Archive for May, 2009

A similar event happened in the history of the word gossip. Old Engl. godsibb (a sponsor in baptism) (=”a sponsor in God”) is a compound of the same type as godfather, godmother, godchild, with the only difference that –sibb (akin, related) was not a noun but an adjective turned into a noun. Later, gossip came to mean “a familiar acquaintance of either sex, now principally female” (in folk tales, old gossip is “old woman”) and “tattler; idle talk.” Two minor phonetic processes (the dropping of –d– and the substitution of –p– for final –b-), accompanied by radical change of meaning (from “a sponsor in God” to “ill-founded rumours” and “trivial tittle-tattle”) severed the tie between the modern word and its former constituents.

Anthony Liberman, Word Origins… and how we know them


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