Etymology gleanings for September 2015

It so happened that I have been “gleaning” the whole month, but today I’ll probably exhaust the questions received during the last weeks. From a letter: “I have been told Norwegians would say forth
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It so happened that I have been “gleaning” the whole month, but today I’ll probably exhaust the questions received during the last weeks. Perpetuum mobile From a letter: “I have been told Norwegians would say ‘forth and back’ rather that ‘back and forth’ since it was logical for them to envision going away, then coming back.” The Norwegian idiom is fram og tilbake, that is, “forward and back.” Logic has probably nothing to do with it. The human mind discovers the world, while language describes and classifies it. Since the classification of things is up to the observer, the results differ from “dialect” to “dialect.” In this case, the movement in two opposite directions has to be stressed, while which of them comes first does not seem to matter. Back and forth may sound more “logical” than to and fro or fram og tilbake, but this impression is an illusion. Compare a few more anthologized cases when the practice adopted by the speakers of a language strikes. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Linguistics

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