According to author Mark Kurlansky (
Concise Oxford Dictionary: A biography of a fish that
changed the world ), what substance etymologically binds the words
soldier and salad?
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According to Kurlansky's book
Salt - A World History:
"The Roman army required salt for its soldiers and
for its horses and livestock. At times soldiers were even paid in salt, which
was the origin of the word salary and the expressions worth his salt andearning
his salt. In fact, the Latin word sal became the French word solde, meaning
pay, which is the origin of the word soldier. Furthermore: "The Romans salted
their greens, believing this to counteract their natural bitterness, which is
the origin of the word salad, salted."
Note: this question works as a question because it is
"according to Mark Kurlansky" - so salt is the correct answer because that's
what Kurlansky says the etymologies are. Unfortunately, the question doesn't
work factually because, according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, the word
soldier actually derives from the Latin word solidus, which denotes a solid
gold coin from the later Roman Empire.
Thus far I have been unable to find any source that shows that
solidus derives from a Latin root that is related to salt - though because of
the silimilarity between sol and sal, it sounds like it should.
If anyone can set me straight on this, please email
me at: moot_mootgame.com
You're right to challenge Kurlansky. These really
do come from two different Indo-European roots, ones that (unusually) haven't
changed their form: salary < sal-; soldier < sol - 'solidus', whence
'soldier' is cognate with 'solid.'
Kurlansky might have become confused by the army story
connected to 'salary.' Or (and this is more complex) by the fact that the sol -
root does, in fact, have a variant form sal - (from the zero-grade form). But
the words that come via that route (pun intended) are related to Latin 'salvus'
(safe), whence also salvage, salvo, save; and 'salus' (health), whence
This confusion shows
why historical linguists are so picky about the connections they draw. It's not
enough for the sounds to resemble each other. The roots must match sound and
meaning, and make sense as part of the reconstructed chain of sound changes
that have occurred in the past. For confirmation, see Calvert Watkins's
appendix on Indo-European roots in the American
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