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Fanciful etymologies on an "ancient history" site

"Lost in Translation? Understandings and Misunderstandings about the Ancient Practice of 'Sacred Prostitution'",  Ancient Origins: Ishtar was sometimes called the Goddess Har since she was the mother of the harlots. These "harlots" were not prostitutes as we know them, but priestesses and healers. These harlots were holy virgins serving goddesses such as Ishtar, Asherah, or Aphrodite. […]

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Poetical etymologies

Wondermark #829, 4/20, "In which pepper is explained":

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Brogue

Compiling references to the Ocracoke "brogue", I wondered about the origins of the word. The Wikipedia entry confirms the possibilities that I recall: Multiple etymologies have been proposed: it may derive from the Irish bróg ("shoe"), the type of shoe traditionally worn by the people of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands, and hence possibly originally […]

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"Horse" and "language" in Korean

A Korean student was just in my office and saw this book on my table:  mal-ui segyesa 말의 세계사. She said, "Oh, a world history of words!" But I knew that couldn't be right because the book is a world history of horses.  It's actually a Korean translation of this book by Pita Kelekna: The […]

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The Out of Hunan Theory

[This is a guest post by Jichang Lulu and Filip Jirouš] A recent post by Mark Liberman nominated the Association for the Promotion of Research on the Origin of World Civilizations (Shìjiè Wénmíng Qǐyuán Yánjiū Cùjìn Huì 世界文明起源研究促进会) for the prestigious Becky prize, bestowed on those who make "outstanding contributions to linguistic misinformation". The award, […]

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Another Illusion Shattered: "leprechaun" not native Irish

So we learn from this article: "Leprechaun 'is not a native Irish word' new dictionary reveals", by Nuala McCann BBC News (9/5/19) Leprechauns may be considered quintessentially Irish, but research suggests this perception is blarney. The word "leprechaun" is not a native Irish one, scholars have said. They have uncovered hundreds of lost words from […]

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Thai "khwan" ("soul") and Old Sinitic reconstructions

There's a Thai word for "soul", khwan, that sounds like Sinitic hún 魂 ("soul"). Old Sinitic (Baxter–Sagart): /*[m.]qʷˤə[n]/ (Zhengzhang): /*ɢuːn/ I've always assumed that Thai khwan and Sinitic hún 魂 are related, but was never sure in which direction the influence / borrowing spread. One reason I'm so interested in this question is because, already […]

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Slavs and slaves

I am in the Czech Republic for lectures and meetings with colleagues.  This morning I climbed up to the gigantic oppidum at the top of a steep hill outside Prague near the little town of Zbraslav. Oppidum is a Latin word meaning the main settlement in any administrative area of ancient Rome, and applied more […]

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Galactic glimmers: of milk and Old Sinitic reconstructions

Often have I pondered on the origin and precise meaning of the Sinitic word lào, luò (reading pronunciation) 酪 ("fermented milk; yoghurt; sour milk; kumiss"); Old Sinitic (OS) /*ɡ·raːɡ/ (Zhengzhang).  My initial impression was that it may have been related to IE "galactic" words. Possibly from a Central Asian language; compare Mongolian айраг (ajrag, "fermented […]

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Seitan

From time to time during the past half century or so, I've heard of a food product called seitan.  Because the name sounds Japanese and it was associated with a natural food store in Cambridge, Massachusetts that I frequented called Erewhon (see here for the 1872 satirical Utopian novel by Samuel Butler whence it got […]

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A new and useful dictionary of Sinographs

We have often noted how much easier it is to learn Chinese now than it was just ten or twenty years ago.  That's because of all the new digital resources that have become available in recent years: "The future of Chinese language learning is now" (4/5/14) "Learning languages is so much easier now" (8/18/17) Of […]

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Mongolian priests and bugs, with a note on the Japanese word for "bonze"

An anonymous correspondent asked: Are these actually related words, or just homonyms? p. 127 of  Jack Weatherford, Genghis Khan and the Quest for God: How the World's Greatest Conqueror Gave Us Religious Freedom: Male shamans were treated with cautious respect, but they evoked suspicion and even disgust. As one saying put it, "the worst of men become […]

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Of dogs and Old Sinitic reconstructions

At the conclusion of "Barking roosters and crowing dogs" (2/18/18), I promised a more philologically oriented post to celebrate the advent of the lunar year of the dog.  This is it.  Concurrently, it is part of this long running series on Old Sinitic and Indo-European comparative reconstructions: "Of precious swords and Old Sinitic reconstructions" (3/8/16) […]

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