Quaqmires and Quahogs

I like this word – I like any word that starts with ‘q’ – ‘quag’ from old English for bog or marsh, plus ‘mire’, perhaps Scandinavian in origin, a bog or marsh, quite literally from Indo-European ‘moss’ for damp.  Interestingly, ‘mire’ was first used figuratively, in the 1400s, to indicate an involvement in dificulty, and only later, in the sixteenth-century,  was it used in the nominative to describe an actual marsh.  One imagines that until then they had ‘quag’, which was very nice and would suffice.  Or perhaps just ‘marsh’, which had undergone a long evolution, through many language families, from its origin in ‘mari’, or the sea.  One would like ‘quag’ to be related to the Algonquian ‘quahog’, if only to demonstrate that all languages came from some cradle of natural observation. The Middle-Dutch ‘quab’, for example, was used in the seventeenth century in reference to a sea-slug.  I’ve never eaten a quahog, but from what I’ve seen of them, I doubt I’d care to – and I’m less enthralled by the notion of a sea-slug, which I imagine is a lazier and unshelled form of a quahog.  What a quagmire. 

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About hickson1

Art historian, professor, Italian Renaissance and Baroque specialist
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