Folk etymology, pseudo-etymology,〔''Oxford English Dictionary'' (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press.〕 or reanalysis is change in a word or phrase over time resulting from the replacement of an unfamiliar form by a more familiar one.〔''Oxford English Dictionary Online'', "folk-etymology, usually, the popular perversion of the form of words in order to render it apparently significant"〕〔''Routledge Dictionary of Language and Linguistics'' (Folk Etymology )〕〔R.L. Trask, ''Dictionary of Historical and Comparative Linguistics'', (Folk Etymology )〕〔"Folk Etymology", p 142, ''The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics''〕〔("Folk Etymology" )
Winfred Lehmann, ''Historical linguistics: an Introduction.''〕 Unanalyzable borrowings from foreign languages, like ''asparagus'', or old compounds such as ''samblind'' which have lost their iconic motivation (since one or more of the morphemes making them up, like ''sam-'', which meant "semi-", has become obscure) are reanalyzed in a more or less semantically plausible way, yielding, in these examples, ''sparrow grass'' and ''sandblind''.〔Raimo Anttila, ''Historical and Comparative Linguistics'' (Benjamins, 1989) ISBN 90-272-3557-0, pp 92-93〕
The term ''folk etymology'', a loan translation from the 19th-century academic German ''Volksetymologie'',〔Ernst Förstemann's essay ''Ueber Deutsche Volksetymologie'' in the 1852 work ''Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung auf dem Gebiete des Deutschen, Griechischen und Lateinischen''〕 is a technical one in philology and historical linguistics, referring to the ''change of form'' in the word itself, not to any actual explicit popular analysis.〔
==As a productive force==
The technical term "folk etymology", a translation of the German ''Volksetymologie'' from Ernst Förstemann's essay ''Ueber Deutsche Volksetymologie'' in the 1852 work ''Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung auf dem Gebiete des Deutschen, Griechischen und Lateinischen'' (Journal of Comparative Linguistic Research in the Areas of German, Greek and Latin), is used in the science of historical linguistics to refer to a change in the form of a word caused by erroneous popular beliefs about its derivation.
Erroneous etymologies can exist for many reasons. Some are reasonable interpretations of the evidence that happen to be false. For a given word there may often have been many serious attempts by scholars to propose etymologies based on the best information available at the time, and these can be later modified or rejected as linguistic scholarship advances. The results of medieval etymology, for example, were plausible given the insights available at the time, but have mostly been rejected by modern linguists. The etymologies of humanist scholars in the early modern period began to produce more reliable results, but many of their hypotheses have been superseded. Until academic linguistics developed the comparative study of philology and the development of the laws underlying sound changes, the derivation of words was a matter mostly of guess-work.
The phenomenon becomes especially interesting when it feeds back into the development of the word and thus becomes a part of a new etymology. Believing a word to have a certain origin, people begin to pronounce, spell, or otherwise use the word in a manner appropriate to that perceived origin, in a kind of misplaced pedantry. Thus a new standard form of the word appears which has been influenced by the misconception. This popular etymologizing has had a powerful influence on the forms which words take. Examples in English include "crayfish" or "crawfish", from the French ''crevis''; "sand-blind", from the older ''samblind'' (i.e. semi-, half-blind); or "chaise lounge" for the original French ''chaise longue,'' "long chair".〔"The Origins and Development of the English Language", 4th ed., Thomas Pyles and John Algeo, 1993.〕
In heraldry, canting arms (which may express a name by one or more elements only significant by virtue of the supposed etymology) may reinforce a folk etymology for a noun proper, usually of a place.
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