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#204922 - 02/27/12 12:02 PM Capricious etymology (double-entendre intended)  
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talesoftrivia Offline
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I was amazed to see "capricious" derived from "head of a hedgehog", and to see Merriam Webster present that origin, with a "perhaps". The OED agrees with what I'd always thought, that it's from "capra", Latin for "goat"--well, OED comes through the Italian: "Italian capriccio sudden start, motion, or freak, apparently < capro goat, as if ‘the skip or frisk of a goat’".

Note: the etymology in the on-line OED dead-ends with a "see above" as though you were reading the paper dictionary. I looked at "caprice", which lead me to "capriccio", to get to the derivation above.

#204923 - 02/27/12 12:27 PM Re: Capricious etymology (double-entendre intended) [Re: talesoftrivia]  
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So, basically, there's two theories and the proponents of each are uncertain that theirs is correct.

#204924 - 02/27/12 01:20 PM Re: Capricious etymology (double-entendre intended) [Re: talesoftrivia]  
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this too shall pass
not sure where you're looking, but W3 gives Etymology: Italian capriccioso and M-W online (11th edition) points to caprice, which has French, from Italian capriccio caprice, shudder, perhaps from capo head (from Latin caput) + riccio hedgehog, from Latin ericius (AHD4 agrees with this, no perhaps)

W3 glosses caprice with: basic meaning: head with hair standing on end, hence, horror, shivering, then (after Italian capra goat), whim

anyways, capriciously speaking, this is all somewhat remindful of a hedgehog! (Dinsdale!)

#204931 - 02/27/12 04:20 PM Re: Capricious etymology (double-entendre intended) [Re: talesoftrivia]  
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i go with the goat. hedgehogs are not capricious, just ask my cat. goats on the other hand are quite notably so. one doesn't frisk in fear but in excess of hormones and energy, characteristics not well presented by hedgehogs. i suspect the chevrolet eponyfiers had the goat in mind for their otherwise sedate sedan caprice.

#204933 - 02/27/12 07:24 PM Re: Capricious etymology (double-entendre intended) [Re: pete saussy]  
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Ha, I see the discussion is already on. I just wanted to ask if anyone could explain the connection between capricious behaviour and having hair standing on end.

I vote for the goat. Hedgehogs don't even have ordinary hair. I'd call them spines.
(Hedgehogs are easily recognized by their spines, which are hollow hairs made stiff with keratin.)

#204934 - 02/27/12 07:37 PM Re: Capricious etymology (double-entendre intended) [Re: pete saussy]  
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Absolutely goat is the origin of the word, the further that we move from our agrarian roots, the more that silly etymologies are posited and believed. One need only know goats to understand that capricious is goat like in behavior. Hedgehog references are overreaching. Capricorn - capricious there is no need to look to riccio to get there.

#204936 - 02/27/12 11:03 PM Re: Capricious etymology (double-entendre intended) [Re: talesoftrivia]  
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Etymologies can take funny turns. Whore and charity come from the same root. The idea that goats are capricious is just as likely to be used as evidence of the notion that the goat etymology is a folk etymology. If the experts aren't sure I'm not sure.

#204942 - 02/28/12 08:31 AM Re: Capricious etymology (double-entendre intended) [Re: Faldage]  
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Capricious hairsplitting. A folk etymology is still an etymology.
Lets meet on Capri all of us to find out the thruth. smile

#204945 - 02/28/12 11:21 AM Re: Capricious etymology (double-entendre intended) [Re: BranShea]  
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Originally Posted By: BranShea
A folk etymology is still an etymology.


For some small values of etymology.

#204950 - 02/28/12 03:24 PM Re: Capricious etymology (double-entendre intended) [Re: Faldage]  
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this too shall pass
sometimes vanishingly small; e.g., see hooker.

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