Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 683. Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London Hosted by King's Digital Lab www.dhhumanist.org Submit to: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: 2020-03-23 21:13:28+00:00 From: Francois Lachance
Subject: etymologies astray Re: [Humanist] 33.679: we continue Willard A little digression, hors-piste. Taking you up on your invitation to compose reflective notes. I plucked from the bookshelves Susan Sontag's Illness as Metaphor (in a volume accompanied by AIDS and Its Metaphors). The text of course differs from the New York Review of Books article "Disease as Political Metaphor" which you so kindly provided a link to. In my reading I stumbled across an item of interest to lexicographers... Sontag notes [quote] Cancer patients are lied to, not just because the disease is (or is thought to be) a death sentence, but because it is felt to be obscene -- in the original meaning of that word: ill-omened, abominable, repugnant to the senses. [/quote] I was wondering why didn't Sontag push this to the off-scene meaning. I took out the magnifying glass and checked the Compact Edition of the OED (I don't have a subscription to the online OED). Not finding that particular etymology I took my scouting online. Various discussions online quote the OED Third Edition to the effect that the off-scene is a folk etymology derived by a suggestion by Varro. Michael Newcity in The Invention of Obscenity provides a handy compendium of various other etymologies ... https://slaviccenters.duke.edu/sites/slaviccenters.duke.edu/files/Obscenity_Newc ity.pdf [quote] There are many theories concerning the origins of the Latin word obscaenus. They include theories that obscÄnus is based on: -- a combination of ob- (meaning 'on account of') + cænum/caenum/coenum, which means filth, dirt, uncleanness; -- canendo, meaning singing, making sound, utterance, thus making an impure or vile utterance or sound obscaenus; and -- the word obscurus, meaning 'concealed'. [/quote] Ah what a rabbit hole! I am intrigued at what point Varro may have been chased off the stage and his proposed etymology relegated to folk status. Francois Lachance Scholar-at-large http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance https://berneval.hcommons.org to think is often to sort, to store and to shuffle: humble, embodied tasks _______________________________________________ Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted List posts to: email@example.com List info and archives at at: http://dhhumanist.org Listmember interface at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted/ Subscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/membership_form.php
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