Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Daily Hump: Sneeze

My original idea was to hump patsy this morning but some asshole over at Wikipedia already humped the word every which way to Sunday. Fear not! The consolation prize is nothing to sneeze at (sorry).*

The lowly sneeze, known scientifically as a sternutatory reflex,
is a semi-autonomous, convulsive expulsion of air from the nose and mouth. This air can reach speeds of 70 m/s (250 km/h or 155 MPH). Sneezes spread disease by producing infectious droplets that are 0.5 to 5 µm in diameter, about 40,000 such droplets can be produced by a single sneeze.
The word traces back to the Old English fneosan, which is from the proto-Germanic *fneusanan (which is likely of imitative origin). From this base we see similarities in Middle Dutch, Dutch (fniezen - "to sneeze"), Old Norse (fnysa - "to snort"), and Swedish (nysa - "to sneeze"). As the Online Etymology Dictionary notes
the [English] forms in sn- appear 1490s; change may be due to a misreading of fn-, or from [an Old Norse] influence. But OED suggests [the Middle English] fnese had been reduced to simple nese by early 15c., and sneeze is a "strengthened form" of this, "assisted by its phonetic appropriateness."
Regardless up until around 1400 c. English had the words fnese (sneeze), fnast (breathe) and neeze, which is still used to mean sneeze in a number of Scandinavian, northern Irish English and north England regional dialects. You may find it interesting to note that fnese and fnast make up the OED's entire contingent of words beginning with fn-.

*"To sneeze at" first attested to in 1806.

Sneezing [Wikipedia]

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:: posted by David, 9:01 AM

2 Comments:

Hmmm, no fnords? Or can't you see them?
Blogger Loocite, at 12:52 PM  
Apparently the OED can't Fnord! see them...
Blogger David, at 1:59 PM  

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