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Wiktionary:

From... Old French... oultrage (“excess”)... derived from Latin ultrā (“beyond”). Later reanalysed as out- +‎ rage, whence the contemporary pronunciation, though neither of these is etymologically related.

How does a word get 're-analyzed'? What does this mean – that serious scholars of language misconstrued the etymology?

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    Usually (definitely, in this case), it's the precise opposite! English is defined, created, and modified by hundreds of millions of native Anglophones, not by a handful of "serious scholars of language". The cited text (which may or may not be true, I've no idea) is saying that people in general not unnaturally assumed the the -rage component of the Old French original came from rage = anger. An erroneous assumption which they obviously wouldn't have made if they'd known anything about the etymology! Nov 28, 2023 at 13:09
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    Lots of French words end in '-age' and have nothing to do with the English word 'rage'. Presumably English speakers gradually began to pronounce the word 'out-rage' because it reminded them of those two words. Nov 28, 2023 at 13:11
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    The full OED "sorta" backs up Wiktionary here: The current pronunciation is attested already in Walker and must have been used by speakers who laid the stress on the second syllable (occasionally shown by metre in early modern English); it was perhaps encouraged by the combined influence of the adjective outrageous, in which the stress falls on the a, and the unrelated word rage. But bear in mind we're only talking about a possible reason why stress falls on the second syllable of this word in modern speech, that's all. Nov 28, 2023 at 13:14
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    @KateBunting In English too, even in words that don't come from French, like 'leakage', 'shrinkage', 'brokerage', ... Nov 29, 2023 at 14:26
  • @FumbleFingers are they saying the stress is on the second syllable of outrage, or outrageous?
    – nasch
    Nov 30, 2023 at 21:05

2 Answers 2

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It's describing a folk etymology, defined by Wikipedia as:

…a change in a word or phrase resulting from the replacement of an unfamiliar form by a more familiar one through popular usage. The form or the meaning of an archaic, foreign, or otherwise unfamiliar word is reinterpreted as resembling more familiar words or morphemes.

This is done by ordinary people ("popular usage"), not etymologists. They're basically eggcorns that have been widely adopted, even completely ousting the original form in some cases.

The example that comes to my mind is how femelle (from French, related to the word feminine) was reanalyzed as fe+male because the ending was similar and it would have made sense for it to be formed from the word male.

For outrage specifically, ultra was not used in Middle English and even the French were using the spelling "outrage" at least sometimes. The word outrance, loaned from French oultrance into Middle English, had a similar fate, losing its L.

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    There are also cases such as "forehead" which developed from "fore"+"head" but was reduced to being pronounced /fɒrɪd/ to rhyme with "horrid", then people started pronouncing it "fore"+"head" again - see this article on such words. "often" is another case where in recent years the pronunciation has become closer to the spelling (with the "t" sounded).
    – Stuart F
    Nov 28, 2023 at 15:48
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Reanalysis is when the structure of a word is misunderstood. It's when people assume that a word has a certain make-up which etymologically it didn't in fact have, and then proceed from there, sometimes creating new words and usages.

A good example is the word 'hamburger', that being a food from the German city of Hamburg, i.e.: Hamburg-er. But English speakers, familiar with the word 'ham', assumed that a 'hamburger' was a ham-burger. And from there they generated words like 'cheeseburger' and 'veggieburger' and, tautologically, 'beefburger'.

Similarly we have the word 'aeroplane' which American speakers reanalysed into 'airplane' and then started making words like 'seaplane' out of that misunderstanding.

It can even take place across word boundaries. For example, the word 'adder' was originally 'nadder' but 'a nadder' was reanalysed into 'an adder'.

This is usually something done by ordinary speakers, not 'serious scholars of language' although having said that 'serious scholars of language' have come up with all sorts of nonsense in the past. I suppose one example might be the affected spelling of 'hiccup' as 'hiccough', analysing the 'cup' as though it were some corrupted pronunciation of 'cough', which it isn't.

That's what reanalysis is. With regards 'outrage' I suppose what the text in the OP is saying is that it should properly have become 'ultrage' pronounce ult-ridge /ʌlt.ɹɪd͡ʒ/ but this didn't happen due to reanalysis. I don't think it's saying all that much, though.

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    "Airplane" is not a good example. The part "aer" got Anglicized, but the meaning remained.
    – Trang Oul
    Nov 29, 2023 at 9:00
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    My favorite example is "copter" as a short for "helicopter", where the the original word is formed as helico+pter.
    – JonathanZ
    Nov 29, 2023 at 19:13
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    Yeah, airplane doesn't work here. An "air-plane" meant the wing, originally (plane in from planer, to soar), and came to refer to the whole craft, but it wasn't a misunderstanding of the meaning of the word. It's synecdoche at most. If you say 'seaplane' is from a misunderstood meaning, that would imply that people think airplanes land on the air (or that seaplanes only fly in the sea), which is silly. A seaplane is a sea-airplane. Nov 29, 2023 at 19:38
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    Another good re-analysis example is Arabic Naranj -> Norange -> A norange = An orange -> Orange
    – Eugene
    Nov 29, 2023 at 23:31
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    @eugene Thanks for that. I inconsistently study Spanish and now I can recognize La naranja as a cognate! Thanks.
    – TecBrat
    Nov 30, 2023 at 6:04

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