Date: Thu, 16 Oct 1997 09:24:27 EDT From: Larry Horn Subject: Re: Etymology of _Hoosier_ I've been enjoying the Dennis/Greg debate about the meaning of folk etymology (and I appreciate Greg's references to the 19th century literature), but I think there are a couple of issues to sort out. It's certainly important to recognize the motivation that leads speaker/hearers to seek out motivation, i.e. to render opaque formations transparent even when the transparency has to be invented, as in that wonderful catalogue of mondegreens/pullet surprises we kick around every couple of years here (from the four-stair furnaces to the sick-as-hell anemia, from Prince Charles's power-mower to CCR's bathroom on the right). All these examples, whether disingenuous (remember the monokini?) or, "bonified", reveal a lot about our linguistic capacity--every man and woman and especially child their own derivational morphologist, and productivity is its own reward. But at some level what we're doing is, in effect, pseudo-science; there's no more reason to expect the "folk" to be right about "fuck" REALLY being an acronym for "for unlawful carnal knowledge" or "fornication under consent of the king" or "hoosier" REALLY being "whose ear" than to try to find that Neiman-Marcus in the sky where they really do charge $250 for a chocolate chip recipe. These are more in the line of the isn't-it-pretty-to-think-so etymologies than are the actual on-line mishearings that affect linguistic form and that may in some cases turn out to reflect the actual history a la folk medicine. (For an example of the latter, I've proposed here on another occasion that today's spittin' image was yesterday's (dial.) spitten image rather than the standardly reconstructed spit and image.) --Larry