White Wedding


by Dušan Vukotić / December 25th, 2009

White Wedding PDF 220 kb

There is/was a saying in Serbia, odveli/oteli su nam devojku (they took our girl away) usually spoken by parents and girl’s relatives after the wedding. It was like that for centuries: groom was considered as a sort of “pirate” and those who dared to “steal” the girl were never seriously condemned by society. On the contrary, those who committed such “crime” were secretly praised among their friends and neighbors. In the above case (p.p. odveli ‘taken away’) we have to deal with the Serbian verb voditi ‘lead’ (Cz. vést, vodit, Russ. вести, при-водить, OSl. водити).

Now, if someone suggested that English wed is related to the Serbian/Slavic word voditi ‘lead’, I suppose, everyone would be laughing. Nevertheless, let us be more patient and try to reconsider this (mine) suggestion. The same pattern seems to have been used  on the soil of whole Europe and people in the West as well as those in the East used to grab (i.e. to take by force; Serb, grabiti ‘grab’)  their future wedded wife/bliss1. If we thumb more carefully through the Slavic dictionary we are going to find some words that may be cognates to English wed. For instance, there are the Serbian word svatovi, svadbeni ‘nuptial’, svadba ‘wedding ceremony’, svatovska povorka ‘wedding procession’, where, as we can see, the above-mentioned Slavic verb voditi, od-voditi (lead, to take away) is omnipresent. In addition, there is the Serbian word svodnik, that, according to the above words and their original logic, has an unexpected meaning – pimp!

Farther, there are words zavoditi ‘seduce’ and zavodnik ‘seducer’ (Russ. соблазнять ‘seduce’; Cz. svůdník ‘seducer’, svádět ‘seduce’ that, not by chance,  reminds us of  Serbian svaditi, svađa ‘dispute, argument, broil’; Lat. suadeo -ere; -persuadeo, -suadere), who is the same sort of villain/rogue as bludnik ‘rake, wanton’, and this word indicates that the proto-form of IE *wod-, *wed- was *belgh,  an initial, maybe, more agglutinated/extended proto-word, which sounded (roughly taken) like *belgh-ghno- (close to Engliish belggining => beginning). The Latin verb seduco2, seducere has almost the same meaning as Serbian zavoditi ‘seduce, lead astray, lead away’.

An enormously interesting word is the Serbian noun nevesta ‘bride’ (Russ. невеста, Cz. nevesta; Osl. невѣста), because nevesta is ne-uzeta (Russ. взять ‘take’); i.e. it is a girl, which is “not yet taken” (Vasmer, не и ведать; III, p. 54). In fact, Slavic ne-vesta is the word with the same meaning as Serbian ne-udata ‘not married, unmarried’. The meaning of the Serbian word udova/udovica ‘widow’ shows that udova (Russ. вдова, Cz. vdova,  OSl. въдова) is a woman who is “vodiva” (ready to be taken (away) again, free; od-vodiva). Following these etymologies many researchers were confused with a great number of words, which are phonetically close and whose semantics seem to be “intertwined”. Old Slavic возити (Serb. voziti; Russian возить , Cz. vozit, vézt) is clearly related to English way (German Weg, Goth. vagjan, OHG weggen, ONor. bæsa ‘drive’), Greek ὀχέων, ἔχειν, ἄγειν “keep doing, keep going’, and Latin veho ere. In Sanskrit there are almost all the forms of the verb ‘drive’ as in Slavic (váhati, vákṣi , voḍham, voḍhvam , ūḍhvam , úhāna, uvāha , ūhúḥ , ūhé, vakṣyáti; Monier Williams, p. 933) and among such words very indicative are two forms of that word: one is voḷham, which reminds us to the Slavic word vlak ‘train’, and the other is voḍhā ‘led home married’, which asserts the above-mentioned suggestion that *wed- originally meant ‘to lead away’ (Slav. voditi).

In Old Icelandic there is a word bæsa -ta, -tra, which means ‘to drive cattle into the stall’ and it could be taken as a counterpart word to the Serbian verb uvesti ‘to bring into’. Here we can understand the origin of the word vezati ‘bind’ (Russ. вязать, связывать, Cz. svázat, OSl. вѩзати) – it comes from the same proto-word as Serbian vijanje ‘driving, chasing’, vijugav ‘winding’, and uvijanje ‘winding, binding’ (Russ. вить; hence Serb. vez ’embroidery’). Sometimes  certain words may be absolutely different in phonetic sense, although they have appeared from the same “womb”,  like Russian вышивание ‘ebroidery’, which is related to вязание ‘binding’ (Serb. vezivanje ‘binding’) and Serb. ušivanje, šivenje, šiti, šav ‘needle, sew, stitch’, which lost its initial syllable vi- or replaced it with u-.  Surprisingly or not, we can see that Serbian vijuga ‘convolution, wind, row, girus’ (cf. Skr. vīthī ‘line, row’) is the word from the same “depot’ as English way or German Weg, and Latin via, viae ‘road’. Actually, Serbian vezanje ‘binding’ is nothing alse but vijuganje ‘wriggling’ (so, in that sense, Greek ὄφις ‘snake’ is the “winding” animal; cf. ὀφεώδης ‘snake-like’, equal to Serbian uvojit ‘curled, coiled’).

The Serbian words for water, wind and fire (voda, vetar, vatra) are closely related to the winding movement, similar as in English (wind, winding, weather, winter; OE. windan, Serb, uvunuti ‘twist’, vintanje ‘circumvolution’ ). Here we must follow the Latin words like vulgus, volate, vello in order to grasp what the “original output” of similar IE words was the above-mentioned  basis *belgh-ghno-, like in Serbian words put ‘road, path’, pod ‘floor, bottom’, putovanje ‘traveling’. namely, Serbian putovati ‘to travel’ comes from a previous form *bludovati, the same proto-form from which the other Serbian words were born, like blud ‘wanton, lust, whoredom’, lud ‘crazy’ and latalica ‘a tramp’ (cf. Latin vulgo originally ‘divulge, circulate, prostitute’). In this context, it would be interesting to see if the word lunatic is linked to  Slavic lud, ludak ‘fool’ (OSl. лудъ), in some Serbian dialect luntor (crazy man, wanderer, tramp), also landarati ‘to move freely in an uncontrolled manner’.

It seems that we have gone to far away from our “wedding” and therefore let us return to the subject by saying that the Serbian word udata has the same “value” as English wedded (Eng. wedded wife = Serb. udata žena; and Eng. widow = Serb. udova). Old Slavic дѣва ‘virgin, unmarried girl, adolescent’ (Serb. devojka, devica, Cz. děvice) is the grown up, mature girl, which is ready for “abduction” (Serb. odvoditi), and in Czech language, there is a word děvka (whore), now related to  Slavic davati (Serb. podavati se ‘to indulge in sex easily’; OSl. -давати ‘give away’). Also, the Czech word vydávat ‘give’ supports the supposition that wedding is a process of “giving away” (Serb. odvoditi); i.e. it is a process of the implementation or bringing (of a woman) into the house (Serb. uvod ‘prelude’, uvoditi ‘introduce’.  Additionally, the Slavic verb davati/dati ‘give’ is also related ti the verb voditi ‘lead’ (dovoditi, dovesti ‘bring’, odvoditi, odvesti ‘taking away’. Slavic davati is derived from the ancient form *gebh– (cf. Ger. geben ‘give’), and it means that some sort of a “sound hierarchy” must be introduced in a serious investigation, because we can suppose that velars are the “first”, “primal layer” of the speech sounds,  while dentals belong to the much younger layers of sounds. For instance, we must precisely examine how it happened that  the primal form *gebh– was turned to *dav- in Slavic. Nevertheless, that initial form was kept in word gubiti ‘lose’ (OSl. гоубити).

We can also remark that the above-mentioned word svat ‘a member of the wedding procession’ sound very similar to the word svet ‘world’, svetina ‘a multitude of people’ and svetkovanje ‘celebration’. Is there anything more or is it  just a chance resemblance? There are some possible explanation for these enigmas:

1) We have already seen that verbs zavoditi ‘seduce’, svađati ‘quarell’, zavideti ‘be envy’ may be “constructed” on the basis of voditi ‘lead’, but we may suppose that the verb videti ‘see’ is also involved here as a principal ingredient of those words. What is then a possible relation between voditi and videti (OSl. видѣти)? Is there any other Slavic word that may be common for both of these words? What about buditi ‘wake up’ (OSl. боудити)? It seems that the voiced bilabial /b/ is on the first level of the above-proposed “sound hierarchy” (as a “parent”), while voiced /v/, voiceless /p/ and fricative /f/ are certain sort of “children”. If it had been true, then we could have said that the verb buditi was a progenitor of voditi and videti. Philosophically, such a premise could have been taken as really possible, because the process of waking up comprises in itself the both notions: seeing and motion (running, circulation).

2) Slavic svet (OSl. свѣтъ) appeared to be logically related to svitanje ‘day-break, dawning’, svitati (OSl. *свьтѣти; see Vasmer, III, p. 575). The Old English word woruld, worold might be interpreted differently than wer- + old (Kluge-Seebold, p. 885, Torp-Falk, p.21), because the present explanation sounds rather unconvincing and strained. Would it not be more conceivable if we presume that English world is related to German Urvelt  ‘primeval world’? Bosworth’s Anglo-Saxon or-eald (see p. 270; “very old”) suggest a connection to German Ur-Welt (“old world”; see William Bell, Shakespeare’s Puck, p. 94-95). It means that Ur-Welt could, through the metathesis, become world (*urwold => wurold => world). And  German Ur-Welt might be one of few Ur-bases (*xur-bhel-ghn-), that generated thousands and thousands of IE words. Among them is Slavic “world” too – svet (from *survelt => *svelt => svet). Of course, this kind of deliberation deserves a much deeper analysis in the future.

3) English white is probably related to both Slavic words,  svet and cvet/kvet (Cz. květ, OSl. цвѣть; Vasmer, IV, p. 292-293), but it could indirectly be related to wed.  Although it might look strange the genuine “root” of white and svet is *bhelghno-, and those words, Slavic and Germanic are compound words; i.e. prefixed as in Serbian za-beleti, iz-beliti. Hence we’ve got Slavic svitanje ‘dawning’ and svetlo ‘light, bright’ (a metathesis from *s-belt-, s-velt-; cf. Ger. Welt ‘world’). The Serbian words like beljenje ‘bleaching’, paljenje ‘blaze, light up, ignition’, planuti ‘flare up’ are obvious derivatives from the above mentioned Ur-basis. Even English fire came from that same “root” (related to Gr. πυρά ‘to kindle fire’, Serb. purenje, puriti ‘burn’, Lat. flagro -are), i.e. fire is coming from Latin flagro (cf. flare) in the same way as Serbian puriti has lost the sound [l] (*pulrenje, like in Lat. flagro; from *bhel-her).

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