“Clown”: The KL-series pauses for a while

Those who have followed this series will remember that English kl-words form a loose fraternity of clinging, clinking, and clotted-cluttered things. Clover, cloth, clod, cloud, and clout have
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Those who have followed this series will remember that English kl-words form a loose fraternity of clinging, clinking, and clotted-cluttered things. Clover, cloth, clod, cloud, and clout have figured prominently in the story. Many more nouns and verbs belonging to this group deserve our attention, but, since the principle is clear, we should probably make a pause and turn to another subject. However, one kl-word is too interesting to fall by the wayside. Hence the grand finale: a post on clown. Clown surfaced in English texts in the second half of the sixteenth century and was recorded in several forms: cl– and –n were stable, but the vowels varied for somewhat unclear reasons. The word’s initial meaning was “a countryman, rustic; peasant,” and Macaulay in The History of England, with his fondness for archaic terms, still found it possible to say in 1849: “The Somerset clowns, with their scythes…faced the royal horse like the old soldiers” (OED). I wonder how many of. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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