Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Two Goropisms

Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. dory, n.3, gives no etymology (at least in the online edition) and borrows its definition from the Century Dictionary:
'A small boat; esp. a small flat-bottomed boat used in sea-fisheries, in which to go out from a larger vessel to catch fish' (Cent. Dict.).
The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia, Vol. II (New York: The Century Co., 1897), p. 1738, says "Origin uncertain" for dory with this meaning.

A goropist might suggest an etymological connection with Greek δόρυ, whose primary meaning is tree, but which can also mean ship: see Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v., sense I.2, and R.A.S. Seaford, ed., Cyclops of Euripides (1984; rpt. London: Bristol Classical Press, 2009), p. 98.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines no-see-um as
Any of several minute, bloodsucking flies, esp. biting midges (family Ceratopogonidae)
and provides the following etymology:
NO adv.1 + SEE v. + 'EM, variant of 'EM pron., with allusion to the diminutive size of the insects.
A goropist might instead derive noo-see-um from the insect species Simulium nocivum, although Thoreau rejected this etymology in his Maine Woods:
Here first I was molested by the little midge called the No-see-em (Simulium nocivum, the latter word is not the Latin for no-see-em), especially over the sand at the water's edge, for it is a kind of sand-fly.

On goropism and goropist (neither in the Oxford English Dictionary) see D.P. Walker, "Leibniz on Language," in R.S. Woolhouse, ed., G.W. Leibniz: Critical Assessments (London: Routledge, 1994), pp. 436-451 (at 443, footnote omitted):
He was by no means alone in his patriotic claim that the Germanic family of languages had most faithfully of all preserved the good qualities of the lingua adamica. He mentions one of his predecessors when suggesting that use could be made of etymological investigations to reconstruct the early history of the origins and relationships of various peoples; great caution, however, is needed here, he says, and no etymology should be accepted without a great deal of corroborative evidence — 'autrement c'est Goropizer'. This verb means to make up 'Etymologies étranges et souvent ridicules', like those of Goropius Becanus, a sixteenth-century writer on language.
See also Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, tr. James Fentress (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1995; rpt. 1997), p. 96:
Goropius Becanus (Jan van Gorp) in his Origines Antwerpianae of 1569 agreed with all claims made about the divine inspiration of the original language, and about its motivated and non-arbitrary relation between words and things. According to him there was only a single living language in which this motivated concordance existed to an exemplary degree; that language was Dutch, particularly the dialect of Antwerp. The ancestors of the burghers of Antwerp were the Cimbri, the direct descendants of the sons of Japheth. These had not been present under the Tower of Babel, and, consequently, they had been spared the confusio linguarum. Thus they had preserved the language of Adam in all its perfection. Such an assertion, Becanus claimed, could be proved by etymological demonstrations. He produced a string of arguments whose level of etymological wishful thinking matched those of Isidore and Guichard; they later became known as 'becanisms' or 'goropisms'.

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