Date: Thu, 23 Oct 1997 11:36:11 -0600
From: charles fritz juengling cjuengling[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]STCLOUDSTATE.EDU
Subject: Re: whole nuther ballgame
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.
I stand corrected. I didn't have the OED or EDD at hand when I wrote. I
should have waited a day to check out everything first.
However, I think this underscores the point that I made in my 'hoosier
etymology' posting-- don't believe everything you read. The 'who's here?'
/ "Whose ear?" explanantions for hoosier are transparent. The problem with
my explanation of a recutting of 'hangnail' is that it IS very believable.
It was intended to be correct and not some joke. But when one gathers all
the facts, it falls apart. So, beware--even if something seems obvious!
Foreign Languages and Literature Department
St. Cloud State University
St. cloud, Minnesota