By Guillaume-Hyacinthe Bougeant
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Additional info for Amusement Philosophique Sur Le Langage Des Bestes (1739)
In some dialects, such as Yorkshire, caterwauling described any man who went out courting at night, whether he howled or not. We find cawney in Berkshire for a very stupid person; cawking in Gloucestershire for someone who was awkward or gawky. There’s a similar word in Dutch, where keffen means ‘yelp’ (like a fox or dog). It’s a shortened form of certain, and a natural development of meaning from its sense of ‘resolved, determined’. From Lancashire: ‘Don’t waste no more time in chaffering’.
But etymologically it’s just a coincidence. Cinderella was an ashypet. Coppa itself seems to have been used alone for a spider, hence cop-web – or cobweb, as we say today. In Lancashire, the word turns up as natter-crop, having stolen the n from a preceding an (see also amplush, nazzard). Awf is one of those punchy, monosyllabic words beloved of English speakers when they want to insult someone, and I’d be surprised if it had totally disappeared. That had a different origin, from elf. A backsyforsy side of something would be a rear view.
A very common expression as applied to bodily frailty’, says an observer from the Shetland Isles. I regularly feel deepooperit. But my favourite derivation is the description of someone with an affected manner of speaking: denshgobbed. It’s the associated description by one of Joseph Wright’s dialect consultants that captures the imagination: it is like ‘the rumbling, creaks, and cracks of an old mangle, together with the talk of several people who are putting it to use’. It sounds like a popular phonetic adaptation of disaster.
Amusement Philosophique Sur Le Langage Des Bestes (1739) by Guillaume-Hyacinthe Bougeant