The previous post about daisy reminds me a second time of my other blog, where I recently showed a photograph of a deer’s antler that I’d found in a park in my neighborhood. By coincidence, the word antler has an interesting etymology that, like daisy, also involves eyes. The word antler entered Middle English as aunteler, taken from Old French antoillier (which has become andouiller in modern French). The Old French noun antoillier had developed from Vulgar Latin ant(e)oculare, a compound of ante- ‘in front of’ and ocularis ‘having to do with an eye,’ so an antler was conceived as being a growth that projects in front of a deer’s eye.

Spanish and English have borrowed the Latin adjective ocularis in its own right as the slightly simplified ocular and have retained the original meaning ‘pertaining to an eye.’ In addition, both languages have turned the adjective into a noun meaning, in the definition of the DRAE, ‘Sistema de lentes que, a fin de ampliar la imagen real dada por el objetivo, se coloca en el extremo de un instrumento por el que mira el observador.’ Similarly, the 1913 Webster‘s gave this definition of the noun: ‘The eyepiece of an optical instrument, as of a telescope or microscope.’

And surely there have been times when a deer’s antler has appeared in front of the ocular of a telescope. If the viewfinder on my camera counts as an ocular, then I can bear witness to the occurrence.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. shoreacres
    Jan 20, 2013 @ 23:26:30

    Don’t forget the little old ladies in tennis shoes with their binoculars!


  2. shoreacres
    Jan 21, 2013 @ 21:25:24

    Right this very minute, the moon and Jupiter are engaged in an occultation! Moon’s straight overhead, Jupiter just a degree or two to the east. If it’s clear there, it’s a beautiful sight.


    • shoreacres
      Jan 21, 2013 @ 21:44:11

      Interesting that occultation seems to be rooted in “to be hidden (from sight)”. It’s another example of one word that seems to be functionally related to another (ocular), but, etymologically, isn’t.


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Jan 21, 2013 @ 21:52:49

      Thanks for the tip. I looked straight up and saw the two bodies. No antlers blocked my view, and no ocular was required to see the sight.

      One way to tell that ocular and occult are unrelated is that one word has a single c while the other has a double c. Spanish has simplified most of its double consonants to single ones, in the process discarding lots of etymological clues.


  3. kathryningrid
    Jan 27, 2013 @ 22:38:22

    I had no eye-deer.


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©2011–2018 Steven Schwartzman

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