Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
Growing up on the Canadian prairies, I hadn’t encountered the chickpea, or garbanzo bean, before I moved to the west coast at about the age of 20, and became a vegetarian. I always thought that its name must come from the resemblance of its plump body, which sports a prominent pointed little beak, to a chick of the downy variety.
Humanity has cultivated the chickpea since at least the Bronze Age. In Latin, it had the name Cicer, which became the cognomen, or personal surname, of the Roman philosopher and statesman Cicero. There are two theories about the origin of his name. According to Plutarch, one of Cicero’s ancestors had a cleft in the tip of his nose, which made it resemble a chickpea, and he adopted the moniker. It may be more likely that Cicero’s ancestors, who came from the hill country outside Rome, became prosperous through the cultivation and sale of chickpeas.
Cicer comes from the same root as cicatrice, which means a scar or indentation, and refers to the furrow which extends across the bean. In French, it became chiche, whence to English as chiche or ciche. It wasn’t until the 18th century that the chickpea was born, potentially from an egg corning. There is lots of evidence on the web that many others have made the connection.
What are chickpeas? (Australia):
Chick peas are also known as Garbanzo or Ceci beans. They are a round, light-brown coloured pea from the Mediterranean region and the Middle East. They are called chick peas because each bean has a small peak that resembles a chicken’s beak.
Nutritional analysis, J. Agric. Food Chem.:
From appearance characteristics, chickpea seeds can be arbitrarily divided into three distinct types (Figure l), namely, desi, kabuli, and pea. Pea seeds are nearly spherical, except for the characteristic chickpea beak.
The Chinese and Indians don’t mince words, where the eggcorn has matured into the Chicken Pea:
Dining in Lijiang, China:
Chicken Pea Grass Jelly
Chicken pea is a kind of famous local specialty of Lijiang. Nowadays it is sold throughout southeastern Asia. Both in summer and in winter, this kind of snack can be enjoyed.
(http://www.discoverchinatours.com/desti … e-Food.htm)
India crop plants, 1887:
Gram or Chicken Pea, _Cicer arietinum, L.
(http://books.google.ca/books?id=65xBAAA … 3#PPR23,M1)
Speaking of “gram” for chickpeas in India, does anybody have access to the etymology? I think it comes from Portuguese grão, or grain, but there is little to nothing on the web. I think there’s gold there somewhere but “gram” remains recondite for me.
There is a wonderful article about the connections between words for chickpeas in Yiddish, Latin, German, French, Spanish, Greek, Italian, and English here. wikipedia makes a further connection to the non-Indo-European Basque language here
What a lovely post, and great documentation for a hidden eggcorn or folk etymology.
It hadn’t even occurred to me that someone might be thinking of chickens, but then my background is German and chickpea in German is Kichererbse, with Erbse meaning pea and kichern meaning to giggle.
Obviously, the Kicher- part comes from cicer as well, and the giggle connection is just as much an eggcornish folk etymology as the the chicken interpretation in English. As for French, we’d need to ask some French native speakers how they interpret the etymology of pois chiche. I don’t think those who haven’t consulted a dictionary would link it to cicatrice (scar).
Fascinating. I had always assumed that “chickpea” had some vague reference to the use of the legume as chicken feed. Now I know that, even if the egg comes after the chicken, the chickpea comes after the eggcorn (groan).
Since the botanical mantle has passed to you, perhaps you can throw some etymological light on duckweed, the plants in the Lemnoideae that have no roots or stems and that look like little floating flakes on the surfaces of ponds. Have you noticed how much duckweed looks like the seeds of dock (plants in the Rumex genus)? Seeds of curly dock and water dock, produced in vast abundance, are surrounded by round or heart-shaped wings (the seeds resemble elm samaras) that allow the seeds to float. Is it possible that floating duckweed is not named after floating birds but floating seeds (i.e., duckweed is “dockweed”)?
Chris, interesting eichel (did I get that right – looks dangerously polysemic). It has “egg” in there, too. Any connection of kichern to kitchy kitchy koo?
Kem, a single leguminous post does not a gardener make. There is humus, and hummus, and then there is hubris. I can provide the following first hand evidence, however, about the idea, which had occurred to me as well, that the chickpea might be a chick magnet. From a brief stint in the country where we raised chickens for eggs, I know that chickens don’t eat beans, and certainly not the big ones like the garbanzo. If you throw them a soup mix of dried seeds, the grains will be gobbled up (and the alphabet pasta I suppose) but the pulses spurned. I suspect it is the antiherbivore defences of legumes, in the form of protease inhibitors, that they can’t abide. Humans have learned to get around those defences by boiling the heck out of “the musical fruit”.
I couldn’t find the origin of the word “duckweed”. But did have fun going deep into the morphology and chemistry both of the plants and of the words used to describe them. You can get lost in there. It seems conceivable that “duckweed” was once dockweed, but perhaps more because of its habitat, which can be linked to Scand. words for low ground, swamp and stagnate (from Harper, and Wedgwood).
I was surprised to learn the origin of the genus name for duckweed, Lemna. It was named by Theophrastus (something like “godly phrasing”), who was so named by Aristotle. The GK. root word of Lemna is suggested to be “limne”, for lake or marsh. The domain in which I work is limnology, from the same root, and is the ecology of inland waters. All this to get to this point, that my sister laboured for a while under the misconception that I was studying legs, not lakes, and was a “limbologist”.
The duckweed family has a few different genera, but most notably contains the docks and sorrels. The sorrels are yummy trail snacks, with a sour, lemony flavour. So the name might come from the flavour, as “small sours”. Wedgwood couldn’t help remarking that the sorrels are also red in colour – did the red horse, or sorrel, get its name from these plants? He offers another source as well: the red colour of smoked herring (link).
The obscurity of these roots once again sets the stage for a shift in imagery for the word “sorrel”. I found one renamed plant, the sheep sorrel, which apparently causes so much trouble as a nuisance weed that it can be called the “sheep sorrow”. And multiple classified ads for “sorrow horses”.
Board of Supervisors minutes:
Noxious weeds shall be cut, burned, sprayed, or otherwise destroyed on or before the following dates and as often thereafter as is necessary to prevent seed productions:
Group 1: May 15, 2005 – for Leafy Spurge, Perennial Peppergrass, Sour Dock, Sheep Sorrow.
I have a wonderful sorrow horse that is 6 years old and has no bad habits, and is well broke.
Hey everyone, as you all Know I have a “Sorrow Horse” named “Chito… He is a gelding..
Promptly, Will saddled a chestnut sorrow horse, his most cherished and obedient mount, he called Nugget. Will galloped carelessly in pursuit for his father.
I like the chestnut sorrow horse over there. He is a fine horse with much strength to his Spirit.
(snippet from deleted online novel: groups.msn.com/.../chaptertwowhenthetrailspeaks.msnw)
No hint in the horse ads that they find anything unhappy about the animals.
Good suggestion about “dock,” meaning low ground, as source of “duckweed.”
I may be reaching too far. Perhaps “duckweed” does come from “duck.” I’ve seen ducks eat it. And the plant bobs on the water like a duck. I guess if it floats like a duck and looks like a duck, it must be-
Eichel? So far as I know, there is no canonical German word for “eggcorn.” Last year I asked about words for eggcorn in other languages (http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/forum/view … p?pid=4790) and Pat pointed me to an earlier discussion (http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/forum/viewtopic.php?id=3) about the French term for eggcorn (poteaux rose).
You will note in that post that we already have a Danish and a Hebrew word for eggcorn. Seems like there must be a German word for eggcorn-Germans have a word for everything. I can find German words for bowdlerizations (Verballhornung), mondegreens (Verhörer), malapropisms (Malapropismus), and folk etymologies (Volksetymologie). The German word for crossbow, “Armbrust,” that is discussed on the German Wikipedia page about folk etymologies (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volksetymologie) is certainly an eggcorn, and could serve as the type name, faute de mieux. Chris should jump in on this issue. She would know if there is a German word for an eggcorn. If there isn’t, she should have naming rights.
Interestingly, the most common German word for a squirrel, the great eater of acorns, is “Eichhörnchen,” which sounds a little bit like “eggcorn-ken” in German pronunciations that use the hard “ch.” “Eichhörnchen” has an Old English cognate, and both words appear to have the word for “oak” in them. So squirrels in the Teutonic tradition are named for what they eat, rather than (as in the Greek/Latin words that gave us “squirrel”) for their tails.
The OED traces sorrel to an old word for a first-year hawk, which has distinctive red coloring.