Vim and Vigor

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3 comments on this post.
  1. Bob George:

    Beautifully stated and well written. Thank you.

  2. Karl:

    If we may continue this thread of thought, what nuance differences can you elaborate toward – vim versus verve?

  3. Suffering Fools:

    Here’s probably the secret to why “vim” didn’t show up earlier despite its Latin origins.

    First of all, if you were trying to inflect the noun as it would appear in a Latin phrase as the object of “full of,” you would get the ablative case “vi” as opposed to the accusative “vim.” But nobody ever said “full of vi and vigor.” Instead, when a Latin word is used in an English sentence, it is standard practice to use the nominative case.

    If you Google the expression using the nominative case, “vis and vigor,” you get a fairly respectable number of results, most of which are from the 19th century or thereabouts. So what happened during the course of the 19th century to change “vis and vigor” to “vim and vigor”?

    Here’s where it gets interesting. Say the older form aloud and you will suddenly realize that a corruption of that phrase was probably the origin of the saying “full of piss and vinegar,” which is not attested in writing prior to the 20th century. It’s highly likely that the more educated people of the 19th century were appalled by the corrupted version of the phrase they were hearing from the unlettered masses, and tacitly agreed to use the accusative “vim” instead to avoid any misunderstandings.

    Brand new theory AFAIK, but seems pretty convincing.

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