Thursday, May 28, 2015

Doff, don

At some point in our recent travels, it occurred to me to wonder: could the verbs doff and don be related to the prepositions off and on ? Nah, I thought: too neat, too obvious, too much like false etymologies. But I was wrong.

The Oxford English Dictionary dates doff to approximately 1375: “to put off or take off from the body (clothing, or anything worn or borne); to take off or ‘raise’ (the head-gear) by way of a salutation or token of respect.” The Dictionary describes the word as the “coalesced form of do off ,” meaning “to put off, take off, remove (something that is on).”

Don dates to 1567: “to put on (clothing, anything worn, etc.).” The word is “contracted < do on ,” meaning “to put on.” Both do off and do on originate in what the OED calls eOE, the operating system also known as early Old English. Do off is now archaic; do on, obsolete.

So if you’ve ever wondered about doff and don: there you have it, or them. I am not putting you on, or off.

comments: 5

Geo-B said...

By dawn Don donned his formal gown,
Commencing on the college lawn.
As students saluted four years down,
He doffed his cap without a frown.

The Crow said...

You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can't keep them from teaching...not the good ones, anyway.

Thank you for this bit of enlightenment. You just woke up some sleeping neurons, which is a good thing.

Michael Leddy said...

Nicely done, George.

Martha, I’m hopelessly addicted to looking stuff up.

Barnaby Capel-Dunn said...

Do you know the origin of the word "security", Michael?

Michael Leddy said...

Now I do. (Just looked it up.) But what’s it mean? I’m missing the connection.