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Etymology and Word for the Wise

  1. Dec 12, 2005 #1


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    Function: noun
    Inflected Form(s): plural -gies
    Etymology: Middle English ethimologie, from Latin etymologia, from Greek, from etymon + -logia -logy
    1 : the history of a linguistic form (as a word) shown by tracing its development since its earliest recorded occurrence in the language where it is found, by tracing its transmission from one language to another, by analyzing it into its component parts, by identifying its cognates in other languages, or by tracing it and its cognates to a common ancestral form in an ancestral language

    2 : a branch of linguistics concerned with etymologies


    I listen to the local Public Radio, and they broadcast "Word for the Wise", which always has interesting stories about words.

    The one on "Behave" was interesting - http://www.merriam-webster.com/cgi-bin/wftwarch.pl?120805 [Broken]

    WFTW archives at - http://www.merriam-webster.com/cgi-bin/wftw_arcindex.pl [Broken]

    I would like to dedicate this thread in honor of honestrosewater. :smile:
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 12, 2005 #2


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    Are you trying to say something about my behavior? o:)

    What interests me most about this proposed origin of behave is that the pronunciation of the root's vowel (the a in have) is different. Have is pronounced /hæv/; behave is pronouned /bihev/, not /bihæv/, as I would expect.1 /bihæv/ is an acceptable English word, and pairs similar to have ~ behave do not show the same difference -- half ~ behalf, chance ~ bechance, dazzle ~ bedazzle, etc. So why is there a difference in this case? Was have pronounced /hev/ when behave originated and the pronunciation of have has since changed? When did behave orignate and in what form anyway? Is there some phonological process, or set of processes, that would change /bihæv/ to /bihev/? What is it? I've started to look into this, but it may take a while before I find an answer, if I ever do -- there's not enough time in a day. Anyone have information to add?

    Something else that caught my eye: compare the meanings of have, hold, behave, and behold.

    Thanks for sharing. :smile:

    1. Or perhaps behave is more commonly pronounced /bIhev/ or /bəhev/ or some other way; my transcriptions are only meant as options -- and broad ones at that. (I'm not very good at transcriptions yet, and what is in one respect 'the same word' can be pronounced in different ways anyway.)
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2005
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