Page:Notes and Queries - Series 9 - Volume 10.djvu/454

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446


NOTES AND QUERIES.


[9 th 8. X. DEC. 6, 1902.


adjective and a substantive ; in English apparently always as a substantive, at least as early as Chaucer, in whose ' Canterbury Tales ' we have " Cleped the Seintes Legende of Cupyde " for Cupid's Saints' Legend. Prof. Skeat, in his ' Etymological Dictionary,' defines the word as "a holy man." I submit he should have added " or woman." The English word "holy" (M.E. hooli) is connected, like the German heilig, with a totally different idea from that of sanctus or saint, viz., whole in the sense of perfect, sound, healthy.

I see that in the ' Clergy List ' the church in Cambridge is called that of S. Sepulchre. Now S. by itself might stand for sanctus, sancta, or sanctum, but joined with an English substantive (and the same may be said of an English name) it must stand for "Saint "in the adjectival sense. It is, indeed, becoming more usual to abbreviate "Saint" by the single letter S, omitting the t. The case of St. Michael or S. Michael also shows that it does not necessarily apply to either a man or woman. W. T. LYNN.

Blackheath.

WIGWAM: ITS ORIGIN. In his well-known 'Etymological Dictionary ' Prof. Skeat copies the account of the origin of " wigwam" from Webster. He may be glad to know where Webster got his information. I have traced it to Eliot's ' Indian Grammar,' 1666, p. 11. Eliot gives the pronominal forms of the Massachusetts word for " house " as follows : " Week, his house, weekou, their house, weekit, in his house, wekuwomut, in his [read "in their"] house." Against wekuwomut he has a note, " Hence we corrupt this word wigwam." The -om is the sign of the possessive case, the -ut of the locative. This reference should interest the editors of the ' N.E.D.,' as, though several etymological dictionaries repeat Webster's statement, not one of them quotes any earlier authority for it.

JAS. PLATT, Jun.

VICISSITUDES OF LANGUAGE. Possibly I may be in error, but I think it is undoubtedly the fact that languages are generally studied, esteemed, admired, and diffused, largely in proportion to the prestige enjoyed by the countries to which they belong.

To take first the case of French. Since the day when, after Sedan, Bismarck first put down his mailed hoof, and bluntly announced that he would no longer employ French as the medium of diplomatic communication, that tongue seems gradually being ousted from its once proud place in European usage, and despite the fact that it still lingers as the


language of the cordon bleu, the number daily waxes of the Amphitryons who cause their menus to be written in their native tongue.

In marked contrast with the fate of French, we see English diffusing itself ever more and more. Already the predominant language of commerce and navigation, it may be said that if any tongue could ever become universal a thing which is not to be soberly conceived English would be that tongue.

Then, again, we see Germany, slowly perhaps, but surely, pushing her speech in new direc- tions, while the study of German has of late years made prodigious strides not only in England, but also in most of the countries of Europe, although it may be safely said that the cumbrous and grotesque forms of its structure so comically caricatured by Mark Twain will perhaps for ever prevent it from becoming a very widely diffused language.

Italian, despite its exquisite beauty and its splendid literature, is little studied now. The Civil Service Commissioners ignore it as a test for admission to the public services. A few enthusiasts still wrestle with Dante, and a few impostors pretend to do so, but the charming tongue is practically out of the running. A couple of generations back it was invariably the second language taken up by young ladies after French, but it has long since been superseded by German.

As for Spanish, notwithstanding its majesty and grace, notwithstanding the treasures of its literature, its name is seldom heard, and the tongue of Cervantes and of Lope de Vega has fallen into the limbo of practical desuetude.

Nevertheless, by virtue of the principle above assumed, if we could imagine Italy and Spain resuming premier places in the estimation of the world and the foremost rank in influence and power, while England and Germany sank to secondary positions, it would, I think, be safe to predict that the languages of the former would rise along with their renewed prestige, and would assume a leading place in the estimation of the world.

As to Greek and Latin, their position in the favour of the nations is so different from that enjoyed by spoken tongues, and is founded on considerations so diverse from those of the latter, that they do not come within the purview of the present speculation. A few years ago Sir John Seeley wrote, in one of our leading magazines or reviews, a most interesting study of the various and complex causes which have contributed to the tenacity of life of the classic tongues, in spite of their so-called death. If any reader