Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Daily Hump: Akimbo

Akimbo surprises me. Given its -bo ending I ignorantly assumed it had African roots (think Mande languages of the upper Niger River valley or our English word mumbo jumbo). In fact, the word can be traced back to Middle English, first appearing in the early 15th c. text The Tale of Beryn ("The hoost..set his hond in kenebowe"). We know in is our modern in. The -bowe corresponds to our modern English bow, as in something that is bent, a knot with two loops or the weapon used to launch arrows. It's the kene portion which stumps the experts. Because of this single element historical linguists have a great deal of difficulty tracing the word's etymology pre-1400.

The OED is kind enough to suggest two possibilities. The first theory focuses around the Middle English phrase a cambok which meant "in the manner of a crooked stick". Thus, analagously, a cam bow would be "in the manner of a crooked bow". The second theory suggests that akimbo is related to the Old Norse keng-boginn which literally means "bent staple-wise, or in a horse-shoe curve". The OED deems neither of these theories wholly satisfactory:
The difficulty as to a-cambok, a cam bow, is that no forms of the word [akimbo] show cam-, from which the earliest are the most remote. The Icel. keng-boginn comes nearer the form, but there is no evidence that it had the special sense of a-kimbo, and none that the latter ever had the general sense of ‘crooked.’ It also postulates an early Eng. series of forms like *keng-bown or *keng-bowed, *keng-bow, *akengbow, quite unknown and unaccounted for.

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:: posted by David, 8:13 AM

1 Comments:

I think in Freakazoid there was a villian names Arms Akimbo. His arms were akimbo. Get it? Perhaps tomorrow?
Blogger Loocite, at 9:56 AM  

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