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bassen Origin of verb 'to gig?' (76* d) RE: Origin of verb 'to gig?' 08 Jan 00

Good morning class.

Etymology is sometimes more guesswork than the experts like to admit. My english reference books give the french "gigue" as the origin for "jig"; my french reference books give the english "jig" as the origin for "gigue" in the meaning type of dance, type of tune. However, they refer to an older meaning of the word "gigue", that being an early medieval stringed instrument, one or two strings, played with a bow. This word is given as "probably germanic" in origin, which is often etymologyspeak for "Gee, I dunno". But little bells are ringing. In nordic tradition a gige (GUEE guh) or gigja (GIG yah), was a simple stringed instrument, played with a bow, possibly as a drone accompaniment to saga recitations, or improvisational poetry "kvad". They're mentioned in the sagas, Landnámabok, among other places. In a few western norwegian dialects, gigja was the word used for a regular violin until the middle of the nineteenth century. And a player of this instrument would "gige", as a fiddler fiddles, in English.

"Gig" in english is given as derived from the Middle English "gigge" whirligig, spinning top which again is given as "probably Old Norse in origin". The root of "gigja" seems to be a word meaning to move back and forth, reflecting the use of the bow. In other words, jig and gig probably have the same root. Ultimately, the word is traced as follows: old norse "geiga", move at an angle, swing to the side; also, swaying the upper body. (An old term from the Shetlands, giglet, is cited: this meant: staggering about, gesturing with the arms…maybe that's where gigging really originated…) My books give all kinds of indogermanic and gothic roots, but they're given with asterisks which, if I recall correctly, is neonlighted-on-a-Las-Vegas-scale etymology for "We're really reaching here" so I won't bore you guys with those.

Mister Spaw, when you've finished with your nap, I'd appreciate a written resumé of my lecture, by the end of the day please. Thank you.

P.S. Re gig meaning a boat. I would guess that gig as a vernacular term for the vulva was the key. There's a parallel in norwegian maritime terms, at least. That type of boat was known in norwegian as a "kunte" or a "fitte", which are vernacular norwegian for the vulva, but these words are now no longer in use. I mean can imagine bellowing out, "Sailor, take the skipper ashore in the c***", you wouldn't last a day.

P.P.S I'm not an etymologist. But after having worked in museums for 20 some years, I'm used to speaking at length on subjects about which I know absolutely nothing...


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