Mmegi Blogs :: The ancient etymology of ‘give’ and ‘take’
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The ancient etymology of ‘give’ and ‘take’

The rudimentary blocks of language, and in particular the now-lost universal language we once spoke as early as the Neolithic era, involves a few basic words that convey a sense of coming or going, thus ‘give’ and ‘take’.
By L M Leteane Fri 26 Feb 2016, 16:42 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: The ancient etymology of ‘give’ and ‘take’








These key words tend to repeat across many terms (and of course many languages) and have given rise to a remarkable array of morphologies.

I have unearthed a sufficient number of terms that cut across ‘genetically unrelated’ language families to make nonsense of the conventional linguistics view that any words across such families that exhibit similarity in both sound and meaning must be deemed to be purely coincidental. Indeed, my findings agree with Genesis 11 that such a universal mother language was scrambled by God (read: ‘the gods’) following the Tower of Babel incident in Shin’ar (Sumer), Mesopotamia. This week we look into vestiges of that ancient protolanguage in the specific context of the acts of ‘giving’ and ‘taking’.

One basic, ‘building block’ term (or ‘morpheme’) is ‘a’. This is a prefix meaning either ‘towards/belonging to’ or ‘away [from]’ depending on the context. We will see examples of both usages in this article. For now, let us begin with the term ‘give’ itself. In terms of Indo-European (IE) etymology, the term ‘give’ stems from the Old English term gefan whose ‘proto-terms’ are go/ge + fa(na) (to give). The morphemes go and ge are definite cognates (i.e. they spring from the same etymology):  ge maak (Dutch/German) and go dira (Setswana) both mean ‘to do’. In linguistics, morphemes cannot be further simplified, but through ‘morphology’ they generate more complex words or aid subtle shifts in meaning.

A subtle shift of gofa that we explored in a prior article is the term gafe (take a chunk from [and give it to another]) and I showed that it related to the English-Latin term ‘cave’ (‘that which has a pit-like appearance [because, or as if, material was taken out of it]. In Setswana, which my findings show to be very close to the now-lost universal protolanguage, the slang term gafa (‘pay out, reward’) is formal in other Bantu languages and it means ‘give’. Gafela (now kgafela) means a harvest in which you take out a bit from your field and give it to the king in homage. Another sense of ‘give’ is ‘share’. I have deciphered this to be based on the proto-terms se + hare (‘it is [split] in the middle’). Similarly, the term ‘half’ and ‘halve’ are based on hare + fa (become [split] in the middle). The term fa is not in the sense of ‘give’ but of ‘become’ e.g. gale- fa (‘become sharp or angry’).

 The ancient proto-term chia (made up of zi + a) means ‘let go of’ and thus connotes ‘give’. In Setswana, jia is used as slang but it is a proper Bantu word. Zi means ‘here’ and a means ‘away’ – thus giving us the phrase ‘[from] here to ‘there’, i.e. get something from here and then take it there/away’. ‘Similarly, sia (Setswana: ‘escape [by running away]’) is literally ‘[from] here, go [away]’. N’chia (‘outrun me, open up a gap from me’) is a derivation that most probably led

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to the term ntja (n’chia: ‘[that which] runs ahead of me’, as during hunting) which in French is the metathesis chien (chia’n): a metathesis is where syllables are transposed. As such, the Mexican breed of dog ‘Chihuahua’ is ‘the non-stop barking dog’ (hua-hua means ‘howl at this and that’), just as most small breeds of dogs tend to do.

 The term naa (give) is made up of na (toward) + a (there), and neela (na + ela) is ‘tend outward’: ela is ‘flow [out]’ also has sense of ‘go out for [something]’. Ela basically relates to illu, I showed in other articles, and the common sense is of ‘radiating’ or ‘flowing’, thus ‘elegant/eloquent, electric, etc’. We now close ‘give’ with the term ‘money’, which is mo-neye. The term ‘mo’ serves a double purpose:  mo is a noun indicator for a person or article, thus it is primarily ‘that which is given’, but it can also say:  “give it to him/her”! Sometimes the same word can relay opposite meanings in different languages or dialects, such as bapala: in Sotho it means ‘play’ and in Setswana it means ‘be businesslike’. Thus, dineo in Setswana is ‘gift’ (‘[that which is] given out) and teneo (Latin) is ‘[that which] is’ taken’.

A metathesis of gofa (‘to give’) is fago, which means ‘take away a portion of’ and thus in this case also conveys an opposite meaning. A ‘fag’ is a ‘broken or loose end’ (i.e. a useless piece of something e.g. a cigarette or thread), and emanates from the Middle English term fagge. The term ‘faggot’ (a derogatory slang term for a feminine male homosexual) thus originally denoted ‘one with a useless appendage’. Considering the etymology of ‘take’ itself (from taka in Icelandic), we get the proto-terms ta + ka (‘come with’), thus conveying ‘get [something] and bring it [here]’.

An amusing Setswana ‘take’ on this is the term ‘tax’: ta-ke-tsee (‘come. let me take [from] you’)!  This is akin to nka (Sotho: ‘take’) which relates to the Egyptian ankh and the nautical ‘anchor’ (a nka; ‘that of taking [hold]’); a ‘bank’ is ba-nka (‘those that take away’)! A river bank or a commercial bank certainly accumulates by taking away something (river sand, money) and depositing it. In this vein, a monkey is literally a mo-nki (a taker, a thief) because of its penchant for stealing items from people, and the Mayan term chuen (monkey: evidently borrowed from the ancient Olmecs who travelled to South America in 3110 BC) literally means ‘harasser’.

A variation of ‘take’ is kapa: the evident root of ‘capture’ and ‘capacity’ (i.e. the maximum that can be captured). Finally, what we see as ‘nicely rounded words’ like ‘larceny’ (theft, robbery) are actually Setswana-like sentences: larcin (Middle English) is la-re-senye (‘[a scheme/lenaneo] whereby (la) let us do wrong (re senye’) and it comes from the Latin latrocin (la- ta-roo-senya). Of course, we can see the unmistakable relation of sin/senya.

Comments to leteanelm@gmail.com

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