Jun. 29th, 2017

dr_whom: (Default)
I stopped at the highway rest stop in Port Hope, Ontario this afternoon. But I kept wanting to read "Port Hope" as "Porthope", and I convinced myself that Porthope—i.e., Πορθόπη—could conceivably be an Ancient Greek nickname for a woman with facial hair. Behold, the fake etymology:

The -ope part is easy. Ops means 'face', as in tri-cerat-ops ('three-horn face'). The suffix makes it a derived feminine noun.

As for porth-, well, this appears to reflect a hypothetical Indo-European *bhordh-. (Why initial *bh instead of *p? Because Indo-European didn't allow voiceless stops and voiced aspirates in the same morpheme for some reason. But fortunately Grassman's Law in Greek converts IE *bh into p when another aspirate follows in the same word.)

From words such as English beard and Latin barba, it is possible to reconstruct an Indo-European *bhardh- 'beard'. The o-grade of this morpheme, if it existed, would have to have been *bhordh- and the zero-grade *bhrdh-; and both of these ablaut grades would have come out as porth- in Greek. Thus the (not real, as far as I know) Greek morpheme porth- must mean 'beard', and Porthope must be a bahuvrihi compound 'beard-faced', as an epithet for a woman.

June 2017

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