Thursday, September 04, 2008
If you're an Arabic speaker from the right part of southwestern Algeria, you probably call the smooth-skinned sand-burrowing lizard referred to in English as "skink" šəṛšmala شرشمالة. I recently found the original form of this word in Al-Hilali's Berber-Arabic lexicon from 1665: asmrkal or asrmkal أسرمكال, a word composed from asrm "worm" and akal "earth". In many Berber varieties (the so-called Zenati ones), akal becomes šal, and in some Arabic dialects if there's one š ش in a word any s's س have to become ش, so you'd get شرمشال, and by metathesis شرشمال.
Are any readers familiar with skinks? What would you call them?