Rebracketing, as officials as it sounds, is a historic linguistic phenomenon that is basically a mess up in interpretation of words derived from foreign languages. What happens here is, one word, when taken from another language, is broken down or bracketed differently, creating a word with a wholly new feel.
SOME WORDS YOU DIDN'T KNOW WERE BRACKETED
- Apron was originally napron, but 'a napron' was interpreted as Apron
- Newt comes from ewt by the same process
- the word Orange is derived from Arabic word naranj, via French orange, where the n was lost by a similar process involving the definite article
- In Southern US, Another is often analyzed as a nother, leading to the common expression '' a whole nother".
- Nickname comes from the Middle English word nekename, which in turn came from ekename, where 'eke' was an old English word meaning 'also' or 'additional'.
VARIOUS WAYS IT HAPPENS
Similarly, two words, especially when borrowed into another language, are taken as one, especially from languages like Arabic and Spanish. For example,el lagarto, when taken to English became Alligator.
Sometimes, however, the opposite may also happen. That is, one word looks like two words, or like a word with an affix. The most prominent example for this is how the name Alexander became Eskander in Arabic, as the 'Al' was interpreted as the Arabic article 'al' meaning 'the'.
This can happen even with native words. In modern French once is used for the snow leopard, although it originally used to mean lynx. In old French it was lonce that was reinterpreted as l'once!
As intriguing as linguistics is, now we know even the experts bungle up sometimes!
And we thought derivations were only for math and physics and whatnot!!