Skink

The verb skink has largely disappeared from English. Here it is in Chaucer: “Bacchus the wine them skinketh all about.” In a play in the 1600s James Shirley wrote of “Such wine as Ganymede doth skink to Jove.” Those two examples appeared in the 1913 Webster’s Dictionary, which gave this definition: ‘To draw or serve, as drink.’ The word seems to have survived in Scottish English, with the Online Scots Dictionary defining the verb as: ‘To pour liquid from one vessel or from a spoon or ladle into another in small quantities, to mix liquids in that way.’ Here’s the etymology given in Wiktionary: ‘From Old English scencan or Old Norse skenkja, from Proto-Germanic *skankijaną. Cognate with German schenken (“to give as a present”), Dutch schenken (“to pour, give as a present”).’ The skink that is a type of lizard is an unrelated word.

At this point you’re probably wondering what the connection to Spanish could be. It turns out that the Gothic cognate of the verb, *skankjan, got borrowed into Spanish as escanciar, which the DRAE defines as: ‘Echar o servir una bebida, especialmente vino, sidra u otro licor’ [‘to pour or serve a drink, especially wine, cider, or other alcoholic beverage’]. A person who performs that function is an escanciador (and formerly an escanciano). The abstract noun escancia designates the ‘acción y efecto de escanciar.’

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. whilldtkwriter
    Aug 09, 2017 @ 11:09:25

    Funny that skink as a noun is a lizard. And other vowelly “nearby” phonetic words–skank and skunk–are also nouns, and usually not complimentary when referring to people. 🙂

    Reply

  2. shoreacres
    Aug 10, 2017 @ 23:03:09

    An imaginary conjugation:

    “Drink, drank, drunk…”
    “Skink, skank, skunk…”

    Given that a slang term for a person who’s had too much to drink is “skunked,” it makes sense that a person who’d been skinked with abandon might end up skunked.

    Reply

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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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