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Gorelova O. A.

        Oksana Aleksandrovna Gorelova – is Candidate of Science (PhD in Philology), Associate Professor of Department of Roman and German Philology at Far Eastern Federal University.

E-mail: gorelova@ephil.dvgu.ru


The article examines the problem of the origin of a Romance idiom (Spanish matar el gusanillo, French tuer le veretc.), follows the history of the idiom's development and changes in its meaning.

Originally the idiom in question was used to signify the first meal of the day which could consist of bread soaked in wine. In the course of the semantic evolution the idiom acquired separate meanings "to have a snack" and "to drink on an empty stomach" (along with some other meanings). Later on the meaning "to drink on an empty stomach" was more and more related to liquors, which, in turn, contributed to the myth that the idiom originated from the syntagma that meant "to kill a worm" as if the original expression signified "to take a vermifuge". The analysis carried out in this article makes it possible to come to the conclusion that the official version of this idiom's origin is a case of popular etymology.

As an alternative the article provides two related hypotheses of this idiom's origin. It is probable that the expression appeared in medieval culture as a humorous reaction to the official religious discourse. On the one hand, the Latin expression conscientiaevermis is examined as a possible etymon. Its substandard reinterpretation (heart-stomach) and the use of oxymoron (to kill the undying) led to the appearance of the idiom that signified "to break the fast (to have breakfast) with bread and wine". On the other hand, the theme of the Dispute between Water and Wine was very popular in Goliards' works. One of the arguments there was the idea that to drink water undiluted with wine was dangerous for one's health due to poor water quality. The works of Goliards were transformed into popular songs and formed a part of European folklore both as drinking songs and paremias. One of those paremias could easily become the origin for the idiom in question.

        Key words: Romance phraseology, idiom, Romance languages, etymological doublets in phraseology, parоemia, history of language, origin of an idiom.

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