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J K Rowling calls the speech of snakes "Parseltongue."

Any thoughts on the etymology?

From etymonline.com I found this suggestive entry:

parsnip
16c., parsnepe, corruption (by influence of M.E. nepe "turnip") of M.E. passenep (1398), from O.Fr. pasnaie, from L. pastinaca "parsnip, carrot," from pastinum "two-pronged fork" (related to pastinare "to dig up the ground") so called from the shape of the root.


RJA
 
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Rowling: "Parselmouth is an old word for someone who has a problem with the mouth, like a hare lip."

I wonder where she learned this. parcel first meant "a part, portion, or division of something".

The Dictionary of Early English says parsel is a variant of parsley. But parsley doesn't seem to be related to parsnip.
 
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The only thing I can think of is the word "parse", from the Middle English meaning "parts of speech", which originally comes from the Latin pars meaning "part". Bit of a stretch to make it fit in here though.


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If your rhubarb is forwards, bend it backwards.
 
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quote:
speech of snakes "Parseltongue."

Of course, a fiction writer known for telling tall tales about wizardry and talking snakes would never make up a word. BobHale would tell you Lewis Carroll never did.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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In the OED1, one of the latter sections of parcel defines it as a pejorative combing form meaning 'in part, partially'. Some examples are parcel-guilt, parcel-papist, [i]parcel-poet, etc. It's possible this is what the author had in mind.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
Posts: 5085 | Location: R'lyehReply With QuoteReport This Post
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That's the fascinating thing about language. No matter how inventive we are, we are still grounded in the language.

Poet Karl Shapiro said of the best writers, that they find three voices -- the voice of the language, the voice of the age, and their own.

English flows differently than French or Urdu. And Elizabethan English sings unlike Victorian. The best writers take that and make it their own.

In another vein, Jorge Luis Borges said that writers create their own antecedents. I suppose he meant something like - literary threads come together in a writer, and thereby illuminate the past lines of development.

Hence the inquiry on what sources Rowling may have intuited or tapped.


RJA
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Proofreader:
quote:
speech of snakes "Parseltongue."

Of course, a fiction writer known for telling tall tales about wizardry and talking snakes would never make up a word. BobHale would tell you Lewis Carroll never did.


Not without making up an etymology as well, at any rate. Smile
 
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quote:
Originally posted by goofy:
Rowling: "Parselmouth is an old word for someone who has a problem with the mouth, like a hare lip."

I wonder where she learned this. parcel first meant "a part, portion, or division of something".


My guess is that she took the older meaning of splitting (division, parsing, cleft lip) to refer to the snake's forked tongue.
 
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neveu:

Any relation between the "division" sense of "parcel," and the "two-pronged fork" of "pastinum" (above)?


RJA
 
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Interesting question, Robert...and welcome, Stanley! It's great to see another person here from England.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Arvanitis:
neveu:

Any relation between the "division" sense of "parcel," and the "two-pronged fork" of "pastinum" (above)?


It doesn't look like it. "parcel" goes back to Latin "pars, partis" from *perh3- with no connection to "pastinare".
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
...welcome, Stanley! It's great to see another person here from England.

Many thanks, Kalleh; I do seem to be getting a warm welcome across the whole forum! Friendly place Smile


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If your rhubarb is forwards, bend it backwards.
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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We still use "parcel" to mean a division of land, so the old meaning isn't dead.

Did I already welcome you, Stanley? If not, welcome to the madhouse!
 
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A parseltongue’s wording JK
Has invented, much to the dismay
Of some linguists astute
Who say, “It don’t compute.
So let’s squeeze it to English some way.”


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Asa Lovejoy:
We still use "parcel" to mean a division of land, so the old meaning isn't dead.


The OED has
quote:
1. a. A part, portion, or division of something (material or immaterial), considered separately as a unit; a small part. Now arch. and rare.

5. a. A portion or piece of land, freq. one in separate occupation or ownership from those that surround it. Freq. in parcel of land (also ground, etc.).
 
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