Issue 133, page 4
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Yes, we're aware of that problem. It's a glitch in the WYSIWYG html editor we use. We'll be manually correcting those bad links while trying to work around the problem with our editor so that future back issues will be set up properly. (Style sheets, here we come!)
Interesting suggestions, but you've got to show specific examples of how the words got to English (i.e., an early English form that resembles the Arabic word) or your suggestion remains that: a suggestion. And it may be logical that daql was adopted by the Greeks as daktylos, but, again, logic is not the key. Evidence is the key.
The evidence shows that it entered English from Latin, which was the language of the learned in the 14th century.
From Lori Howe:
(We discussed hell in a handbasket in last week's issue (no. 132A) of our e-mail newsletter. You can read that issue here.) We were amused and, as we think you probably suspected, there's absolutely no basis for the speculation you found at the Phrase Finder site. Also, the phrase is not used (at least in the U.S.) as a command ("You, go to hell in a handbasket!"). Instead, it is a descriptive phrase. Something that is going to hell in a handbasket is deteriorating rapidly.
From James Madison:
(We're biting our [collective] lip to keep from making presidential comments about your name, Jim!) You have to remember that a word's etymology is not based on a consensus. Historians don't get to vote on how many wives Henry VIII had. They consult the historical record (which indicates that he had six).
You must have evidence for your etymological position, as well. Perhaps double pay was given to workers who would go down mine shafts in baskets, but is there evidence that such a practice produced the term? Besides, there's no evidence that such a basket was known as a handbasket simply because it was lowered by hand. O.K., class, it's time to review Ernest Weekley's Threefold Etymology Test.
And don't get us wrong - it's fun to make educated stabs at a word's origin when there is little or no evidence, but such guesses must remain that: guesswork.
From Clara Drummond:
We said that to gruntle used to mean "to grumble or grunt", but that meaning fell into disuse a long time ago. More recently, the word has reappeared as a whimsical back-formation from disgruntle and it is this modern usage which Webster defines.
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Last Updated 08/25/01 06:11 PM