Thursday, February 2, 2012

Redundant Ladies & Paradise

Redundant Ladies & Paradise

In last week’s comments section, the inimitable & oft-quoted Anne R. Allen proclaimed her interest in the connection between the words dough, lady & paradise.

Who am I to turn down a request from The Manners Doctor herself?

The connection hearkens back some 6000 years to the Proto-Indo-European word dheigh, dough. In a mere sixty centuries, dheigh morphed into the following words in the following ways:

lady At some level, the word lady is redundant. It certainly is breadworthy, It was constructed of the Old English term for one who kneads dough, dage, plus the Old English word for loaf, hlaf. A hlafdage was originally one who made loaves of bread. Over time, the pronunciation and spelling morphed to lady.

paradise – Half this word started as the Greek combining form peri-, meaning around. We modern English speakers know this bit of Greek from the words perimeter, periscope, period, & periphery. The second part of paradise is our old Proto-Indo-European friend, dheigh, in its later meaning of to form or to build. The great grandmother of all paradises, is, of course, the Garden of Eden, a protected, perfect place. The word paradise suggests that a wall was formed around such a perfect spot.

A bonus thought – in another branch of this twisted linguistic tree, the term dheigh or dough, also came to be spelled dey & referred to the servant who made the dough. We still see vestiges of dey in the modern name Doubleday, servant of the twin.

Of course, Proto-Indo-European was never written down. It’s a language reconstructed by linguists, “believed to have been spoken well before 4000 B.C. in a region somewhere to the north or south of the Black Sea” ( Though hard-working forensic linguists would disagree, the very existence of Proto-Indo-European as a language adds up to well-researched conjecture…

…& doesn’t the label, “well-researched conjecture” take us back to where we started last week? Ah, the word fiction.

My fellow writers, what comments do you have regarding bread-making servants, or redundant ladies, or the wall around the Garden of Eden? Offer up some well-researched (or completely non-researched) conjecture.

My thanks go out to this week’s sources,,, take our word, & the OED.


  1. Oh my! My head is spinning. I'm glad you explained the Proto-Indo-European thing, because I don't think I'd heard of it.

    So Paradise is a gated community? I could have guessed that. But a lady kneads bread? That must have come from an early, pre-feudal time when manual labor wasn't considered beneath the gentry.

    I always learn something here, Mr. Perryess!

  2. Interesting...I wasn't thinking of "lady" in relation to gentry. I was thinking of our modern day usage of "lady", so was lady used as a term for the average femal person before it was used to refer to a lady of leisure? And when "lady" came to mean gentry what was the average woman called by her peers? The evolution of thought, the evolution of acceptable behavior, of norms, of interesting we humans of being are!

  3. Hi Anne & Christine,
    Thanks for popping by. Anne, you've caused me to wonder what the CC&Rs were in the Gated Community of Eden. And both of you have given me a future assignment regarding the word lady & its evocation of class. Hmmm.

  4. This is great! I can't offer much more in the ways of intelligent conjecture, but I do love learning about what makes a word, what went into it and whatnot. I have a story that's, well, it might never see the light of day beyond my hard drive's walls, but it's called Paradisco. These settlers basically were so removed from their original roots (this is sci-fi) that they thought that was the name of their city. Turns out it was originally Paradiso. Fun stuff, now that I know what paradiso (paradise) actually means.

    Oh! And I've never heard of the Proto-Indo-European bit either. Yay for learning new things.

  5. Charlie, your knowledge and joy for the written word amazes me. Paradise is truly a real place!

  6. Hey Elisa & Jean,
    Thanks for dropping by & chiming in. It's good to have you aboard.

  7. How fascinating! Who knew being called a "lady" was quite so...demeaning? This is a fascinating blog, and I'm so glad that Anne R. Allen turned me onto it! Is there anyway to follow this blog by email? I'd really appreciate it, as your blog will undoubtedly get lost in my blogger updates list. I find following by email makes everything so much simpler for me.

    Just a question! Anyway, I love the blog, and I will definitely be stopping by again to find out more about words. A slight query: If that is where lady comes from, where does the term gentlemen come from? I mean, sure, if you break it down you have gentle and men, but why did it mean people of a higher class and why was it a compliment?

    You don't have to answer me. That's just my own rambling thoughts. Have a great day, and happy writing!