30 January, 2007

Saltbox and skimmington, marrowbone and cleavers

Seven etymologies for the word charivari:

A. From the Trésor:

1. Perhaps from Latin caribaria, attested in a translation from Oribasius, the Greek καρηβαρία, 'heaviness of the head', because a deafening charivari can cause headaches.

2. The hypothesis of a Semitic origin, Hebrew haverim, collective plural of haver, "person belonging to an Israelite community" (whose members celebrated certain occasions with a great tumult), needs more detail, especially from a historical point of view.

3. A connection to the French hunting-term harer, "to rouse dogs", has the difficulty that no form of the type *harivari is atttested; however, hari, a cry to get animals going, and hari-hari expressing mockery, could have helped to preserve the first i in charivari.

4. A purely onomatopoeic formation seems untenable, although the phonetic form of the word and the reduplication of its vowels could, again, explain the retention of the first i. A tautological composition is difficult to establish on account of the first element.

B. From Littré's Dictionnaire:

5. Scaliger derives the word from chalybaria, kettles.

6. Du Cange derives it from Vulgar Latin caria, nut, κάρυον, because nuts are thrown and a great din is kicked up on a wedding-day.

7. Diez wonders if the first element of the word represents calix, glass, pot, noise of glasses and pots.

More speculations at Languagehat.

Further hypotheses welcomed here also: the elaborater the better!


Anonymous said...

Rough music indeed - does this post means there's an essay on The Beggar's Opera awaiting final editorial approval?

Raminagrobis said...

I should like to advance the following hypothesis, viz. that the term in question derives ultimately from a garbled rendition of ‘J’arrive! ah oui!’, words traditionally spoken by the bridegroom upon consummation of the wedding.


Conrad H. Roth said...

ALT: sadly not!

R: a plausible conjecture, certainly, though wouldn't they have been somewhat disturbed by the bloody racket going on outside the window?

Anonymous said...

Raminagrobis: the term in question derives ultimately from a garbled rendition of ‘J’arrive! ah oui!’, words traditionally spoken by the bridegroom upon consummation of the wedding.

Maybe I had a bad experience regarding this episode, but I personally tend to think of something/one else when I hear charivari: Madame Bovary. I therefore propose this hypothesis, which will certainly convince everybody around: the word comes from Monsieur Bovary himself.

Want a proof? Here it is:

« Le nouveau, prenant alors une résolution extrême, ouvrit une bouche démesurée et lança à pleins poumons, comme pour appeler quelqu'un, ce mot: Charbovari.

« Ce fut un vacarme qui s'élança d'un bond, monta en crescendo, avec des éclats de voix aigus (on hurlait, on aboyait, on trépignait, on répétait : Charbovari ! Charbovari !)...

--- From the very beginning of Flaubert's Madame Bovary ---

Ricardo said...

This is indeed "a blog of note".

Well done.

Ricardo :)

Blue Genes said...

The Robert Historique (ed. Alain Rey)agrees almost entirely with the Tresor with the exception that it says the word was first attested in 1316 as "chalivali" which might be interesting only to the extent that it might lend credibility to Diez.

But in this world where silly things like "facts" are rapidly depreciating in value, I'm personally inclined to accept the more entertaining "Charbovari" theory. New Wikipedia entry anyone (in "charibari" or "Flaubert")? ;~)

Erik said...

I suggest that "Stradivarius" as a possibility must not be overlooked. He had several competitors, and it could be very possible that they bribed concert reviewers to describe concerts with a Stradivarius violin as mere noise. He has built 1,100 violins in his life and had 11 children, so there was always charivari around (Wikipedia). I assume that the violins also had to be tested so maybe there was a test room, not too well isolated, next to his workshop, that drove everybody in the neighborhood mad.

Erik said...

In Dutch we have the word "herrie" (pronounce "harry" with Dutch "r" which is more clearly pronounced than in English "harry"). This has exactly the same meaning as charivari, and could well be related to it. I continue my research and let you know.

Erik said...

I did inquiries about Dutch "herrie" but it appeared to have nothing to do with shiveree, as I learnt how it is pronounced. I stick for the rest of my life to the explanation the there must have been a composer named Chari Vari or Charley Vary or Shave Aree (or maybe Stradivary) producing loud music.
Thank you for this pleasant pastime I just completed... it keeps worrying me, hope I don't get a heavy head.