Almost Nonsense Word of the Week: Sord

A flock of mallard ducks

Sord is a flock of mallard ducks. Yet, a group of (generic) ducks on the water is called a raft, bunch, or paddling. Mallards live mostly in North America. The tend to fly in the typical “V” shape. They are omnivores and like fresh water. The male is called a “drake” and has the colorful green head that distinguishes them from other ducks.

I know that some might think that is a misspelling of “sword”, or might be considered a nonsense word, but it is actually a dictionary abiding word. In late Middle English it was used to mean “to rise up”. It is thought to be related to the Latin word sugere which means to rise. Sugere gives us the base for words such as surge, resurge, insurgent, and upsurge.

Yet, the word <surgery> comes from Old French sugerie. The Late Latin etymology of was chirurgia coming from Greek χειρουργία kheiro (hand) and ergon (work). Surgeries were the work of the hands. It was a specific and delicate work.

The most commonly thought of word <sword> for /sɔʴd/ comes from Old English sweord, where it probably initially was pronounce with a /w/ phoneme. While it seems to come from Old High German sweran “to hurt”. The Proto-Indo-European root was *swer “to cut”. This root also gives us <swear> and <answer> from the same root *swer which meant “to speak, talk or say”. An answer is to not swear. The <w> in <answer> is an etymological marker connecting it to swear.

So <sord> relates to mallard ducks, while <sword> relates to a cutting device. The question of whether word is a nonsense word can now be answered.

Written by Lisa Klipfel

References:
A Group of Animals is Called by Oxford dictionary. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/explore/what-do-you-call-a-group-of
Cornell Lab of Orthinology, Mallards. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mallard/id
Etymonline, sord. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=sord
National Geographics Kids, Mallard ducks. http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mallard-duck/#mallard-male-swimming.jpg

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