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black and white
Posted: 22 July 2007 04:23 AM   [ Ignore ]
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From the “blighted” thread:

Just found this:

I still think black meant the opposite of white long before Columbus.

An interesting observation in Carl Sagan’s _The_Dragons_of_Eden_ is the fact that “black” and “white” in English have similar origins ("black" coming from the Anglo-Saxon “blaece” and “white” coming from the Anglo-Saxon “blac"), both suggesting the meaning “without colour”.

At last, I know why in Dutch, white people are called ‘blank’.

The origin of “white” and its similarity to “black” can still be found in the words “blanch”, “blank”, “bleak” and the French “blanc”.

This from the OED:

OE. blæc, blac (def. blace) = OHG. blah-, blach- (in comb.); a word of difficult history. In OE., found also (as the metres show) with long vowel blce, blcan, and thus confused with blác shining, white:OTeut. *blaiko- (see BLAKE), as is shown by the fact that the latter also occurs with short vowel, blc, blcum; in ME. the two words are often distinguishable only by the context, and sometimes not by that. (Cf. ¶7.) ON. blakkr is not an exact phonetic equivalent, but, if native, points to an OTeut. *blakko-

According to the online Anglo-Saxon dictionary, blaeco, not blaec, meant paleness, leprosy.  Blaeco and blaec sound as if they could be related, but are they?  I’m very confused.

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Posted: 23 July 2007 01:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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At last, I know why in Dutch, white people are called ‘blank’

and ‘paleface’ is usually translated as ’bleekgezicht’.

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Posted: 23 July 2007 06:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Not much to do with Anglo Saxon origins but today both black and white can be an absence of colour depending on how your colours are made up/displayed.

RGB (red green blue) values for computer monitors are 255 255 255 for white and 0 0 0 for black

CMYK (cyan magenta yellow black) values for printing colours give the values of 100% 100% 100% 100% for black and 0 0 0 0 for white (or, if you prefer, red blue and yellow primary colours work the same way if you mix them all together)

In the first black is the absence of colour and in the second white is.

Thought that was an interesting parallel.

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Posted: 23 July 2007 08:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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According to the online Anglo-Saxon dictionary, blaeco, not blaec, meant paleness, leprosy.

The -o is just a flexional ending, which changed depending on the case.  Note that two of the actual quotes in the Online Anglo-Saxon dictionary show it spelled with an -e ending. As I note in the Blighted--Capt. Bligh thread, the crucial distinction between the “black” senses and the “pale, white” senses seems to be the absence or presence of a diacritical mark, which your excerpt from the OED is stripping out, along with other non-standard characters.  Whether that diacritical mark was consistently written in AS I’m not sure, but I tend to doubt it.  I think modern scholars are more consistent about using the accent marks to indicate the (inferred) pronunciation and distinguish confusingly similar words like blaec and bláec.

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Posted: 28 April 2008 04:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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MIGHTY CONFUSING

You speak about skin colour, paint and TV colour in one thread?

I have found some interesting synonyms for black skin: bad complexion (Benjamin Constant), swarthy (Madame de Staël, ugly (playwright Jan Vos), of low birth (George Monck of Albemarle).

Françoise d’Aubigné, marquise de Maintenon (1635 - 1719), known as Madame de Maintenon, the morganatic second wife of Louis XIV, was a granddaughter of Théodore Agrippa d’Aubigné (1522-1630). He wrote a poem about his lover in which he made interesting comparisons to her white skin: the lily, sugar, milk, swan, paper, arsenic, dead and snow. Milk would look dark brown next to her blindingly white skin!

Théodore Agrippa d’Aubigné:

Auprès de ce beau teint, le lys en noir se change,
Le lait en basané auprès de ce beau teint,
Du cygne la blancheur auprès de vous s’éteint,
Et celle du papier où est votre louange.

Le sucre est blanc, et lorsqu’en la bouche on le range
Le goût plaît, comme fait le lustre qui le peint.
Plus blanc est l’arsenic, mais c’est un lustre feint,
Car c’est mort, c’est poison à celui qui le mange.

Votre blanc en plaisir teint ma rouge douleur,
Soyez douce de goût, comme belle en couleur,
Que mon espoir ne soit démenti par l’épreuve,

Votre blanc ne soit point d’aconite noirci,
Car ce sera ma mort, belle, si je vous treuve
Aussi blanche que neige, et froide tout ainsi.

Egmond Codfried

[ Edited: 28 April 2008 04:52 AM by Egmond Codfried ]
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Posted: 28 April 2008 02:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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“black" coming from the Anglo-Saxon “blaece” and “white” coming from the Anglo-Saxon “blac")”

What?

Where does he get this from?

AHD4 says “white” is from [Middle English, from Old English hwīt; see kweit- in Indo-European roots.], and other sources say similar things.

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Posted: 28 April 2008 02:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Odd that nobody caught that last year, when the thread was fresh.  I suspect that the misstatement originates with the person Eliza is quoting, rather than with Sagan.  Maybe I’ll pull down my copy of The Dragons of Eden and see.

Eliza’s quote comes from here, but mingles remarks by two posters.  The claim that Sagan derives “white” from blac is attributed there to a Norman DeForest.  Assuming he’s not being misquoted, I’ll bet he has garbled what Sagan said.

[ Edited: 28 April 2008 02:51 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 29 April 2008 01:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/ciencia/sagan/ciencia_sagan_dragon07.htm


* A quite different set of circumstances is revealed by another pair of verbal polar opposites: black and white. Despite English phrases of the sort “as different as black and white,” the two words appear to have the same origin. Black comes from the Anglo-Saxon “blaece,” and white from the Anglo-Saxon “blac,” which is still active in its cognates “blanch,” “blank,” “bleak,” and the French “blanc.” Both black and white have as their distinguishing properties the absence of color, and employing the same word for both strikes me as very perceptive of King Arthur’s lexicographer.

Sagan seems to have erred.

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Posted: 29 April 2008 06:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Yes, an excellent example of a good scientist who errs when he attempts to talk about things outside of his field, where he doesn’t have the background or education. He should have stuck to astronomy.

Not only is white not from blaec, but neither is blank or bleak, which are from the French blanc. Furthermore, he misuses the term cognate. Blanch and bleach are not cognates of blaec, they are derived from it. Blank and bleak are cognate.

I think we can forgive the allusion to the mythical King Arthur as poetic license (even scientists get some freedom in their writing), but Arthur was Celtic and not Anglo-Saxon, so it wouldn’t have been his lexicographers who were responsible.

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Posted: 29 April 2008 10:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Perhaps he meant King Alfred?  I read “Arthur” as “Alfred” first time around, due to allusion to Anglo-Saxon, I suppose.

I am surprised that “blanch” is derived from “blaec” and that “bleak” is derived from “blanc”; I would have thought them the other way raound on first inspection.  I wonder if the surname “Blake” is from “blaec” or “black”.

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Posted: 29 April 2008 10:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Dave seems to be wrong about blanch and bleak.

AHD says bleak is from Middle English bleik, pale, from Old Norse bleikr, white, (thus not derived from blanc, though not from bláec either.)

And it says blanch is from Middle English blaunchen, to make white, from Old French blanchir, from blanche, feminine of blanc, white, of Germanic origin. (Thus not derived from bláec).

[ Edited: 29 April 2008 11:09 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 29 April 2008 01:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Yeah, I mucked this one up. Switching blanch and bleak.

Bleach is from blaec.

The OED acknowledges uncertainty about bleak. It lists a derivation from bleach as the first possibility, which would put it in a genetic line with bleac. But then goes on to acknowledge the Old Norse possibility.

Blanch is, as Dr. T. and the AHD say, Middle English from the French.

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Posted: 29 April 2008 01:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Seems a very weird mistake to make. I mean usually false etymologies at least have the merit of spuriously connecting words with similar sound or spelling. “White” is nothing like “blac”.

Maybe he read something about the etymology of the French “blanc” and got it a bit muddled.

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Posted: 29 April 2008 05:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Or he’d read (and got muddled) that Old English had two very similar words, bláec and blaec, which meant “white” and “black”, respectively.  (Properly, those ae‘s should be ligated to represent the OE letter ash, but I can’t be arsed.)

[ Edited: 29 April 2008 06:13 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 29 April 2008 11:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Were bláec and blaec pronounced differently?  I would have thought much confusion would have resulted if not.  OTOH, is it possible to know how Old English was pronounced?

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Posted: 30 April 2008 05:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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We don’t know the pronunciation of Old English with a high degree of certainty. There is a standard way of pronouncing it, that is a combination of reasonable assumptions from what we know of standard phonetic changes and how cognate languages are pronounced, conclusions derived from poetics, and the way that scholars have always pronounced it.

The full etymology of black in the OED, which explains the pronunciation difference, follows:

OE. blæc, blac (def. blace) = OHG. blah-, blach- (in comb.); a word of difficult history. In OE., found also (as the metres show) with long vowel bla¯ce, bla¯can, and thus confused with blác shining, white:—OTeut. *blaiko- (see BLAKE), as is shown by the fact that the latter also occurs with short vowel, blăc, blăcum; in ME. the two words are often distinguishable only by the context, and sometimes not by that. (Cf. ¶7.) ON. blakkr is not an exact phonetic equivalent, but, if native, points to an OTeut. *blakko- (for blakno: see Kluge Beitr. ix. 162). Sievers suggests that the original Teutonic types were *blæ^kno-, *blakko-, subsequently levelled to blæ^ko-, blako-, blakko-, giving the OE. and ON. words; in this case *blæ^k-no- might be pa. pple. of a vb. *blæ^kan to burn (cogn. w. Gr. φλέγειν), and the original sense ‘burnt, scorched.’ Cf. BLATCH, which points to an OTeut. *blakkjo-, from blakko-. In Eng. black has quite displaced the original colour-word SWART, which remains in the other Teutonic languages.

I don’t know how to make the long vowel line and the caret appear on top of the the letters, so they follow.

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