Of ganders, geese, and Old Sinitic reconstructions

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I used the expression "take a gander" in something I wrote this morning.  Curious about its origin, I found this:

"Where Did the Phrase 'Take a Gander' Come From?" (Today I Found Out [9/22/12])

This is an interesting, informative article, from which I learned much, including the PIE root for "goose",  and the fact that geese can  fly as high as 30,000 feet!

As soon as I saw that the PIE root for "goose" is *ghans-, it reminded me of the Sinitic word for "wild goose", MSM yàn 雁 ("wild goose"), Cantonese ngaan6, Hakka ngien / ngian, Northern Min ngāing, Eastern Min ngâng, Southern Min gān (Hokkien), ngang6 (Teochew, Peng'im), Wu nge (T3).

When we turn to Old Sinitic, the resemblance is quite striking:  *ŋrâns (Schuessler) / *C.[ŋ]ˤrar-s (Baxter-Sagart) / *ŋraːns (Zhengzhang).  Cf. Middle Sinitic ŋanC (Schuessler) / ‹ ngænH › (Baxter-Sagart) / ŋˠanH (Zhengzhang).

It is curious that "gander" and "goose" come from the same PIE root:

Old English gandra "male goose," from Proto-Germanic *gan(d)ron (source also of Dutch gander, Middle Low German ganre), from PIE *ghans- "goose"

(from Etymonline)

Old English gos "a goose," from Proto-Germanic *gans- "goose" (source also of Old Frisian gos, Old Norse gas, Old High German gans, German Gans "goose"), from PIE *ghans- (source also of Sanskrit hamsah (masc.))

(from Etymonline)

What's good for the gander is good for the goose.

Readings

N.B.:  In the above posts and elsewhere, I have discussed the IE parallels of the Sinitic words for "horse", "wheel", "magic(ian)", "coral", "lion", "honey", "wheat", "dog", and many other key terms of Eurasian civilization.  More to come.



15 Comments

  1. Chris Button said,

    October 29, 2018 @ 12:00 pm

    We actually touched on the possible relationship between OC and PIE "goose" here (the discussion continues a little in some of the subsequent comments too):

    http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=37221#comment-1548573

  2. Tom Dawkes said,

    October 29, 2018 @ 12:00 pm

    The Oxford English Dictionary has these etymological comments.
    GOOSE
    Common Germanic: Old English gós (plural gés ) = Frisian gôs , gôz , Middle Dutch (and Dutch) gans , Old High German (Middle High German and German) gans , Old Norse gás (Swedish gås , Danish gaas ) < Old Germanic *gans- (consonant stem) < Old Aryan *ghans- , whence Latin anser (for *hanser ), Greek χήν , Sanskrit haṅsá (masculine), haṅsī (feminine), Lithuanian żąsìs , and Old Irish géisswan. Connection with gander n. is doubtful.
    GANDER
    The original stem is perhaps *ganron-, the d being a euphonic insertion between n and r as in thunder < Old English þunor. Outside of English the word is found only in Dutch, Low German and South German gander, Middle Low German ganre; the other Germanic languages show different formations, as German gänserich (earlier ganser), Old Norse gasse, Swedish gåse. 
    Although used as the masculine of goose n. (Old English gós < Old Germanic *gans- ) there is some doubt whether it is etymologically cognate with that word. While goose represents an Old Aryan *ghans- with palatal gh- , it is possible that Old English gan(d)ra may be cognate with Lithuanian gàndras stork; this would imply a root beginning with velar gh- , to which may also be referred Old English ganot gannet n., Old High German ganaȥȥo, ganȥo (Middle High German ganȥe, also genz), Dutch gent, all meaning 'gander'. Compare ganta, said by Pliny  N.H. x. xxii. 27 to be the German name of a small white goose, Old French gante, jante, gente, wild goose, Provençal ganta wild goose (in the modern dialects variously used for 'wild goose', 'black stork', and 'heron'). It has been conjectured that gander may have been originally the special name of some kind of water-bird, and that its association with goose is accidental, perhaps arising from the alliterative phrase 'goose and gander'.

  3. Suzanne Valkemirer said,

    October 29, 2018 @ 2:40 pm

    Sorry to go off topic, but the post reminded me of the informal Israeli Hebrew noun guznik, which designates a small metal pot or deep metal dish into which some sort of combustible liquid (kerosene?) is poured and ignited (is there also a rag dipped into the liquid to serve as a wick?) and used for illumination at night.

    Since I've never seen one up close, the foregoing description may not be fully accurate.

    I was told that the word comes from the English word gooseneck (some people add to their explanation "gooseneck, as in gooseneck lamp"), but I don't see the connection because the guznik does not resemble a goose's neck.

    The word could be of Slavic or Eastern Yidish origin, but no etymon come to mind.

    Can anyone give a more accurate description of the device or suggest an etymology for the word?

  4. David Marjanović said,

    October 29, 2018 @ 7:31 pm

    When we turn to Old Sinitic, the resemblance is quite striking: *ŋrâns (Schuessler) / *C.[ŋ]ˤrar-s (Baxter-Sagart) / *ŋraːns (Zhengzhang). Cf. Middle Sinitic ŋanC (Schuessler) / ‹ ngænH › (Baxter-Sagart) / ŋˠanH (Zhengzhang).

    Of these reconstructions, the one by Baxter & Sagart is the first and only to try to distinguish *-n from *-r; reconstructing *-r in this word destroys most of the similarity to IE.

    Sagart has a conference abstract out where he does the same to "dog": rather than cognate to *kʲwō, the Old Sinitic version seems to be "cognate" to *grrr.

    Two comments on the ancient OED entry: 1) Ganter exists in German and corresponds perfectly to English gander, for whatever that means; 2) "Old Aryan" is meant to be PIE.

  5. krogerfoot said,

    October 29, 2018 @ 8:21 pm

    Interesting—the Japanese cognate is unchanged: 雁 gan is wild goose, as in Mizukami Tsutomu's dark novel 雁の寺, Gan no Tera, "Temple of the Wild Geese," which was made into a 1962 movie starring the ravishing Ayako Wakao.

  6. Chris Button said,

    October 29, 2018 @ 9:33 pm

    @ David Marjanović

    Of these reconstructions, the one by Baxter & Sagart is the first and only to try to distinguish *-n from *-r; reconstructing *-r in this word destroys most of the similarity to IE.

    Sagart has a conference abstract out where he does the same to "dog": rather than cognate to *kʲwō, the Old Sinitic version seems to be "cognate" to *grrr.

    1. On 犬 "dog"

    The issue of "dog" was discussed in the "Of Dogs…" post linked to by Prof. Mair above. From an Old Burmese perspective, it is tempting to apply Sagart's *-r to account for *-j in Old Burmese *kʰwɨj² as compared to the nasal coda in Old Chinese 犬 *kʰʷə́ɲʔ. However, this misses a crucial phonotactic constraint which suggests an external source.

    The palatal nasal *-ɲ in OC generally comes from an earlier medial "j" palatalising a nasal coda (coronal, as in this case, or velar) but you cannot have medial /j/ and medial /w/ as *kʰwjə́nʔ or *kʰjwə́nʔ. This phonotactic constraint also applied to Old Burmese. So while OC *-əɲ corresponds with OB *-ɐɲ, a combination like *-wɐɲ could not occur in a native OB word in the same way that *-wəɲ smacks of an external source in OC. I'm only aware of one case of in Inscriptional Burmese in the word "serve", that is also written in a more expected form as . As such the Burmese word *kʰwɨj² "dog" (tone 2 parallels the glottal in Old Chinese) would be the expected reflex of an external *kʰwɐɲ² which would then correlate perfectly with the Old Chinese form 犬 *kʰʷə́ɲʔ

    2. On 雁 "goose"

    Baxter & Sagart's *-r for "goose" was already mentioned in the post I linked to above and seems to be an attempt to reconcile the nasal in 雁 *ŋráns "wild goose" with the liquid in 鵝 *ŋál "goose". However, one of the issues that I have with Baxter & Sagart system is that everything seems to be required to be exceptionless to a "neogrammarian" fault. Take for example how they assign a /t-/ prefix to 肘 "elbow" to account for its coronal onset that otherwise challenges its palaeographic association with the velar onset of 九 "nine" in spite of the fact that /kr-/ > /tr-/ is a perfectly reasonable sound change unless /kr-/ cannot become /tr-/ in the rigid confines of a fixed system.

    As with "dog" where the palatalised nasal coda hinted at an external origin, the fluctuation between /n/ and /l/ (a common phenomenon as is well attested in Cantonese for example) in "goose" is similarly suggestive. It may even be comparable to the situation with 犬 *kʰʷə́ɲʔ and 狗 *káwʔ for dog where it was noted in the earlier thread by Prof. Mair that these may simply be different loans from different stages/languages of Indo-European.

  7. Chris Button said,

    October 29, 2018 @ 9:40 pm

    I'm only aware of one case of in Inscriptional Burmese in the word "serve", that is also written in a more expected form as

    should have come out as…

    I'm only aware of one case of /-wɐɲ/ in Inscriptional Burmese in the word /klwɐɲ/ "serve", that is also written in a more expected form as /klwɨj/.

    Also, to be clear, Baxter and Sagart would have *-j as the coda for 鵝 *ŋál if they weren't reconstructing *-r as the source of *-j.

  8. /df said,

    October 30, 2018 @ 8:36 am

    The linked "Today I Found Out" article doesn't clearly settle the question of the origin of "take a gander". The article text suggests an apparent folk etymology related to the peering habits of geese. A commenter counters this with a Cockney rhyming slang origin "gander's beak"="peek".

    But a discussion at [url]https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/198873/what-is-the-origin-of-have-a-gander-when-meaning-look[/url] seems to support the linked article's origin from a dialectal verb "gander", to peer at s/t like a goose stretching its neck.

    Maybe speakers appropriated an original usage "to gander at" by analogy with the Cockney rhyming slang "to have a [butcher's] hook"="to have a look" (which I think is well accepted), leading to "to take/have a gander".

    I wonder how many Londoners know that the word Cockney mocked the supposedly pampered life of city folk, as precious (or alternatively, defective) as a coken-ey "cock's egg", before the Norse-derived egg-s became accepted over the OE-derived ei-er.

  9. Doctor Science said,

    October 30, 2018 @ 4:36 pm

    I realized where the expression "take a gander" came from about 20 years ago, when non-migratory Canada geese became abundant in NJ.

    Pairs of geese separate from the flock around January or so. By February, every time you drive by an industrial-sized stretch of lawn, you'll see pairs of Canada geese grazing. Or, around half the time, you'll see female geese with their heads down, concentrating on food, while their husbands (about 10% larger) stretch their necks up and look for trouble. [I included links to pictures the first time I tried to post this comment, I know better now]

    That's why it's a gander, not a goose: because craning your neck to have a good look is characteristically gander behavior.

  10. J.W. Brewer said,

    November 1, 2018 @ 6:38 am

    As I understand it, the standard clipped rhyming slang for "look" is "butcher's" rather than "butcher." So one might expect by parallel that "take/have a gander's" rather than "take/have a gander" would be the clipped-rhyming-slang way to say "take/have a peek," but the +'s version in the pertinent sense seems to be extraordinarily rare. Not sure if this is sufficient to disprove the rhyming-slang theory. Maybe someone with more knowledge of how regular v. irregular the patterning of clipped rhyming slang is would have a more informed opinion.

  11. Rodger C said,

    November 1, 2018 @ 6:50 am

    the OE-derived ei-er

    Eyren.

  12. Philip Taylor said,

    November 1, 2018 @ 12:34 pm

    /df ("the word Cockney mocked the supposedly pampered life of city folk, as precious (or alternatively, defective) as a coken-ey "cock's egg", before the Norse-derived egg-s became accepted over the OE-derived ei-er") — not necessarily. Our very own Professor Liberman has opined otherwise — "Cockney, 'cock's egg,' a rare and seemingly obsolete word in Middle English, was, in all likelihood, not the etymon of ME cokeney 'milksop, simpleton; effeminate man; Londoner,' which is rather a reshaping of [Old French] acoquiné 'spoiled' (participle). However, this derivation poses some phonetic problems that have not been resolved".

  13. Andrew Usher said,

    November 1, 2018 @ 6:55 pm

    The above OED comment notwithstanding, the phonological and semantic similarity is so great that it should take pretty strong evidence to believe 'goose' and 'gander' to be not related.

  14. Chris Button said,

    November 1, 2018 @ 9:03 pm

    It looks like the comparison of 雁 with PIE *gʲʰans- "goose" goes all the way back to August Conrady's "Alte westöstliche Kulturwörter" (1925).

    … an attempt to reconcile the nasal in 雁 *ŋráns "wild goose" with the liquid in 鵝 *ŋál "goose"

    It should also be noted that the /r/ in OC 雁 *ŋráns is almost certainly not real but rather reconstructed to account for the Middle Chinese reflex in a regular manner. However, following Pulleyblank's suggestion of a long /aː/ vowel, we would get *ŋáːns which when combined with the discussion on the earlier thread regarding prenasalisation of voiced /g/ > /ᵑg/ > /ŋ/ (as also suggested in the case of 牛 *ŋʷə̀ɣ ~ *ŋə̀w "cow" and PIE *gʷow-) makes for a strong phonological comparison.

    Incidentally, while Pulleyblank was thinking along the lines of phonemic vowel length, my take is rather that the /a/ nucleus lengthened in a manner similar to the TRAP-BATH split in English such that it sometimes lengthened before the fricative /ɣ/ as /-aːɣ/ (where Baxter and Sagart have a notational /A/ vowel that remains unexplained) and also it seems before /ns/ (compare British English lengthening of [æ] to [ɑː] in "chance" or "answer").

    As such we would have OC 雁 *ŋáns > *ŋáːns (which would give the same Middle Chinese reflex as a hypothetical *ŋráns)

    @ Philip Taylor

    I think you are confusing Mark Liberman with Anatoly Liberman whose comments on the etymology of "Cockney" can be found here: https://blog.oup.com/2007/07/cockney/

  15. Philip Taylor said,

    November 2, 2018 @ 2:22 am

    Chris B. — ({Anatoly|Mark} Liberman) Thank you for pointing that out : mea culpa.

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