[TUHS] Unix, eunuchs?

John Cowan cowan at ccil.org
Tue Jun 6 02:28:54 AEST 2006

James Petts scripsit:

> I would rather say "augmented" than "replaced", 

Only about 15 to 30 in every 100 of the words that Old English speakers
knew, and that were written down before 1066 in books that haven't been
lost or burned, are still being spoken and written in 2006.  You can,
if you work at it, write English today with only those words, but it
isn't so straightforward -- and it couldn't be done at all if the words
kept from Old English times were not also the most often seen words in
today's English.  All of the other Old English words have been dropped and
French, Latin, or Greek words taken instead.  You're right that many new
words for new things were also put into English over the years as well.

(I had to work on that a great deal to weed all the old French words out
of it.)

> 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.


> 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...

As you say.  But where did the S- at the beginning of the name "Spruce"
come from, then?  No book of words tells us.

> 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.

Thanks for this helpful piece of the OED.

Do what you will,                       John Cowan
   this Life's a Fiction                cowan at ccil.org
And is made up of                       http://www.ccil.org/~cowan
   Contradiction.  --William Blake

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