All hail the Oxford English Dictionary! : LUSENET : Reflection in the Dragon's Eye : One Thread

When I confessed to having lost Karen's e-mail about panniers, she very kindly re-sent it to me. (Why she didn't just post it here herself, we may never know.) At any rate, here is what she told me:

It's all very well for *you* to say you have nothing more to say on the matter of biking, Liz, but *I* still have free reign to respond...mua ha haaa. Besides, you asked a reference librarian a question-- you can't very well expect me *not* to look it up and share, could you? So, on the question of panniers... I know the thingies on bikes are called panniers 'cause I own a pair (tho' they haven't seen much use recently). The word comes originally from the Latin, panarium, breadbasket, by way of the French panier, meaning pretty much the same thing. According to my favorite reference book in the whole wide world, the Oxford English Dictionary, a "pannier" is "a basket, esp. one of considerable size for carrying provisions, fish, or other commodities; in later use mostly restricted to those carried by a beast of burden [like a bicycle -K] (usually in pairs, one on each side, slung across the back) or on the shoulders of a man or woman." So, essentially, they're the same concept as saddlebags, but bigger, and with a specific purpose. Ever see those Columbian coffee ads with Juan Valdez and his mule? The baskets the mule is carrying the coffee beans in-- THOSE are panniers. The human kind could be worn on the back, sorta like an open wickerwork backpack (they still have this kind in Germany), or slung by straps over the shoulders to hang at one's sides. Now then-- this leads us to the clothing style of the late 19th century..."a frame of whalebone, wire, or other material, used to distend the skirt of a woman's dress at the hips." Basically, the dress style was named after the look it resembled. So yes, the panniers came first. Bike panniers were simply an extension of the ones used on beasts of 1939, the word was being used for "a bag or similar container (usu. one of a pair) placed above or to the side of the rear wheel of a bicycle or motor cycle." So there ya go. More than you ever wanted to know about panniers.

So. Anyone else have a word or object they'd like to know the origins of? I'm sure Karen is just drooling at the prospect of being able to play with her favorite toy some more!

-- Liz Brooks (, July 17, 1999


Well, you wouldn't know if I didn't tell you, anyway. The sordid truth is that (yes, I'll admit it freely) I'm a lazy slug, and it's easier to let Liz do it. She's so much better at these things than I am. ^_^ Besides, cut-n-paste across different programs always makes me nervous...sorta like carrying a spatula full of fried eggs across a freshly washed floor to a plate on the other side of the room. It's just tempting fate to mess with you. So there you go.

But I would still be delighted to look things up for people and tell you more than you ever wanted to know about a word. {grin}

-- Karen O. (, July 25, 1999.

A new question for you, Karen!

This morning, the cat was being extra-vicious, and Matt told me that until Diamond had subdued them, his shoelaces had doubtless been fomenting rebellion.

I wondered, idly, what the etymology of the word foment was (which I found this morning by looking at the Merriam-Webster site) and whether it was related to the word ferment at all. Merriam-Webster didn't have much to say about the etymology of "ferment" though, so I thought I'd pass it on to you... Do they have a root in common? If so, what is it?

Inquiring minds want to know!

-- The Dragon Herself (, August 06, 1999.

foment vt [Middle English _fomenten_, from Late Latin _fomentare_, from Latin _fomentum_ fomentation, from _fovere_ to warm, fondle, foment - more at FEVER] (14th Century) 1: to treat with moist heat (as for easing pain) 2: to promote the growth or development of : ROUSE, INCITE (~ a rebellion) syn see INCITE

Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary

No fermentation here, I'll go check FEVER. . .

OK, I'm back.

fever n [Middle English, from Old English _fefer_, from Latin _febris_; akin to Latin _fovere_, to warm]

-- R. A. Randall (, August 06, 1999.

ferment n [Middle English, from Latin _fermentum_ yeast see more at BARM]

barm n [Middle English _berme_, from Old English _beorma_; akin to Latin _fermentum_ yeast, _fevere_ to boil]

Hey! Maybe there is a connection!

-- R. A. Randall (, August 06, 1999.

Well, Richard sorta beat me to it, since I was on vacation (and-- SOB-- without email access!), BUT.... The simple answer is that they're NOT from the same root, exactly, but that they *may* be distantly related because they stem from similar roots and concepts. Actually, to answer this one (if anyone's curious about my research path, here) I had to go to my Latin dictionaries-- both medieval Latin (which is where the modern meaning of foment stems from) and good old Lewis & Short (which, I might note, is also an Oxford dictionary...those Oxford ppl know their stuff).

Now, for the more complicated answer: "foment" (in English) comes from fomentare, a Latin verb which comes from fomentum a Latin noun, medieval meanings of which include both "a stimulus, incentive, or motive" and "a combustible or fuel." The classical Latin is something more like a warm poultice, or (drawn rather poetically from the first meaning) something that alleviates or nourishes or consoles. Another meaning is "kindling wood," which is a transferative from the noun fomes, which comes from the same ultimate root. Fomentum (the noun) in turn is a contraction of fovimentum (which is, I think, a genrundive), which comes from foveo (a rather common Latin verb), meaning in its simplest sense "to keep warm." When you get back beyond the Latin, the etymology gets a little fuzzy, and there's alot more guesswork involved, but the poss. Greek root here is a word meaning "to roast" and the assumed Sanskrit stem is bhag-, to be hot.

Now, our other word: ferment (Eng.). This one's a little simpler. It comes from the Latin fermentum, a noun meaning that which loosens the soil, or a fermented drink, or (poetically) anger or passion, and which in turn is a contraction of fervimentum, from ferveo, a verb meaning to boil, foam, bubble, be boiling hot, ferment, glow, rage, etc. (For future note, the Greek root is postulated as something meaning "to wave, flicker" from Sanskrit bhur-, be restless).

So you see, it's NOT from the same root (although a word like, say, fervent or effervescent would be from the same root as ferment). But if you look, there's a pattern here: foveo and ferveo. If you draw out the analogy, you can also find faveo, which means to favor, be well disposed towards, protect, but whose (possible) Greek root means light, safety (please, PLEASE don't ask me to try to reproduce the Greek here). So there's sorta a continuing theme of light and heat and movement thereof through all these words. Now, Latin does a *lot* of tranferrance of meaning between similar-sounding roots, so that could be the reason there's so much closeness here (my dictionary notes that faveo and foveo were often confused). BUT, on the other hand, it may NOT be accidental, which is why I say there may be a really distant ancestor for all of them. I don't do Sanskrit, so I don't know HOW close those roots might be...who knows?

Is your curiosity satisfied now, Liz?

-- Karen O. (, August 19, 1999.

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