19 March 2009


Who will drink my tears? Who?

You. Only You, my Friend.


The word friend struck me as rather strange looking, so I checked the Oxford English Dictionary and it relates back to 'free'. I have copied you the mighty tomes' etymological musings upon free below:

The original sense of the Indo-European base has been conjectured to be ‘one's own’ (perhaps ultimately related to the Indo-European base of Greek {pi}{epsilon}{rho}{giacu} (preposition and adverb) round, around, round about: see PERI- prefix), the better to explain the divergent development of sense in the different languages. Whereas the sense ‘beloved, dear’ is reflected in the Sanskrit and Avestan adjectives as well as in senses of the verbal and nominal derivatives in all the Indo-European branches in which they are attested (compare the cognates cited above and also those listed at FREE v.), the sense ‘free, not in servitude’ appears to be a peculiarity of Germanic and Celtic. This sense perhaps arose from the application of the word as the distinctive epithet of those members of the household who were ‘one's own blood’, i.e. who were connected by ties of kinship with the head, as opposed to the unfree slaves. In the context of wider society only the former would have full legal rights, and hence, taken together, they would comprise the class of the free, as opposed to those in servitude. Compare the Old English compounds fr{emac}obearn free-born child, child or descendant of one's own blood, fr{emac}obr{omac}{edh}or one's own brother, fr{emac}odohtor free-born daughter, daughter of one's own blood, fr{emac}om{aemac}g one's own kinsman, and see further M. Scheller Vedisch ‘priyá-’ u. die Wortsippe ‘frei, freien, Freund’ (1959), D. H. Green Lang. & Hist. Early Germanic World (1998) 39-41.
In Old English the usual stem form is fr{emac}o-, fr{imac}o- (rarely also fr{emac}a-) beside a less frequent stem form fr{imac}g-. The diphthongal stem forms arose in Primitive Old English by contraction of {imac} (earlier *{ibreve}j) with a following back vowel, while the stem form fr{imac}g- arose by development of a glide between {imac} and a following front vowel, both forms existing in complementary distribution within the same paradigm (e.g. masculine nominative singular fr{emac}o, masculine genitive singular fr{imac}ges); but in attested Old English analogical forms are already present and the distribution is no longer complementary; see A. Campbell Old Eng. Gram. (1959) §410.
In Old English the word is also found as an element in personal names, compare Fr{emac}owine, Fr{emac}obearn, etc.
Old English fr{emac}o woman (see above), is found only in one isolated attestation in the Old English translation of the fragmentary Old Saxon poem Genesis (not extant at this point) in the collocation fr{emac}o fægroste ‘fairest woman’ or perhaps ‘fairest of women’, and probably reflects an Old Saxon collocation only partially understood by the translator (compare Old Saxon fr{imac}o sc{omac}niosta ‘fairest of women’ (Heliand 2017), in which fr{imac}o is the genitive plural of fr{imac}):
OE Genesis B 457 O{edh}{edh}æt he Adam on eor{edh}rice, godes handgesceaft, gearone funde, wislice geworht, and his wif somed, freo fægroste.It is also conceivable that the Anglo-Saxon translator may, in fact, be using fr{emac}o FREE n. in sense B. 2 ‘a person (in this case a woman) of noble birth’ (compare quot. OE at that sense).
With free arts (see sense A. 4) compare classical Latin ingenuae art{emac}s studies befitting a free-born person; in some instances probably after Middle Low German vr{imac}e künste, German freie künste (Middle High German fr{imac}e künste).

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