laugardagur, september 22, 2007


Can this be right? I've seen this derivation before, sic (or sick, which I would never have written myself) from seek. The idea is logical-seeming enough: that in saying sic 'em you are exhorting your dog to seek him. I should be satisfied - no? - seeing as English seek comes in large degree from ON sækja, but I think this is folk etymology.

My instinct is to spell it sic, past tense sicced, not sick and sicked. Seek him sounds reasonable to me until I remember that one also sics a dog on someone, and that seems more of a stretch as an extended use of seek. Though I know that verbs may slide back and forth between strong and weak forms, I am also troubled that sækja and its derivative seek are strong - sótt, sought - while sic is weak.

I think the single c is etymologically correct. There is what must be an Icelandic cognate: siga. It is weak: siga, sigaði. It means "to sic," i.e., to set (e.g., a dog) on someone, as in siga hundum á einhvern. Orðabók Menningarsjóðs glosses it with etja, to whet or encourage. Older uses include siga mönnum saman, which is something like "to whip people up into a group," and siga einhvern upp, "to whip someone up," "excite someone."

It's an old word. Óláfr Tryggvason sends his hound Vígi after Þórir hjörtr by means of this verb. Cleasby and Vigfusson cite it in other texts, glossing it as to excite dogs by shouting 'rrrr!'

Perhaps I am both wrong and right, and siga is also from sækja -- I have ordered Alexander Jóhannesson's dictionary to find out -- but sic must be related to siga.

Addendum 28. júlí 2008: Wm W. Heist agrees with me in American Speech 42.1 (1967): 65-69.

2 ummæli:

tristan sagði...

sterna sagði...

Exactly my point.

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