Re: OED Help! (was couth/uncouth)

Subject: Re: OED Help! (was couth/uncouth)
From: Romay Jean Sitze <rositze -at- NMSU -dot- EDU>
Date: Wed, 28 Dec 1994 22:29:35 -0700

My copy of the OED lists meaning #6 for couth as kind, affable, pleasant,
refering to people and their actions, documented as early as 1350.

On Tue, 27
Dec 1994, Karen Kay wrote:

> Ann Amsler said:
> > I knew this OED on my desk would come in handy sometime! The OED says
> > that "couth" is Old English and means "known" or familiar (as in the
> > Riddles, 1000 A.D.: "That word was sone wide couth." [That word was soon
> > widely known.]). The word also appears in Old High German. The OED
> > lists uncouth as the negative of couth.Uncouth is also Old English, and
> > appeared in AElfred in 897. back formation here. Just two Old
> > English words that survive today.

> Whoopsie! You're making some unwarranted assumptions here! First of all,
> 'couth' may mean 'known' or 'familiar' and 'uncouth' may mean 'unknown' or
> 'unfamiliar' in Old English, but the modern meaning of uncouth (according
> to the online Webster) is

> un.couth \-'ku:th\ aj [ME, fr. OE uncu-th, fr. un- + cu-th familiar, known;
> a]kin to OHG kund known, OE can know - more at CAN archaic 1a: not known
> or not familiar to one : seldom experienced : UNCOMMO N, RARE obs 1b:
> MYSTERIOUS, UNCANNY 2a: strange or clumsy in shape or appearance :
> OUTLANDISH 2b: lacking in polish and grace 2c: awkward and uncultivated
> in appearance, manner, or behavior - av

> 2a, b, and c how are I'm used to thinking of it. This has nothing to do
> with the first definition. Also, it was interesting to note that there are 5
> separate meanings.

> When you look up 'couth', you get just one meaning:

> couth \'ku:th\ aj [back-formation fr. uncouth] : POLISHED, SOPHISTICATED

> The fact that there is only one meaning is a clue to this being a back
> formation. If it were really a word descended straight from OE, then a) it
> would most likely have a meaning more closely related to it's OE meaning
> than to its negative, and b) it would probably have more meanings than
> one. This situation--of the negative surviving longer than the affirmative
> and a new affirmative developing from the negative--is not unheard of in
> language.


> Karen
> karenk -at- netcom -dot- com

RoMay Sitze rositze -at- nmsu -dot- edu

...all our finest art pales before the beauty of a single
shining star. --anonymous--

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