Date: Wed, 22 Oct 1997 16:18:40 EDT


Subject: Re: whole nuther ballgame

Fritz Juengling writes

This kind of reanalysis is legion,

both in this direction (an ewt -- a newt) and especially in the opposite (an

orange, an umpire, an apron: all from stems with historical initial n-).

add 'nickname' from 'an ekename' to the list.

The SED also turned up 'nants' for 'ants' and 'nangnail' for 'hangnail.' The

progression must have been a hangnail an angnail (with usual loss of

h]) a nangnail.

I wonder. Since, as I think Dennis P. reminded us recently, 'hangnail' is

a folk-etymologized (or, as the OED puts it, an "accommodated") variant of the

earlier a(n)gnail (which was around for 8 centuries before the first 'hang-

nail' showed up, I don't think Fritz's chronology is that likely. In fact,

the history (as given under 'agnail' in the OED is quite interesting; when

'hangnail' first appeared, it was itself viewed as a dialect form, along with

the Scottish 'anger-nail' and 'nangnail'. As for the latter, I'm not sure this

was your standard metanalysis, as in the nuncle/nickname/newt set. Wright's

English Dialect Dictionary includes not only 'nangnail' and 'gnangnail' for

'corn', 'bunion', 'ingrown nail', etc., but also the verbs 'nang' and 'gnang',

with the sense 'gnaw', 'ache'. There seems to be a clear relation here, if

only one of an obvious folk-/motivated reanalysis. Both (g)nang and (g)nang-

nail were especially frequent in Yorkshire dialect, it appears.