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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: December ::
Titus Andronicus (Etymology Query)
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0460  Tuesday, 21 December 2010

[1]  From:      Alex Went <
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     Date:      November 18, 2010 12:10:21 PM EST
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0453  Titus Andronicus (Etymology Query)

[2]  From:      John W Kennedy <
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     Date:      November 18, 2010 8:09:07 PM EST
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0453  Titus Andronicus (Etymology Query)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Alex Went <
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Date:         November 18, 2010 12:10:21 PM EST
Subject: 21.0453  Titus Andronicus (Etymology Query)
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0453  Titus Andronicus (Etymology Query)

>Does anybody know if the word 'virgin' is cognate with the tale 
>of Virginius, recorded in Livy as slaying his daughter Virginia 
>to prevent her losing her chastity to Appius' ravishment (see 
Titus, 5.3.36-8)? No editor of the play attempts or even acknowledges 
>this question, and OED offers no satisfactory etymological explanation.
>I therefore realise this may a tough one to answer, but I thought I'd 
>throw it out there in the hope that someone knows, or, at least, that 
>others might agree with me in acknowledging that this is an interesting 
>and obvious question for editions of the play to address.
> 
>Hopefully,
>Will Sharpe

Virginia, as Boccacio tells us in his re-telling of the story, 'was a virgin in name 
and fact', so if you're asking which came first, the virgin or Virginia, the answer 
is virgin. Virgo is third declension with stem 'virgin-' just as 'homo' (man) has 
the stem 'homin-'. This explains the second syllable in 'virgin', 'virginity' and so 
on. Ultimately, 'virgo' is probably derived from 'virga', a stem or rod, in the same 
way that Greek talis (a girl of marriageable age) is cognate with Latin 'talea' (rod 
or bar).

I imagine that she took her father's nomen (Virginius or Verginius) as standard 
practice, rather than as some weird self-fulfilling prophecy. 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         John W Kennedy <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:         November 18, 2010 8:09:07 PM EST
Subject: 21.0453  Titus Andronicus (Etymology Query)
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0453  Titus Andronicus (Etymology Query)

>Does anybody know if the word 'virgin' is cognate with the tale 
>of Virginius, recorded in Livy as slaying his daughter Virginia 
>to prevent her losing her chastity to Appius' ravishment (see 
Titus, 5.3.36-8)? No editor of the play attempts or even acknowledges 
>this question, and OED offers no satisfactory etymological explanation.
>I therefore realise this may a tough one to answer, but I thought I'd 
>throw it out there in the hope that someone knows, or, at least, that 
>others might agree with me in acknowledging that this is an interesting 
>and obvious question for editions of the play to address.
> 
>Hopefully,
>Will Sharpe

Ancient sources usually spell the name "Verginius", and the word "virgo", so 
probably not.



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