Take 'askance'. Does one look at something 'ask-ance', that is, questioningly? Or is it 'a-skance', which could mean either sideways, askew, or "as one looks over a sconce", as at an approaching army? ('Sconce' is a part of a fortification, and its cognates appear in other Germanic languages as a warlike metaphor, eg Hitler's Alpine retreat was called 'Wolfsschanze' and in Norwegian 'siste skanse' is the idiomatic translation of what in English would be called the 'last ditch'.)
Also 'awry'. Is it 'a-wry', becoming wry, ie pawky, worthy of sarcasm? Or is it 'aw-ry', as in evoking a sympathetic 'aw, too bad'?
I simply love all a-beginning words. When I took English classes in high school (as a non-english speaker) I kept finding new ones.
I always thought that it used to be a grammar thing that changed into lexical thing. Like, around. Round, as a shape, adjective, had the a- added to make it a verb, something that goes on a round path. Accourage, to encourage. So the a- was like en- now. Aloft, in the air, loft meaning air in old German or scandinavian or whatever. Maybe a- was like of, o' or something.
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quote:Pronunciation: /əˈraɪ/ Forms: ME on wry, ME on wrye, ME–15 a wrye, awrye, ME–16 a wry, 15 a wrie, awri, 15–16 awrie... Etymology: < a prep.1 + wry n.; compare aright, awrong.
quote:Pronunciation: /əˈdʒɑː(r)/ Forms: 15 on char, ? a char. Etymology: a prep.1 + char n.1, Old English cyrr, cerr a turn. The 18th cent. at jar was on false analogy
[c1460 (1400) Tale of Beryn (1887) Prol. l. 355 The dorr shall stond char vp; put it from ȝew sofft.] a1513 G. Douglas King Hart (1874) I. 98 The dure on char it stude. a1522 G. Douglas in tr. Virgil Æneid (1959) vii. Prol. 129 A schot wyndo onschet a litill on char
In modern spelling: The door shall stand jar up*; put it from you softly The door ajar it stood A shut-window* un-shut* a little ajar
*char up seems to simply mean "ajar" *i.e. possibly a window that can be shut. *i.e. open.
I had sources for these but the stupid forum software wasn't happy with something to do with html tags so I took them out but I don't think they were to blame anyway. Argh!
"A" in this case is just a preposition that, in my own words, makes the word more active and widespread. :/
An individual thing can be wry (twisted). A room can be awry. In my mind.
quote:Does the 'skance' in a-skance refer to 'skew', or to 'sconce'?
Ooh interesting one. The OED doesn't know:
quote:Etymology: Etymology unknown. Wedgwood suggests Italian a schiancio ‘bias, slanting, sloping or slopingly, aslope, across, overthwart’ (Baretti), where schiancio is = Old French esclanc , esclenc , gauche, left hand. Skeat compares Italian scanso < scansare , expl. by Florio, among other meanings, as ‘to go a slope, or a sconce, or a skew, to go sidelin.’ Koch suggests a formation on Old Norse á ská : see askew adv., adj., and n. Diefenbach compares Jutlandish ad-skands , West Frisian skân , schean , which he connects with Dutch schuin , schuins : see askoye adv.
It then goes on to say...
quote:(There is a whole group of words of more or less obscure origin in ask- , containing askance , askant , askew , askie , askile , askoye , askoyne , (with which compare asklent adv., aslant adv., asquint adv.,) which are more or less closely connected in sense, and seem to have influenced one another in form. They appear mostly in the 16th or end of the 15th cent., and none of them can be certainly traced up to Old English; though they can nearly all be paralleled by words in various languages, evidence is wanting as to their actual origin and their relations to one another.)
Sounds like there was a fashion for these a-something words and a lot were coined in a short time.
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