Increase you vocabulary with words dervied from Latin pupa 'child's doll'like puppy, pupil of the eye & puppet
At the Wording Desk
ATWD International words from Latin pupa ‘a child’s doll’ like puppet, bub, pupil of the eye, pupate, poppet, pullet, pup, puppy, German verb einpuppen and entpuppen, French poupée, Vietnamese búp bê, Hungarian báb
Considering the vastness of the English word hoard, our language is not manifold in expressions of secondary emergence, as when some inceptive form, some nascent rudimentary entity bursts forth in a stronger, post-primal form. A weak metaphor drawn from insect life is often the best figure of speech we can summon. In entomology a pupa is a life stage between larva and adult, typically a quiescent resting phase during which interior transformation takes place. So we may read: “His life in the provinces was pupal, but when he moved to the city the brittle chrysalis of his talents seemed to burst asunder and explode in a boy-like, multifarious joy.”
To Pupate versus Entpuppen
English has the glum verb to pupate ‘to change into a still pupal form and lie quiescent and possibly dormant.’ But we have no opposite verb to describe breaking forth from the cocoon, a verb like *expupate. German has such a useful verb, entpuppen literally ‘to de-pupate, to turn out, to emerge from a cocoon and transform into.’
sich als Betrüger entpuppen ‘to turn out to be a cheat’
Leider entpuppen sich nicht alle Maden zu Schmetterlingen. ‘Unfortunately not all maggots turn into butterflies.’
Etymology of Pupa
In 1758, Linnaeus, the father of scientific nomenclature borrowed the Latin word for chrysalis, which was pupa, and began to use it in non-Latin texts of insect study. That’s essentially how it found its way into English. Among the Romans, it is likely that Latin pupa was what we call a loan translation from classical Greek where one of the meanings of νύμϕη nymphe was this stage of an insect’s development. For as Latin pupa meant ‘little girl, little form, doll’ so too could the Greek word nymphe mean ‘doll, young girl, small form.’
But, as a Proto-Indo-European root, the word has many reflexes throughout history. We may speculate (there is no proof) that the PIE etymon is, in its starkest form PIE *pau- ‘small, little.' The Latin form pupa would be a reduplication of the root *paupau which became pupa. Now reduplicating a root usually intensifies the meaning of the basic root. So that a pupa was ‘a very small thing.’ Quite an apt name! Some of the other reflexes of this PIE root appear in words like few, pauper, pony, pullet, foal, Latvian pups ‘teat,’ Latin paucus ‘few’ and its Italian and Spanish derivative poco. The Latin word for small parvus and the Romans’ term for child or boy puer ‘little one’ also contain the root, as does the ancient Greek word for boy, pais, paidos.
The root may even predate Indo-European. For there it is in ancient Semitic languages! Hebrew בובה buba ‘doll’ gives a common modern Yiddish expression of endearment בובעלע bubele literally ‘little doll’ but frequently used by parents when speaking with their children.
Even the PIE root has been widely borrowed by languages all around the world. Consider Vietnamese búp bê and Hungarian báb.
How about the American colloquial “Hey, Bub!” a still familiar form of address for men and boys.
The French word poupée ‘puppet’ is from Latin pupa and is also the origin of our English poppet ‘little child’
Pupil from Pupilla
Pupil came into English through French from Latin pupilla, literally ‘little girl,’ but also meaning ‘doll, puppet, pupil of the eye.’ The proto-Latin root *pu carried the meaning of young child. Pupilla was the diminutive of pupa ‘girl.’ Consider the dozens of other Latin words we know with the same root: puer ‘boy,’ puellus ‘little boy,’ puella ‘little girl’ and pullus ‘young of an animal, in particular of a chicken’ giving us the term pullet in English. Puberty and pubic hair are related words. Pupa and later Latin puppa give many English words, as we have shown above, like pup, puppy, poppet, puppet and to pupate.
The ancient Romans named the pupil of the eye pupilla ‘little doll face’ because, in good light, when you look closely into another person’s eyeball, you see a tiny doll-like reflected image of your own face. As they did with so many social and linguistic matters, the Romans may have copied the notion from the Greeks. In classical Greek κόρη kore meant first ‘young girl or maiden,’ then the sense was transferred so that kore also meant ‘pupil of the eye.’ Although it seems to be black, the pupil is the opening in the iris by which means light passes into the eye to be processed. Both the Latin and the Greek roots, pupilla and kore, show up in the technical vocabulary of eye surgery and other areas of ophthalmology (ophthalmos Greek ‘eye’).
This is a Real Eye-Opener
Before giving those surgical sample words, I offer in low humblement like the abject toady I am, my own modest but original etymology of that Greek word for eye. Ophthalmos is related to the verb horan ‘to see, to look’, one of whose passive infinitive forms is ophthenai. But horan as a Greek verb of seeing is a complex linguistic artefact, its many tenses and moods and conjugations made up, in stark linguistic fact, of parts of three or four earlier separate verbs of seeing and looking. I believe the form ophthalmos may have been influenced by a folk compound like *ope-thalamos, later contracted and lightly altered into ophthalmos. Thalamos was the common ancient Greek word for inner chamber or room inside the house. I think the word for eye and eyeball may have begun as a compound meaning ‘the chamber of seeing.’ Greek opsis meant ‘vision, seeing.’ The optics of this little etymology seem clear, at least to me.
Well, that’s been quite an arduous outing on the word trail. Of course the vista at trail’s end brought a lump to my throat, if not to my spine. Therefore I find it meet to unzip my larval sleeping bag and pupate ever so briefly.
Bill Casselman copyright 2016
July 15, 2016
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