It then came to mean to drive birds out in order to make them flush, and thus more generally to reveal something or bring it into the open.
Flying, fluttering, fluidity, fluctuation, flatus, the bloody flux, and flushing are all connected with flow (Latin fluxus).
In revenge, the reeve, a carpenter himself, tells a tale about a drunken miller, who yexes and speaks through his nose; or, as Neville Coghill’s version has it, “hiccupping through his nose he talked and trolled/As if he’d asthma or a heavy cold.” Around 700 words are described in the are over-represented (60% compared with 23% of the complete lexicon).
Examples include buzz, fizz, glug, jabber, tick-tock, and whinny, like Gulliver’s houyhnhnms.
We hear the flush when we flush a toilet, and the rush of blood to face and neck, called a hot flush in the UK and a hot flash in the USA, is also onomatopoeic, even though we can’t hear it.
The earliest recorded instance of “flush” is in (1667) when Milton describes Eve’s embarrassment on telling Adam that she has eaten the fruit: “In her Cheek distemper flushing glowd”; Adam responds by turning pale at the thought of the punishment to come. Here is Spenser describing the maiden modesty of Britomart in , as depicted by Walter Crane (1900); in the poem she represents Queen Elizabeth I Onomatopoeia occurs in other parts of the body too.
By the late 16th century “hiccup” was the established spelling, but because it was also known as a drunken man’s cough, in the 17th century it became “hiccough”, pronounced “hiccup.” In his dictionary Samuel Johnson incorrectly wrote that “hickup” was a corrupted form of “hiccough”.In many cases the second letter is an l or an r (16% and 8% of the total respectively), also over-represented. The initial letters suggest flying and fluttering, and the ending suggests the sound that results.Flush originally meant to fly up quickly and suddenly, wings aflutter.Seeking early medical words in the Old English dictionary known as the Epinal glossary, I was not surprised to find that one of the dozen examples I unearthed was onomatopoeic: iesca (yesk or yex, a sob, a hiccup, or the hiccups).
Perhaps I should have been surprised that there weren’t more; after all, some early words in all languages must have been onomatopoeic, imitating local sounds, typically those of birds, like chickadee, cuckoo, owl, and peewit.Galloping is probably something to do with leaping and loping, but it may also have been influenced by the sound of horses’ hooves.