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4 Comments

  • Michael, your mention of hunger being ‘part of the universal human experience’ reminds me of a lexical gap that has always intrigued me. There appears to be no word in English that simply means ‘to give someone a drink’. You EAT something, you FEED someone, you DRINK something, and you … X someone. There are, of course, restricted-use words and expressions like ‘wine and dine’, ‘water the horses’, ‘to be fed and watered’, ‘feed a baby’, but not a common general-purpose word for this most fundamental of activities.

  • Very interesting point, Andrew. I suspect the same gap is there in most Germanic languages (e.g. Dutch has ‘voeren’ (= feed) but no equivalent for giving someone a drink). However, Hungarian – a member of a totally different language family – has words for both food and drink: ‘etet’ (= give food to someone) and ‘itat’ (= give a drink to someone). You’ll see that the words are formed with a specific suffix (tat/tet), which may be the reason for the gap not existing in the first place, i.e. you don’ t need to create a completely new / different word, a suffix can do the job easily enough.

  • Old English had a liquid equivalent of ‘feed’: the causative verb ‘drencan’, corresponding to ‘drincan’ (= ‘drink’).
    (See http://www.macmillandictionaries.com/med-magazine/February2006/35-Feature-Spread-Word.htm )
    ‘Drencan’ is the ancestor of the modern word ‘drench’, which has of course a rather different, though related, meaning.

    Modern German has ‘tränken’, meaning to give water to animals, and also to soak/impregnate. Swedish has ‘dränka’ (transitive), meaning to drown, soak, etc. (literally and metaphorically) and coresponding to ‘dricka’, meaning to drink, and ‘drunkna’ (intransitive), meaning to drown.

    Pairs of morphologically-related active / causative verbs are an old feature of Germanic languages. There are relatively few in modern English, compared with German – examples include sit/set, lie/lay, fall/fell, rise/raise. In the case of drink/drench, the divergence of meaning has left the lexical gap that Andrew mentions.