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Latin and Late Latin *Puta 'Concubine, Sexual Sleeping Partner' and Old French Pute.

Romance Notes 2004, Fall, 45, 1

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OLD French pute, putain 'whore' appears for the first time in texts of the early 12th century, in the Latin text of Orderic Vitalis' Historia Ecclesiastica (1123-41), who uses the Latinised form of Old Norman putein in a record of a siege by Henry I, king of England, duke of Normandy, in the year 1119, (XII.22) rex aggregauit, et in loco qui Vetus Rotomagus dicitur castrum condere cepit, quod Mata putenam id est deuincens meretricem pro despectu Haduisoe comitissoe nuncupauit 'the king marshalled (his army), and in the place called Old Rouen began to build a siege-castle, naming it Mata-putena "vanquished-whore," that is to say meretrix defeating, out of disdain for the countess Hawise' (Chibnall VI.278-80); and a little later in Philippe de Taun's Bestiaire (1121-35), in the lines, (832-34) kar l'eve signefie ivrece, e le buissun putain 'for the water signifies drunkenness, and the bush a whore', and, (836-37) Sathan, ki ume prent quant pute l'at lie 'Satan, who takes a man when he has joined with a whore' (Walberg). Old Provencal puta, putan and putana find their way into print at a slightly later date, first occurring in the songs of the troubadour poet Marcabru in about 1137 (Gaunt etal). Some of the other Romance forms don't begin to appear in texts until the 13th century: Old Spanish puta (early13thC), Old Italian putta, puitana, put(t)ana (early13thC), and Old Castilian putanna (mid13thC). All of these forms are derived from Gallo-Latin pota, *puta (6thCAD) 'prostitute', preserved in a single quotation from Gregorius of Tours' Vitae patrum (ADca.592), concerning the life of the woman Monegundis of Chartres, to whom, (XIX.3) Mulier quaedam filiam suam exhibuit uulneribus plenam, et, ut quidam uocant, potae haec causa genuerat 'A certain woman displayed her daughter, who was covered in ulcers, and, as certain men declare, was the reason behind her becoming a prostitute (pota)' (Krusch 288). This Gallo-Latin word derives from Latin putus, puta (3/2ndCBC) 'young, little boy or girl', (1) a very rare word found only in its diminutive form, in the obscure phrase salaputium, and in a late Latin-Greek glossary attributed to Philoxenus, preserved in a 9th century manuscript, which records the original root form of the word: (II.256.99) puti mikroiv 'puti = (plural) small, little', and (II.256.101) putus mikro;[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] 'putus = small, little (of self)' (Lindsay etal). The word is related to Italic *puclo- 'son, boy', preserved in inscriptions, Oscan puklum (3rdCBC) '= filium, puerum' (Buck 243-46), and Pelignian puclois (c.3rdCBC) '= filiis, pueris' (Bottiglioni 334); both related to Ancient Sanskrit putra- 'a son', and from which also derives the equally rare Latin pusus, pusa (2ndCBC) 'young, little boy or girl', and pusio (1stCBC) 'little boy'. Our first record of the word comes from Plautus' play Asinaria (c.207BC), where the diminutive form putillus 'very little, young boy' is used as a pet love-name, (694) putillum, and in Varro's Saturae Menippeae (c.80-c.67BC), where (fr.568) putillos refers to 'a young bird' (= Latin pullus 'a young animal'). How did the archaic Latin word putus 'small; a young boy; a young animal', in its feminine form puta come to mean 'prostitute'?

Latin and Late Latin *Puta 'Concubine, Sexual Sleeping Partner' and Old French Pute.
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  • Category: Language Arts & Disciplines
  • Published: 22 September 2004
  • Publisher: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Department of Romance Languages
  • Print Length: 12 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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