Remarking on my previous post, Stephen inquires:
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).He is right to wonder about a source; my etymological suggestion was rather speculative. The logic behind his concern is flawless, but I do not think not it applies here. There is a real lack of evidence that this came to English via Latin. The OED entry has "ptooey" attested only as early as 1930, with etymology and citations as follows:
ptooey, 19- ptui. [Imitative. ComparePFUI int., PHOOEY int., and also PTISH int., PSHAW int., etc.]
1930 O. LATTIMORE High Tartary xxvii. 273 ‘Ptui! Wrong again! Will you ever be fit for Official life? Ptui!’ Thus the Great Man, pursuing his orderly with a flying gob of spittle. 1977 Rolling Stone 5 May 5/2 Ptooey! Who'd stand for it? 1993 Albuquerque (New Mexico) Jrnl. 26 Aug. F6/1 What do you think this is, Lollapalooza? Ptui.
And so I return to my initial point which, having been forced now to think it through more thoroughly, is in need of clarification. I should not have said this expression is derived from the Greek verb; there is no concrete evidence testifying to this hypothesis. But I do not see any evidence to the contrary either. Therefore:
- "Ptooey" was formulated in English independent of the Greek verb, and perhaps free of the influence of any other language. It is a direct onomatopoeic rendering of the sound of spitting.
- My original hypothesis was correct, and "ptooey" is a borrowing of a Greek onomatopoeic rendering, a best-possible English imitation.
I would briefly draw your attention to the earliest attested form in English. What is is about that name that looks strangely familiar? The famous Owen Lattimore, post-WWII public intellectual, Far-East scholar, and notable author is the brother of Richmond Lattimore, the renowned Classics translator of Iliad and Odyssey among others.
Perhaps, and only perhaps, Owen Lattimore was well-versed enough in the classics to be familiar with the Greek onamatopoeic verb, and attempted to render the sound in English.
Before climbing out onto a yet thinner and more treacherous limb, I will rest my case here.