[TUHS] Unix, eunuchs?

John Cowan cowan at ccil.org
Tue Jun 6 01:02:26 AEST 2006

Andrzej Popielewicz scripsit:

> Well, I cannot "reproduce it" in my mind this funny feeling I suspect, 
> as not natively Enlish speaking.

Not surprising.  Puns in other languages are often hard to appreciate.

> Hopefully it helped the Unix .Does it cause the smile every time You 
> hear it ?

Well, the joke is rather less funny after 30 years than when I first
saw it.  Also not surprising.

English is full of unrelated words pronounced exactly alike, at least
partly because of its habit of borrowing words from foreign languages as
they are written and then changing the pronunciation to suit itself,
which accounts for the strange English pronunciation of "eunuch"
(of Classical Greek origin).

English has always had an appetite for borrowed words, ever since we
replaced huge amounts of our native vocabulary with borrowed French,
Latin, and Greek words.  (From Polish, not so much, except for the
names of specifically Polish things such as "babka", "ogonek", "pierogi"
(more usually "pierogies", with an English plural ending added), "Sejm",
and "zloty".)

(There is, however, just to get *completely* off-topic, the curious
case of the English word "spruce", which means any of various coniferous
evergreen trees of the genus _Picea_.  Most of this word is unquestionably
from "Pruce", the older English name for Prussia, now obsolete.
But Wikipedia suggests, perhaps rightly, that the initial s- comes
from a misinterpretation of the Polish phrase _z Prus_ 'from Prussia'.
English dictionaries are not conclusive.)

A question for any francophones on the list:  is the final -x in "Unix"
normally pronounced in French, or is it silent?

John Cowan  cowan at ccil.org    http://ccil.org/~cowan
Big as a house, much bigger than a house, it looked to [Sam], a grey-clad
moving hill.  Fear and wonder, maybe, enlarged him in the hobbit's eyes,
but the Mumak of Harad was indeed a beast of vast bulk, and the like of him
does not walk now in Middle-earth; his kin that live still in latter days are
but memories of his girth and his majesty.  --"Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit"

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