Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Visio (Vissio) and Pedo Again

Aurelian Isaïcq writes:
Concerning your post of Tuesday, November 28, 2006 [Visio and Pedo], I have been wondering if visio isn’t so much obscure as merely relegated to specialized literature. It seems both noun and verb have been productive in various romance languages. The Diccionario etimologico rumano (Alejandro Cioranescu, 1958-66) gives the following parallels:

BEŞÍNĂ (-ni), n.f. – Vînt, pîrţ. – fart
Lat. *vĭssīna, fr. vĭssīre (Puşcariu 190; REW 9380; Candrea-Dens., 140; DAR);
cf. sard. pisina, calabr. vissina, sicil. bissino, cat. veixina, sp. bejin, astur. bixin (Corominas, I, 437).

BEŞÍ (BES), v. – to fart
Lat. vĭssīre (Puşcariu 186; REW 9382; Candrea-Dens., 138; DAR);
cf. it. viscia, it. bessa.

And the Trésor de la Langue Française [] gives:

VESSE, s.f.
1410-20 vesse « vent qui sort du corps sans bruit » (Miracle Ste Geneviève, éd. C. Sennewaldt, 2556); Déverbal de l'anc. verbe vessir (vesser*).

VESSER, v. intrans. péter.
1608 vesser « laisser échapper une vesse » (J. BAUDOUIN, Nouv. dict. fr.-lat. ds FEW t. 14, pp. 530b-531a). vessir est encore en usage dans de nombreux pat., v. FEW t. 14, p. 531a), lequel représente le lat. pop. vissire, de même sens, lat. class. visire.

In response to an email from me, Angelo Mercado of Sauvage Noble politely pooh-poohed (forgive the pun!) the idea that Latin visio was derived from the Indo-European root peis-:
Unfortunately, Latin vis- is not possible from peis-: Latin preserves *p-, as in pe:d- from *pesd-. The v- can come from *w- (or *gw- and other sources, but the details escape me). If the -i- in the root is short, it was likely *-i-; if it's long, then the length could be the residue of a contraction or deletion. The -s- between vowels strikes me as late; an ancient -s- would have turned into -r-. So, -s- may have resulted from two dentals *-tt- or *-dt-.

A likely candidate is PIE *wet- 'blow, inspire'

survived as *wo:t- in Latin va:te:s. Perhaps *wet-to- > *wes-, then suffixed to *wes-yo-. (Though I'm having difficulty explaining the *-e- to -i-.) If you have access (I don't at present) to Ernout-Meillet and Walde-Hofmann's etymological dictionaries, I'm pretty sure you can dig something up.

Steve at LanguageHat writes:
I was intrigued by your Cicero quote and checked my Oxford Latin Dictionary (now the standard, rendering good old L&S obsolete), where I found:

uissio ~ire, intr. [source of Fr. vesser, etc.; cogn. w. ON. fisa] to fart softly.

~IRE TACITE CHILON DOCVIT SVBDOLVS A. Epig. 41.6; (implied) non honestum uerbum est diuisio? at inest obscenum, cui respondet intercapedo Cic. Fam. 9.22.4.

Sneaky Chilon! Nice to know neither graffiti nor young male senses of humor have changed in the last couple of millennia.
This inscription from Ostia (published in L'Année Épigraphique 1941, 6) is one of a series in which the Seven Sages gave advice on how to behave in a public latrine. It may be translated "Sneaky Chilon taught how to fart silently."

Angelo Mercado remains skeptical:
Note that the OLD may be wrong in relating Latin vissio to Old Norse fisa. The sound correspondence doesn't work if the Latin comes from *w-. Old Norse has to come from *p-.

It seems right indeed that Cicero and Quintilian were thinking of vissio; the double -ss- is a possible outcome for *-dt- or *-tt-.

But further mucking around in the Lexicon der indogermanischen Verben, I don't think *wet- withstands scrutiny.

The Latin verb could easily be onomatopoetic, too!

Antonio Vasconcelos de Saldanha writes:
I read with the usual attention your most curious and erudite post on "visio and pedo". Following my previous e-mail on the survival of classic obscenities in modern Portuguese and Spanish languages, let me add that a very popular (and clearly rude) word for "fart" in Portuguese is "peido"; the origin is obvious, and perhaps closer to its Latin ancestor than the French "pet". Still in the field of obscenities, the similar (rude) word for buttock (similar to "cu", from "culum") is "peida" (from Latin "podex"?).

Thanks to all for the illuminating comments!

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?