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cob

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cob

Postby Perry Lassiter » Thu Sep 06, 2012 3:26 pm

Reading a novel last night, I came across the heroine riding a "cob." I had met the word before as applied to a horse, but got to wondering why. I found this in AHD:


A corncob: corn on the cob.
A male swan.
A thickset, stocky, short-legged horse.
A small lump or mass, as of coal.
A mixture of clay and straw used as a building material.

ETYMOLOGY:
Probably from obsolete cob, round object, head, testicle

But the Etymology online dictionary is even more fascinating:

a word or set of identical words with a wide range of meanings, many seeming to derive from notions of "heap, lump, rounded object," also "head" and its metaphoric extensions. With cognates in other Germanic languages; of uncertain origin and development. "The N.E.D. recognizes eight nouns cob, with numerous sub-groups. Like other monosyllables common in the dial[ect] its hist[ory] is inextricable" [Weekley]. In the latest print edition, the number stands at 11. Some senses are probably from O.E. copp "top, head," others probably from O.N. kubbi or Low German, all perhaps from a P.Gmc. base *kubb- "something rounded." Among the earliest attested English senses are "headman, chief," and "male swan," both early 15c., but the surname Cobb (1066) suggests O.E. used a form of the word as a nickname for "big, leading man." The "corn shoot" sense is attested by 1680s.

EIGHT nouns? eight usages? Surprising the number of usages, with perhaps forced derivations. Perhaps as we have seen on the forum, it is more than one word with one etymology. It's a long way from roasting ears to a squat horse!
pl
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Re: cob

Postby Philip Hudson » Fri Sep 07, 2012 12:37 am

Many short and simple words have multiple definitions and may not all belong to the same etymological line. One might ask for the dominant meaning of the word, the definition used most often or the one known by the most person. I venture to say that corn-cob is by far the most likely definition. I knew a male swan was a cob. I just now heard of a cob horse. Some of the definitions might better be designated by knob or gob.

I know people named Cobb. Their name may have come from our subject cob, a lump. Not very flattering. Some names Cobb may be from Jacob. The name is in the Doomsday book spelled Cobbe.

An alternate source of the name is that of a cudgel or even a mace. This goes along with the idea of a leader who held the ceremonial mace.

Kolb is pronounced "kahb", the same as Cobb. There is evidence that this name came from a ceremonial mace denoting leadership. It is of German origin. I probably know more Kolbs than Cobbs.
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Re: cob

Postby Perry Lassiter » Fri Sep 07, 2012 11:06 am

I have a friend named Kolb, and he pronounced the L. You mentioned the ceremonial mace. Where did that idea come from. College graduation ceremonies, which I hate at least equally to your dislike of cats and dogs, often have some professor carrying such a thing in all pomp. What in the world for? Here are these institutions of higher education parading around in passe attire carrying a golden or chrystal mace.
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Re: cob

Postby Slava » Fri Sep 07, 2012 10:49 pm

Interesting that no one has as yet brought up the other use of cob, the one coupled with web.

Don't spiders hate to be called cobs?
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Re: cob

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sat Sep 08, 2012 1:31 pm

Cobwebs are a frequent 1 or 2 meanings in the dictionary, apparently derived from an old word for a spider, "coppe."
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