French "verdugale" from Spanish "verdugado", an offshoot of their "verdugo", a stick, which derives from the sense of "verde", "green", as in a tree's green shoot, and that in turn is from Latin "viridis", "green", from which English retains "viridian". (If I'd been paying attention, I could have tied all that in to Monday's discussion of "gram-"/"green".)

Our fourth "-gale" word is "martingale", which is originally a rein but now is best known as a way of losing large sums of money at gambling. "Martingale" is a French word derived from another Spanish word, "almartaga", "rein", and that "al-" suffix might suggest an Arabic word, which in this case would almost certainly be correct; quite a few English words beginning with "al-" are from Arabic (most of them with scientific roots), such as "algebra", "alcohol", "alkali", and "almagest".


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