CHAT of vests & tortoises (was: Spelling pronunciations)
|From:||Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>|
|Date:||Tuesday, November 9, 2004, 6:57|
On Monday, November 8, 2004, at 01:54 , John Cowan wrote:
> Ray Brown scripsit:
>> again /@'gejn/ or /@'gEn/ (so also with _against_)
>> ate /ejt/ or /Et/
> I have only /@gEn(st)/ and /ejt/. /@gejn(st)/ seems British to me,
It may well be - and not all Britishers use it, but it is common.
> /Et/ comes across as an archaic vulgarism, the sort of thing my father
> (1904-1993) said when he was being funny.
Oh dear - I'm archaic and vulgar ;)
>> I've been talking all the time about 'British waistcoats', which you
>> LeftPondians quaintly call 'vests'.
> By "quaintly" do you imply that "British waistcoats" were once called
> "vests" there as well, as trousers were once (and still by us) called
No. I meant it sounds odd to us when you refer to a garment which is
clearly meant to be seen by a word meaning "wife=beater". The older, now
obsolete, meanings in English were 'garment', 'article of clothing' (which
is exactly what Latin _uestis_ means); 'robe', 'dress'; an ecclesiastic
In fact over here those of us that speak of such things still talk of a
priest _vesting_ meaning that he is putting on vestments, and when he has
finished he is said to be _vested_. But the noun is no longer used to mean
As far as I can tell, the word seems to have acquired its current meanings
separately on each side of the Atlantic.
>> Over here, as I guess you know, 'vest' always means
>> what you call an 'undervest'
> Recte "undershirt".
Sorry - confused by the 'pants' ~ 'underpants' business.
> Now undershirts come in two varieties, those which
> are essentially T-shirts (but with short enough sleeves that they are
> not visible even under short-sleeved shirts), and those which have mere
> straps running over the shoulders, in current slang called "wife-beaters"
> for reasons too disgusting to go into.
> I would conjecture that by "vest" you Rightpondians mean primarily the
> latter type, and only secondarily (if at all) the former type?
You conjecture correctly. The former type is just a T-shirt AFAIK - but is
not uncommonly worn under a shirt. In fact in the summer, the wife-beater
type is often worn by certain types under nothing at all :)
> I can
> see the comparison between the latter type and actual waistcoats/vests,
> but it seems to me the essence of a waistcoat/vest is its sleevelessness,
> whereas T-shirts most definitely do have sleeves. (I hope this is clear.
>>> I've also heard a Frenchified [-wAz] in British English.
>> Ach!!!! How pretentious & ignorant can a person get?!
> Well, to be fair, some who use it are probably p. & i., and others just i.
Maybe - but not entirely i. otherwise they wouldn't know that -oise is
[waz] in French; just ignorant enough, I suppose, to think that 'tortoise'
must be a French word 'cause it ends in -oise :)
>> I think the second syllable got changed through the influence of
> So it seems, yes.
>> The French for _tortoise_ is in fact _tortue_ <-- late Latin _tortu:ca_
> This "tortuca" itself has an interesting etymology; it's from _tartarucha_
Hence Italian _tartaruga_ :)
> 'of Tartarus (fem.)' < Greek, distorted (:-) by _tortus_ 'twisted',
> referring to the animal's feet.
I see the Spanish _tortuga_ is also from _tortu:ca_.
But I had not realized the etymology of _tortuca_ till you told me - and
only discovered the Italian after reading your email. (But Italian also
has _testuggine_ from the 'proper' Latin word - see below)
In fact the Greek adjective _tartarouchos_ meant "controlling Tartaros
[the netherworld]" <-- tartaro- + -ech- (the root of echo:/ekho: = I have)
. In the best ancient Greek the feminine was the same as the masculine. In
fact, I guess it was originally _he: tartaroukhos khelo:ne:_ = the
tartaros-controlling tortoise, referring to one variety of tortoise and
that it was shortened to _tartaroukhe:_ and Latinized as slang term
*tartaru:c(h)a and applied to all tortoises.
I wonder why it was associated with Tartaros - the land of the dead. I
suppose because it burried itself in the Autumn/Fall and came back from
Tartaros in the Spring.
But it seems very silly of the late Latin speakers when Latin had a
perfectly good word of its own for the animal, namely _testu:do:_ (gen.
But then ancient Greek also had a perfectly good word of its own, namely:
khelo:ne: (fem) which, now pronounced [CE'lOni], is still used in the
Anything is possible in the fabulous Celtic twilight,
which is not so much a twilight of the gods
as of the reason." [JRRT, "English and Welsh" ]