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The thread to which this responds was begun by Chris Friederich
in Elfling message #27849:
A list of links to followup messages is found at the bottom of
the above page.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
On Dec 23, 2003, at 12:02 AM, chris_friederich wrote:
> ... So now we have either #_ingwe_ or #_pingwe_ as possible
> forms for "insect", and we have no real way of telling which
> is the correct one. One could simply take #_pingwe_, which
> has no homophones as far as I know, and run with it, I
> suppose. I still wish there were a way to be sure, though...
This has been a very interesting thread. I'm inclined to take
Q _ingwe_ in QL at face value as meaning 'fish' and not *'insect',
since the meaning 'fish' seems thoroughly confirmed by the other
derivatives of root IWI given in QL:
_ingwilin (ng), ingwil_ 'eel' -- evidently lit. *'fish-snake',
with Q _lin_ (_ling-_) 'snake' (PE12:54)
_Uin (d)_ 'a fish', (also the name of "the primeval whale" in the Lost
Tales) pl. _uini, _windi_; adj. _uindea, windea_ 'fishlike';
and _Ui_ "Queen of Mermaids", name of the wife of Osse, which
QL compares to _Uin_ 'a fish' -- all said to derive from "some
such form as _wî_", itself from root IWI (PE12:97).
We can also note the Gnomish cognates given in GL: _ing_ 'fish',
_igli_ 'young of fish, small fry', and _uin_, which can mean either
'a whale' in general, 'Gulma's great whale' in particular, or,
poetically, 'a wave'. This last meaning suggests some confusion
or blending with Gn. _gwing_ 'a wave-crest, crest, foam' (in GL
this word is cross-referenced to _uin_); QL also notes that
_winge_ 'foam, spindrift, froth, scud' derives from _uingê_,
"also == wave". Perhaps the meaning of the root IWI was originally
It seems possible that Q _ingwe_ 'fish' is the second element in
both _telpingwe_ 'silverfish' and _ulumpingwe_ 'caterpillar', in
both instances the sense 'fish' being _pictorial_ (describing
how these insects look and move) rather than literal. In the case
of _telpingwe_ 'silverfish', this word (like its English counterpart)
might refer to _both_ the insect and the fish; these insects, with
their silver scales, torpedo-shaped bodies, and darting movements,
do in fact resemble tiny fish. Ditto for _ulumpingwe_ 'caterpillar',
the literal meaning of which might be *'camel-fish', referring
to the "hump" a caterpillar makes as it inches along, and to its
elongated eel-like body shape and fish-like undulating mode of
And certainly "camel-fish" would be no stranger a pictorial metaphor
for these creatures than English _caterpillar_ itself, which traces
back to Old French _chatepelose_ 'hairy cat' < Latin _catta_ 'cat'
+ _pilosus_ < _pilus_ 'hair' (according to one theory, at least;
it has also been proposed that the second element is _piller,
pilour_ 'pillager, plunderer, spoiler'). French uses a canine
metaphor instead, _chenille_ 'caterpillar' deriving from Latin
_canicula_ 'little dog', dim. of _canis_ 'dog'. Portuguese uses
_lagarta_, from _lagarto_ 'lizard'.
There are similarly non-literal, metaphorical names for 'dragonfly'
in the Gnomish Lexicon. Dragonflies are neither Orcs nor snakes, yet
the names for this insect in GL are _sithagong_ *'fly-goblin' (Gn.
_sitha_ 'fly' + _gong_ 'one of a tribe of the orcs, a goblin') and
_sithaling_ 'dragonfly (fly snake)' (Gn. _ling_ 'small snake').
As for interpreting _telpingwe_ and _ulumpingwe_ as haplologies of
*_telpe-pingwe, *ulumpe-pingwe_, with *_pingwe_ meaning 'insect' --
while hapolology would probably occur if these forms existed, there
are etymological problems with *_pingwe_. In QL, words ending in
_-ngwe_ consistently derive from two kinds of roots: 1) roots with W
as their medial consonant -- thus _ingwe_ 'fish' < IWI, _rangwe_
*'ran' pa.t. of _rawa-_ 'run, chase' < RAWA; and 2) roots with NG
(usually spelled with an _eng_) as their medial consonant --
thus _ongwe_ 'pain' < ONGO, _ringwe_ 'frost' < RINGI, _tengwe_
'knowledge' < TENGE 'know', _ungwe_ 'spider' < GUNGU. Thus we would
expect a noun *_pingwe_ to derive either from a root *PIWI or *PINGI.
There is no root *PINGI in QL, though there is a root PIWI, apparently
meaning *'fat', with derivatives including _pîwe_ 'fatness,
richness, goodness' and _pingwa_ 'fat, rich (of soil)', the latter
very close to our hypothetical *_pingwe_. But if a noun *_pingwe_
were formed from PIWI, it would almost certainly have the meaning
'fat' or 'fatness', not 'insect'. And although it is tempting to
suppose that a noun *_pingwe_ could derive from PIKI, PINI, PÎ
*'slender, small', especially in light of the derivative _pin, pink_
'a little thing, a mite' (the latter gloss possibly referring to the
tiny parasitic arachnids of that name), none of these roots has the
form that all the attested examples of words in _-ngwe_ in QL would
lead us to expect.
-- Patrick H. Wynne