Saturday, March 20, 2010
Scatology and Science
...the Indo-European etymological root from which "scatology" derives is ultimately the same as the root of scire, "to know"20...In my copy of Lewin's book (New York: Random House, 1999), this is on p. 3 (not 5):
20Ralph A. Lewin, Merde: Excursions in Scientific, Cultural and Sociohistorical Coprology (London 1999), 5.
The word "science," meaning knowledge, and the word "shit," from the Old English scitan, both apparently derive from the same ancient Indo-European root, as does the Greek word from which scatology is derived.Lewin cites no authority or evidence, but he is correct, according to Calvert Watkins, "Indo-European Roots," in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1979), pp. 1505-1550.
Watkins s.v. sker-4 (at 1540):
Excrement, dung. Extended root of sek-, "to cut, separate," hence "to void excrement." 1. Lengthened o-grade form *skōr- in Greek skōr (genitive skatos < *sk-ṇt-), dung: SCATO-, SCORIA, SKATOLE. 2. Extended form *skert- in taboo metathesis *sterk- in: a. Latin stercus, dung: STERCORACEOUS; b. variant forms *(s)terg-, *(s)treg- in Germanic *threkka- in Middle High German drëc, dung: DRECK. [Pok. sker-d- 947; 8. (s)ter- 1031.]Watkins s.v. skei- (at 1539):
To cut, split. Extended root of sek-. 1. Latin scire, to know (< "to separate one thing from another," "discern"): SCIENCE, SCILICET, SCIOLISM, SCIRE FACIAS; ADSCITITIOUS, CONSCIENCE, CONSCIOUS, NESCIENT, NICE, OMNISCIENT, PLEBISCITE, PRESCIENT. 2. Germanic suffixed form *ski-nōn- in: a. Old English scinu, shin, shinbone (< "piece cut off"): SHIN1; b. Old French eschine, backbone, piece of meat with part of the backbone: CHINE1. 3. Suffixed zero-grade form skiy-enā in Old Irish scīan, knife: SKEAN. 4. Extended root *skeid- in a. Germanic *skītan, to separate, defecate, in (i) Old English *scītan, to defecate: SHIT (ii) Old Norse *skīta, to defecate: SKATE3; b. suffixed zero-grade form *sk(h)id-yo in Greek skhizein, to split: SCHEDULE, SCHISM, SCHIST, SCHIZO-; c. nasalized zero-grade form: *ski-n-d- in Latin scindere, to split: SCISSION; EXSCIND, PRESCIND, RESCIND. 5. Extended root *skeit- in: a. Germanic *skaith- in (i) Old English scēadan, to separate: SHED1 (ii) perhaps Old English scēath, sheath (< "split stick"): SHEATH; b. Germanic *skīth- in Old Norse skīdh, log, stick, snowshoe: SKI; c. o-grade form *skoit- in Latin scūtum, shield (< "board"): ÉCU, ESCUDO, ESCUTCHEON, ESQUIRE, SCUDO, SCUTUM, SQUIRE. 6. Extended root *skeip- in Germanic *skif- in a. Old English *scife, pulley (< "piece of wood with grooves"): SHEAVE2; b. Middle Dutch and Middle Low German schīve, a slice: SHIVE1; c. Old Norse skīfa, to slice, split: SKIVE; d. Middle Low German schever, splinter, akin to the Low German source of Middle English scivre, splinter: SHIVER2. [Pok. skei 919.]To summarize:
- From sek- come sker- and skei-.
- From sker- comes Greek skōr, skatos (whence scatology).
- From skei- come not only Latin scire (whence science) but also *skeid- (whence Germanic *skītan, whence Old English *scītan, whence shit).