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Review of Zur Etymologie lexikalisierter Farbwortverbindungen.
Date: Tue, 24 Jun 2003 16:38:17 +0900 From: oebel Subject: On the Etymology of Lexicalised Idioms Involving Colour
Two reviews of this book are provided by the same reviewer: one in English and one in German. The following review is the English version.
Wanzeck, Christiane (2003) Zur Etymologie lexikalisierter Farbwortverbindungen. Untersuchungen anhand der Farben Rot, Gelb, Gruen und Blau [On the Etymology of Lexicalised Idioms Involving Colour. Investigations into the Colours Red, Yellow, Green and Blue]. Editions Rodopi (Amsterdam Publications on Language and Literature 149), paperback ISBN 90-420-1317-6, xvi+428, Euro 90.00.
Announced at: http://www.linguistlist.org/issues/14/14-478.html#1
Reviewed by: Guido Oebel, Saga and Kurume/Fukuoka (both Japan) University
Introductory remark As an exception, allow me one personal remark right away at the beginning of this review: Christiane Wanzeck's book is by far the most fascinating reference book on linguistics I have ever had the pleasure to review, particularly due to its highest standard in terms of form, content and language. The author's thoroughly revised and expanded version of her dissertation from 1996 (Ludwig-Maximilian-University Munich), in my humble opinion, undisputedly presents a pioneering work in the field of etymological linguistics thus determining standards for future publications of similar content. Wanzeck's greatest merit is her almost unsurpassable meticulous care she proves to have applied while analyzing and verifying primary and secondary sources as references for her investigation.
Synopsis According to Wanzeck, 'for the first time, this book offers a coherent representation of the etymology of historical and contemporary lexicalised idioms' (Rodopi 2002), occurring particularly in German, involving the colours 'red' (49-74), 'yellow' (75-92), 'green' (93-130) and 'blue' (130-342). In addition, she deals with loan translations such as 'blue-blooded' from the Spanish 'sangre azul' (290-313) meaning 'noble' or the English 'blue-stocking' (322-340) meaning 'intellectual woman'. Especially the colour adjective 'blue' so far happened to pose many riddles as its meaning varies dependent on its respective collocation 'noble', 'skipping work on Monday' as in German 'blauer Montag' (156-207) or 'lie' as in German 'blaue Ente' (248-267) accounting for the literal translation 'blue duck' in English. As a matter of fact, phraseological expressions containing 'blue' account for the most extensive part of Wanzeck's book (130-342) due to its linguistically extraordinary complexity and its semantic spectrum in comparison to other colour words. Furthermore, Wanzeck's investigation covers obsolete idioms such as the German 'Gruener Brief' (112) meaning 'an unpleasant letter' and to the reviewer's and of course, to the appreciation of a readership not exclusively restricted to that of native Germans, colour phraseologisms in other European languages such as English, French, Spanish and Dutch, as e.g. 'iemand eene blauwe huik omhangen' (235-240) accounting for the last-mentioned meaning in English 'to deceive someone'. First, Wanzeck subdivides the idioms analyzed into two basic categories regarding their syntactic-morphological features: 1st as Nominal Phrase (NP) allocating a specifying adjectival function to the colour lexeme as e.g. in 'blauer Montag' meaning 'Monday off'. 2nd, as Verbal Phrase (VP) allocating the function as object predicative (e.g. 'rot sehen' for 'to turn red in anger' in English) (56) or solely as predicative (e.g. 'blau sein' for 'to be drunk' in English) (145) to the lexicalized colour idiom. Concerning the Prepositional Phrases (PP), Wanzeck observes occasional overlapping with with VPs (e.g. 'vom gruenen Tisch aus' - Eng.: 'from a bureaucratic ivory tower') (122). Wanzeck's study focuses on the question as to how and to what extent the colour lexeme went from its respective overall meaning of the colour word to adopt its new figurative meaning and whether any regularity might be deduced from this phenomenon. By doing so, the author deciphers convincingly the motivation of expressions involving colour used in certain collocations. Thus, Wanzeck succeeds in ascertaining when in what source evidence of the phrase was first found and what meaning can be deduced from the context of the respective reference. Wanzeck subsequently and consistently clarifies the origin of meanwhile 'unfathomable phrases on the basis of cultural, historical and linguistic information' (Rodopi 2002). She even offers comprehensible solutions to borderline cases in which the colour lexeme itself does not seem to pose a problem, however, the overall meaning regarding its etymological development surely does as e.g. in 'auf keinen gruenen Zweig kommen' - Eng.: ' to get nowhere' (117-122) or 'jmdm. blauen Dunst vormachen' - Eng.: 'to throw dust in s.o.'s eyes' (274-286). In the further course of her investigation, Wanzeck covers the related discipline of onomastics, etymologically analyzing place names (e.g. 'Gruenes Gewoelbe', i.e. a museum in Dresden castle) (cf. Nopitsch 1801) and street names deriving from Low German such as 'Rotes Meer' - translated word-for-word into English: 'Red Sea' (cf. Mielke 1930: 182-188) or personal names such as 'Blaubart' (Eng.: 'Bluebeard') or 'Rotkaeppchen' (Eng.: 'Little Red Ridinghood'). In this context, Wanzeck's analysis of colours and the motivation of their employment in place names require a particularly meticulous scrutiny concerning their historical-linguistic consideration as they often constitute 'relicts of an archaic state of language' (Seebold 1995: 606). Further onomastic subjects analyzed by Wanzeck are class names (e.g. 'roter Hund' literally corresponding to English 'red dog', i.e. medical term for a certain disease), animal names (e.g.: 'Gruenspecht' (Eng.: 'green woodpecker') and plant names such as 'Gruener Salat' (Eng.: 'lettuce').
In sum, I consider the present volume absolutely worth reading without any reservation. As already mentioned at the very beginning of this review, Wanzeck's book constitutes not only a multifaceted and utmost gripping investigation of the etymology of historical and contemporary lexicalized idioms involving the four primary colours red, yellow green and blue but meets highest academic standards throughout its 428 pages. The author justifiably claims to offer 'a coherent' and unprecedented 'representation of the etymology of historical and contemporary lexicalized idioms involving colour' (Rodopi 2002). In addition to my detailed and in the readers' opinion hopefully not too panegyric synopsis, I would like to emphasize her extensive bibliographical references (368-415) that alone justify the purchase of Wanzeck's book as it constitutes an exemplary one dealing with idioms involving colours. Last but at no means least, I should stress the index (419-428) arranged in alphabetical order and clearly subdivided into single languages such as German, English, French, Dutch and Spanish where 'colour idioms' can be immediately located by searching for the respective headword thus constituting not only an outstanding but a unique source of reference. As apart from its purely linguistic analysis Wanzeck's book considers cultural and historical contexts, too, its use does not appear to be exclusively restricted to language scientists but also constitutes an interdisciplinary interface 'for the study of literature, folklore and the history of art and law' (Rodopi 2002). In sum, I only may hope that the relatively costly price of 90 Euro or 107 US Dollars, respectively, does not deter potential readers interested in the very specific topic of 'colour words' from purchasing a copy of Wanzeck's work. Apart from individual purchase, I emphatically consider it a must on the 'shopping list' of university libraries not only within German language boundaries.
Mielke, Robert (1930). Das Rote Meer. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte einer Volksanschauung. In: ZV, NF II/49, 182-188.
Nopitsch, Christian C. (1801). Wegweiser fuer Fremde in Nuernberg, oder topographische Beschreibung der Reichsstadt Nuernberg nach ihren Plaetzen, Maerkten. Nuerberg.
Seebold, Elmar (1995). Wortgeschichte/Etymologie der Namen. In: Ernst Eichler et al. (Hgg.) Namenforschung. Ein internationales Handbuch zur Onomastik. De Gruyter: Berlin/New York (HSK 11.1.), 602-610.
References for further reading suggested by the reviewer as a lead-in to 'colour words':
Quinion, Michael (?). The Colour of Words. The fugitive names of hues. at: http://www.quinion.com/words/articles/colour/htm
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Guido Oebel (PhD in linguistics) is a native German currently teaching German as a Foreign Language (DaF) and FLL at the university level in Western Japan. His main areas of research are: DaF, sociolinguistics, bilinguism, adult education and autonomous learning and approaches, particularly 'Learning by Teaching' (LdL). His next major project is his 'habilitation' with a thesis on DaF applying LdL supervised by the French Professor in didactics and LdL-inventor Jean-Pol Martin of the Catholic University Eichstaett-Ingolstadt (Germany).