or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, October 24, 2008


Both "team" and "teem", as I mentioned yesterday, emerged, eventually, from Indo-European "deuk-", which means "to lead". In English, this verb has several related meanings, and so naturally there are a number of different threads of meaning from this root as well.

You may well wonder how "teem" came from "deuk-", since they don't have any phonemes in common. It ran something like this: the combining form "deuk-mo-" became in Germanic "tauhmjan", with the "d-" becoming "t-", as in "dental" and "tooth", the "-k-" becoming "-h-", as in "cornucopia" and "horn", and the vowels kind of sliding around, as vowels will do over time. "Tauhmjan" became Old English "tieman" (more slippery vowels), and from there it's a short bus ride to "teem" once the Germanic verbal ending has vanished.

"Deuk-" gave Latin "ducere", "to lead", which bred a large, or largeish, family of English words. Human leadership is expressed in such words as "duke" and "duchess", the related "ducal", "ducat', and "duchy", and the foreign imports "doge" and "duce". Physical transmission of a substance, led by way of some conduit, shows up in "aqueduct", "conduct", "transducer", and of course "conduit" itself. "Educate" comes from this root prefixed by "ex-", "out"; to educate is to literally lead out of ignorance.

Various other words expressing direction of movement also emerged from "deuk-"; "tug" and "tow", the more abstract "taut" ("dragged tight") and "tie", and such "-duct" and "-duce" words as "deduce", "produce", "seduce" ("lead away from rightness"), "introduction", and "ductwork".

Finally, and most amusingly, "wanton" is compounded from Old English "wan-", "not", and "-ton", "brought up, reared, disciplined"; the headstrong and usually promiscuous wanton is someone who was brought up badly, or not at all.


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