Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Daily Hump: A Humorous Perversion

Today's hump is neither humorous nor perverse. You've been had. This morning we're looking at gallivant, which the OED describes as a "humorous perversion" (ah!) of gallant (noting that gallivant is generally used in its present participle form gallivanting). Gallant isn't just a ugly old-folks car. Back in the early 19th c., around the same time gallivant first appeared in print (1823), gallant was being used to mean "to gad about idly". Interestingly the OED defines gallivant as "To gad about in a showy fashion, esp. with persons of the other sex." What's with gad?

Gad (in verb form) is of obscure origin. Although it's possible the word comes from the same root as the noun form (i.e. gadfly, where the sense of gad refers to a goad used for prodding cattle), the OED notes that its usage quotes don't support this thesis. Rather, they theorize that gad is "a back-formation" of gadling, which during the 16th c. meant a wayfarer or vagabond. The original sense of gadling, as it was used in Beowulf ("His gædelinges guðgewædu"), meant "companion" or "fellow" and it comes from the Old English root gæd meaning "fellowship". Incidentally, this is the same root which gives us our modern verb to gather.

The verb gallant is from the adjective form and is of French origin. The OED notes
The early senses of the adj. in Fr. are: ‘dashing, spirited, bold’ (obsolete in Fr., but the source of the prevailing sense in mod.Eng.); ‘gay in appearance, handsome, gaily attired’; and ‘fitted for the pleasures of society, attractive in manners, courteous, polished’. The last of these gave rise in mod.Fr. to the specialized senses ‘politely attentive to women’, and ‘amorous, amatory’, which were adopted into Eng. in the 17th c., and are usually distinguished by the accentuation ga'llant.
The Old French root, galant, is from the past participle form of the Old French verb galer, meaning "to make merry". Via a Spanish lineage this is where Modern English gets its word gala.

WordHumper returns on Monday. Gobble gobble.

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:: posted by David, 8:05 AM


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