The present paper is a revised, expanded and updated version of a presentation made on 17 June 2010 at the Fifth International Conference on Historical Lexicography and Lexicology (ICHLL5), held at St Anne’s College, University of Oxford, where Philip Durkin, Michael Proffitt and Jesse Sheidlower made helpful suggestions. I thank Benji Wald for earlier proposing some important additions and improvements, Adam Hyllested for clarifying several issues concerning the pronunciation and spelling conventions of Modern Irish, Anders Richardt Jørgensen and, especially, Janus Bahs Jacquet for detailed information on dialectal variation and sound changes in Middle and Modern Irish; thanks are also due to Eithne Ní Ghallchobhair for verifying, at ICHLL5, the Irish pronunciations given below. I am also grateful to Elizabeth Ciccone for her excellent ideas about how to go about finding some of the requisite source material and particularly to James Katz, who corrected a misconception of mine and whose question to me about the etymology of phon(e)y was the impetus for this investigation.
The genuine etymological story of phon(e)y1
Article first published online: 31 MAR 2011
© The author 2011. Transactions of the Philological Society © The Philological Society 2011
Transactions of the Philological Society
Volume 109, Issue 1, pages 1–11, March 2011
How to Cite
Cohen, P. S. (2011), The genuine etymological story of phon(e)y. Transactions of the Philological Society, 109: 1–11. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-968X.2011.01247.x
- Issue published online: 31 MAR 2011
- Article first published online: 31 MAR 2011
The etymological source and history of English phon(e)y‘fake, sham, counterfeit’ have been the subject of speculation and disagreement for over 100 years, and are still problematic. In the present paper, I outline the treatment of phon(e)y in the three editions of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as well as in more specialised dictionaries, and in the relevant scholarly and popular literature; where appropriate, I make a careful examination of cited documents in the original. I go on to make a critical analysis of all these, adduce new evidence, and advance a coherent theory to account for the data, including heretofore unexplained phonological aspects.