Re: [tied] Dating Wednesday?

From: Piotr Gasiorowski
Message: 17882
Date: 2003-01-21

----- Original Message -----
From: <x99lynx@...>
To: <>
Sent: Tuesday, January 21, 2003 4:18 AM
Subject: [tied] Dating Wednesday?

> Hi, Everybody! A happy and prosperous New Year to you all!

> I have a question that I think Piotr already may have answered, but I can't get the Yahoo search engine to go back that far. (Piotr, is there a way that the archive can be duplicated so that it can go on a CD and be maybe archived and searchable on the web? It seems a shame that all the valuable stuff and you and others have put in the archive can't be retrieved and could be lost if Yahoo fritzs out.)

A good question! If there are any human admins at Yahoo, I don't know how to contact them. There was a crisis once when Cybalist simply disappeared for a few days, and I couldn't get any help whatsoever. A question to all: Are there any list members with the necessary know-how?

> The question: Can we possibly date the introduction of the Germanic week-day names by the variance in the different languages where it appears?

> In other words, do the day-names show some sign of development that would place them at a particular time?

I don't think there is any lingusitic evidence for dating them with any precision. The names might well be Proto-NW-Germanic, as far as their form and distribution is concerned. There are _extralinguistic_ reasons for believing that they were coined (or rather translated from Latin) rather early, since the functional equivalence of Mercury = Wodan, Jupiter = Thunar and Mars = Tiw suggest an early stage in the development of the (NW) Germanic pantheons.

> For example, do OE <wo:dnesdaeg>, OFrisian <wo:nsdei>, <we:nsdei>, MLG, <wo:densdach>, ON, <o:[d]insdagr (Odin's day) reflect general expected sound differences between the languages, that happened at a certain stage in their separate developments?

Yes, they show the regular developments of each language in question. Emglish and Frisian have umlauded by-forms with <woe:dnes-> or <we:dnes-> (hence modern <Wednesday> rather than +<Wo(o)densday>, though the usually attested OE form is <Wo:dnes dæg>, and <Wodnes dei> and the like can be found in Middle English), and since the same variants of Woden's name recur in placenames like Wednesbury, it seems that the variant *wo:dinaz existed beside *wo:danaz at least in Anglo-Frisian. This kind of "suffix ablaut" (*-ina-/*-ana- < *-ono-/*-eno-) is quite widespread in Germanic. It did not affect the functions of the suffix.

> If they look like loan words, do the differences present at a certain time period?

No, they look like inherited stuff.

> I guess there is also the difference between the Wodan/Odin word and how it developed differently from the 'wednes-' part of the Wednesday word.

See above on Wednes- vs. Wo:den. In both cases the historical root is *wo:d-. In the Scandinavian languages word-initial *w- was lost before /o/ and /u/ (the same, incidentally, happened to *j-), hence ON ulfr 'wolf' < *wulfaz, ON orð 'word' < *wurda, and of course Óðenn < *wo:danaz. It's a regular thing.

> In other words (ha, I say that a lot) -- if Wodan's name started to differ from Wednes(day) at a certain point in time, presumably it would help identify when the two words were once the same. And of course when the two words were exactly same might give a hint when the day was first named.

They were the same. The Anglo-Frisian umlaut is a slight anomaly, but an explicable one.

> (The general consensus being that Wednesday was named after the Germanic god who was at the time considered equivalent to Odin,

At the time of the naming, the form ancestral to "Odin" still had its initial *w-. It was lost in the passage from Proto-Scandinavian to Viking-time Old Norse. The two names are etymologivcally _identical_, not merely equivalent (see above for details).

> ... and whose day was the equivalent day - Mercury - in 'Mercurii dies'. The 7-day week names were made official in 321 AD, but they were probably in use before that.)

Yep, it seems so.

> Also, it strikes me that OE <wo:dnesdaeg> looks a lot closer to the
reconstructed *wodinaz than OE <woden> or OHG <woutan>.

This is an illusion. The <-es> is the ending (cf. the Saxon genitive in Modern English), and has nothing to do with Proto-Germanic *-az. Compare <Mo:nan dæg> ( of <mo:na> 'moon'), <Þunres dæg> (from <Þunor>), etc.

> Is it possible Wednesday originates in an older, more proto form of the Odin name than we see in the OE or OHG version - or is this just a case ending difference?

See above. We see the <-(e)s> genitive also in MLG Wo:denesdach, Dutch woensdag, Swedish onsdag, etc. There's nothing archaic or exclusively English about it.

> I seem to recall Dennis Green in 'Language and History in the Early Germanic World' said the linguistic evidence suggested the name (and the connection with Mercury) could be dated to Northwest Germany sometime around 300 AD. But it looks like someone lost the book on me so I can't check.

Green notes that High German has the "middle-week" term instead and mentions the opinion that Wodan was not worshipped in High German territory, but he gives his support to the theory that after Wodan was promoted to the position of chief pagan god in Germania, his name became tabooed in some parts with the advent of Christianity (and writing).