Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Flockmeal Etc.

William Morris, A Tale of the House of the Wolfings, chap. XXX:
So when they heard her voice they came thither flockmeal, and a great throng mingled of many kindreds was in the Hall, but with one consent they made way for the Children of the Wolf to stand nearest to the dais.
Ernest Weekley, More Words Ancient and Modern (London: J. Murray, 1927), s.v. piecemeal, pp. 114-115, has some interesting things to say about English words ending with the suffix -meal:
In connection with self-help (p. 142) we shall see that a word, occasionally used as a prefix in Anglo-Saxon, survived in only one Mid. English compound, and then, from the 16th century onward, attained such vitality that its family can be counted almost by thousands. The -meal of piecemeal illustrates the opposite tendency. Piecemeal is the only modern survivor of a very common word-formation, exemplified by dozens of obsolete recorded compounds, not to mention the unlimited nonce-words that any English-speaking person, from the Anglo-Saxons onward, may have felt himself at liberty to coin.

Piecemeal is a hybrid (Fr. pièce) substituted for Anglo-Sax. styccemǣlum, from stycce, a piece. Anglo-Saxon had about ten similar compounds, some of which, such as scēafmǣlum, sheaf by sheaf, gēarmǣlum, year by year, disappeared from Mid. English, while others, such as dropmǣlum, survived into the Tudor age. Mid. English coined about ten more, including pennymeal and piecemeal. Others, such as Shakespeare's inchmeal, still occasionally used, seem to have come into use in the 16th century: "unciatim inche by inche, inchemeale" (Cooper, 1573). The only other -meal word used by Shakespeare is limb-meal, Anglo-Sax. limmǣlum: "O, that I had her here, to tear her limb-meal" (Cymbeline, ii.4).

The Anglo-Sax. -mǣlum, which became a mere suffix corresponding to the Lat. -tim of gradatim, viritim, etc., is really the instrumental plural of mǣl or māl, mark, time. It exists in modern English as meal, a repast, originally the regular time for refreshment, and as mole, a mark (on the skin). The cognate German mal means time in the sense of Fr. fois. It also occurs in the multiplicatives einmal, zweimal, etc., in denkmal, a monument (think-mark), in mal, a mole, and mahl, a repast.

In the suffix sense of -meal German uses rather -weise (cf. our -wise, -ways), as in haufenweise, which in archaic English might be rendered by heapmeal...
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED), s.v. -meal, suffix, lists a number of compounds. It is surprising how many have Latin equivalents ending in -im. In the following list, I have paired Latin adverbs with their English semantic counterparts (definitions come from OED):On the Latin suffix see two articles by A. Funck, "Neue Beiträge zur Kenntnis der lateinischen Adverbia auf -im," Archiv für lateinische Lexicographie und Grammatik 7 (1892) 485-507, and "Die lateinischen Adverbia auf -im, ihre Bildung und ihre Geschichte," Archiv für lateinische Lexicographie und Grammatik 8 (1893) 77-114.

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

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