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Monthly gleanings for September 2019

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Some more finger work In the posts for September 25 and October 2, 2019, the etymology of the word finger was discussed. Some comments on the first one require further notice. Final –r. I deliberately stayed away from the origin of –r in fingr-, though I did mention the problem. This -r is not a suffix of a “doer” (nomen agentis “agent noun,” as in catch-er or sing–er). The verb fing– did not exist (that is why even in Modern English finger rhymes with linger, rather than ringer). If it had existed, the Gothic word would have ended in –āreis, the oldest German word would have been fingāri, and so on. Consequently, we have to deal with the root fingr-, and the status of final -r remains a matter of controversy. The details of this controversy are of little interest to us, and I passed them by. Deceptive Latin correspondences. Pingo (pinxi, pictum, pingere; from the root pict– we have depict, picture, and so forth) “to paint” only looks like a good match for finger. First, –r still remains unexplained. Second, how can the mental process be reconstructed? No one paints with a finger, so that the association appears unrealistic. Finger never meant “brush” or any other implement, and among the many words having the root ping- ~ pict- not a single one designates a body part. Pingo rhymes with fingo “to shape, adorn,” and, at least in Latin, those near-synonyms and near-homonyms appear to have influenced each other. But finger can be neither a borrowing of the Latin root (the word is undoubtedly native Germanic) nor its cognate (both begin with f’; by the First Consonant Shift, Latin p should correspond to Germanic f). Consequently, this approach also fails. Engl. pinky ~ pinkie. The word is a borrowing of Dutch pinkje, via Scottish (the same meaning, and in Dutch it is perhaps a diminutive of pin “a small object”). The not uncommon statement that the meaning of pinkie was influenced by the color word pink looks like an exercise. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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