In regard to the cross-linguistic ambiguity
of the word "gift," a reader who is acquainted with yet another Germanic language tells me that in Norwegian, the noun gift
means "poison" but the verb å gifte (
means to marry someone or be married to someone.
The great Swedish sinologist Bernhard Karlgren
, in his very instructive little 1923 handbook Sound and Symbol in Chinese
(p. 30 in my first edition), tells us that:
Just as a Swede at once distinguishes by the melody gìftet (the marriage) from gíftet (the poison), the Chinese distinguishes his words by their tones.
So now I am speculating idly on this Scandinavian connection between marriage and poison. This is the region that produced August Strindberg
, right? And Henrik Ibsen
(Do people still remember Dr. Crippen? The peelers have written him up here