[TUHS] Unix, eunuchs?

James Petts jpetts at operamail.com
Tue Jun 6 01:57:58 AEST 2006

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "John Cowan" <cowan at ccil.org>
> To: "Andrzej Popielewicz" <vasco at icpnet.pl>
> Subject: Re: [TUHS] Unix, eunuchs?
> Date: Mon, 5 Jun 2006 11:02:26 -0400

> 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.

I would rather say "augmented" than "replaced", and of course one should
not neglect the other languages from which there have been significant
borrowings, such as Hindi, which are not, of course, as extensive as from
the languages you mention.

> (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.)

Well, the definition of Spruce in the OED has several quotations from
the 17th century and before, which seem to indicate that one of the
names for Prussia was in fact "Spruce", which suggests that the
Wikipedia article may not be in fact accurate. The "z Prus" etymology,
without any supporting evidence, is tenuous...

1378 Durh. Acc. Rolls (Surtees) 47 In xxiiij piscibus de sprws empt.,
ijs. 14.. Chaucer's Dethe Blaunche 1025 (MS. Bodl. 638), She wolde
not..send men yn-to Walakye, To Sprewse & yn-to Tartarye. 1521 in
Ellis Orig. Lett. Ser. II. I. 292 The expedition of the Gentlemen
of Spruce. c1550 BALE K. Johan (Camden) 9 In Sycell, in Naples, in
Venys and Ytalye, In Pole, Spruse and Berne. 1639 FULLER Holy War
V. iii. 233 They busied themselves in defending of Christendome,..as
the Teutonick order defended Spruce-land against the Tartarian.
1656 G. ABBOT Descr. World 69 On the east and north corner of Germany
lyeth a country called Prussia, in English Pruthen or Spruce.

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