Franks.

Another good passage from Bartlett’s The Making of Europe (see this post), this time excerpts from the section titled “Naming” (pp. 101-105):

The final gift of conquest to the western European aristocracy was a name. For it was in the process of the dramatic expansionary enterprises of the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries that a shorthand term was popularized that had the connotation of ‘aggressive westerner’. That term was ‘Frank’.

[Bartlett gives examples of the use of the term to cover various groups — German, Flemish, Norman, etc. — from “the De expugnatione Lyxbonensi, a rousing account of the capture of Lisbon in 1147 by a crusading army of seamen and pirates from north-west Europe,” and a text by Affonso I of Portugal, who referred to “the agreement between me and the Franks.”]

Thus there are two closely related circumstances in which the general label ‘Frank’ was convenient. One was when a member of a body composed of various ethnic groups from western Europe wished to employ a label for the whole of this body; another when someone who conceived of himself as outside of that body […] wanted to give a group name to the foreigners. Thus both as self-appellation and as designation by others, ‘Frank’ was associated with the ‘Frank away from home’. […]

The classic enterprise which stimulated the use of this term was the crusade, the ‘Deeds of the Franks’ as its earliest chronicler called it, and it seems to have been the First Crusade that gave the term a general currency. Prior to that period, of course, it already had a long history, first as an ethnic designation, later in association with a particular polity, the ‘realm of the Franks’ (regnum Francorum). The generalization of the name to cover all westerners was a fairly natural result of the virtual equivalence of the Carolingian empire and the Christian West in the ninth century and, also logically enough, seems to have been used in this way first by non-westerners. The Muslims denominated the inhabitants of western Europe Faranǧa or Ifranǧa. […]

It seems to be the case that the vast and polyglot armies of the First Crusade picked up the term ‘Frank’ as a self-appellation from the non-westerners who already employed it in this general way. Eleventh-century Byzantine writers customarily referred to Norman mercenaries as ‘Franks’, and there was a natural case for applying the name to the western knights, including Normans, who arrived in Constantinople in 1096. The Muslims used the term so generally that Sigurd I of Norway, who came to the Holy Land in 1110, could be described as ‘a Frankish king’. […]

The Celtic world also felt the impact of the Franks. Welsh chroniclers refer to the incursions of Franci or Freinc from the late eleventh to the early thirteenth centuries, and the Anglo-Norman enterprise in Ireland was, as we have seen, termed ‘the coming of the Franks’ (adventus Francorum).

For the rulers of the Celtic lands the Franks were not only rivals to be confronted but also models to be emulated. The O’Briens of Munster expressed their claim to dynastic supremacy by calling themselves ‘the Franks of Ireland’. In Scotland the name had a similar resonance. […] ‘The more recent kings of the Scots,’ observed one early-thirteenth-century chronicler, ‘regard themselves as Franks (Franci) in stock, manners, language and style, they have pushed the Scots down into slavery and admit only Franks into their household and service.’ In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries to be a Frank implied modernity and power.

The term can be found at every edge of Latin Christendom. The trans-Pyrenean settlers who came into the Iberian peninsula in the late eleventh and twelfth centuries were Franks and enjoyed ‘the law of Franks’. […] In eastern Europe immigrant settlements in Silesia, Little Poland and Moravia were endowed with ‘Frankish law’ or might use field measurements ‘of the Frankish type’.

The term ‘Frank’ thus referred to westerners as settlers or on aggressive expeditions far from home. It is hence entirely appropriate that when the Portuguese and Spaniards arrived off the Chinese coasts in the sixteenth century, the local population called them Fo-lang-ki, a name adapted from the Arabic traders’ Faranǧa. Even in eighteenth-century Canton the western barbarian carried the name of his marauding ancestors.

Long ago — before Languagehat, maybe before the turn of the century — I ran across a wonderful list (on a history listserv?) of all the various permutations of this term, right down to the Ferengi of Star Trek, but I’ve never found it since.

Comments

  1. Frenk used to be a derogatory term for Ashkenazis in Israel.

    Very remarkably, there is a Western Polynesian term for Europeans, pālagi [paːlaŋi], which would be a perfect match for a borrowing from Malay faranggi, ultimately ‘Frank’. Tent and Geraghty showed that the word actually goes back to Malay barang ‘cloth’ (ultimately from Proto-Malayo-Polynesian *baraŋ, an indefinite marker), and is unrelated to the ‘Frank’ word, despite a perfect phonetic and semantic match and a nearly-plausible historical path. In a footnote they also mention balanda in several Australian languages, ultimately from Hollander.
    As I recall, while that paper was in the works,Tent solicited more examples of the ‘Frank’ words at Linguist List. I haven’t looked for those recently. (Added—I guess it was someone else, see bummi’s comment above.)

  2. Don’t you mean, a deroɡatory term used by Ashkenazi Jews to refer to Sephardic Jews?

  3. Duh, yes.

  4. Фрѧговѣ – wonderful old Russian term for Franks.

    later on, its use was restricted to Italians (other Western Europeans being called “nemtsy” – ‘Germans’)

  5. And lingua franca?

  6. Frankfurters ?

  7. In 13th century Mongolian language letters from Mongol Ilkhans to European rulers, the word was used quite extensively in various forms.

    viranguud
    frangkg uud
    varangkud
    barang uud
    baranch irgun

    interestingly, the King of France was called in Mongolian Iriduvarans Sultan (Sultan ‘Roi de France’)

  8. It seems to me the Franks were conflated with the Varangians in some of these traditions.

  9. So why do the Ashkenazi call the Sephardi Franks? Are they not more Frankish, in most senses of the term, than the Sephardi?

  10. bummi: Thanks very much, that must be it — and it even mentions the Bartlett book!

  11. So why do the Ashkenazi call the Sephardi Franks? Are they not more Frankish, in most senses of the term, than the Sephardi?

    An excellent question; I consulted Professor Google, who found the answer:

    The term “frenk” for a sephardic Jew is indeed regarded as insulting. Strange as it may seem, in its original meaning, the word Frenk meant Ashkenazi, and is derived, of course, from the word for France (Frankreich, in German, is clearly related). Apparently, Jews from Western Europe who, because of the frequent expulsions and other disasters, left Western Europe and joined predominantly Sephardic communities in the Turkish Empire (including Eretz Yisrael), were called Ashkenazi or Frank by the Sepharadim. Hence the common surname Ashkenazi among Sepharadim to this day. Even after the Ashkenazic families were thoroughly integrated into the Sephardic community, the surname remained.

  12. My Webster’s New World Hebrew Dictionary says it’s a “derogatory reference to a Jew’s Sephardi or Afro-Asian origin or background.”

  13. There may be a kindergarten mentality operating here: you slander us, we slander you with the same word whether it “logically” applies or not. Shikse is Yiddish for ‘non-Jewish girl’, but apparently was used in the 19C by gentile Germans for Jewish girls.

  14. “Di Franken” for Sephardim is not really derogatory, or at least it did not used to be. It often appeared as a name for families with ties to the Ottoman Empire, as in the case of the 18th century “False Messiah” Jacob Frank.

    In Romania the dividing line between Sephardic predominance and Yiddish/Ashkenazic predominance ran just north of Bucharest as far as the sounthern Moldavian town of Focsani. When I was researching Jewish music in Iasi I heard the term used in purely descriptive ways quite a lot to describe the Jews of Istanbul and the Balkan cities, with no derogatory intention at all.

  15. “Di Franken” for Sephardim is not really derogatory, or at least it did not used to be.

    But we’re not talking about Yiddish, we’re talking about modern-day Hebrew, where it’s clearly derogatory. See here: “the word ‘frank’ is used as a derogatory nickname for sephardim in Israel (equivalent to ni****).”

  16. ə de vivre says:

    “the word ‘frank’ is used as a derogatory nickname for sephardim in Israel (equivalent to ni****).”

    I’m trying to think of a situation where a hackey stand-up comic could turn that into a joke about the pork content in hotdogs, but the intersection on that Venn diagram is probably mercifully small.

  17. Henk Metselaar says:

    Y: Tent and Geraghty showed that the word actually goes back to Malay barang ‘cloth’

    Barang means ‘thing, object’ etc. At least that what it means now but it’s also what T&G say. It’s as earlier meaning of papalagi that cloth is mentioned.

  18. Lyxbona was new to me and as far as I can tell is unique to this work. It appears to be short of Ulyxbona.

    Pliny refers to the place as Olisippo. Arabs called it Al-Usbuna. By the sixteenth century is was commonly Olyssipona. (There is conjecture that Phoenicians called it Allis Ubbo (“safe harbour”) but that’s far more than I know.)

    Strabo credits the city’s origins to a brief visit on the Tagus river by Ulysses, some of whose oarsmen decided to end their own odysseys then and there.

    As for the rousing De expugnatione Lyxbonensi, the curious can find the good parts Englished here and the entirety (along with the Latin and extensive scholarly apparatus) here.

  19. Thanks! It is indeed lively stuff:

    The city’s buildings were jammed so closely together that it was scarcely possible, save in the merchants’ quarters, to find a street more than eight feet wide. The reason for such a dense population was that there was no established religion there. Each man was a law unto himself. As a result the basest element from every part of the world had gathered there, like the bilge water of a ship, a breeding ground for every kind of lust and impurity

  20. Henk Metselaar: thanks. I managed to pack quite a bit of sloppiness into one short comment. Also, per the article, faranggi would not be a perfect phonetic match for pālangi, since -ŋg- is usually borrowed into Tongan as -ŋak-, not -ŋ-.

  21. Trond Engen says:

    Piotr: It seems to me the Franks were conflated with the Varangians in some of these.

    My thought too, upon the mentioning of king Sigurd. It struck me that it might actually be a Byzantine conflation.

  22. Trond Engen says:

    Ulyxbona

    Pretty sure that’s a godforsaken place in Sweden.

  23. “The great Lisbon earthquake of 1755 was a temporary source of exultation for the ministers in the churches of Boston. There were those who pointed out that, in his just wrath against the citizens of Boston, God had utterly destroyed the city of Lisbon. This merely succeeded, however, in giving the parishioners a poor notion of the accuracy of the divine aim.” —Isaac Asimov, “The Fateful Lightning” (1969)

  24. It struck me that it might actually be a Byzantine conflation.

    The tentacles of the Viking trade network extended as far as Baghdad in the southeast.

  25. Trond Engen says:

    Yes, OK. A conflasion varang > farang, as might be the case with king Sigurd jórsalafari, is more likely to have been made by Arabic speakers in the Levant. The opposite is more likely somewhere else, but f was well established in the phonology of Medieval Greek, so not Byzantine. The other prime candidate, Kipchak Turkish, had no labial fricatives at all.

  26. David Marjanović says:

    Shikse is Yiddish for ‘non-Jewish girl’, but apparently was used in the 19C by gentile Germans for Jewish girls.

    In mid-20th-century Vienna it reportedly meant “girlfriend” without further connotations.

  27. I’ve encountered a similar usage here in Germany as well (from my father, among others; his family background is Ruhr area / Western Münsterland).

  28. Hollanders (Malay Belanda) were for several centuries the quintessential exotic Westerners in Japan, where the label 蘭学 Ran-gaku, lit. ‘Dutch learning’, was applied to all sorts of European science and gadgetry. (No relation to Farang and its many variants.)

  29. Jim (another one) says:

    “where the label 蘭学 Ran-gaku, lit. ‘Dutch learning’, was applied to all sorts of European science and gadgetry.(No relation to Farang and its many variants.)”

    Yes. The term Ran-gaku comes straight out of the standard Chinese and apparently Japanese name for Holland – 菏兰 (蘭) – Hé​lán​. No connection. The verbatim translation is “Water lily Lotus”, but here obviously it is purely a phonetic approximation.

  30. David Marjanović says:

    I know how King Sigurd must have felt:

    “I must be Frank.”
    – Emperor “Frank” Palpatine

  31. Greg Pandatshang says:

    OT yet tangential: any thoughts from hatters on the etymology of “German” < "Germānus"?

    On the one hand, the homophony with Latin germānus seems to good to ignore (a tribe who call themselves "the brethren"), but it's not obvious how that name gets in place for its first attestation by Caesar.

    Even better, it's hard to ignore what looks like the -man- morpheme in this word. I am of course not the first person to think of gar-man "spear-man" (and *gar certainly became ger in some Germanic languages), but Wikipedia comments without explanation that this theory is considered obsolete. Evidently a couple possible Celtic etymologies are considered more plausible currently, although to my knowledge they only explain the Ger-, not the -man. Therefore, I don't know why the Celtic options are considered more plausible than "spear-man".

    I seem to recall reading an etymology a long time ago linking "German" to modern German "Herr". But this seems unlikely because a) I don't know why the initial sound would ever have been voiced (and it doesn't seem terribly likely to become a plosive, either); and b) the shift of that word's primary meaning away from "old/gray" to "lord/warrior" seems relatively late. Per Wiktionary the Dutch and Scandinavian words that use it that way are loans from OHG. English "hoar" bears no connotation of "lord/warrior". So, if there were a *Herrman tribe 2,000 years ago, their name would probably imply "gray men" or "old men" more than "lordly men" or "warrior men". The former is possible but not as obvious a tribal name as the latter.

    The question is interesting partly because if "German" really has a Celtic etymology, then it's a toss up as to whether it originally referred to a Germanic tribe at all. Is there a word that for an exonym based on overzealous application of subset name X to superset Y when X is not actually part of Y? e.g. Han Chinese called Khitai.

    For that matter, is there a word for an exonym based on accurate metonymy: subset name X applied to superset Y when X really is a subset of Y? e.g. Germany called Allemagne. Of course, either descroption relies on a judgment call about what is and what isn't properly a subset of what.

  32. Well, it’s sure not “spear-men,” which would have been *Gaesomanni.

  33. My private theory is that Germānī should be taken at face value as Latin germānī ‘children of the same parents’, a calque of some — er… — Germanic ethnonym with a similar meaning, most likely that of the Suebi (*swēβa-).

  34. Herr (a calque of Latin/Early Romance senior) arose as the comparative grade of *xaira- ‘hoary, grey-haired’. It would have been *xairizan- in Common Germanic terms.

  35. I am of course not the first person to think of gar-man “spear-man” (and *gar certainly became ger in some Germanic languages), but Wikipedia comments without explanation that this theory is considered obsolete.

    It was absolete already at the end of the 19th century. The actual Germanic word for ‘spear’ was *ɣaiza-z. The change of *z > *r took place many generations after Julius Caesar, separately in North and West Germanic. The East Germanic languages preserved the fricative; it can be seen in East Germanic personal names such as Geisericus (*Gaizarīk-) ‘spear-ruler’, the founder of the last Vandal Kingdom in North Africa. See Rodger C’s post above.

  36. Greg Pandatshang says:

    yeah, I don’t know where I got the idea that PGic root was *gar rather than *gaiza (and I’m assuming the ɣ would have been fortited in translation). I’m not sure how we could know for certain that no Germanic dialects in Caesar’s time had already turned ɣaiza- into ɣer- or ger- given that in the west they all ended up thereabouts eventually. The group in question might have been particularly innovative. But certainly spear-men loses much of its appeal if it requires some epicycles to work.

    Is there a suggested Celtic etymology for the -man- part?

  37. I’m not sure how we could know for certain that no Germanic dialects in Caesar’s time had already turned ɣaiza- into ɣer- or ger- given that in the west they all ended up thereabouts eventually. The group in question might have been particularly innovative.
    It would have to have been very innovative, because it also must have lost the thematic vowel, which is still clearly there in other Germanic names from Caesar’s times, and even later (Ariovistus, Marcomanni, Langobardi).

  38. I’ve never seen a convincing explanation of Germānī in Germanic or Celtic terms, nor a compelling reason to reject the Latin etymology. Some exonyms are translated endonyms, cf. SiksikáBlackfoot.

  39. The period between Constantinople’s capture by the Crusaders in 1204 and the beginning of the Ottoman rule is known as Φραγκοκρατία (rule by the Franks). Various Western rulers, mostly of Italian and French origin, established Latin states in the mainland and on the islands. To the local Orthodox populations, they were all just Westerners and identified by their common Roman Catholic faith, more so than their different ethnicities. Hence, they were all Φράγκοι, a term that can still be heard to refer to Western Europeans.

  40. @Greg: Gaesum also exists as a borrowing into Latin for, I think, a German-style throwing spear.

  41. marie-lucie says:

    Rodger: Gaesum also exists as a borrowing into Latin for, I think, a German-style throwing spear.

    If that was part of the etymology of the tribal name, wouldn’t the Latin name be Gaermānī (from something like Gaesomānī)?

  42. marie-lucie: Precisely. That’s why I was arguing the opposite.

  43. something like Gaesomānī

    mān makes no sense at all as a Germanic element; *ā was at best a marginal phoneme in PGmc. and occurred only in some very special contexts as the outcome of vowel contraction or compensatory lengthening. The ‘man’ word had a short vowel and a long nasal (*mann-, with an oddly irregular declensional pattern; one can see it in Alamanni, Marcomanni). The expected Latinisation of Germanic *ɣaizamanniz would be *Gaesomannī, exactly as Rodger said.

  44. marie-lucie says:

    Rodger, Piotr : Apologies, I must have skipped over Rodger’s earlier comment. I was concentrating on the *Gaes- part, not on the rest of the potential word.

  45. Greg Pandatshang says:

    mān makes no sense as a linguistic transcription of the Proto-Germanic morpheme. As a Roman’s attempt to render a Celt’s attempt at some Germanic dialect, who knows?

    Regarding the proposed Celtic etymologies, it occurred to me that we might be looking at a root germ- with -ānus appended to in imitation of rōmānus. On other hand, Wiktionary asserts that the etymon of Irish is garrman, deriving from a PIE syllabic nasal, so maybe the -n- was in the Celtic original. How does that end up with a long ā? I have no idea, but evidently the professionals take the Celtic epicycles more seriously than the Germanic epicycles in this case. The less appealing the Germanic and Celtic possibilities look, the better germānus as a calque looks by default.

  46. “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers [germani]”.

  47. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Sorry, I meant to write “the Proto-C etymon of Irish ‘gairm’ is *garrman”.

    “Gairm” is putatively related to one of the proposed Celtic roots behind germānus; its meanings have to do with calling out or making noise, and could imply a noisy, bumptious people; or a people that gives noteworthy war cries in battle. Of course what matters is not the insular but the continental Celtic form of this root, and I have no idea what evidence there is for it in Gaul.

  48. But gairm is just the verbal noun of gairid ‘calls’; I suppose the –m– extension could have been used in continental Celtic as well and wound up in the Germanus etymon, but that’s an added difficulty.

  49. David Marjanović says:

    mān makes no sense as a linguistic transcription of the Proto-Germanic morpheme. As a Roman’s attempt to render a Celt’s attempt at some Germanic dialect, who knows?

    Unlikely, because Germanic, Celtic and Latin all had phonemic length for vowels and consonants alike at the time.

    If anything, I’d be looking for a Germanic *-mōn-.

    deriving from a PIE syllabic nasal, so maybe the -n- was in the Celtic original. How does that end up with a long ā?

    Clusters of syllabic consonants + laryngeals end up as that consonant + about half of the time.

  50. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Okay, that’s a very good point. The long ā looks completely ad hoc if it comes from a Germanic root related to English “man”. If there were examples from around the right time and place of compensatory lengthening turning aRːV into aːRV, then maybe “spear-man” would start to seem intriguing again.

    Regarding gairm, Wiktionary asserts it is from Proto-Celtic *garrman (short a in the second syllable and no laryngeal). Even if one has a different view of how early Celtic relates to Proto-Indo-European, Wiktionary claims that the PIE form is *ǵh₂r̥-smn̥, still with a short vowel and no laryngeal in the second syllable.

  51. Frenk is derogatory Ashkenazi -> Sepharadic (cf. the line from Life According to Agfa: “aren’t you frenkim, perchance?”). On the reverse direction I have heard faranji, but not nearly as frequently.

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