Saturday, December 4, 2021

Eng. nut and Sp. nuez

[This entry is taken from a chapter of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]

Eng. nut and Sp. nuez

The English word nut does not have a simple equivalent in Spanish. For one, the word nut has several major meanings or senses, though one is clearly primary. This primary sense is defined in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary (COED) as ‘a fruit consisting of a hard or tough shell around an edible kernel’. Wiktionary defines this sense more simply as ‘a hard-shelled seed’. Other dictionaries mention that this fruit grows on (some) trees and give examples of such nuts and of expressions containing the word nut. The main sense is clearly the following: nuts are seeds from some trees that are enclosed in a hard shell that does not open easily to release it (i.e., are indehiscent), and these seeds are edible. Some of these botanical nuts are also culinary nuts or nuts that humans consume, although most dictionaries do not mention this. Culinary nuts are also often roasted. Some common culinary nuts are: pine nut (Sp. piñón), cashew nut (Sp. (nuez) anacardo), hazelnut (Sp. avellana), pecan (Sp. pecana), almond (Sp. almendra), pistachio (Sp. pistacho), and Brazil nut (Sp. nuez del Brasil).

Figure 1: Some common “culinary nuts”[1]

Some nuts are not considered to be edible by humans, but only by animals, such as the acorn (Sp. bellota), which is the nut of the oak tree, of which there are many varieties.[a]

Figure 2: Two acorns[2]

The English word nut is often associated with the Spanish word nuez, and it is indeed the case that the two words are cognate since they descend from the same root in the ancestral Proto-Indo-European root. But Sp. nuez means ‘walnut’ in most regular contexts, though it can be used to translate the English word nut in the botanical context. But Sp. nuez is avoided as a generic word for culinary nuts for the obvious reason that it is used to refer to just such type, the walnut. This can bring complications when talking about edible nuts in general or when translating from or into English, as we shall see.

In addition to the main sense of nut that we just discussed, this English word has acquired other derived senses in different contexts. In the mechanical world, Eng. nut has acquired a very different meaning based probably on the notion of similarity with the botanical one, namely ‘a small flat piece of metal or other material, typically square or hexagonal, with a threaded hole through it for screwing on to a bolt’ (COED). This sense translates into Spanish as tuerca, the thing that attaches itself to a perno ‘bolt’, more commonly known as tornillo, a word that also means ‘screw’ in addition to ‘bolt’.[b]

Figure 3: A hex (M4) nut threaded onto an Allen key socket head screw[3]

There is another derived sense for the word nut, one that can be defined as ‘a crazy or eccentric person’, as in My brother is a nut (case), which can be translated into Spanish as chiflado/a or chalado/a, as in Mi hermano está chalado/chiflado. Common English phrases in which nut has this sense are nut-house ‘insane asylum’ (1929) and nut-case ‘crazy person’ (1959) (EOL).

Derived from that sense, there is another one, considered colloquial, which can be defined as ‘an obsessive enthusiast or devotee’ (COED), as in a movie nut or a football nut. This sense of nut can be translated into Spanish as aficionado/a, fanático/a (e.g., Sp. un fanático del cine) or forofo/a (Sp. un forofo del fútbol). This seems seems to have derived from the ‘crazy’ sense in the middle of the 19th century. The expression to be nuts about, as in I’m nuts about opera’ (AHD), seems to stem from an late 18th century phrase be nutts upon that meant ‘to be very fond of’.

There are some additional senses of nut derived from the original one, such as the sense ‘testicle’, which is ‘vulgar slang’ according to the American Heritage Dictionary (AHD), equivalent to Sp. huevos [lit. ‘eggs’], cojones, pelotas (Cono Sur and Spain), tanates (México), all of them considered vulgar, in addition to the more clinical testículos. In the context of string musical instruments, a nut is ‘the fixed ridge on the neck of a stringed instrument over which the strings pass’ (COED) (cf. Sp. ceja, cejilla, or cejuela, cf. ceja ‘eyebrow’, from Lat. cĭlĭum ‘eyelid’, cf. sŭpercĭlĭum ‘eyebrow’). In colloquial British English slang, the word nut is also used informally with the sense of ‘(human) head’. Hence the expression to be off one’s nut, equivalent to to be nuts, equivalent to Sp. estar chalado/a.

The English word nut, pronounced [ˈnʌt] is a patrimonial Germanic one, not borrowed. It has cognates in other Germanic languages such as West Frisian nút, Dutch not or noot (which is ‘now rare except in compounds’), German Nuss, Swedish nöt, and Danish nød (OED). It is thought that these words descend from ‘a Germanic base showing an extended form of the same Indo-European base as’ Irish cnó, Welsh cnau, and classical Latin nŭx (OED). English nut descends most directly from Old English hnutu, a word whose Proto-West Germanic source has been reconstructed as *hnut and its Proto-Germanic one as *hnuts, cf. Old High German nuz and Old Norse hnot. As we just saw, Eng. nut is related to Lat. nŭx, though we are told the Germanic words descend from an extended form of the same PIE root that has given us Lat. nŭx, the source of Sp. nuez. This makes Eng. nut and Sp. nuez cognate (related, since they share a root), but not full cognates (since they do not derive from the same source lexeme). In this book we call such words (semi-)cognates (cf. Part I, Chapter 1). The exact form of the Proto-Indo-European root is not certain, though some have reconstructed it as *knew‑. Thus, the following is the best we can do to reconstruct the origin of Eng. nut and Sp. nuez from a questionable Proto-Indo-European root *knew-  (or something similar) with some added extension (suffix), different in each case, let us call them X and Y, through two reconstructed intermediate states—Proto-Germanic and Proto-Italic—and two attested ones—Old English and Latin.

PIE *knew‑? + X

PGmc *hnuts

OEng hnutu

Eng nut

PIE *knew‑? + Y

PItl *knuks

Lat nux

Sp nuez

The form nŭx was the nominative singular wordform of the Latin word we just saw, and it was presumably pronounced [ˈnʊks]. This word’s genitive singular wordform was nŭcis [ˈnʊkɪs]. and its accusative singular one nŭcem [ˈnʊkɛ(m)]. Thus, as we can see, the word’s regular root was nŭc‑ (note that nux is just a special Latin way to spell what could very well have been spelled *nuc‑s, if Latin didn’t have a letter x to represent the combination of sounds [ks]). It is from the accusative wordform nŭcem that patrimonial Sp. nuez ‘walnut’ comes from.

Lat. nux did not mean ‘walnut’, though, as its Spanish descendant does primarily today. It meant what Eng. nut means, namely ‘a nut’, ‘a fruit with a hard shell or rind’ (L&S). The word nux could figure in the Latin name of the most common types of nuts, but often this word was elided. These are the names of the most common types of nuts in the Roman world:

  • (nux) iūglāns ‘a walnut’ (also ‘walnut-tree’) (gen. iūglandis); iūglāns comes from the phrase Iovis glans ‘lit. Jupiter’s acorn’ (cf. Lat. glans glandis: ‘acorn’, ‘any acorn-shaped fruit, beechnut, chestnut, etc.’); this type of nut is known in Spanish as nuez ‘walnut’ (genus Juglans, family Juglandaceae) and the tree is known as nogal ‘walnut tree’ (see below)
  • nux amara ‘a bitter almond’; cf. Sp. almendra amarga, scientific name Prunus dulcis/amygdalus var. amara; the word for a regular, edible almond in Latin was ămygdălum, a loanword from Ancient Greek ἀμύγδαλον (amúgdalon) ‘almond, almond shaped’
  • nux castănĕa ‘chestnut’; cf. Sp. castaña, scientific Castanea sativa; Eng. chestnut descends from an early (Proto-Germanic) loanword from Lat. castănĕa, a word that Latin itself borrowed from Ancient Greek καστάνεια (kastáneia), an alternative form of κᾰ́στν(kástana) ‘sweet chestnut’
  • nux avellana ‘hazelnut’; cf. Sp. avellana, scientific Corylus avellana; Lat. avellana was an adjective derived from the place name Abella or, later, Avella in southern Italy[c]

Sp. nuez is the descendant of Lat. nux [ˈnʊks], but its meaning has become specialized in the popular language to refer to a specific type of edible nut, namely a walnut, an example of meaning narrowing (cf. Part I, Chapter 3). As we saw, Sp. nuez and Eng. nut are cognate (related), since they derive from the same PIE root, but not full cognates since, since it seems that Eng. nut descends from ‘a Germanic base showing an extended form of the same Indo-European base as’ Lat. nux (OED, my italics). In other words, these words derive from the same PIE root, but not from exactly the same stem and, thus, lexeme, which is our definition of what (full) cognates are (cf. Part I, Chapter 1).

Before we get into the difference in meaning between Eng. nut and Sp. nuez, we should note the form of the word nuez, which is pronounced [ˈnu̯eθ] or [ˈnu̯es], depending on the dialect (cf. Part I, Chapters 7, 10, 11). First, we should note that the letter z in this word, which today is pronounced [θ] in most of Spain and [s] elsewhere, and which was pronounced [ʦ̪] in Old Spanish, is just what we would expect from a word that descends from Lat. nŭcem, pronounced [ˈnʊkɛm] in classical Latin, with a ‘hard c’. The [k] changed to [ʦ̪] quite early on, as it always happened in patrimonial words before the front vowels e and i (cf. Part I, Chapter 10). The final e and m were lost eventually, the latter much earlier than the former.

The Latin short Ŭ in the accusative wordform nŭcem, the source of Sp. nuez, on the other hand, did not change in the way we would have expected. This short ŭ should have become Sp. o, as it typically did, unless there was a nearby sound that caused it to change to something else, which is not the case here. In other words, nuez should have been noz in Spanish, not nuez. However, as DCEH tells us, the form nuez is the only one found in the oldest written records. The only possible source for the diphthong ue in Spanish is a stressed short Latin Ŏ, which would have been pronounced [ɔ] originally in Latin but which, when stressed, changed to [ue] in Old Spanish (when unstressed, it changed to [o], written o).[d] This could have happened if classical Latin nŭx had changed to nŏx in Vulgar Latin or at least in Hispanic Vulgar Latin. There is no written evidence for this having happened, but it is entirely possible that it did. As DCEH reminds us, the same issue of an vowel more open than expected is found in the descendants of this Latin word in all three major Hispanic Romances, (Catalan and Portuguese, in addition to Spanish), as well as in many of the Romances of southern Gaul, known collectively as Occitan or lenga d’òc (Sp. lengua de oc), cf. Portuguese and Galego noz and Catalan nou, cognates of Sp. nuez. DCEH suggests that this unexpected vowel change may have been due to the influence of a cognate native Celtic word knŏva ‘nut’, which had a short ŏ.

As we saw, the main meaning of Sp. nuez is ‘walnut’, i.e., ‘fruit of the walnut tree’ (DLE).[e] However, in Botany, that is, when Sp. nuez is used as a technical term, especially when used together with qualifiers, it can also mean ‘nut’, that is, it can be synonymous with Eng. nut. In the words of the Academies’ dictionary: a nuez can also be the ‘fruit of other trees that bears some resemblance to that of the walnut by the nature of its pericarp’ (DLE).[f] This, however, is not the way the word is used by most people, even when they know about the technical usage.

So, we might ask whether there is a word in Spanish than can be used non-technically to mean ‘nut’ and the simple answer is that there really isn’t one. This can be problematic since edible nuts are often consumed nowadays in mixed format, as mixed nuts used for snacking, particularly in the English-speaking world but also in the Spanish-speaking one. Note that when used this way, the English word nuts can refer to a mixture that contains things that are not strictly speaking nuts, such as peanuts, which are a legume, from the same family as peas and lentils. Such mixtures also often contain dried fruits and, in particular, raisins. The traditional name for such mixed nuts in Spanish is frutos secos, lit. ‘dried fruits’ (note the use of the masculine form fruto, not the feminine fruta),[g] though such a mixture may or may not contain dried fruit in addition to nuts. Of course, nuts are fruits (frutos) too and, compared to most fruit (fruta), they are moist, not dry.

    The English word nut is found in a few more common compound words or phrases. The phrase beer nut comes from a trade name for a brand of nuts. Beer Nuts™ is ‘a product name for a popular US snack food. They are nuts which are treated to make them taste both sweet and salty’ (OALD). Some common expressions with the word nut (or nuts) are: a tough nut to crack (cf. Sp. un hueso duro de roer) and to be nuts about something/somebody (cf. Sp. estar loco/a por algo/alguien). The phrase nuts and bolts can have a literal sense, but it also has a figurative one equivalent to ‘the essentials’,  ‘the basic practical details’ (COED) or ‘the basic parts or details of an activity, job, etc.’ (Merriam-Webster's Advanced Learner's Dictionary), cf. Sp. lo básico, lo esencial, etc. This sense is attested by the middle of the 20th century (EOL).

Finally, the word nut is object found as an object of the verb crack, as in to crack a nut. In other words, crack and nut are often found in collocation. Spanish uses the verb cascar ‘to crack, etc.’ in equivalent expressions, though romper ‘to break’ can also be used. A specialized tool to crack nuts is known as a nutcracker in English. This word translates into Spanish as cascanueces (cf. Part I, Chapter 5).

Sp. nogal and noguera

The main name for the walnut tree in Spanish is nogal (masculine). This is also a patrimonial word, attested in writing as early as the late 11th century (DCEH). This noun descends ultimately from the Late Latin adjective nŭcālis ‘relating to nuts’, or more accurately this word’s accusative wordform nŭcālem. This adjective was derived from the root nŭc‑ of the Latin noun nŭx (see above), plus the third declension adjective-forming suffix ‑āl‑ (the additional suffix ‑is is the masculine/feminine nominative ending of third-declension Latin adjectives.)

The sound changes here are the expected ones, since the Latin short ŭ changed to Spanish o and the intervocalic ‑c‑ changed to ‑g‑. (The Latin short ŭ is unstressed in this case, unlike in the case of nŭcem, but stress is not supposed to affect what Latin short ŭ becomes in Spanish, which is typically o.) The final m was lost early on and then the now final e was lost much later. (For an explanation of all these sound changes, cf. Part I, Chapter 10.)

Another word for ‘walnut tree’ in Spanish is noguera, a word is also a patrimonial descendant of late or medieval Latin (arbor) nŭcārĭa ‘nut tree’, though this word is less common in modern Spanish. There are cognates of this word in other Romance languages such as Portuguese nogueira, French noyer, Catalan noguera, and Occitan noguièr. Lat. nŭcārĭa was the feminine form of the vulgar Latin adjective nŭcārĭus/a which was clearly derived from the same Latin root nŭc‑ of Lat. nŭx, plus the first/second declension adjective-forming suffix ‑ārĭ‑ (the additional suffix ‑a is the feminine nominative ending of first-declension adjectives and the suffix ‑us is the masculine nominative ending of second-declension adjectives.) In the case of noguera, the sound changes that brought about this word’s form from the original Lat. nŭcārĭa are also the expected ones. In addition to the ones mentioned in the case of nogal, we have the very common change from Lat. ‑ari‑ change to Sp. ‑er‑, which presumably went through a state of being ‑air‑ first (e.g. operarius > obrero ‘worker’). Both Noguera and Nogal are found as Spanish last names, presumably derived from place names (toponyms).

Eng. nucleus/nuclear ~ Sp. núcleo/nuclear

Lat. nū̆clĕus is a contraction of an earlier nŭcŭlĕus (nŭc‑ŭlĕ‑us), which was a diminutive of the noun nux and which originally meant simply ‘little nut’ and it referred to the seed of a nut, its edible part. Figuratively, Lat. nū̆clĕus could also mean ‘kernel, core, nucleus’. Lat. nŭcŭlĕus was formed from the root nŭc‑ of the noun nŭx, and the suffix ‑ŭlĕ‑(us) that formed masculine diminutives (the final ‑us is the nominative singular inflection following the diminutive suffix). This suffix descends from a blend of the suffix ‑ul‑(us)/‑ol‑(us)/‑l‑(us) plus the suffix ‑ĕ‑(us/a/um) that originally formed adjectives from nouns (cf. Eng. ‑eous and Sp. Spanish: ‑eo, as in Eng. ferreous and Sp. férreo.)

In fairly recent times, this Latin word was borrowed into English as nucleus [ˈn(j)u.kli.əs] and into Spanish as núcleo [ˈnu.kle.o]. As we can see, English left the spelling of the word as it was in Latin (nominative singular case), while adapting the pronunciation to its phonology, of course. Spanish made a small change to this loanword from Latin, as it typically does, namely it changed the masculine singular inflection ‑us to ‑o (cf. Part I, Chapter 8). The plural form of Eng. nucleus is nuclei [ˈn(j)u.kli.ˌaɪ̯], which is how the nominative plural form of the Latin word was spelled (i.e., the inflection was ‑i). Actually, the OED tells us that the regularized plural form nucleuses has been used in English before but that it is ‘rare’. Both solutions are found in recent Latin loanwords, namely maintenance of the Latin plural and regularization to ‑(e)s. Spanish, as usual, regularized the plural of núcleo to núcleos.

As we mentioned, Sp. núcleo is not a patrimonial word, but rather a learned loanword from Latin (Sp. cultismo), though not a fancy word any longer (Sp. palabra culta). DCEH tells us that it can be found in a Spanish ‘dictionary’ already in the late 15th century, seemingly with the botanical sense the word had in Latin. Modern Spanish dictionaries give several meanings for the word núcleo. Some of these senses are botanical ones that refer to seeds, but most are figurative and technical. Until recently, Spanish dictionaries still listed the botanical senses first, before the derived (figurative) ones, such as DRAE 22 (2001) and María Moliner. Thus, for example, the first two senses for núcleo in María Moliner 2e (very similar to the two first senses in DRAE 22) were ‘1. m. * Almond or seed of fruits that have a shell, such as walnut. 2. * Fruit pit/stone’.[h] In the most recent (online) version of the Academies’ dictionary (DLE), the earlier sense #3 has been bumped to #1, namely the sense ‘1. m. Central part or point of something material or immaterial’.[i] Other current dictionaries, such as in Larousse and Vox, agree that this is the main meaning of Sp. núcleo, though no dictionary mentions yet that the botanical sense is archaic, though they may have to soon.[j] Other senses for núcleo in these dictionaries mirror the technical senses of Eng. nucleus in English ones as a term used in physics, chemistry, biology, linguistics, botany, and astronomy.

The meanings of Eng. nucleus are pretty much those modern Sp. núcleo, minus the botanical senses, which as we said are rare if not archaic in Spanish today. The OED tells us that Eng. nucleus is first attested in English in the second half of the 17th century to refer to the ‘core of a comet’ (1668) and a ‘central idea’ (1672). Again, no English dictionary gives a botanical or seed-related sense for nucleus, other than the OED, which gives these senses as ‘obsolete’.[k] COED gives its main meaning as ‘the central and most important part of an object or group’, with three more technical senses. The AHD gives 9 main senses for Eng. nucleus, all but the first two being technical ones in biology, anatomy, physics, chemistry, astronomy, meteorology, and linguistics.

According to DCEH, the Italian word nocchio or gnocco, which refers to a sweet meatball or dumpling, is probably a patrimonial descendant of the Latin word nucleus. This Italian word has been borrowed into both English and Spanish. In English, it is used in its (Italian) plural form gnocchi ‘(in Italian cooking) small dumplings made from potato, semolina, or flour’ (COED). DCEH tells us that ñoclo is already attested in the mid-16th century with the same meaning as the original one just mentioned and that in Argentina, ñoques (from the Italian plural gnocchi) refers to ‘a kind of fritter made with boiled and broken up potatoes, eggs and flour’.[l] Other sources, however, think that the origin of this Italian word is unknown and that it is most likely of Germanic origin.[m]

From the Latin noun nū̆clĕus an adjective was derived by means of the Latin adjective-forming suffix ‑ār‑(is), giving us the adjective nucleāris (nucle‑ār‑is). This is a New Latin word, for there is no indication that it was ever used in classical Latin. The word was borrowed into English as nuclear [ˈn(j)u.kli.əɹ] in the first half of the 19th century (OED), with many different meanings having been added since then in the fields of astronomy, biology, medicine, and linguistics, among others. Spanish borrowed this word as nuclear [nu.kle.ˈaɾ] with very similar meanings to Eng. nuclear and it was no doubt cloned from either this English word or from its French cognate nucleaire.

Eng. nugget

Because of its form and its meaning, one might have thought that the English word nugget might have some relation to the word nut and, thus, to Sp. nuez. That, however, is not the case. Eng. nugget [ˈnʌɡət] seems to be derived from a dialectal English word nug meaning ‘lump’, which is of unknown origin. The word seems to contain the diminutive suffix ‑et that Middle English borrowed from Old French, a suffix that comes from Vulgar Latin *‑ittum, the source of the Spanish diminutive suffix ‑ito/a. The word nugget first appeared in the written record in the first half of the 19th century, first with the meaning ‘a small, compact, stocky person; (also) an undersized animal, a runt’ (OED).

[a] The word acorn, which was spelled æcern in Old English, descends from a compound word that contained the word corn with its original sense of ‘a kernel or seed of a plant’. The first part of the compound was not the ancestor of the word oak, as one might have thought, but rather a root that goes back to the Proto-Indo-European root *ōg‑, meaning ‘fruit, berry’ (AHD).

[b] There are four main types of such hardware nuts: hex nut (Sp. tuerca hexagonal), T-nut (aka tee nut or blind nut, Sp. tuerca T), hex cap nut, wingnut (Sp. tuerca (de) mariposa).

The origin of the word tuerca is uncertain, though it most likely came from an earlier puerca by influence of the initial t in the word tornillo ‘screw, bolt’.

[c] Eng. hazelnut is a compound that includes the word hazel ‘a shrub or small tree bearing catkins in spring and edible nuts in autumn’ (COED); another word for ‘hazelnut’ in English is filbert, from filbert-nut, a calque from Anglo-Norman noix de filbert, since these nuts become ripe around Saint Philibert’s Day (Aug. 20)

[d] In the Spanish historical linguistics tradition, this short o is written ǫ, the letter o with an ‘ogonek’, also known as o caudata, which was a letter used in Old Norse.

[e] Original: ‘Fruto del nogal; es de forma ovoide…’ (DLE).

[f] Original: ‘Fruto de otros árboles que tiene alguna semejanza con el del nogal por la naturaleza de su pericarpio. Nuez de coco [‘coconut’], [nuez] de areca, de burí, de nipa, [nuez] moscada [‘nutmeg’].’ (DLE).

[g] Both fruto and fruta translate as fruit into English. Dictionaries give several different definitions (senses) for masculine fruto, but the main one is ‘product of plants, which, apart from the utility it may have, serves to develop and protect the seed’ (‘producto de las plantas, que, aparte de la utilidad que puede tener, sirve para desarrollar y proteger la semilla’, DLE). This is the second definition for the word in the DLE, but the first sense is a very similar and more technical one in Botany, not surprisingly since this term is perhaps mostly used as a technical term. The word fruto can also be translated in some contexts as result or product. It is found in expressions such as dar fruto ‘to bear fruit’ (AEI), sacar fruto de algo ‘to profit from something’ (AEI), fruto prohibido ‘forbidden fruit’ (OSD), dar/rendir frutos ‘to bear fruit’ (OSD), el fruto de su trabajo ‘the fruits of her labor’ (OSD), fruto de su imaginación ‘a figment of his imagination’ (OSD), el fruto de tu vientre ‘the fruit of your womb’ (expression in a Catholic prayer to the Virgin Mary).

The feminine word fruta, on the other hand, refers to a subset of such frutos characterized by being edible: ‘edible fruit of certain cultivated plants, e.g., pear, cherry, strawberry, etc.’ (‘fruto comestible de ciertas plantas cultivadas; p. ej., la pera, la guinda, la fresa, etc.’, DLE).

[h] Original: ‘1. m. *Almendra o semilla de los frutos que tienen cáscara, como la nuez. 2. *Hueso de las frutas’ (María Moliner).

[i] Original: ‘1. m. Parte o punto central de algo material o inmaterial’ (DLE)

[j] Original: ‘parte o punto central de alguna cosa material o inmaterial’ (Larousse).

[k] OED: ‘4. Botany. †a. The innermost, often edible portion of a nut. Obsolete. †b. The part of a seed enclosed by integuments. Obsolete. c. The nucellus of an ovule. Now disused. d. In lichens: the disc of an apothecium. Now rare. †e. Mycology. In ascomycetes: the totality of structures within the perithecial wall. Obsolete.’ etc.

[l] Original: ‘una especie de buñuelos hechos con papas hervidas y deshechas, huevos y harina’ (DCEH).

[m] Some sources argue that It. gnoccho or nocchio it is perhaps related to the word for a regional word ‘knot, joint’ of Germanic origin: *knokō in Proto-West Germanic, *knukô in Proto-Germanic, derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *gnew‑ ‘a bundle; knot’.


  1. Fabulous and fun, Jon! Have you read 'Braiding Sweetgrass' by Robin Wall Kimmerer, especially 'The Council of Pecans'? p. 12 "The word pecan— the fruit of the tree known as the pecan hickory (Carya illinoensis)— comes to English from indigenous languages. Pigan is a nut, any nut. The hickories, black walnuts, and butternuts of our northern homelands have their own specific names. But those trees, like the homelands, were lost to my people. ..."

    1. I had no idea. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing that with me. I'll have to incorporate that information into the article (and book chapter).


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