v35: skilsmässa

The word mässa in Swedish means either a (religious) mass or a (trade-) fair. The etymologies are connected, markets often being held in connection with important days in the church calendar. However I was a bit puzzled by skilsmässa (divorce), which is derived from skilja (to separate) + mässa.

My sources give the origin of skilsmässa as a mass held at the end of a meeting, that, is some kind of separation ceremony.  However in connection with this etymology Norstedt’s uses the word troligen (probably), whereas SAOB says both omtvistat (disputed) and möjl[igen] (possibly). So you be the judge…

The word brassy in English has a sense of cheap and flashy, which apparently dates from the 1800s, as opposed to the related sense debased, which is cited in the 1500s. Both meanings relate to the contrast between brass and gold. English brass = Swedish mässing, which is quite unrelated to mässa but I’m including it here because in researching mässa I found the expression i bara mässingen (completely naked). Unlike the English use, there is no reference to gold here. Instead, the expression refers to silver-coated brass objects, where the silver has worn off, allowing the brass beneath to be seen.

Published in: on October 6, 2010 at 12:15  Leave a Comment  
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