So, what we have to consider then, as both ideas are possible, is which
is the more probable.
Taking the borrowed word hypothesis first:
OE _worm, wyrm, wurm_ was borrowed into Welsh from purple-dye traders
giving a form _gwrm_, which in turn was borrowed by the Irish in the
form of _gorm_.
Obviously one has to postulate that the purple-dye traders were dealing
_only_ with the Welsh (or other Brittonic speakers), and absolutely no
Irish (or Goedelic speakers). Otherwise, the Gaelic dialects could
have/would have borrowed the OE _wyrm_ first hand, and _gorm_ is not a
reflex of such a direct borrowing.
This means we have to consider the likelihood of purple-dye traders
_only_ trading with Brittonic speakers. We also have to consider, if
the OE term had become the general one for this color, what other forms
_wyrm_ would have in the other languages of other traders. That is to
say, we have to consider the likelihood of the purple-dye being traded
to Goedelic speakers _only_ through the Welsh (or other Brittonic
It seems rather implausable that purple-dye was traded to Goedelic
speakers by Brittonic speakers, and by Brittonic speakers _only_. And
this is exactly what we have to postulate to get OIr _gorm_, and W
_gwrm_ from OE _wyrm_.
On the other hand, _gorm_ and _gwrm_ are exactly the reflexs we would
expect from proto-Celtic *worm.
Now, just because the first seems improbable (to me at any rate) doesn't
mean it didn't happen that way. However, I prefer to follow William of
Occam when shaving with razors, and the simpler an explanation the more
likely it is to be true. Until, an alternate etymology is proposed that
is of equal simplicity or simpler than the one I proposed (and which is
apparently being taught by Celtic professors in France), I have to
dismiss Pokorny's dismissal. But then, that's what scholarship is all
about: alternative views, isn't it? ;-)
I liked your idea of _gorm_ being the common use word, and OIr. version
of L. _purpura_ being the learned version.
Incidently, the /c/ of OIr _corcair_ shows it to be an early borrowing
(concievably as early as when Britian was still a Roman provence),
several hundred years, at any rate, before OE _wyrm_ could yield W.
_gwrm_ yieldig OIr _gorm_. So, something else to consider is _even if_
the word for the color is learned, for a few hundred years it was the
only word able to describe this color (assuming the dye-trader
hypothesis), so one would expect it to gain a wider use. Now there are
several scenarios one could connoct to explain this. The simplist is
that _gorm_ is indeed the native word, and "learned" individuals
introduced a latinate word (but this assumes the alternate hypothesis).
Still, if one wishes to use the dye-trader hypothesis, it's one other
complication that needs explaining.
Dennis King wrote:
> Ar 8:52 AM -0800 1/11/99, scríobh Candon Clannach:
> >> How late, would you say?
> >Well, after lenition took place in Brittonic, which K. Jackson places in
> >the second half of the fifth century (others may disagree somewhat, but
> >its still a good general ballpark figure).
> The date doesn't seem to be a problem, then. If "wurma" (which I've
> confirmed, anyway, is a solidly attested OE word for "purple dye,
> shellfish dyestuff, woad") was borrowed into Brittonic/Early Welsh,
> it would have happened later than that, after the OE speakers became
> well established in Britain.
> >But, the Latin word would have come through Brittonic as well as the
> >Latin loan words in OIr. seem to indicate (See Jackson, _Language and
> >History in Early Britian_). So, why would the OIr. speakers borrow
> >_two_ words for the same thing from the same people?
> Because one word, "gorm", was the current colloquial term, used by the
> traders who dealt in the dye and the dyed cloth, while the other, Latin
> "purpura", was initially a learned word, known to clerics from their
> texts. Eventually, of course, forms of the Latin word replaced "wurma"
> entirely in English, and displaced "gwrm" and "gorm". There is no
> reason, however, to require both "wurma - gorm" and "purpura - corcur"
> to be borrowed simultaneously. It's even possible that "corcur" came
> first, but was at first limited to an ecclesiatical milieu.
> >> Incidentally, the etymology I offered is not my own concoction, but
> >> I am at a loss now to remember where I found it originally.
> Relocating the inventor turned out to be easy: it was Pokorny who put
> this forth in his benchmark Indo-European etymological dictionary. He
> does acknowledge and dismiss the older "gorm < *gwher-" explanation.
> Pokorny's entry for IE *wrmi-s, wrmo-s, s.v. *wer- lists a number of
> Northern European languages besides OE that link "worm" with purple-
> reddish colors: Old Prussian "wormyan" (red, 'wormcolor'), Ukrainian
> "vermányi" (red), Old Frisian "worma" (purple), Old High German
> "gi-uurmot" (dyed red).
> On the "gorm from *gwher- (hot)" front, I exclaimed "Aha!" when
> I chanced on a recent paper by Liam Mac Mathúna in "Celtica" (vol.
> 21, 1990) just today, with the very right-on title "On the Semantics
> of Irish Words Derived from IE *gwher- 'Hot'" Alas, Mac Mathúna does
> not include "gorm" among such words, although he goes so far as to
> take Pokorny to task for treating "gor" (meaning "pious, dutiful";
> as opposed to the word "gor" meaning "inflammation, pus") as coming
> from the IE root *g^her-, rather than from *gwher- (hot). This
> "argument from silence" is not meant to be a strong one, but I'm
> tossing it out just for the record.
> Dennis King