Friday, September 19, 2008


Wynken, Blynken, and Nod

Sarah Palin, interviewed by Charles Gibson:
We must not, Charlie, blink, Charlie, because, Charlie, as I've said, Charlie, before, John McCain has said, Charlie, that — and remember here, Charlie, we're talking about John McCain, Charlie, who, Charlie, is John McCain and I won't be blinking, Charlie.
There is a Dutch word that sounds similar to the pair blink and wink, and also has the same meaning, although all three words are etymologically distinct. See Anatoly Liberman, Big Problems with the Little Finger, or, A Story of Pinkie:
Dutch has the verb pinken "to blink, wink," and in Standard English the adjective pink "half-shut" was common not too long ago, as follows from the song in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra II: 7, 121: "Come, thou monarch of the vine,/ Plumpy Bacchus, with pink eyne!" (eyne "eyes"). Engl. dialectal pink-eyed "having narrow or half-closed eyes" corresponds to late Middle Dutch pinck oogen "small eyes."
In ancient Greek, a verb meaning blink is σκαρδαμύσσω (skardamusso), and an adjective to describe someone who doesn't blink is ἀσκαρδάμυκτος (askardamuktos). In Latin, verbs for blink include coniveo (whence our connive) and nicto (whence our nictate), and an adjective for unblinking is inconivens. The eyelid that does the blinking is βλέφαρον (blepharon) in Greek, palpebra in Latin.

Apparently in Tamil the expression "unblinking ones" means the gods. Philodemus, in his treatise On the Gods, argued that the gods do not sleep. See Walter Scott, Fragmenta Herculanensia (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1885), p. 198 (col. 11, l. 42-col. 13, l. 70):
Though a large part of the sentence is lost, the argument is clear. 'Sleep is like death; so much so, that the fact that the soul sleeps may be used as an argument that it will perish. Therefore sleep is a thing tending to dissolution. But the Gods must be kept free from all things tending to dissolution; therefore the Gods do not sleep.'
The remains of Philodemus' Greek on this subject can be found in Scott, p. 173.

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