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Alphabet Soup (Linguistics)
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Mick Harper
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Not sure what this is all about but Dan may be able to tell us. It's an ANSAXnet exchange.

Another student of mine in HEL once read that printers used to add extra letters onto words because they charged by the letter. This is the explanation for the early modern English spellings like "thumb." I asked her where she heard this, and she said from a ESL textbook published by Cambridge UP(!). (she no longer has the text, however).

Any thoughts on the verity? I told her I don't buy it, but as always, look to your collective wisdom. This again sounds vaguely familiar.

Dambian

I think this is mythology, because the standard explanation for the added b's and h's in various Latin-derived English words is the tendency of 18th-century scholars to want to flag the Latin source (i.e., debt as derived from debitum). But because they lacked philological knowledge, they did not realize that "dett" was a perfectly acceptable English word, not immediately derived from the Latin.

Tolkien makes fun of this process in Farmer Giles of Ham when he concludes the story by saying that "Thame with an h is folly without warrant."

Mike

I believe the assertion is completely incorrect. Many of the "extra" letters are etymological (either actually or assumed to be so by those who wrote them). Notice that many of them have either ascenders or descenders and proved useful for word recognition in scribal documents where word and letter divisions are much less clear than in printing. So it predates printing. I believe we can find the same phenomenon in late medieval/early renaissance scribal culture in other countries, esp. France.
David Porter


It does sound like pop meme of some sort, doesn't it. Spellings in the OED for thumb from the Middle English period include [th]umbe, [th]owme, and thomme. It looks like it was a two-syllable word at that point. If anything, then, the spelling "thumb" is a relatively short form.
Pfd


A quick Google search revealed a few different versions of this story (I've pasted one below from "The Spelling Society", a group dedicated to the reformation of English spelling conventions). None of these sites appear to cite real evidence for their claims, though. Perhaps there is some kernel of fact in the narrative, but it sounds an awful lot like quasi-nationalist propaganda (i.e., it wasn't the English who messed up their spelling, but no-good money-grubbing continentals).

"*From 1476 printers took charge of things.*
The early printers were nearly all foreign. Caxton, who set up the first printing press in London, was English but had lived mainly in Belgium and had written mostly in Latin. His assistants all came from the Continent. English spelling rules were therefore devised almost entirely by non-native speakers of English. Printers often also added letters to the last word of a line to make the whole text look neater. They were paid by line and habitually inserted letters into words to earn more money. Many of their whims and tricks eventually became rules of English spelling."

(http://www.spellingsociety.org/aboutsss/leaflets/whyeng.php)
Carlson


Yes, I went online and found an explanation much like Peter's -- with the interesting addition of "thimble" (an object I'd put on my index finger, not my thumb, but the b is pronounced there):..
Marijane Osborn

Since I embroider, this interested me. A quick check of the OED revealed that "thimble" is indeed considered related to "thumb." It originally referred to something like a "thumbstall," a protective covering that was more likely to be medicinal than associated with sewing. The only OE citation was from the leechdoms, in fact.

The association of thimbles with sewing, in particular, doesn't pop up until the fifteenth century.

You wear yours on your index finger? I wear it on the middle finger of the hand (in my case the right hand) holding the needle. I agree it would be very awkward to sew with a thimble on one's thumb!

Rebecca

However, the "sewing palm," a kind of strap-on thimble now used by craft leather workers for pushing a needle through thicker leather (and formerly also by cobblers, sailmakers, etc.), does loop around the base of the thumb.
Murray McGillivray

No - that's very wrong. THe OED says, in its entry on 'thumb',
"In ME. the excrescent b after m is found c 1290"

However, the Middle English Dictionary has an entry from c. 130 year earlier:
"?1160 Peterb.Chron.(LdMisc 636) an.1137: Me henged bi the şumbes, other bi the hefed"

I have not found that ESL teachers, in general, know much about the history of English.

Here are the Middle English (c. 1100 - c. 1500) spellings of 'thumb' found in the Middle English Dictionary:

thoume (n.) Also thom(e, thume, thomb(e, thoumb(e, thumb(e, tombe, (N)
tumb & (early infl.) şuman; pl. thoumes, etc. & (WM) şhommes.


The -b- in 'thimble' has nothing whatever to do with the word "thumb" It is a good example of what many historical linguists have called "articulative intrusion". IF the lips open and close while the mouth is getting ready for the 'l' sound, a "b" will be produced. Something very much like that produces the 'b' in "humble". (The -d- in "thunder" is similar, though not identical)

Norman Hinton

I trust you spotted this in the last entry from the infamous 'tacked-on' bit of the Peterborough Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Me henged bi the şumbes, other bi the hefed" It sounds like English but I can't entirely make sense of it. Offers?

It is quite amusing that there is the b in thumb, bold as brass in 1160, yet these jackasses are still talking about printers being responsible in the fifteenth century or classical scholars in the eighteenth! And how can the OED say it only dates from 1290? Perhaps the OED hasn't heard of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. It is a bit obscure I suppose. And they are a bunch of cretinous dogs.
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Rocky



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Here's that phrase in context. The context is that an ecclesiastic is sympathic to the suffering of the farmers and artisans during The Anarchy when they were plundered and tortured by the barons, so the barons could raise money to build castles.

"Me henged up bi the fet and smoked heom mid full smoke. Me henged bi the şumbes other bi the hefed and hengen bryniges on her fet. Me dide cnotted strenges abuton here hæued and wrythen it ğat it gæde to şe haernes… I ne can nelne mai tellen alle ğe wunder ne all ğe pines that he diden wrecce men on ğis land."


Here's my attempt at it. Some of the words I couldn't guess - I left those in italics.

"Men hanged up by the feet and smoked him/home amid full smoke. Men hanged by the thumbs and by the hooves and hanging bryniges on her feet. Men did knotted strings join* here hæued and twisted it good to the harness...I cannot mai tell all the wonder nor all the pains that he did wreak men on this land"

* abut = Fr. abouter = join end to end
** O.E. wriğan (writhe) = "to twist or bend"

bryniges is an O.N. word that means corslet or coat of mail.
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Ishmael


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The "name" Tutankhamen.

It must mean something like "boy king".

The prefex "tut".

Isn't this the same element of speech that appears in words such as "tot", "tutor", "tutorial"?

Doesn't the name break down as....

Tut Ankh Amen

?

Am I way off base here?
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DPCrisp


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"His original name, Tutankhaten, means "Living Image of Aten", while Tutankhamun means "Living Image of Amun". Often the name Tutankhamun was written Amen-tut-ankh, meaning "living image of Amun", due to scribal custom which most often placed the divine name at the beginning of the phrase in order to honor the divine being."

Tut must mean image then. (Ankh = living, soul.)

Tutor, tutelary, etc. means protecting something (tutela, tutelaris keeping, tutelarius guardian, tutus safe) or should I say looking out for something

tut-: pa. ppl stem of tueri watch, look after, protect

intuition: intuit- pa. ppl stem of intueri look upon, consider, contemplate... tueri look

etui, etwee: [Fr. �tui, OFr. estui prison, f. OFr. estuier shut up, keep, save...] A small usu. ornamental case for needles etc. Formerly also, a case for surgical instruments.

Tut- meaning to look: exactly as in Egyptian then. An alternative reading of Tutankamun might then be "somewhere the soul of Amun is kept safe": same as the "living image" really. (Man is the image of God, eh?)

Looks to be a pretty fundamental word:

tout: A thieves' scout or watchman... An informer; a spy.

toot, tote, tout: An isolated hill or man-made mound suitable as a place of observation; a lookout. Also toot-hill (arch. exc. in place-names).

Something discrete, sticking out.

tout: [OE tytan f. Gmc base repr. also in MLG tute horn, funnel (LG tut(e) spout), MDu. tute (Du. tuit spout, nozzle), ON tuta nipple, teat.] Peep, peer, look out; gaze. Keep watch; be on the lookout.

dot: The head of a boil. A small lump, a clot. A minute spot, speck, or mark...

toot: Protrude, stick out so as to be seen, peep out. Peer, look out; gaze; look inquisitively, pry.

tooth

A particular, identifiable thing, eh? Especially the smallest amount of something:

tot: The word tot or letter T written against an item in an account to indicate receipt of the amount specified; an item in an account; a note, a jotting.

tot: A very small child. A very small drinking-vessel; a child's mug. A minute quantity of something, esp. a dram of liquor; a very small object.

tot: Orig., a bone. Later, any article worth salvaging from a dustbin, refuse heap, etc.

Just a little something, something to identify, get a handle on:

dot, jot, iota, jod.

tote: The handle of a carpenter's plane.

tote: wear or carry regularly as part of one's equipment; carry, transport.

It's all about counting and regularity:

totient: f. L toties, totiens as often, so often (f. tot so many)... also called indicator.

toties quoties: [L = so often as often.] As often as something happens or occasion demands.

toyte, totter: Move or swing to and fro or up and down... waver...

tod: [Prob. of LDu. origin (cf. LG todde bundle, pack); cf. ON toddi bit, piece, OHG zot(t)a, zata, MHG zotte tuft of wool.] A unit of weight of wool... A load.

tot up, (to) total, touch ("f. Proto-Romance wd of imitative origin" - What???)

Which leads onto everything that you count up:

tout/toute, tutti/tutto, tote, total.

That's T = D/J. What about D/J = Z?

Zodiac, zoster {D = T = S} (belt, girdle) = to encompass.

Then there's Teuton, etc., f. IE base meaning people, country, land.

Always such a large "exit wound" from such a small entry.
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Ishmael


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tot: A very small child. A very small drinking-vessel; a child's mug. A minute quantity of something, esp. a dram of liquor; a very small object.


Then you agree that tut is at least a form of tot.

Is it safe to assume that this fellow having been named "tot" has nothing to do with his being the only boy king in Egyptian history?
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DPCrisp


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Yes, I think that's safe to assume; no, I don't think Tutankhamun was the only boy king.
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Mick Harper
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Very well, name ten others. Five others. One other.
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DPCrisp


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At least one Ptolemy and Hatshepsut's son came off the top of someone else's head. That's as much as I did to check the vague feeling I had.
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Chad


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Ishmael wrote:
tot: A very small child. A very small drinking-vessel; a child's mug. A minute quantity of something, esp. a dram of liquor; a very small object.


Then you agree that tut is at least a form of tot.

Is it safe to assume that this fellow having been named "tot" has nothing to do with his being the only boy king in Egyptian history?

Are you suggesting the 'tut' in Tutankhamen has a different etymological origin than the 'thut' in Thutmose?

There were several Thutmoses in the 18th dynasty and none of those were boy kings.
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Ishmael


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Chad wrote:
There were several Thutmoses in the 18th dynasty and none of those were boy kings.


Why is thut spelled thut and tut spelled tut?
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Chad


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Apparently Thutmose means son of Thoth... So the similarity between thut and tut is coincidental.

So when are similarities coincidental... and when are they an indication of etymological linking?

In fact it turns out Thutmose III was the son (or nephew) of Hatshepsut (referred to above by Dan)... and he was indeed a boy king... which allowed her to claim co-regency.
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Ishmael


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Chad wrote:
So when are similarities coincidental... and when are they an indication of etymological linking?


We can never be certain of anything -- but at least we know that we are guessing.

However, I'll put my case this way...

How confident are we in attributing to coincidence, the fact that the most famous boy-king of Egypt bears a name that can mean "child"?

It is at least an interesting nodule that may be worth remembering.

... and he was indeed a boy king... which allowed her to claim co-regency.


Then he very clearly wasn't a boy King.

So who else is there besides Tot? I mean Tut.
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Chad


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For some bizarre reason Little Stevie Wonder just popped into my mind... but unfortunately, unlike him, Tut didn't live long enough to become simply Ankhamen.
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DPCrisp


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Why is thut spelled thut and tut spelled tut?

I was gonna say praps it's because they consistently transliterate the hieroglyphics as twt for Tutankhamun and something else for Thutmoses. [I can't read all the characters on Wiki.]

But then I found a reference to Twt Homosis i.e. Tuthomosis, which is yet another variation on the theme: all of these variations have Google hits (in ascending order):

Thuthmose, Thuthmosis, Tutmose, Tuthmose, Tutmosis, Tuthmosis, Thutmosis, Thutmose.

(And there are yet more to try.)

Still, they do say they mean different things. Dunno how they can be quite so sure, since they read hieroglyphics phonetically (at last some of the time), but maybe they have enough context. Wiki says:

Thutmose III (sometimes read as Thutmosis or Tuthmosis III and meaning Son of Thoth)...
as Chad remarked.

Thoth, pronounced ["toath"]... He was considered the heart and tongue of Ra as well as the means by which Ra's will was translated into speech... He has further been involved in arbitration, magic, writing, science, and the judging of the dead...

The Egyptian pronunciation... is not fully known, but may be reconstructed... based on the Ancient Greek borrowing Θωθ Thōth or Theut and the fact that it evolved into Sahidic Coptic variously as Thoout, Thōth, Thoot, Thaut as well as Bohairic Coptic Thōout.
Thoth = thought then.

...Jehuti, Tahuti, Tehuti, Zehuti, Techu, or Tetu. Thoth (also Thot or Thout)...
Quite the mine field.

But we seem to have Thought-mosis and Toot-Ankh-Amun... which nevertheless have a common root in the magic of writing and speech.
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DPCrisp


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"It is more than likely that Amenhotep III succeeded to the throne of Egypt as a child, sometime between the ages of two and twelve years of age."

That's normal from time to time -- a good reason to have regents, even -- right?

Then again:

"The ancient Egyptians often thought of transitions from one state to another in terms of birth. Thus, kings were shown as children (or even as adults) protected and nursed by goddesses in a variety of scenes, including ones representing or symbolizing their alleged divine births, their coronations, renewals of their royal and divine power, and their rebirth after death."
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