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Lieutenant Newt

From:Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Friday, June 21, 2002, 19:29
This got bounced back to me yesterday morning by Listserv as it claimed
the mail had an attachment of type 'TEXT/ENRICHED'.  (I had added no

I haven't been able to look at Conlang since then so someone else may well
have noted this already - but in case they haven't, I'll try posting again
and hope no 'ghost attachments' are discovered.

That "yesterday" was Wednesday - it got bounced back again last evening -
for the _third_ time, I'll try again.  I've told my mailer to make sure it'
all plain text & nowt else.   If it doesn't get through this time, then I
guess it's never meant to   ;)

On Tuesday, June 18, 2002, at 11:35 , John Cowan wrote:

 >Nihil Sum scripsit:

 >>And since we're on the topc of mangling French loanwords: does anybody
 >>how the "f" got into "lieutenant"?

 >Only in Rightpondia and Northicia[*], be it noted; here in Lower
 >Leftpondia, it's /lu'tEn@nt/.

..and even in Rightpondia, a pronunciation like Leftpondia's is current in
the navy (actually often more like /l@'tEn@nt/ ) - but in all non-naval
contexts, yes the /f/ is there.


On Tuesday, June 18, 2002, at 12:27 , Clint Jackson Baker wrote:

 >Here's a theory--|u| and |v| come from the same Latin
 >source.  |v| is pronounced /f/ in German--maybe it's
 >all connected.

Not just a theory either.  The letters {u} and {v} were _not_
distinguished until the Italian renaissance.   The Roman letter was {V};
{u} was developed as the lower case form during the Middle Ages.

But to return to the question.  The word, of course, is old French and is
yet another thing bequeathed to us by the Normans (lieu tenant = holding a
position).   _lieu_ would have reached us as [lj2w] which we Saxons would
soon have unrounded to [l(j)ew].

It seems there was a different dialect treatment of -eft- ~ -ewt- , cf. "a
newt" and "an eft", both from Old English "an efeta".   Those who said
/eft/ while their neighbors said /ewt]/ obviously did the same with their
neighbors' /lewtenant/, saying /leftenant/ instead - and the rest, as they
say, is history.