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I wonder if the Yiddish word "Säegermacher" (Seegermacher?) has a German origin. It seems obvious that it must, but I can't see it.

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Thanks, Void and Without Form. That's definitely it. I had thought of zeiger but I know of know other instance where the initial consonant changes from a z to an s, so I had discounted it. But if it is already idomatic for watch hand, then that's another matter. (The misleading spelling was my own attempt to romanize the Yiddish; in the original spelling there is no hint of the etymology.) – Marty Green Oct 2 '11 at 10:19
Of course, the vowel shift from zeiger to zéiger is very normal in Yiddish, but I generally assumed it derived from an older form of the German vowel, so I don't expect to see it in newer words associated with technology. On the other hand, pendulum clocks have existed for many hundreds of years, and their pointers were probably also called Uhrzeigers. – Marty Green Oct 2 '11 at 10:27
up vote 9 down vote accepted

I suppose it's connected with „Zeigermacher“ - „Uhrzeiger“ is the german word for 'watch hand'. Google gives several sources for watchmakers being called Zeigermacher, too.

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Thanks, tohuwawohu, for upgrading your comment to an answer. I have left my replies to your answer in the comment field of the original question where I posted them while the question was still locked down. – Marty Green Oct 2 '11 at 14:09
@Marty Why was the question closed? – Phira Oct 3 '11 at 22:37
I guess some people don't like to think of Yiddish as a dialect of German. – Marty Green Oct 3 '11 at 22:47
This answer is utterly wrong. – har-wradim Jul 21 at 20:49

זייגערמאַכער is pronounced in Standard Yiddish as /zeɪgərmaxər/ and is a composite word with both components being of German origin: זייגער and מאַכער. They also exist as separate words and both have their cognates in Standard German: Seiger and Macher. While Macher/מאַכער is someone who makes, Seiger/זייגער is/was a word for "clock" (originally: plumb line or pendulum). Duden claims Seiger is an outdated/dialectal form in German (replaced by Uhr); in Yiddish it is nevertheless standard and valid. Seiger and זייגער come ultimately from the same MHG source.

Zejger and Zeiger are not even distantly related. There is no correspondence between Yiddish [z] and German [ts]: there are just no examples of this sort. Maybe less obvious is the discrepancy in the diphthong. The stressed vowel in the source of the NHG Zeiger and its Yiddish cognate צייגער was MHG î: it gave rise in both languages to [aɪ] and not [eɪ] as in זייגער. The vowel in Seiger/זייגער on the other hand was MHG ei, which again became [aɪ] in NHG, but remained unchanged in the Yiddish dialect on which the standard is based.

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You might want to add that Seiger also (originally) means Senkblei or Pendel, so the connection to Uhr is not via the Zeiger but another part of the mechanism. – Chieron Jul 22 at 8:34

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