-7

It's generally not confusing to most the obvious differences between a sandwich, a witch and the word "which", but are they related in any way? While a sandwich can be defined jokingly as,"in my mouth; piece of food that doesn't exist anymore" etc. most of everyone knows that a sandwich is basically any combination or form of substance, in between two slices or pieces of bread. But what about a witch? I'm guessing because the term is widely talked about in the bible, it is very old, and it most likely originated before the term sandwich.

And to add another substance form to the mix, I'd also like to introduce the word which. The term can be used in such a way it follows the requirements of being a pronoun ("Which of these ~", "Which one of ~"), or an adjective ("Which car ~", "Which type of ~").

So, are those three words related in anyway, or is it all just coincidence they sound the same, mind you, not in terms of spelling.

And please forgive me if this isn't English-related or doesn't have any involvement with the English language subject this site is all about.

closed as off-topic by anongoodnurse, FumbleFingers, Drew, waiwai933 Dec 24 '14 at 12:17

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 5
    You have asked a wide and diverse question. Let's just deal with sandwich first. The sandwich is believed to be named named after John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), whom it is said was addicted to gambling and hit upon the then novel idea of taking slices of meat between bread, so that he could continue at the card table whilst eating. Sandwich is a small town on the coast in the county of Kent. The ...wich in its name is a variant of the old Norse wick meaning a small bay or inlet. My guess is that this has no connection whatever to witch, nor to which. – WS2 Dec 24 '14 at 0:22
  • 4
    Since when do they talk about witches in the Bible?! Yes, it's just coincidence that the latter half of the word sandwich sounds like the word witch. Just like it's coincidence that the last part of trampoline sounds like the word lean. (Which doesn't dound the same as witch to quite a lot of speakers, by the way.) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 24 '14 at 0:46
  • 1
    Most Americans don't use wich as short for sandwich, but there is no difference in pronunciation between which and witch, no matter what Americans believe they say. They're not listening. – John Lawler Dec 24 '14 at 1:04
  • 2
    @JohnLawler Not true. Not all dialects of English exhibit the wine-whine merger. – Nick2253 Dec 24 '14 at 1:40
  • 1
    I said Americans speaking American English. Many Americans believe they say witch differently from which (or whale/wail, where/wear, whine/wine, etc). But actual recordings show they don't in ordinary speech. – John Lawler Dec 24 '14 at 2:13
7

It's generally not confusing to most the obvious differences between a sandwich, a witch and the word "which", but are they related in any way?

No.

Sandwich the food comes from sandwich the town (quite likely via the 4th Earl of Sandwich). Many English place names have -wich at the end, and some have the related -wick or -wych and a few used to have one and since lost it (Jorwic is now called York). It comes from the Old English wic meaning "place", "dwelling" or "bay", or the related Old Norse vic meaning the same thing (if named by Vikings). Further back it was a Germanic borrowing from vicus from which we have vicinity.

As the language changed the Old English rule that c following i or prior to i or e (but with some exceptions like ascian) was a /tʃ/ sound changed and so the later forms either became a /k/ or else the spelling changed to ch as that combination of letters is used for /tʃ/ in Middle and Modern English.

In some dialects you might perhaps still find wick as a word meaning "town" or "village" though it's probably completely obsolete on its own.

Witch is originally wicca (or wicce in the female form). Again the spelling changed to wicche and later witch to match the later spelling rules. While there is some debate about just what the etymology of wicca is going back prior to Old English, it is certainly quite separate from wic and vic.

Which comes from Old English hwilc. Since the difference between "w" and "wh" (in those days, "hw") words was much more distinct in Old English, that and the l would mean that it wouldn't even be seen as coincidentally similar in those days. Even today it sounds quite different in some accents.

Incidentally, there is also wych used of several types of tree (wych hazel, sometimes written witch hazel and wych elm). It's also from Old English (wice meaning supple or pliant, compare wicker) but also not connected to any of the above. (There is a theory of the etymology of wicca prior to Old English that would have them as distant cousins, but its not considered the most likely etymology).

But what about a witch? I'm guessing because the term is widely talked about in the bible, it is very old, and it most likely originated before the term sandwich.

Be careful about this as a guide. It is certainly true that the King James Version of the bible is a valuable resource for looking at Early Modern English, not every word in English of the time was used in it. (Later translations are pretty much useless in this regard). While sandwich as an item of food is no older than its invention in the 18th century, Sandwich the town is also from Old English and its -wich ending goes back to the very beginnings of the language.

Also you're incorrect in saying the term is widely talked about; there are ten uses of the word or related words like witchcraft.

  • great job - now get back to your bio! – user98990 Dec 24 '14 at 2:25
  • 1
    It is a sobering thought that had Lord Cardigan been a gambler, and the Earl of Sandwich a lover of woollen waistcoats, instead of the other way around, then today we would all be eating cardigans and wearing sandwiches! – WS2 Dec 24 '14 at 10:36

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.