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atavistic

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atavistic

Postby KatyBr » Thu Jun 02, 2005 1:58 pm

• atavistic •
Pronunciation: æ-tê-vis-tik • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Related to the reappearance of a genetic trait or a behavior pattern after several generations of absence. 2. Reverting to an earlier, more primitive type, related to a throwback.
Notes: An atavism is a trait that reappears after several generations of absence (usually caused by a chance recombination of genes) or the process of reappearing itself. An atavist is an organism that reflects such a genetic trait—a throwback. A child's blue eyes may be an atavism if the trait does not occur in either parent but does occur in a grandparent or great-grandparent.
In Play: Atavism visits us where we least expect it. Sitting around a camp fire in the evening might be considered an atavistic pleasure, assuming our ancient ancestors did the same. If it is true that we spring from aquatic ancestors, splashing in the bathtub might be atavistic—or just fun. Could building tree houses and swinging on ropes be expressions of some deep-seated atavistic urge? But this word feels most comfortable in hyperboles, when throwback and primitive just don't say it all: "Andy Bellam is so atavistic, I'm surprised he doesn't drag Portia around by the hair."
Word History: This Good Word we traced from French atavisme (missed the "e"). It is made up of -isme added to the root of Latin atav-us "grandfather, ancestor", made up of ad "to(ward)" + av-us "grandfather." This makes atavistic a kinsword of avuncular "uncle-like", from Latin avunculus "maternal uncle" and, probably, English "abbot." The feminine variant of this word, avia "grandmother', seems to suggest that Roman grammas flew (they didn't). It did go on to become Portuguese aia "nursemaid," which Hindi borrowed as "aya" with the same meaning. (Today's Good Word flew in from the mind of the mysterious Gottsponer during a visit to the Alpha Agora.)

-Doctor Goodword
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Postby Brazilian dude » Thu Jun 02, 2005 3:28 pm

It did go on to become Portuguese aia "nursemaid,"

Finally!

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Postby uncronopio » Thu Jun 02, 2005 10:52 pm

...and Spanish aya.
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Postby Brazilian dude » Fri Jun 03, 2005 9:42 am

Poop on that!

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Postby anders » Fri Jun 03, 2005 11:42 am

That Hindi got its āyā from Portuguese seems to be generally accepted.

Chinese āyí looks more problematic, as it has the meanings 1) (dial.) mother's sister, 2) a form of address for a woman of on's parents' generation, "auntie", 3) a nursemaid in a family or a childcare worker in a nursery school or kindergarten.

1 and 2 seem to indicate an old word, but when did meaning 3 come? A dictionary having its 1st ed. in 1943 lists only 1 and 2. So, perhaps Portuguese here as well?
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Postby Flaminius » Fri Jun 03, 2005 1:26 pm

Are you talking about 娃?
Or is there no kanji for it, just pobomofo?
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Postby Brazilian dude » Sat Jun 04, 2005 11:11 am

aia [Fem. de aio.] S.f. 1.Dama de companhia. 2. Encarregada da educação doméstica de crianças nobres. 3. Criada de dama nobre; camareira: "A imperatriz, em estado de 'buena esperanza',... cuida dos seus três filhos, do meneio da casa, e, entre camareiros e aias, fia, borda e sarta pérolas e aljôfares." (Antero de Figueiredo. Toledo, pp. 155-156.)
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Postby M. Henri Day » Sat Jun 04, 2005 3:13 pm

Flaminius wrote:Are you talking about 娃?
Or is there no kanji for it, just pobomofo?


The term, Flam, is generally written 阿姨. I've never seen this in Japanese, however, which may indicate, as Anders points out, that it is relatively recent, at least in this sense....

Henri
曾记否,到中流击水,浪遏飞舟?
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Postby Flaminius » Sun Jun 05, 2005 12:02 am

That letter, Henri, makes a lot sense to me. I remember Wild Swan referred to the author's grandmother as Yitaitai as she was a concubine to General Xie, a warlord in the early 20th century.

From being a concubine, I see easy shift of meaning to more subservient domestic roles such as a nursemaid.

In Japanese this character is used to signify "kakaa," wife in vulgar speech varieties. This seems to me a remote connection to sense 3 of Anders's source.

Flam
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Postby M. Henri Day » Sun Jun 05, 2005 10:05 am

Flaminius wrote:...
In Japanese this character is used to signify "kakaa," wife in vulgar speech varieties. ...


I've never seen 姨 (いもと [= 妹 (younger sister)], also おば (maid)) used in this way, but rather 嬶....

Henri
曾记否,到中流击水,浪遏飞舟?
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Postby Flaminius » Sun Jun 05, 2005 10:47 am

Agreed. When I wrote the above post I must have been referring to one of my answer sheets that I submitted for high school kanji test.

Thank you for the supervision.
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Postby yurifink » Sun Jun 05, 2005 3:52 pm

Hebrew: âv (father)
Latin: av-us (grandfather)

A wonderful coincidence!
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Postby anders » Mon Jun 06, 2005 12:24 pm

yurifink wrote:Hebrew: âv (father)
Latin: av-us (grandfather)

A wonderful coincidence!

Quite natural, I think. The ab or pa etc. father words like the ma mother words are found all over the world. (In some cases, the genders are inversed, making ma father and pa mother.) A theory to which I subscribe is that the very first sounds an infant makes are vowels plus labials, and parents more or less desperately interpret those combinations as referring to themselves.
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Postby yurifink » Mon Jun 06, 2005 3:57 pm

I've heard about this theory. But infants don't use prepositions.

Hebrew: 'ad = till
Latin: ad =to(wards)

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