Re: There was a crooked snake

From: tgpedersen@...
Message: 7868
Date: 2001-07-14

--- In cybalist@..., "Piotr Gasiorowski" <gpiotr@...> wrote:
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: tgpedersen@...
> To: cybalist@...
> Sent: Friday, July 13, 2001 10:43 AM
> Subject: [tied] Re: There was a crooked snake
> >> In that case the specifically Latin meaning "water snake" (=
grass snake) would have been due to a folk-etymological association
with <nato:> 'swim'.
> > Or the original snake-verb meant "to wriggle", hence "to swim"?
> Not very likely. The meanings of <nato:> include things
like "float" or "flood", which don't imply active swimming. I think
<nato:> is a suffixed by-form of <no:> < *(s)nah2-. What makes me
suspect that the old meaning of <natrix> was "adder", as in Germanic,
is the fact that the Romans used the word to refer to contemptible
individuals. BTW, I have checked the "snake" entry in the EIEC and
*neh1-tr- is also analysed as "twister" there.
I guess that means you bought the idea of "twisting" ("zigzagging")
as primary, but not the deriviation of "swim" from it? Can't "float"
and "flood" be secondarily developped meanings?
> > Aren't you trying to be Linnaeus again? (By which I mean; Which
is (or rather was) the conceptually primary: the snake or the
> Aren't _you_ trying to be Plato again? :) Well, I was not
interested in a hairsplitting taxonomy for its own sake but in the
internal semantic complexity of the PIE concept of "snake". For
example, did the IEs distinguish venomous and harmless snakes (by
having different terms for them), or did they hate snakes in general,
called them all the same names and adopted an attitude that could be
summarised as "the only harmless snake is a dead snake"? I was
thinking of facts underpinning their snake myths. I do not insist
that all myth must have a "rational" factual basis. There may be
mythological aspects of "snakehood" (or shall we say
archetypal "serpency"?) that are conceptually more primitive
than "snakes as animals". I wonder, however, if snakes were always
regarded as destructive; down to historical times Aesculapian snakes
and grass snakes hung about sacred places in many parts of Europe and
were respected but not feared.

Yes, but aren't those cases a kind of inverted fear? Trying to
placate a powerful potential foe, striking a deal with him? Some
people today also keep pet snakes. A good deal of the fun is showing
them your friends and trying to freak them out.

> > There is another "naga" word that means "tree" >? "spear, knife"
> "wound" ("Nóz^ w wodzie", as Polanski filmed). Isn't that also the
world tree at the root of which the snake (not "bad" serpent) gnaws?
Perhaps the porcupine should be related hereto?
> The word *noz^I 'knife' (reflected in the title of Polanski's
film) -- is derived from the root *nez- 'transfix, pierce', which
survives only in derivatives and has only a couple of very insecure
cognates outside Balto-Slavic (*noz^I < *noz-jo-). Inasmuch as it can
be reconstructed in the IE frame, it should be something like *neg^H.
I am not convinced that Gk. enkhos 'spear' belongs here, but if it
does, it may contain a secondary full grade of a root reconstructible
as *h1neg^H-. In either case the verbal meaning "stab, wound" is
primary, the meaning "knife" is derived from it, and the
meaning "tree" is not attested at all, as far as I can see.
Well, this is from Pokorny:
*nogwo- or *nagwo- "tree"?
naga- "tree, mountain" Sanskrit
nokkui "boat" Old Icelandic
nahho "boat" Old High German
naco "boat" Old Saxon
naca "boat" Old English
and this is EIEC:
?*H1negh-es- appr. "spear"
nozhi (< *H1nogh-yo-) "knife" Old Church Slavonian
engkos (?< *H1enghes-) "spear" Greek
nes(s) "wound" Old Irish
from *H1negh- "stab"
*derw- "tree" Proto-IndoEuropean
dervo- "a tree" Gaulish
dóru "spear, tree" Greek
taru- "tree, trees" Hittite
dáru "tree" Sanskrit
taru- "spear" Thracian

Not that I'm particularly convinced by it myself. I'm convinced
however by the (in this context) off-topic Naga-trees, though. But I
am repeating myself.

> Piotr