Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Daily Hump: All Things Gawk is a blog dedicated to "...daily Manhattan media news and gossip." It used to be a great site. And up until a few weeks ago it was still a pretty damn funny site. Yet rather recently it's become as intriguing as the banana-flavored donut they recommended in their daily Todo column. But I'm way off tangent; today we're looking at gawker itself (well, gawk, actually).

The OED offers two possible etymologies for the verb gawk. Either a) it's from the noun gawk, meaning "An awkward, loutish person; an oaf" or b) it's an alteration of the obsolete verb gaw which meant "to stare" and comes via the Old Norse , meaning "to heed".

The adjective form, gawky (meaning "awkward, ungainly") is where the story gets fun. Apparently, the word gawk can mean "left" (in the directional sense) and there was once a dialectal term in north England "gawk-handed". The Online Etymology Dictionary theorizes that this sense is the root of gawky, which may be "...a contraction of gaulick, a derogatory slang that could have originated during some period of strained Anglo-[French] relations." The OED, however, offers no evidence to suggest that gawk, in the sense of "left", has anything to do with the oafish gawk. That being said, humanity has a general prejudice against the left best exemplified by our word sinister, coming from the Latin word for "left." Perhaps the awkward qualities of a gawk continue this prejudice towards all things left-handed.

gawk [OED]

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:: posted by David, 9:14 AM


Um, still waiting for ramparts here....
Blogger Rachel, at 12:30 PM  

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