[b-hebrew] etymology [was: Semantics of paradigms]
Dr. Joel M. Hoffman
joel at exc.com
Mon Sep 19 19:33:49 EDT 2005
>Is not your rejection of etymology a bit simplistic?
I almost didn't even mention etymology for fear of starting this
argument. I don't reject etymology completely; my point is more
simple, and, I think, indisputable. The meaning of some words is so
far removed from what their etymology suggests that studying their
etymology will not tell you what they mean. Certainly there are some
words whose meanings match their etymologies perfectly. (Please,
don't start writing about the fact that the match is nearly perfect
but not in fact perfect). But the existence in modern languages of
etymology/meaning mismatches forces one to go one of two routes:
1. Ancient languages, too, have etymology/meaning mismatches; or
2. Ancient languages are qualitatively different than modern ones in
My point was that I choose (1). Some people, wrongly in my opinion,
choose (2). Even if you disagree with my point about etymology, the
methodology is still the same. Either (1) you can use modern languages
to learn about ancient ones; or (2) you cannot. As I said, I think
both common sense and Occam's Razor point clearly toward (1).
>On the other hand, even in English, those words that are
>derived by grammatical structure from a common root tend
>to stay closer to their etymological meaning.
Actually, even that's not true. A "patent" by definition is
non-obvious; an obvious idea cannot be patented. How surprising,
then, to the etymology folks, that "patently" means "obviously."
>Ps. a "chocoholic" may actually be an addict, as the sugar
Yes, a chocoholic might be addicted to sugar, but "chocoholic" doesn't
mean "addicted to sugar." A chocoholic might be 6-feet tall, but
"chocoholic" doesn't mean "6-feet tall." "Chocoholic" means "someone
who likes chocolate."
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