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AW: Help with meaning "Urschwinge" for name Archaeopteryx
--- Ben Creisler <firstname.lastname@example.org> schrieb am Fr, 18.1.2013:
> Von: Ben Creisler <email@example.com>
> Betreff: Help with meaning "Urschwinge" for name Archaeopteryx
> An: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Datum: Freitag, 18. Januar, 2013 20:38 Uhr
> From: Ben Creisler
> I've been researching the early history of the name
> Archaeopteryx and
> am trying to find the source for the following passage in
> Wikipedia article about Archaeopteryx. In the discussion of
> original fossil feather under "History of discovery," the
> statements are made without providing a source:
> "In German, this ambiguity is resolved by the term Schwinge
> which does
> not necessarily mean a wing used for flying. Urschwinge was
> favored translation of Archaeopteryx among German scholars
> in the late
> 19th century. In English, "ancient pinion" offers a rough
> There is nothing equivalent in the German or Dutch Wikipedia
> of the article. This paragraph is also rather confusing. The
> noun Schwingfeder means a flag-feather, quill, pinion,
> feather, while Schwinge means a wing. "Urschwinge" would
> something like "primitive wing" rather than "ancient
> might be something more like Urschwingfeder.
Usually "Schwungfeder", though this may vary acording to dialect. I have never
seen "Urschwinge" in the 19th-century literature. May have instead been a
favorite term in mid-late 20th century pop-science works, they used it to
translate whatever term the English "How and why" volume 5033 ("Prehistoric
I doubt that these translators came up with it themselves; certainly it was
generally understood by 1970 or so.
(I remember reading the term somewhere, must have been the 80s. Possibly an old
school textbook; I never had *this* "How and why" volume, only the one with
e German technical term for a remex (any sort); vernacularly it means just what
you wrote (primary remex, quill etc). It is usually understood as such today,
but some people might at first think it's a technical term for some sort of
spring (as in physics).
"Schwinge" OTOH is rather obsolete; it is old-fashioned and/or poetic. It's a
word Goethe or Schiller would have used[*]. Many people in Germany today do
understand it, but I'd guess to the post-postwar generation it's already quite
unfamiliar and many younger people would understand it only in context if at
all ("Schwinge" also means a motorbike's swingarm, and this use today probably
Being a poetic or figurative term probably clears up the meaning of "this
ambiguity is resolved...": "Schwinge" is the only German term for a wing that
is etymologically directly related to a term used for a remex. Hence
"Urschwinge" does express the ambiguity of "pteryx" if not directly then very
closely to some sort, and in any case does express it *vetter* than any other
word: "Flügel" (standard German term for "wing") is etymologically not even
close to "Feder" ("feather"); their divergence pre-dates the Germanic languages
as far as it seems.
(The standard German terms would literally be "flight-thing" and "feather",
respectively, in English:
Whereas "Schwinge", "Schwungfeder" and "wing" all derive from the same PIE root
as does "wind"
So "Urschwinge" is the *only* way to translate "archaeo-pteryx" into German and
*not* completely obliterate the fact that "pteryx" can mean a whole wing or
just a remex. Possibly that's why it was chosen by whoever introduced it.
(FWIW "Urschwinge" in the 19th century was a regionalism meaning "the coarsest
part of a bunch of flax prepared for spinning", but the etymology of this term
Hope that helps. I
ury literature (Ngrams, as we have seen, misses the occasional
But if I had to definitely test this, I would force myself to read through
Haeckel, who did write about Archie quite a bit and had a tendency to use
somewhat archaic/poetic language (he was in a way the last "natural
philosopher", as opposed to "biologist", especially in his later works).
* "Ach, um deine feuchten Schwingen, West, wie sehr ich dich beneide..."
- the Ngrams corpus increases in time, so if the usage remains about even
acording to Ngrams, it has actually declined somewhat in the real world. But it
is not complete; for some reason they don't get the "How and why" "Urschwinge".