Saturday, October 24, 2009

Stammer & Stutter

In earlier centuries, there seems to have been a fixation on stuttering. I deduce this from the number of words that contain that concept. A number of these words have primary or secondary meanings involving stumbling or unsteady walking. Halting speech is thus tied to halting gait, in the sense of limping. We find it in Luke 14:21. “So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.” Let's look at some of the stumbling speech words.

• balbutiate, 1731: to stammer [L. balbutire, to stammer]
• bambino, 1761: the image of the Christ child in swaddling clothes [Gr. bambainein, to stammer]
• barbette, 1480: to make inarticulate sounds [L. balbutire, to stammer]
• hobble, 1522: to proceed haltingly in speech [Du. hobbelin, to rock from side to side, to stammer]
• mamble, 1275: to mumble [OHG lefsmammolan, to stammer]
• mant, 1506: to stammer [Scottish Gaelic mannt, stammer]
• psellism, 1688: stammering [Gr. psellismos, stammering]
• stagger, 1530: to sway involuntarily from side to side [Ger. staggeln, to stammer]
• stem, 1300: to stop or delay [OTeut. stamjan, to stammer]
• tatter, 1380: to talk idly [Du tatteren, to stumble]

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Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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