There was a crooked snake

From: Piotr Gasiorowski
Message: 7844
Date: 2001-07-12

There was a crooked snake... or rather a sneaky snake.
I wonder if *neh1-tr-, which underlies Lat. natrix, Eng. (n)adder and W. neidr, is not derived from the thread/needle root *(s)neh1-, which would make <adder> related to <needle>. In that case the specifically Latin meaning "water snake" (= grass snake) would have been due to a folk-etymological association with <nato:> 'swim'.
Of the various snakes presumably known to the IEs, only vipers are really dangerous (the IEs certainly lived within the range of the common adder, and depending on one's preferred homeland may have been familiar with one or two other species, such as the asp viper). Smooth snakes (_Coronella_) can bite quite painfully if cornered, but are not venomous, while grass snakes (_Natrix_) and the Aesculapian snake (as well as other species of _Elaphe_) are completely harmless, except to frogs, mice etc. I wonder how much the IEs knew about the real "destructive potential" of different snakes, how much they feared them, and what effect it all had on PIE myth (in particular the representation of dragons and other monsters as "serpents"). Finally, I also wonder whether the IEs had specific (though confusion-prone) names for "viper", "grass snake", "smooth snake" etc. (they look pretty different, after all).
----- Original Message -----
From: tgpedersen@...
Sent: Thursday, July 12, 2001 11:59 AM
Subject: [tied] Re: PIE for "eel"

--- In cybalist@......, "Piotr Gasiorowski" <gpiotr@......> wrote:

> Of course IE snakes could be "emanations of the principle of crookedness" or creepy-crawly snakehood, but in that case derivatives of *serp- 'to wind, be crooked, creep' were used, hence Lat. serpent-, Gk. herpet- and Skt. sarpa-. CVC roots are almost never nasal-infixed, so {h2engWH-} or the like would have to be treated as an unalysable whole. Well, I'm not aware of such a verb root, whatever its supposed meaning. On the other hand, the i-stem *h2ongWHis could be adjectival, so maybe the root from which it was formed had been lost. {h2engH^-} 'squeeze, tighten' does exist, but as I said its
association with serpents is at best folk-etymological.
> Piotr

Even I know that a serpent is something that serps. But...

"Man må sno sig, sagde ålen(, den lå på stegependen)"
"You have to [twist, wind, make shady deals] said the eel (it was lying in the frying pan)".

(Danish saying)

There´s your verb root (ON snúa).

And I wasn't thinking of just creepy-crawliness, but something more destructive.