Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Some Dellys etymologies via Andalus

Looking through Corriente's etymological dictionary of Andalusi Arabic, I keep coming across explanations for obscure Dellys words whose origins had been a mystery to me. Corriente's etymologies are not always to be trusted - I've found several errors, most egregiously the attribution of kurānah كُرانة "frog" to Romance rather than to Berber - but the work remains very valuable. Here are a few etymologies that struck me.

  • l-ənjbaṛ لنجبار "maize" was originally anjibār أنجبار "snake-weed" (Persicaria bistorta), whose flowers looks vaguely similar. This in turn comes from Persian angbār انگبار, which Corriente seems to derive from rang-bār رنگبار "many-coloured".
  • skənjbir سكنجبير "ginger" derives from some sort of popular confusion between two Arabic words: zanjabīl زنجبيل "ginger" and sakanjabīn سكنجبين "oxymel" (a mixture of honey and vinegar used medicinally). I assume the connection is that both are good for colds, but a quick search didn't turn up any actual evidence that oxymel was used for that purpose. Sakanjabīn is apparently from Persian سرکه انگبین serke angabin (Corriente gives the form sik angubēn) "vinegar honey", while zanjabīl is apparently, again via Persian, from Sanskrit शृङ्गवेर ‎śṛṅgavera.
  • fərnəħ فرنح "smile, laugh (of a baby)": cp. Andalusi farnas فرنس, Moroccan fərnəs فرنس; possibly, Corriente suggests, from Greek euphrosynē εὐφροσύνη "joy".
  • bu-mnir بومنير "seal" was very hard to elicit, since they've been locally extinct for decades (they've nearly disappeared from the entire Mediterranean, in fact). However, it turns out to be correct after all: cf. Andalusi bul marīn بل مرين "sea lion", Maltese bumerin "seal". Corriente seems to take this as Romance *pollo marino "sea-chicken", but the first part of that at least is clearly implausible in light of the comparative evidence as well as of common sense; the second might be tenable, but I'm not sure.

On a not entirely unrelated note: for anyone who wants to explore the maritime terminology of Dellys in greater depth than I've ever been able to elicit, El-Bahri.net is a wonderful and unexpected resource.

9 comments:

Y said...

How does fərnəs become fərnəħ?

Anonymous said...

[A question about style] If a word was borrowed from Arabic and the Arabic language itself borrowed it from, say, Persian, do you say that it is from Arabic or from Persian? (Just one of them, without using the form "from Persian via Arabic").

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Y: Not sure, but probably by contamination from fṛəħ "be happy".

Anon: Like skənjbir in Berber, say? I'd say "from Arabic" - Berber has had essential zero direct contact with Persian.

Anonymous said...

For example "xariṭa" from Arabic "xarīṭa" from Greek "χαρτης" (khartês).

Is it correct to say "xariṭa" from Greek "χαρτης" (khartês)? Or should we say "xariṭa" from Arabic "xarīṭa"?

(Probably the same thing regarding "kaṛṭa")

Moubarik Belkasim said...

I read somewhere on the internet a funny and curious Berber "etymology" / explanation of the name of the Berber Andalusian inventor Abbas ibn Firnas.

The etymology suggests that it might have been a phrase said in Berber: "Ɛebbas yebbi afer nnes", meaning: "Abbas has cut off his wing", alluding to the famous flying experiment undertaken by Abbas ibn Firnas when he strapped himself to pair of wings and attempted to fly like a bird, before he fell due to probably some failure in the wings, i.e. torn wings, hence this theory of "yebbi afer nnes" that became "ibn Firnas". Firnas, as far as I know, is neither a Berber nor an Arabic name of a person.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Anon: As far as I'm concerned, the least misleading way to put it is "xariṭa" from Arabic "xarīṭa", and "kaṛṭa" from French "carte" (or some other Romance language I suppose).

Moubarik: Great story, but sounds a bit far-fetched. Since Andalusi Arabic had this verb, it seems more plausible to interpret Firnas as just "smiler", like the more familiar name Dahhak.

petre said...

It seems to me I've heard the word 'farna' or 'harna' with the same meaning here (Canaries). But I'm not sure enough to encourage you to note it as an "attestation"

petre said...

Don't 'bulmerin' and bumerin' just mean sea-cow, as one might expect?

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

petre: "bos marinus" or some such thing, you mean? That seems very plausible actually - should have thought of it myself.