Wanhope
Posted: 15 November 2010 03:34 PM   [ Ignore ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2297
Joined  2007-01-30

Dipping into George Gascoigne, easily my favourite poet among the early Elizabethans, I note this interesting term which cropped up in Gascoigne’s Memories,

Waves of wanhope so tost me to and fo

I’d seen the word before but any info on it had sunk into the morass of my own Memories so I checked OED where I found that it’s an obsolete term meaning hopelessness, despair. My first thought was that the wan element was the familiar adjective, but the etymology is far more interesting than that and this wan is a horse of a different colour. It is in fact “a prefix expressing privation or negation (approximately equivalent to UN-1 or MIS-)” and used abundantly in Old English to form new words (I’m sure Dave is familiar with it).

OED goes on to explain, “ In OE. the number of words formed with the prefix is considerable, but none of them has survived into modern English, and only one (wanspéd, ill-success) into ME. Of the many new formations that arose in ME., only wanto(w)en, undisciplined, WANTON, still survives in use (with no consciousness of its etymological meaning)”.

I found that fascinating. I have a new respect for wanton now, which itself leads to new surprises. The word is made up from the prefix wan- + towen, past participle of the obsolete verb tee, v.1, to discipline, train (thus wanton means literally undisciplined, untrained). And, the cherry on the icing, tee is the root of the modern team. God, I love etymology!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 November 2010 04:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  282
Joined  2007-02-23

The “wan-” prefix still exists in Scots and northern English dialects, or at least it was still used in the 20th century ... largely literary maybe ... e.g., “wancouth”, “wanchancy”, “wanhap”, “wancanny”, “wanfine”, etc.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 November 2010 11:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  429
Joined  2007-02-14

’Wanhoop’ is totally ordinary everyday Dutch. The ‘wan-’ prefix is very much alive in modern Dutch. I suppose ELiza will recognize it too.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 November 2010 06:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3411
Joined  2007-01-29

Fascinating indeed!  I had no idea of any of this.  Thanks, aldi!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 November 2010 06:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4597
Joined  2007-01-03

The verb to wane is related, from the OE wanian.

But to want, while cognate, comes into the language by a different route. It, and the associated noun want, is not recorded until the early thirteenth century. It’s probably a borrowing from one of the Scandinavian languages. I suspect it may actually be older, part of the Old Norse influence on Old English via the Danish invasions, but unrecorded.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 November 2010 04:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1365
Joined  2007-01-29

I found several “wan-” words in a 19th century dictionary of archaisms but the only one of my current northern dialect books to list a word with the prefix “wan” is the Yorkshire dialect dictionary, with the sole entry “wankley” meaning weak, unsteady, weakest of litter.  One of the “wan-” words in OED is wankle:

Obs. exc. dial. 

OE. wancol = OS. wankol, MDu., Du. wankel, OHG. wanchal, MHG., G. (obs.) wankel; cf. OHG. wankôn (MHG., mod.G. wanken), to waver, totter.]
Unsteady, insecure; changeable, unsettled, precarious; inconstant, wavering. Also, weak in health, delicate, sickly.
c888 ÆLFRED Boeth.

Also from OED:

In OE. the number of words formed with the prefix is considerable, but none of them has survived into modern English, and only one (wanspéd, ill-success) into ME. Of the many new formations that arose in ME., only wantoen, undisciplined, WANTON, still survives in use

And yes, Dutchtoo - in Afrikaans “wanhoop” is despair.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 November 2010 07:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1253
Joined  2007-03-21

As far as I can tell, the specific word (Wahnhoffnung) doesn’t exist in modern German but Grimm has it. Modern German, I think, prefers hoffnungslos. The prefix exists in such words as der Wahnwitz (lunacy—literally delusional joke) and Wahnsin (madness, insanity).  I just this morning came across the latter in a Der Zeit interview, about the American elections, “diese wahnsinnige wut auf Obama."* Grimm has many words made of this prefix.

edit: I just looked it up in google translate and it gives the meaning of Wahnhoffnung as “delusional hope.”

*edit 2: “this insane anger directed at Obama.”

[ Edited: 17 November 2010 09:23 AM by Oecolampadius ]
Profile