Wanton
Posted: 17 June 2013 01:23 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I found this quite fascinating. This word is the final remnant in Modern English of the wan- prefix, once prevalent in Old English, barely making it into Middle English, other than Scotland and the North, and leaving this sole example in the present. First the etymology of wanton, then the info on the prefix, all taken from OED.

wanton, adj. and n.

Middle English wantowen , < wan- prefix + towen < Old English togen past participle of téon tee v.1 to discipline, train. The word thus literally means ‘undisciplined’; compare untowe(n adj., and the equivalent German ungezogen; also Middle English welitowen well-brought-up. Middle English wantowen , < wan- prefix + towen < Old English togen past participle of téon tee v.1 to discipline, train. The word thus literally means ‘undisciplined’; compare untowe(n adj., and the equivalent German ungezogen; also Middle English welitowen well-brought-up.

wan-, prefix

Pronunciation:  /wɒn/

a prefix expressing privation or negation (approximately equivalent to un- prefix1 or mis- prefix1), repr. Old English wan-, wǫn-, corresponding to Old Frisian. wan-, won-, Old Saxon wan- (only in wanskefti misfortune = Old English wansceaft), Middle Low German, Middle Dutch wan- (modern Dutch in many new formations, esp. in the sense ‘wrong’, ‘mis-’, as in wanbestuur misgovernment, wanluid discordant sound), Old High German wan-, wana (only in wanwâfan unarmed, wanaheil unhealthy, infirm, wanawizzi lacking wit, insane), Middle High German wan- (only in wanwitze inherited from Old High German), modern German wahn- (in wahnwitz, wahnsinn insanity, commonly apprehended as compounds of wahn n., delusion; also in some dialect words, chiefly adopted from Low German); ON., Swedish, Danish van- (in many old formations, to which modern Swedish and Danish have added many more, chiefly adopted from Low German). The prefix is in origin identical with wane adj.

In Old English 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 Middle English Of the many new formations that arose in Middle English, only wantoȝen, undisciplined, wanton adj. and n., still survives in use (with no consciousness of its etymological meaning); wanhope and wantrust may have been suggested by the equivalent Middle Dutch forms. It was in the north that the prefix was most prolific, and it probably continued to be productive far into the modern period. The following words, peculiar to the Scottish and northern dialects, are recorded in the Eng. Dial. Dict., mostly with examples (or references to glossaries etc.) from the 18th c., but few if any of them are now in current use:— wancanny adj., wanchancy adj., wancheer grief, sadness, wancouth adj. = uncouth, wandeidy adj., mischievous, wandought n. and adj., wanearthly adj., wanease n., wanfortune n., wanfortunate, adj. wanhap n., wanliesum adj., wanlit adj., wanluck, wanown’t adj. = unowned, wanreck ‘mischance, ruin’, wanrest n., wan-thriven adj., wanuse misuse, waste, wanweird n., wanworth adj. and n.

Dave, I see the un- prefix for negation also existed in Old English. Is there any indication that the two prefixes are connected. I can’t see anything in OED to suggest this but they are so similar in sound (if I’m reading that phonetic symbol correctly) that one could be forgiven for thinking them cognates.

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Posted: 17 June 2013 03:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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They’re distinct prefixes in Old English, with different meanings. Wan- signifying a lack or deprivation, and un- signifying a reversal of the usual meaning, but in a few cases can refer to deprivation too. (The OED actually lists two un- prefixes from OE, but I don’t know why. All my OE resources treat them as the same.)

I would guess that they share a Germanic root, but they seem to have diverged by the time OE rolled around.

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Posted: 18 June 2013 06:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I wrote about “wanton” here, adding (with reference to the OED etymology) “And here all these years I just assumed Wahnsinn was from Wahn”; my surprise was shared, as it turned out, by at least one German speaker in the thread.

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Posted: 18 June 2013 07:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I’ll get my coat.

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Posted: 19 June 2013 11:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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You needn’t be too modest, aldi —I didn’t see language hat’s discussion until he posted it here, and one or two others may say the same. It’s an interesting and unusual word --- congratulations for digging it out (if you and I were canines, I’d never leave your side—you have a way of sniffing out juicy morsels wherever you go).

The jocular reference to “wonton soup” in the lh thread put me in mind of the worst meal I ever ate—a [putative] meat pie, at a place that sold “food” (twisted smile and rueful laugh) to tourists at Gretna Green.  I’ve always remembered it as wanton pie, because of the weight I felt in my gut. It took many hours of marinating in hydrochloric acid, to dissolve it.

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Posted: 20 June 2013 12:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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lionello - 19 June 2013 11:54 AM

I’ve always remembered it as wanton pie, because of the weight I felt in my gut.

Sounds more like one-ton pie. Or was that the jest you meant, and I’ve just been the stupid person so many threads seem to attract elsewhere on the web who has to “explain” the joke to the world via a poor witticism of his own?

edited to remove typo

[ Edited: 21 June 2013 03:31 AM by Zythophile ]
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Posted: 20 June 2013 05:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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You needn’t be too modest, aldi —I didn’t see language hat’s discussion until he posted it here, and one or two others may say the same.

Good lord, I hope neither aldi nor anyone else thought I was posting the LH link to chastise him for mentioning the subject, since I had covered it for good and all!  When I post LH links about words or phrases covered here, it’s simply in the hope that people might find the discussion interesting—I have no expectation whatever that everyone, or indeed anyone, here should have faithfully read and memorized eleven years’ worth of LH posts!  Even I can’t remember all of them, and I wrote them.  More than once I’ve posted something interesting only to have a commenter gently remind me that I posted the same thing back in 2007.  Perhaps I should add disclaimers when I post such links here (Supplementary Dose, For Informational Purposes Only).

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Posted: 20 June 2013 06:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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That goes for me too. Any reference to the main site or the Big List is purely for info.

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Posted: 20 June 2013 06:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Wasn’t it Wordgeek who coined the famous cry of “aldi, aldi, aldi!”?

I think the reason aldi got his coat was that LH’s post was referencing aldi’s post here back in 2010.

The great thing about “aldi, aldi, aldi’s” is that they invariably revisit something interesting and worth a revisit.

Keep at it, aldi, even your unintentional reposts are cool.

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Posted: 20 June 2013 08:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Good lord, I hope neither aldi nor anyone else thought I was posting the LH link to chastise him for mentioning the subject

I certainly didn’t think so, lh. The reference to your blog (which I followed up assiduously, not wanting to miss a crumb) enriched the thread and made it even more instructive and entertaining ---- besides giving aldi full credit for ferreting out the oddity of “wanton” in the first place.  The same goes for every other time you mention or quote your site. And the same goes for Dave.  The more we see of such interactions, the more interesting this site becomes. Please keep it up, both of you. 

And I second happydog.

(Zythophile : thank you for letting me know that my feeble little jeu de mots didn’t perish entirely unnoticed)

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Posted: 20 June 2013 09:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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happydog hit the nail on the head. It wasn’t lh’s blog that was the source of my embarrassment but the fact that it referenced an identical earlier posting of mine on wanton. And thank you for the kind words, hd.

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Posted: 20 June 2013 01:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Ah, now I’ve got it—I hadn’t even registered that my post was based on aldi’s earlier one!

I’ll get my coat.

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Posted: 22 June 2013 03:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Post that has already been posted or written somewhere else.

A new acronym.

SDFIPO - fair trips off the tongue.

Supplementary Dose, For Informational Purposes Only

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