Thai fish estimates sea thicket is angry

« previous post | next post »

On BoingBoing, Jason Weisberger posted this photograph under the title "Found Poem", but without any explanation:

Justin McDaniel explains:

They just translated the names of the fish literally!

1. phla krapong duat (saltwater catfish jerky or sundried saltwater catfish)

2. phla krapong phao lleua (saltwater catfish baked with salt)

3. phla krapong tot nam phla (catfish fried with fish sauce)

4. phla krapong samrot (three flavored catfish)

5. koong op woon sen (shrimp steamed with glass noodles).

Nattha Chuenwattana renders these somewhat differently:

1. silver perch in boiled sea (or ocean) (boiled silver perch in brine)

2. silver perch burnt in salt ("baked in salt" for better translation)

3. silver perch fried (in) fish sauce

4. three flavors silver perch (maybe sour, salty, and spicy)

5. shrimp baked with mung bean noodle

Perhaps Language Log readers familiar with Thai can adjudicate between the two sets of translations and explain the "estimates" and "thicket" misreadings. Equally puzzling are the "noodles made of green grams".

[A tip of the hat to Amy de Buitléir and thanks to Joyce White]

Share:



39 Comments »

  1. HP said,

    January 24, 2013 @ 8:26 pm

    I'm not sure why you find "noodles made of green grams" puzzling. "Grams" is a perfectly respectable English word for various small pulses or lentils. It's not used so much any more because it's not taxonomically useful, and nowadays we prefer to use loanwords to describe these foods, e.g., "urud dal," "mung beans," "garbanzos."

    I'm not even sure I would call the word "grams" obsolete or archaic; it's just less common than it once was, and particularly absent from North American English.

    "Green grams," specifically, is a synonym for mung beans.

  2. john mckenzie said,

    January 24, 2013 @ 8:26 pm

    About the "Green grams" — sense 2 of "gram" in New Oxford American: "Chick peas or other legumes used as food, from Latin granum.

  3. Jen said,

    January 24, 2013 @ 8:57 pm

    It seems from my digging in the Thai dictionary that there are two types of fish, krapong กระพง and kapong กะพง. (The dictionary translates one as bass and one as electric ray.) As you can see, the first four entries are all translated as "estimates the thicket" regardless of whether the Thai says krapong กระพง or kapong กะพง. (I think the "estimates sea thicket" is a typo, because the underlying Thai is the same as "estimates the thicket.")

    Kapong กะพง could also be read as an be read as the words กะ ka and พง pong, meaning estimate and thicket respectively. (As I'm sure the author knows, spaces aren't used to separate words in Thai which makes this bizarre result possible.) Krapong กระพง could not be read this way because kra กระ is freckle or turtle, so the translator must have been using kapong กะพง to translate all four entries. I'm guessing that กระพง may just be a typo in the Thai anyways, because electric ray seems much less likely a fish to have on your menu.

  4. Jen said,

    January 24, 2013 @ 9:01 pm

    Also, just to add ปลา phla in ปลาก(ร)ะพง phla k(r)apong is fish (krapong indicating the type of fish), which is where the "fish" in "the fish estimates the thicket" is coming from.

  5. Eric Hill said,

    January 24, 2013 @ 10:08 pm

    The genius here lies in the anaphora as a poetic device. I really wish more eating establishments would go to this much effort when preparing their menus — say an English pub with all items described in iambic pentameter.

  6. Steve Tripp said,

    January 24, 2013 @ 10:23 pm

    The second syllable (กะ) (ga) can be translated estimate. It is probably a misspelling of (กระ) (gra) . Thai consonant clusters with l & r are often reduced in northern dialects and Lao.

  7. Steve Tripp said,

    January 24, 2013 @ 10:40 pm

    พง (phong) means thicket (but it is a rare word not in my paper dictionary).

    the online dictionary says: ปลากระพง bplaaM graL phohngM [noun]
    definition
    electric ray, genus Torpedo

  8. Victor Mair said,

    January 24, 2013 @ 10:51 pm

    From Liam C. Kelley:

    This is crazy!!

    I thought google translate might be to blame, but I input the text for the first one (ปลากะพงทะเลเดือด) and got “boiling sea bass,” which is pretty close. I think “boiled sea bass” is what we would say.

    As for what happened here. I hope it’s some other translation software. . . If a human did this, then. . .

    The parts are as follows:

    ปลากะพง plaa kaphoŋ – a general name for marine fish of the perch and bass families.

    “Plaa” is “fish,” and “kaphoŋ” is the kind of fish. The problem here is that instead of reading “kaphoŋ” as one word, someone (or some translation software) divided it into two:

    กะ ka – V to estimate, guess, calculate.

    พง phoŋ – brush, thicket; a kind of tall grass.

    Then you have,

    ทะเล thalee – sea.

    and,

    เดือด dʉ̀at – (a liquid) to boil; V to be boiling (mad), in a rage.

  9. Eric Hill said,

    January 24, 2013 @ 11:34 pm

    My mother used to make pasta arrabiata, which translates to "angry" or "spicy" pasta.

  10. Victor Mair said,

    January 25, 2013 @ 12:22 am

    By an amazing coincidence, without knowing about this post, Toni Tan just sent this to me:

  11. John Walden said,

    January 25, 2013 @ 4:23 am

    To echo HP, "Gram" is by no means archaic. Especially in combination with "Flour". "Gram Flour" is made from chickpeas, also called garbanzos by some citizens of our erstwhile colonies. The Internet (normal caveats apply) informs me that "calavance" and "garavance" derive from "garbanzo", which in turn might be a borrowing from Basque. If true, that would add it to the very short list of Basque words that made it into English.

  12. Cecilieaux Bois de Murier said,

    January 25, 2013 @ 7:59 am

    First there was Chinglish and endless stream of "hilarious" misinterpretations. Now you've taken on the world. Do you realize how insular and nativist you guys sound? Has it ever occurred to you that English speakers mangle other people's languages?

    And, yes, yes, by all means dismiss this criticism as "political correctness" so you can pretend you've never heard of good manners.

  13. T.Merkel said,

    January 25, 2013 @ 8:45 am

    Cecilieaux, I understand your hesitancy, but I've never seen LL as the sort of place to endlessly repost English lulz — rather, I think we're all quite interested in exactly how the errors are made and take place.

    I feel that I remember seeing an LL post somewhere about "Chinese tattoos".

    [(myl) For example here and here. Also Latin.]

  14. Amy de Buitléir said,

    January 25, 2013 @ 9:07 am

    Cecilieaux, I think you'll find that the people who enjoy these mistranslations the most are those that are deeply interested in languages — the people who would be least likely to be making sport of someone for not being a native English speaker. As T.Merkel said, we're interested in knowing how the error was made. Also, these things always make me wonder what humorous blunders I've made!

  15. Geoffrey K. Pullum said,

    January 25, 2013 @ 9:27 am

    Three brief remarks in response to Cecilieaux Bois de Murier's rather pompous and judgmental comment above:

    (1) Like it or not, these unintentional meaningless poems are extraordinarily funny when first encountered, and we shouldn't be embarrassed that certain incongruous sequences of words make us giggle.

    (2) Laughing at the unintended strangeness of these unintended phrases has nothing whatever to do with laughing at enterprising and intelligent Thai or Chinese people who are doing their best to compose useful English translations for sound business reasons (and failing disastrously at it).

    (3) The problem raised is the growing dependence of Asia on what must be either word-by-word writing out of randomly picked dictionary senses without regard to contextual factors, or completely unchecked raw output from Google Translate. We are not doing Asian businessmen a favor if we hesitate to point out to them, as often as possible, that they are constructing totally meaningless Anglo-gibberish. This situation — several billion people who falsely believe they can readily construct English product descriptions — needs to be remedied. And to be too polite to point out that it exists, as Cecilieaux apparently would prefer, would be no help at all.

  16. Hening Makholm said,

    January 25, 2013 @ 9:30 am

    I'd have thought a green gram was a woman whose son or daughter had just become a parent.

  17. chris y said,

    January 25, 2013 @ 9:41 am

    A now sadly defunct Kashmiri restaurant round here had a menu with wonderful descriptions of the food: "a plethora of chromatic vegetables". The guy who ran the place was completely bilingual; he just liked playing with words.

  18. Rodger C said,

    January 25, 2013 @ 10:25 am

    "a plethora of chromatic vegetables"

    This immediately reminds me of Salman Rushdie's "The Prophet's Hair," set in Kashmir, with its "insalubrious gullies."

  19. Victor Mair said,

    January 25, 2013 @ 12:30 pm

    @HP, @ john mckenzie, @John Walden

    I'm a fan of pulses and lentils, but I never heard of "gram", much less "green gram", as being one of them, so it must not be a part of any English dialect that I've ever learned. On the other hand, I'm very happy to know about it now.

    The mention of "gram flour" made me think of Graham crackers (I was never quite sure what goes into them!), but — even though some people misspell their name as "gram cracker" — it has nothing to do with "grams" (unless you're talking about weight, of course!).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_cracker

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gram_flour

    Nor does our mung bean "gram" have anything to do with the three kinds of "gram cracker" defined here:

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=gram%20cracker

    I knew that the etymology of this leguminous "gram" must be quite different from that of the metric "gram". Since the mung bean (gram) is native to the Indian subcontinent, I thought perhaps that it may originally have come from some South Asian language. Indeed, Wiktionary says that it derives from Hindi

    http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/green_gram

    Now, as I am a great fan of Hobson-Jobson and all things Anglo-Indian (well, almost all things Anglo-Indian), this made me very excited. But when I went looking for the actual Hindi word that supposedly lies behind "gram", I couldn't find it. So I poked around a bit more and discovered the true etymology of the word:

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/green-gram

    =====
    gram
    2 [gram] Show IPA
    noun
    1.
    (in the East Indies) the chickpea used as a food for people and cattle.
    2.
    any of several other beans, as the mung bean, Vigna radiata (green gram or golden gram) or the urd, V. mungo (black gram)
    Origin:
    1695–1705; < Portuguese grão < Latin grān um grain

    =====

    This was already mentioned by john mckenzie above.

    More later on "garbanzo" and "chickpea", which are also called "Bengal gram" (if I didn't now know better [viz., that the latter is cognate with "grain"], this would have rekindled my hypothesis of a South Asian origin for the word).

  20. TR said,

    January 25, 2013 @ 1:52 pm

    I find the last line rather moving. The homely activity of the practical shrimp evokes a sense of peacefulness in contrast with the fevered ratiocinations of the Fish.

  21. Jerry Friedman said,

    January 25, 2013 @ 1:54 pm

    The OED entry on this sense of "gram" is (skipping sense b, on attributive uses):

    a. The chick-pea, a kind of vetch, Cicer arietinum. Sometimes called Bengal gram. The name is extended to any kind of pulse used as food for horses.

    1702 in J. T. Wheeler Madras Old. Time (1861) II. 10 Their allowance three times a week is but a quart of rice and gram together for five men a day.

    1732 I. Pyke in Philos. Trans. 1731–2 (Royal Soc.) 37 231 Boil a Peck of Gramm..to a Jelly.

    1879 Mrs. A. G. F. E. James Indian Househ. Managem. 71 Your stock of gram should be kept in a large tin-lined chest or box.

    In all of those it's a mass noun, so that although "gram" may be a perfectly respectable English word (and a loan word), I'm not sure "grams" is. Have you seen it from native speakers, HP?

    I had no idea chickpeas came from a vetch. Live and learn.

  22. J.W. Brewer said,

    January 25, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

    The first few pages of google books results for "green grams" tends to confirm the notion that it's currently extant in various Englishes, but not in American English. OTOH, I don't eat "mung beans" under that name, but when I'm at an Indian place with multiple kinds of dal on offer I more or less just point and don't ask for an English translation of the particular species of legume involved.

  23. Jerry Friedman said,

    January 25, 2013 @ 2:01 pm

    I do see Google hits for "green grams", so maybe it's made the transition to a count noun.

  24. David B Solnit said,

    January 25, 2013 @ 2:23 pm

    Nobody has pointed out yet that the signmaker got lazy and repeated the translation of the 2nd item for the 3rd one, thereby depriving us of something like "The Fish estimates the thicket deep-fries fish water."

  25. Linda said,

    January 25, 2013 @ 2:23 pm

    @ Victor

    gram, the unit of mass, was originally spelt gramme. And OED says it's derived from the Greek for a small weight and only relatively recently that gram became the preferred spelling.

  26. Cy said,

    January 25, 2013 @ 3:48 pm

    In response to Cecilieaux's wonderful post, and GKP's third point above: these word-by-word translations have a funny effect upon their writers – as many of us who have translated have learned the hard way. Once you incorrectly learn something, it is very difficult to unlearn it. Many of these errors become almost part of the identity of these and future speakers – native speakers helpfully, gently correcting them is often viewed with hostility and mistrust – native speakers are questioned, dismissed, told they are probably from some "small" region of the anglophone world, or that they must not speak the "standard" English. Ignoring the problem completely would do nothing but engender the learning of a creole that only one side speaks.

    I've found a reliable heuristic is that if one mentions concern over political correctness, they often have a problem with the whole idea of cultural relativism in general and a dismissive understanding of other cultures. It is insular to assume from the post that the author implied that English speakers naver say anything wrong.

  27. Jerry Friedman said,

    January 25, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

    J. W., I believe the usual "unmarked" bean sprouts we see in America are from mung beans. Unless I'm mistaken.

  28. Victor Mair said,

    January 25, 2013 @ 5:19 pm

    Going back to my long note about garbanzo or chickpea, also called Bengal gram, all three of these names refer to Cicer arietinum, whereas our "green gram" is Vigna radiata, so the Bengal gram is not a true "gram" and, as such, it cannot have anything to do with the origin of the English word. Rather, it is most likely a borrowing of the English word in Anglo-Indian usage.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulse_%28legume%29

    As for "garbanzo", John Walden suggests that it may be one of the few Basque words that made their way into English.

    Allan Bomhard:

    =====

    The immediate source of the English word "garbanzo" is, of course, Spanish. The Basque word for chickpea is "garbantzu", and I assume that the Spanish comes from it, though I cannot find the etymology of the Spanish word in the works I have available to me. Nonetheless, ultimate Basque origin does not seem unreasonable.

    =====

    From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chickpea#Etymology):

    =====

    The word garbanzo came to English as "calavance" in the 17th century, from Old Spanish (perhaps influenced by Old Spanish garroba or algarroba), though it came to refer to a variety of other beans (cf. Calavance)This word is still in use in Spain to designate chickpeas. The Portuguese (?) arvanço has suggested to some that the origin of the word garbanzo is in the Greek erebinthos.[2] But the Oxford English Dictionary notes that some scholars doubt this; it also mentions a possible origination in the word garbantzu, from Basque — a non-Indo-European tongue, believed to be one of the oldest languages in Europe — in which it is a compound of garau, seed + antzu, dry.
    =====

    From Wiktionary:

    =====

    As calavance, from Spanish garbanzo, possibly from Basque garau (“seed”) + antzu (“dry”). Another theory suggests a Greek origin.

    =====
    The etymology of "chickpea" is also interesting and revealing of its origins:

    Obsolete chichpease : Middle English chiche, chickpea (from Old French, from Latin cicer) + pease, pea; see pea. (From the American Heritage Dictionary, as quoted in the Free Online Dictionary)

    =====

    From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chickpea#Etymology):

    =====

    The name "chickpea" traces back through the French chiche to cicer, Latin for ‘chickpea’ (from which the Roman cognomen Cicero was taken). The Oxford English Dictionary lists a 1548 citation that reads, "Cicer may be named in English Cich, or ciche pease, after the Frenche tonge." The dictionary cites "Chick-pea" in the mid-18th century; the original word in English taken directly from French was chich, found in print in English in 1388.
    =====

    Etymology of Latin cicer: From Proto-Indo-European *ḱiker- (“pea”). Akin to Old Armenian սիսեռն (siseṙn, "chickpea"), Ancient Macedonian κίκερροι (kikerroi) and perhaps Ancient Greek κριός (krios). (From http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/cicer)

    Taxonomy: http://www.icrisat.org/what-we-do/crops/chickpea/taxonomy/fram3.htm

  29. marie-lucie said,

    January 25, 2013 @ 7:54 pm

    In Modern French, "chickpea" is pois chiche (pois = pea(s)).

  30. J.W. Brewer said,

    January 26, 2013 @ 1:23 am

    Jerry F.: you may be right, but I don't go out of my way to eat bean sprouts, much less have conversations about them. I mean, I knew the lengthy spoken-word intro part of Donovan's "Atlantis" by heart way back when i was in 10th grade, but eating bean sprouts is too hippie for me.

    I think for me "chickpea" is the default/unmarked word and "garbanzo" the marked variant ("Bengal gram" is right out), but I suspect it might be the other way round for e.g. my mother. Not that I'm actually going to get human subjects review board clearance to do linguistic fieldwork on my mother.

  31. Andy Averill said,

    January 26, 2013 @ 1:28 am

    The best-known noodle made from mung bean flour is the cellophane noodle, which is used in most East and Southeast Asian cuisines. In Thai cooking they're called wun sen.

  32. Rosemary Nissen-Wade said,

    January 26, 2013 @ 7:16 pm

    Fascinating discussion! Gram in this usage must be unknown in Australian English also. In my 73 years I have never come across it before.

    I love the found poem. I think it has a sweet, plaintive quality. :)

  33. Victor Mair said,

    January 27, 2013 @ 12:37 pm

    From Liam Kelley, I learned that Thai ทะเล thalee = "sea". This immediately made me think of the blood disorder known as "thalassemia" and the Greek word thalassa (θάλασσα) ("sea") from which it derives.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thalassemia#Etymology

    What follows are merely some random thoughts and data, most of them contributed by friends and colleagues. I am not trying to make a case that Thai ทะเล thalee ("sea") and Greek thalassa (θάλασσα) ("sea") are related. I'm simply trying to get as close as we can to the root of Greek thalassa. I would also appreciate it if specialists on Thai could trace back Thai thalee in a similar fashion. I'm not sure what this might prove or even whether it is useful beyond better understanding thalassa and thalee individually. Still, the similarity between Thai thalee and Greek thalassa, both meaning "sea", has set me off on this course. Let us see where it leads.

    From Elizabeth Barber:

    I don't know specifically what the experts think about the etymology of that word, and I don't own either of the big Greek etym. dictionaries. But a final element in -ss- tends to signal a pre-Hellenic word; plus, of course, the early Indo-Europeans were landlocked and always had to borrow a word for the sea when they got to it. We don't know enough about the morphology of that pre-Hellenic language to say anything about morphemes, although we can say things about its typical phonological shapes. About the only thing "IE" about this word is the final -a marking at as feminine. IE roots seldom have /a/ as their central vowel, so that too suggests a borrowing.

    From Georg (Nico) Knauer:

    Hjalmar Frisk, Griechisches etymologisches Woerterbuch: 1960. I have no other tools. Frisk: has no explanation, all attempts to understand thalassa: hypothetical.

    From Don Ringe:

    The "pre-Greek" hypothesis is actually a GUESS, and like all guesses it leads nowhere. The only reason for not discarding it altogether is that quite a few Greek words without IE etymologies exhibit what I call the "weird cluster" (tt in Attic, West Ionic, and Boiotian, ss in most other dialects) somewhere near the end of the word, and it's reasonable to suppose that most of them were borrowed from some language that had a sound in that position that the early Greeks rendered as *ts, or *tš, or whatever the preform of tt/ss was.

    The word looks like a feminine in *-ja, which has led people to suggest that it might originally have been something like *thalakh- with that feminine suffix. But it doesn't really behave like a feminine in *-ja, because all its compounds and derivatives treat the stem as thalass- or thalatt-, i.e. with the entire cluster as part of the stem, not just the part of the cluster that would remain if the putative suffix *-ja were removed. That, at least, does make it look like a loanword that was slotted into Greek word structure however it seemed to fit best.
    I'm sorry to see, looking back over what I've written, that it's completely discouraging, but in this case (and many others) that's completely realistic.

    From Alam Bomhard:

    …the ending -(a)ssa- is usually considered to be of Pre-Greek origin, either Anatolian (Lycian) or Pelasgian, though the latter origin is disputed by some scholars. Greek thalassa is usually seen as a loan from an unknown source — the Attic form is thalatta, while the Cretan form is thalaththa.

    From Sasha Lubotsky:

    As to thalassa, you may consider what my teacher, Robert Beekes, wrote about it in his etymological dictionary of Greek and in his 1997 article in JIES.

    From Sergej A. Jatsemirskij:

    This seems to be the same Mediterranean suffix as in the toponym Larissa, Etruscan name Papasa, Etruscan (borrowed into Latin) words mantissa, favissa, etc. See also my article on pre-Greek words which we (with Prof. Bentson) completed some months ago.

    From John Colarusso:

    I have seen some efforts to see in 'thalassa' an IE word, (*dhl-osso-, or *ghwl-osso-), but I think it is most likely from one of the pre-IE languages in the area.
    The /-assa/ part reoccurs in 'Telephassa' (aka Argiope), wife of Agenor and mother of Cadmus, Cilix, Phoenix, and Europa. The first and third sons bear Semitic names, 'yellow' and 'purple' respectively, and so this may be some old Semitic suffix.
    Perhaps a variant of this suffix occurs also in 'Knossos.' I seem to recall that there were a few other names with /-assa/ or /-osso(s)/, but this is all that springs to mind now.

    From Francesco Brighenti:

    The root traditionally posited as the base for Greek thalassa (if it is IE, which is not very likely) is *dhal- 'to spring, sprout', not **thal(a)-.

    M. Nyman (“A Pre-marine Vestige of θάλασσα,” Arctos 14 [1980]: 51-78) derives θάλασσα, with convoluted and devious arguments involving the “Erechtheid Sea” (θάλασσα Έρεχθηίς, a sacred Mycenaean spring-well located on the Athenian Acropolis), from the IE root *dhal- which, according to him, would be semantically associated with the feature “moisture” or “liquid”. From this IE root would derive both Greek θάλ-λω ‘to SPRING, gush forth’ > ‘to bloom, grow’ and θάλ-ασσα ‘SPRING’ > ‘sea’.

    The attested forms of Greek thalassa ‘sea’ are:

    Ionic θάλασσα (thalassa)

    Attic θάλαττα (thalatta)

    Doric σάλασσα (dalassa)

    Cretan Doric θάλαθθα (thalaththa).

    Hesychius (5th century CE) includes the following gloss, which has been classified as Macedonian (but which could even be a fake one!):

    δαλάγχαν = θάλασσαν (dalankhan, with prenasalization), that is, dalankha = thalassa

    The geminate -ss-/-tt- has many possible sources. Indeed, -tt- and -ss- are different dialectal reflexes of Proto-Greek *c^c^, a long affricate that developed from pre-Greek clusters such as *t(h)j,*k(h)j, wherein *-t- got palatalized before a historical *-j- (cf. American English gotcha < got ya). Beekes favors -ss- / -tt- < *kj:

    http://iedo.brillonline.nl/dictionaries/content/greek/loanwords.html

    “I think that the phoneme rendered by σσ, Attic ττ (called the foreign phoneme or Fremdphonem) was a palatalized velar, which I write as ky [= kj – Francesco], cf. Beekes JIES 37 (2009): 191-197… This interpretation is confirmed by θάλασσα, θάλαττα, where we have a variant δαλάγχαν = θάλασσαν (Hesychius). Here we see that after the nasal (prenasalization is well known in Pre-Greek), the palatal feature of the consonant was dropped. This resulted in a velar (here realized as an aspirate). The variant shows that we may be dealing with a velar in cases of σσ / ττ.”

    Then, if thalassa is IE (which I, however, strongly doubt), may it derive from *dhala(n)k(h)ja?

  34. Matt_M said,

    January 27, 2013 @ 8:54 pm

    As for the origin of thalee, the World Loanword Database (http://wold.livingsources.org/sourceword/92191628888773387) says that it derives from the Old Khmer word danle.

  35. David B Solnit said,

    January 27, 2013 @ 11:12 pm

    Just to expand a little on the etymology that Matt_M points to: Note that the gloss of the Khmer source word is 'lake, river' rather than 'sea'. I imagine that this word forms part of the toponym Tonlé Sap, the "Great Lake" whose flow reverses twice a year.
    Written Khmer danlē comes out as /tonle/ via regular processes of obstruent devoicing and vowel rounding. Note that the double e in Thai /thalee/ is correct: transcriptions of Thai often use double letters for long vowels.

  36. Victor Mair said,

    January 29, 2013 @ 1:24 pm

    From John D. Bengtson:

    [VHM: I am very sorry that all of John's careful formatting -- columns, bold, italics, etc. -- has gotten lost when I pasted his extensive remarks as this comment. I don't think that any of the special characters or diacritics have disappeared, at least I hope they haven't.]

    I have now had some time to investigate the origin of garbanzo in a rather cursory way, though I have not gone to the library to do it more thoroughly. The Real Academia Diccionario has for Spanish garbanzo simply “origen incógnito”. Trask's Etymological Dictionary of Basque does not discuss it. Agud & Tovar list the Basque forms garbantsu, garabantsu, garbantzi, gabantzu, and barbantzu (the last apparently with assimilatory change of the initial). They also mention Ossalais garbaitz 'guisantes, judías secas' (an Occitan dialect in the Pyrénées-Altantiques, roughly halfway between Basque Country and Andorra, where the substratum language, as in Andorra and Gascony, was Vasconic). There is a discussion of various proposed etymologies, without any firm preference.

    Among the more plausible proposals are those that make note of areal forms without initial g-: Galician herbanzo, Port. ervanço, erbanço, and derive them from *ervantio- (a hypothetical derivative of Lat. ervum ‘vetch’: e.g., Random House) or from Greek erébinthos ‘chickpea’ (so Meyer-Lübke REW #2889), or even from Old High German araweiz ‘pea’ (>NGer. Erbse: e.g., World English Dictionary). Ervum, erébinthos, and araweiz are all considered cognates from PIE *eregw[h]o- /*erogw[h]o-, or the like, ‘pea’. But these words are restricted to European languages, and Walde/Pokorny attributed them to “Wahrscheinlich Entlehnungen aus einer gemeinsamen, wohl ostmediterranen Quelle, aus der auch ai. aravindam `Lotosblume' stammt.” The -ntho- ending in Greek is traditionally also indicative of non-IE / “Kleinasiatich” origin.

    But *ervantio- etc. do not account for the initial g-, found not only in Basque but also in Ossalais garbaitz, Gascon garbà(y)(t)ch, Portuguese variants garvanço, garbança, and French jarousse ‘chickpea, vetch’ (< Ligurian *garvosta, as reported by A&T). These forms with g- may indicate contamination or blending with words of a separate origin from the *ervantio- type, and possibly these mysterious words may have been of Dene-Caucasian origin.

    In the 2011 issue of Mother Tongue Aleksandar Mikic’, a researcher in crop plants, reported on Dene-Caucasian words for pulses (legumes), including one that S.A. Starostin reconstructed as PSC (Proto-Sino-Caucasian) *xqor?a: or *xqorHa:, attested as Lak qUru ‘pea(s)’ (pharyngeal U), Dargi qara ‘pea(s), bean(s)’, Lezgi Xar ‘pea(s)’; Burushaski GaráS ‘a kind of flat pea’ (G postvelar fricative, S retroflex: borrowed in neighboring languages as Shina garáaS, Balti garaz); Chinese *kra:s ‘grain’, Tibetan khra ‘a sp. of grain’; cf. also gro ‘wheat’, Lepcha ko-gró ‘a spec. of grain’, and more. Starostin’s Sino-Caucasian Glossary adds Tibetan greu ‘peas’, which is semantically even more comparable. Of course, the hypothetical date for Proto-Sino-Caucasian (10,660 BCE per G. Starostin) is too early for cultivated legumes, and the word must originally have referred to wild plants.

    One notes especially the similarity of Occitan/Gascon garbaitz / garbà(y)(t)ch, with Burushaski GaráS, suggesting a peculiar formation with a sibilant/affricate suffix that was preserved in Vasconic and Burushaski as archaisms. There are other Vasconic-Burushic parallels with the correspondence Basque /ć, c/ ~ Burushaski retroflex /S/ such as:

    Basque *ortúć ‘barefoot’ ~ Burushaski *hultáS ‘barefoot'.

    Basque *hać ‘breath(ing), stench, stink’ ~ Burushaski *hiS ‘breath, sigh’ (Cauc: Chechen ħožu, Batsbi ħaič’ ‘odor’)

    Basque *koroc ~ *goroc ‘dung, excrement’ ~ Burushaski *GuráS ‘id.' (vs. collapsed second vowel in Caucasian: Archi k’urč’

    ‘sheep’s dung’, etc.)

    Basque *hai(n)c-ur ‘hoe, spade, pickax, mattock’ ~ Burushaski harS ‘plow’ (Cauc: Akhwakh cerc:e ‘wooden plow’, etc.)

    There is some phonetic difficulty with the Basque-Occitan-Gascon cluster /rb/, but it could come from *rw, typologically like Erbse < arwi:z < arawi:z, araweiz, above, and note the labial vowels in Lak qUru and Tibetan greu.

    In sum, it is tempting to wonder if garbanzo is of Basque/Vasconic/Dene-Caucasian origin, or a blend of a DC word such as *xqorHwVnCV with an IE word such as *ervantio-, but so far the evidence is too sketchy for me to make any firm conclusion.

    For a common English word that I think is of Basque origin: jingo, jingoistic, by Jingo! < Northern Basque ala Jinko! ‘by God!’. The transfer could have happened in the 13-14th centuries when Edward I (“Longshanks”) employed Basque soldiers (E. Klein 1966). (Trask did not like this etymology and called it “implausible.”)

    Another is silo, originally denoting an underground trench or cellar used for storing agricultural products. Basque *sülho > zulho, zilho, zulo, zilo means ‘hole’ or ‘cave’, and is also related to silhouette < the name Zilhueta ‘place of caves’.

    Note: Berger defines Burushaski GaráS as ‘Lathyrus sativus’ [= grass pea, blue sweet pea, chickling vetch, Indian pea, Indian vetch, white vetch, almorta or alverjón (Spain), guixa (Catalonia), chícharos (Portugal), cicerchia (Italy), guaya (Ethiopia), and khesari (India) |Wikipedia].

  37. J.W. Brewer said,

    January 29, 2013 @ 6:14 pm

    If "garbanzo" leads one into the deep, murky, and sometimes dangerous waters of speculation about the possible distant affiliations of Basque with other farflung language families, I'm feeling good about my personal preference for "chickpea."

  38. Sam said,

    January 30, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

    รส means flavor
    Right now, thai2english.com is down.
    I don't know how they got "thicket" from "รส".

  39. Ted said,

    January 30, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

    Sam: I don't think anyone is suggesting they got "thicket" from "รส". If I understand correctly, they seem to have gotten "thicket" from "พง".

RSS feed for comments on this post

Leave a Comment