Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Daily Hump: Anger

I'm worried that some of my more loyal WH readers read into the words I choose to hump. Sometimes this is okay, but you shouldn't make a habit of it; case in point, today's word, anger. I'm not angry, mildly frustrated maybe, but not angry.

But before we begin I need to get something off my chest. In elementary school I remember being told that there are three words in the English language that end in -gry. Two of them are angry and hungry; what's the third? Well, praise be unto thy Internet, as the Online Etymology Dictionary reports
...there is no third (except some extremely obscure ones). Richard Lederer calls this "one of the most outrageous and time-wasting linguistic hoaxes in our nation's history" and traces it to a New York TV quiz show from early 1975.
It's stupid questions like that that make me angry. Anyway, we trace our anger back to Middle English. Their anger, in turn, came from Old Norse (which is not surprising since I'm sure the Vikings made a lot of people angry). In Old Norse angr referred to strife or trouble and was from the root word ang which also meant "troubled" but could also mean "strait" or "narrow." We can trace this word even further back to the Proto-Germanic *angus, meaning "narrow" or "painful" and to the Proto-Indo-European *angh- meaning "tight" or "painful."

We have a word agnail which is originally from Middle English and refers to a corn on your foot. This is from the Old English angnægl which is nothing more than a compound: ang- + nægl. In this word ang- has the sense of painful and nægl translates to "nail;" hence, our word hangnail, a painful nail.

PS. I'm on vacation tomorrow, so no hump for you. Happy Groundhog Day!

hangnail [AHD]
agnail [AHD]
anger [Online Etymology Dictionary]
agnail [OED]
anger [OED]

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:: posted by David, 8:41 AM


Youch. That picture really made me want to chew my nails.
Blogger Auntie Sarah, at 8:11 AM  

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