Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Sea Shanty


Shanty can be recognised as a later borrowing from French.  If a ca- word came into English early from Latin, such as camp, campaign it kept the k- sound. If it came in from the Normans it was a ch- pronunciation, such as that same root leading to champion. The focus was still on the ground, the open area where a battle or a tournament might be fought.  The use of "champion" as good fertile ground was still in use in English until about 1700.  Later still was the sh- sound as in the district Champagne, where they later grew fine grapes and made wine. Same word. I wrote about Cape, Chapel, Chapeau previously, and there is also captain, chieftain, chef. So trace back one sound change and you get "chanty."  Aha! Chant.

From Proto Indo-European kan meaning "to sing" we get canto, cantor from Latin.  That root comes to English via Norman French as chant, or enchant.  Chanticleer has the ch- sound in English, the sh- in French. Parisian French gives us chanteuse, and of course shanty, as above.


Sam L. said...

Ah, the morning education bit! Thankee!

Donna B. said...

Thank you for this post and others on language over the years. Tonight, I had a fun discussion with my middle school granddaughter about pronunciations that don't quite make sense. While I left her with the cautionary "don't take my word for it, look it up for yourself", she thought I was brilliant for a few moments at least.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yeah, that would have been a fun conversation, except I don't have many young people who want to listen more than a minute or two about what all those silent k's and extraneous gh's are about.

If you get lucky enough with a young 'un who is interested in an English or History paper that will impress the teacher no end, I would recommend a paper on the letter "C." It's got an amazing amount of history and language that ties in with it, and even though it is pretty accessible to a bright highschooler, she will always know a great deal that even her teachers and professors only know the edges of. It's got Phoenicians, Etruscans, Greeks, Norse, Romans, French, and English, but no need to learn about any of them in detail. Just an important slight bit about each that can be a foundation point for later understandings.