Thursday, February 18, 2021

Language Of Confusion: Pere-, Part IV

Here we go! Last one! And I’ve saved the weirdest ones for last, lucky you. We’re looking at words that come from the Proto Indo European pere-, which means to produce or procure, and while the words it’s spawned have made sense—somewhat—that doesn’t mean they aren’t weird.
First today, poor. Yep. That poor. It showed up in the thirteenth century with pretty much the same definition, coming from the Old French povre, poor. And that V being in there makes a lot more sense when you find out that poverty is from the same place, having shown up even earlier in the late twelfth century. Both words are from the classical Latin pauper, which, I mean, we have that in English, too, though it didn’t appear until the early sixteenth century. So how is it related to pere-? Well, the first half of the word, pau-, comes from the Proto Indo European pau-, which means few or little. The -per comes from pere-. Poor is to procure too little.
Surprising, yes, but believable. Sever, on the other hand… Really. Sever and several are from pere-. Sever showed up in the fourteenth century while several didn’t show up until the early fifteenth century, where it actually meant existing apart before morphing to more than one a century later. Sever comes from the Anglo French severer and Old French sevrer, to separate, from the Vulgar Latin seperare, which is from the classical Latin separare, to separate. Several comes from the Anglo French several, from the Old French seperalis, which can also be traced to separare. We’ve actually talked about the parare part before, and it means to prepare, and the se- means apart. To prepare apart is to sever, and somehow that’s also several.
Next, spar. Yes, like fighting. Remember how we talked about parry being from pere-? Of course you do. And spar is the same. I mean, kind of. It showed up in the late fourteenth century, meaning to rush or dart, and that’s thought to be from the French esparer, to kick, and Italian sparare, to shoot or scatter. That’s a mix of the prefix ex-, out, and our old friend parare. Basically to “prepare out” became to fling, and that somehow got to spar.
Finally… viper. Yes, like the snake. Have I done this word before? Maybe. Whatever. It showed up in the early fifteenth century from the Old French vipere, from the classical Latin vipera, viper. The vi- comes from the Proto Indo European gwei-, to live (because most vipers give birth to live young rather than lay eggs). The per- part of the word comes from parire, which as I’ve mentioned previous weeks means to be fertile, and it means that because it’s from pere- and to produce can also mean to produce children. So that and a quirk of this particular reptile’s biology is why we call them vipers.


Please validate me.