or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Catching Fish

A couple of days ago I wrote about an error in television captioning, and I saw a doozy over the weekend. The voiceover said "Attila the Hun" not once but twice, clear as day. Whoever was transcribing, though, either had particularly bad hearing or had (how is this possible?) simply never heard of Attila, and so the transcription in the captions said, both times, "a tail of the hunt", which would be almost clever if it weren't so obviously a dreadful mistake.


Why, on the bus to work this morning, did the word "carp" pop into my head? Is it because I heard someone complaining in a seat behind me? Probably. And why did I wonder if the verb "carp" was related to the noun "carp"? Well, the answer to that one's obvious; it's because that's what I do.

"Carp" the fish is from Latin "carpa", with the same meaning. "Carp" the complaining, on the other hand, is from an old Norse word that originally meant "to boast". Is the complaining carp related to the "carpe" in "carpe diem", "seize the day" (from the Latin verb "carpere", "to pluck")? You wouldn't think so, but it might be the case; the OED speculates that though it originated in Norse, it gradually took on its current meaning through the "seize/pluck" sense of "carpe", in that one grabs onto a topic and worries it to death: evidently an extended meaning of "carpere" was "to slander". Sounds plausible enough to me: such wholesale alterations over time aren't unheard of in English, or in most any other language, I would imagine, except perhaps Esperanto.

However, "carpa" the fish and "carpe" the seizing are, as far as I know, unrelated.


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