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Re: colorless green ideas

From:Andreas Johansson <andjo@...>
Date:Friday, April 9, 2004, 14:53
Quoting Joe <joe@...>:

> Philippe Caquant wrote: > > >By the way, I would very much like to know the origin > >of the english word: "a nightmare". I find it very > >strange and evocative. > > > >(Well, I thought so because I was thinking of the > >female of a horse, but I just found in my etymological > >dictionnary that the part "mar" in the french word > >"cauchemar" comes from a germanic word meaning "night > >ghost" or something like that, so it's probably the > >same. Actually, I preferred the horse, much more > >mysterious). > > > > > My dictionary agrees. According to it, it comes from the Old English > 'mare' [mare], which described a ghost that opressed sleeping people. > It's unrelated to a female horse, which came from 'm(i)ere'. Apparently > it's cognate to german 'Mahre'.
No doubt also to Swedish _mara_, a female demon which tortures sleepers by sitting on their chests. While you're unlikely to run across the word on its own these days outside books on folkloristics, it's the first part in _mardröm_, lit "_mara_ dream", the normal word for "nightmare". As an aside, I might mention that in Games Workshop's Warhammer fantasy universe, an undead horse is called a 'Nightmare'. I've always thought that pretty neat. Andreas


Steg Belsky <draqonfayir@...>
Garth Wallace <gwalla@...>