Thursday, June 26, 2008

ὀνοματοποιία εὐθύς;

Onomatopoeia directly?

Is our English colloquial "ptooey" or alternately, "ptooie" a direct onomatopoeic rendering of the sound made when a person spits?

It seems more likely it is derived from the Greek onomatopoeic verb "πτύω-to spit."

A fun and relevant passage:

Xenophon Cyropaedia 1.2.16

αἰσχρὸν μὲν γὰρ ἔτι καὶ νῦν ἐστι Πέρσαις καὶ τὸ πτύειν καὶ τὸ ἀπομύττεσθαι καὶ τὸ φύσης μεστοὺς φαίνεσθαι...

For it is even now shameful among the Persians to spit or to blow one's nose or to appear flatulent...

1 comment:

Stephen said...

Do you have a source for this? I feel like it would be unlikely that the original [u:] sound of υ would be preserved in English. It would almost certainly have come into English via Latin, which merged it with 'i' at a fairly early date and other words that derive from Greek roots show the change already to have happened (The only example I can think of right now is "priest" which is from "presbyter", that doesn't show a remnant of [u], but that's gone through several stages before it got to "priest" so i'm not 100% sure about that).