Carrot.

Victor Mair has a Log post, “Carrot” in Persian, Urdu, Uyghur, Sinitic, Vietnamese, etc., that’s full of interesting stuff. He takes off from a question by David Brophy: “I’ve often wondered why the Uyghur word for carrot is sewze, etc., which comes from P. sabz ‘green’.” There’s discussion of the Persian word, including this contribution from John Mullan:

The most common Persian word for “carrot” is havīj (هویج). In eastern dialects, which preserve older phonological features, it’d be hawīj. Other words are gazar (another eastern word) and zardak, literally ‘yellow’ plus the diminutive ending.

This paragraph is from Ephraim Nissan’s “Etymothesis, Fallacy, and Ontologies: An Illustration from Phytonymy”:

Persian havīj (هویج) for ‘carrot’ appeared relatively late in the language, and is related to (and probably derived from) the Turkish name for ‘carrot’, havuç. The standard Persian name for ‘wild carrot’, havīj-e waḥšī, is a compound formed with the adjective for ‘wild’, itself from Arabic. Also the Persian compound for ‘wild carrot’ havīj-e ṣaḥrā’ī is formed with an adjective that comes from Arabic, and literally means ‘of the desert’ (but in Persian, the compound is literally understood as ‘carrot of the field’, i.e., ‘of the wilderness’). By contrast, the third Persian compound for ‘wild carrot’ is entirely Persian etymologically: havīj-e kūhī (but it literally means ‘mountain carrot’).

Sinitic has luóbo 蘿蔔, whose etymology is unknown:

This word has been attested in various forms since early Old Chinese, and is the source of many of the terms for “radish, turnip” in other languages in modern China. The basic form seems to be *rabuk.

There’s no discussion of the English word; the OED entry (from 1888), like Wiktionary, derives it from Greek καρῶτον, but Wikipedia adds (without a citation) that that is “originally from the Indo-European root *ker- (horn), due to its horn-like shape.” I also learn from that Wikipedia article that the carrot only arrived in Europe in medieval times, and Alan Davidson says it didn’t make its way to England until the 15th century, which explains that when I checked the OED’s Historical Thesaurus for earlier terms I found only the rare terms tank (“origin obscure”) “The wild carrot; according to Gerarde, the wild parsnip” (a1400–50 Stockh. Med. MS. 181 Bryddys neste or tanke: daucus asininus) and clapwype “A carrot or ? parsnip” (c1425 in T. Wright & R. P. Wülcker Anglo-Saxon & Old Eng. Vocab. (1884) I. 644 Hic daucus, clapwype).

It’s a shame that MMcM of Polyglot Vegetarian never got around to carrots; he would have done a great job!

Dixie.

Dave Wilton of Wordorigins.org (check out his office staff) has a post about the history of the term “Dixie” that doesn’t contain any surprising new revelations but is far more detailed than anything else I’ve read on the subject (and he says it “may be the most complex bit of research I’ve done for this site”); it begins:

Dixie is, of course, a name for the American South. It is also a famous anthem of the South. But less well known is that Dixey’s Land was the name of children’s game played in early nineteenth-century New York.

Where does Dixie come from? It most likely is a reference to the Mason-Dixon Line, the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland and Virginia (now West Virginia), surveyed by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in the 1770s. The line traditionally marked the boundary between the North and the South, the free states from the slave states. But the direct evidence connecting the term with the geographical boundary is scant.

The song Dixie is traditionally credited to Daniel Emmett, a member of and chief composer for Bryant’s Minstrels, a blackface minstrel troupe. But the famous song was not Emmett’s first use of Dixie to refer the South. He used it in an earlier song of his, Johnny Roach, which was first performed in March 1859. […] For his part, Emmett never claimed to have coined the word. He said that he learned the term during his travels as an itinerant musician. Dixie was also the name of a character in the minstrel skit United States Mail and Dixie in Difficulties, which was first performed in 1850. The appearance of the personal name in minstrelsy may also have influenced Emmett’s use of the word.

There is much more at the link, including discussion of the children’s game, first attested in 1844; I particularly like this quotation from New York’s The New World of December 28, 1844:

Doesn’t Old Fezziwig figure here like some planets in his system, crossing and recrossing their orbits, playing, “Dixey’s Land,” in the regions of space?

The Linguistics of Odessa.

My Odessa reading program continues with Jabotinsky’s novel Пятеро (The Five, published in 1936 like the Katayev novel I wrote about here), which has already made me unreasonably happy. The narrator has gone down to the sea and met a young man named Seryozha, who takes him under his wing and fixes the broken oarlocks on his boat; Seryozha asks who’s been hired to watch the boat, and when told it was Chubchik, says (you can read the Russian here, starting with “— Оттого и беспорядок, Чубчик! Его и другие рыбаки все за босявку держут”):

“That’s why it’s such a mess, it’s Chubchik! Even the other fishermen hold him as a bosyavka.”

I raised my head joyfully. Linguistics has always been the true passion of my life, and living in an enlightened circle where everyone tried to speak in a correct Great Russian style, it had been a long time since I had heard the real dialect of the Fountains, Lanzheron, Peresyp, and Dyukovsky Park. “Hold him as a bosyavka” — lovely! “Hold” means “consider.” And bosyavka — to translate it is unthinkable; in that one word is a whole encyclopedia of disapproving judgments. He continued in the same style, but unfortunately I’ve forgotten my native speech, and I’m forced to reproduce his words by and large in official language, acknowledging sorrowfully that every phrase is wrong.

* * *

We set off in respectable fashion; he was a fine rower, and knew the names of things in the boatmen’s language. That day the wind would rise around five o’clock, and not just wind, but the tramontano. “Back water on the right, or we’ll run into that dubok [a local name for a small boat].” “Look, that porpoise has bought it” — pointing at the corpse of a dolphin, thrown up yesterday by a storm onto the lower platform of a breakwater not far from the lighthouse.

In the intervals between nautical remarks he gave me a good deal of fragmentary information about his family. His father “dashed to his office on the horse-tram” every morning, which is why he was so dangerous when you wanted to skip school — you had to leave the house together with him. In the evenings there was a “crush” at home (in other words, what Russians call a flea market): his older sister’s “passengers” came to visit her, mostly students. Then there was his older brother Marko, not a bad fellow, “portable,” but a tyuntya (I didn’t know that term, but it obviously meant something like “dimwit” or “scatterbrain”). Marko was “a Nietzschean this year.”

I’m glad I don’t have to translate the novel; I have no idea what I’d do about words like bosyavka and tyuntya. Michael Katz, who did translate it, used “deadbeat” for the first (a wild guess, I presume; current meanings I can find are ‘prostitute’ and ‘woman who gives tips to the police,’ neither of which is applicable) and simply omitted the second; he rendered dubok as “little oak rowboat,” which is silly — in the first place, just because it looks like the word for ‘little oak’ doesn’t mean the boat is made of oak, and in the second place, the whole point of using the Russian word is to give another example of local language. Why not find a similar local word from the bayous of Louisiana or somewhere? Also, it irritates me that Katz uses “Serezha” and “Alesha” for Seryozha and Alyosha — it gives an entirely false idea of how the names are said.

I was struck by the word лингвистика ‘linguistics’ and wondered how far back it was used; it turns out it’s much older in both Russian and English than I would have guessed. The earliest citation in the National Corpus of the Russian Language is from 1850 (Buslaev in «Москвитянинъ»: “Поприще лингвистики такъ широко, и дѣла, недавно еще только початаго, такъ много, что историку нѣтъ никакой возможности спеціально заниматься этой наукой; въ противномъ случаѣ ему слѣдовало бы отказаться отъ Исторіи” [The field of linguistics is so broad, and it covers so much despite its recent origin, that the historian cannot possibly deal with it as a specialist; if he tried, he would have to stop doing history]), and the OED takes it back to 1837 (N. Amer. Rev. Oct. 379 “Even supposing it possible for the knowledge of one man to comprehend every class of natural history, astronomy, linguistics, &c., the shortness of time allowed him would render thorough observation in more than one impossible” — a strikingly similar sentiment!). Furthermore, the singular form linguistic (presumably straight from French linguistique) goes back to 1825 (Asiatic Jrnl. 1 Dec. 648 “The science of the general comparison of languages, now developing itself under the name of linguistic, has, within a short period, made a very remarkable progress”); oddly, Jonathan Culler chose to use it in 2002 in his The Pursuit of Signs (new ed.): “Ferdinand de Saussure..had argued that linguistic would one day be part of a comprehensive science of signs.”

Alnage.

Well, nobody’s been sending me links and it’s too hot for me to exercise my brain, so let me just share a word I happened across recently, alnage:

Now historical.

1. The fee or duty charged for alnage (sense 2) of cloth; the revenue raised by this means; = ulnage n.2.
[…]
2. The action of formally determining whether woollen cloth conforms to particular standards of shape and quality, as required at various times under British law; attestation that these standards have been achieved, by the affixing of a lead seal. Also: the office of the Crown responsible for doing this; = ulnage n.1.
The original requirement was that cloth should be two ells in width and of uniform quality throughout. The requirements as to width were later relaxed; regulations on quality remained in force until 1724.

And here’s the etymology:

< Anglo-Norman aulnage, alnage, Anglo-Norman and Middle French aunage (French aunage) duty paid per ell on cloth sold (early 14th cent. in Old French), measurement and inspection of cloth (14th cent. or earlier) < aulner, auner to measure by the ell, to measure (cloth) against a fee (< aulne, aune: see ell n.1) + -age -age suffix. Compare ulnage n.

So there’s alnage and ulnage, both related to the good old word ell; why isn’t there an *elnage assimilated to it? (In the OED, it would be between elmy “Consisting of, characterized by, or abounding in elms” and El Nath, which can mean either “The star α Arietis, the brightest star of the constellation Aries; (Astrology) the first mansion of the moon” or “The star β Tauri, the second brightest star of the constellation Taurus.”)

Oh, and there’s also alnager “An officer appointed to examine woollen cloth and certify its quality”; sadly, “The position of alnager was formally abolished under English law in 1699.” (However, “The title of Great Alnager of Ireland continued in use as a courtesy title of the Baron de Blaquiere until the death of the 6th Baron in 1920.”)

Multilingual Eye Chart.

See the World: A multilingual eye chart “features characters from more than 25 languages — including Japanese, Icelandic, Russian, Hindi, Tamil, Tibetan and Thai.” You can see information about each of the characters here; I got the links from this MeFi post, which includes other goodies like an investigation of what typeface is used on eye charts and the Таблица Головина-Сивцева (Golovin–Sivtsev Table) for testing visual acuity used in the USSR.

Also, via Anatoly Vorobey, an amazing list of resources for studying Latin, if Latin is something you’re interested in.

Katayev’s White Sail.

I’ve finished Valentin Katayev’s Белеет парус одинокий [A White Sail Gleams; I’ve just discovered there’s a full Soviet translation from 1954 here], and how one sees the novel depends to a great degree on the angle from which one observes it. From one point of view, it’s a Boy’s Own adventure novel in which Petya and Gavrik are the Tom and Huck of 1905 Odessa, getting into scrapes and fooling parents and police alike. That element didn’t excite me, and if that were all there had been I probably would have given up and read something else. From another, it’s Kataev’s attempt to navigate the dangerous cultural waters of Stalin’s USSR by converting himself into a children’s writer; it was successful both in terms of his career (the novel was wildly popular) and of self-preservation. It can be seen as a way for him to smuggle into his writing his favorite elements (learned from Bunin) of using exact language to describe the world while defamiliarizing it without incurring the charge of aestheticism, since he is, after all, describing a child’s view of things. It is also a glorification of the Bolshevik revolutionary movement, as personified by the escaped Potemkin mutineer Rodion Zhukov and Gavrik’s older brother Terenty; that was, of course, a requirement of the times, but it left me cold (and led to later charges that Kataev was a complaisant follower of the party line).

But the element that hooked me and kept me reading was the loving description of the Odessa of Kataev’s youth — not the city center, with its famous statues and cafes and theaters, but the grubby fringes, particularly the area around the train station, with the court and jail to the north, the gymnasium (high school) to the northeast, and (across the large empty space of Kulikovo Pole) the military headquarters to the east, next to which lives Petya’s family, the Bacheis; it expands to take in the shoreline, from Lanzheron in the north to Maly Fontan in the south (and even further, to Arcadia and Bolshoi Fontan and Lustdorf), and the down-and-out neighborhood southwest of the station wonderfully known as Sakhalinchik (“little Sakhalin,” for the large criminal population). I was able to find most of the areas mentioned, no matter how obscure, by using the resources of the internet (especially this detailed 1916 map), but when that failed me, I turned to Odessa native Boris Dralyuk, who invariably provided full details. For example, when I asked about the “дача Вальтуха” [Wahltuch dacha], he said the Wahltuchs “were a worldly, multitalented clan that got its start in Odessa”; the “dacha” was “a tract developed by a less intellectually aspirational member of the clan, a merchant, who sensed which way the Odessan breeze was blowing” — it was at Frantsuz’ky Blvd, 35, though it’s since been demolished. He adds, “A part of the property, at No. 33, became a cine-pavilion and, later, the Odessa Film Studio.” As I have warned him, if he keeps giving me such thorough answers, I’m going to keep pestering him with questions.

And I learned some new vocabulary from the book, like гик [gik] ‘(ship’s) boom’ (I had only known the homophone meaning ‘whoop’); it’s from Dutch, like so many nautical terms, and Dutch Wikipedia says “Verder werd de benaming giek vroeger ook wel gebruikt voor een kleine kapiteins(roei)boot die door meerdere mannen werd geroeid (vergelijk het Engelse “gig”).” I’m not sure whether they’re saying Dutch giek is borrowed from English gig or just pointing out the resemblance; in any case, the OED s.v. gig (entry not fully updated since 1899) says “Perhaps onomatopoeic; the identity of the word in all senses is very doubtful.”

Oh, and out of mild curiosity I clicked on the Vietnamese Wikipedia page for the novel and found that the description was lifted from the Russian page. When I say “lifted,” I don’t mean translated, I mean it begins “Действие происходит в Одессе в 1905 году” and carries on in Russian for a couple of paragraphs. What’s the point of that?

Top Hat.

Back in 2008 I posted about hats, quoting from Diana Crane’s The Social Meanings of Hats and T-shirts, where we are told:

The top hat, which appeared in England at the beginning of the nineteenth century, was worn first by the middle and upper classes. During the century, it spread downward, possibly because it was adopted by coachmen in the 1820s and for policemen’s uniforms in the same period…. In the 1840s and 1850s, unskilled laborers and fishermen were photographed wearing these hats …. At mid-century, they were being worn by all social classes…

Which is good to know, but it leaves unanswered the question OrneryBob asks at WordOrigins.org: why is it called that? Oecolampadius says:

The “top” may have been influenced by the French name for this hat, Haut de Forme. the word “haut” could be translated “high” or “tall” or “top.” According to this French site, It seems to have had the connotation of “high” in the sense of social order as in: “Man of the bourgeois in the 19th Century.”

But “top” doesn’t mean “high” or “tall,” and either of the latter words would make more sense as a description. Syntinen Laulu says:

When tall hats began to be worn in the 1790s (think all those French revolutionaries, and Beau Brummel & co.) they were known as round hats, because the brim was no longer ‘cocked’, i.e. bent at a sharp angle to make a ‘cocked hat’ (what we’d call a tricorne or bicorne, although both those words are later), but was more-or-less flat all round. The first citation for top hat in the OED (admittedly an un-updated definition) is surprisingly late – 1881.

The OED entry is from 1913; the citation is M. E. Braddon Asphodel xvi “She liked to have her son well-dressed and in a top-hat.” ElizaD antedates that with a quote from Alfred Drayson’s 1875 The Gentleman Cadet (referring to a cadet at Woolwich, London):

I was in the rear of the division, and dressed in plain clothes; my hat was what modern slang would term “a top hat,” and what in those days we called “a beaver.”

She adds a link to an interesting article about the history of the top hat from The Field; I like this cautious statement: “With any style of hat it is often difficult to pinpoint the first of a type, not just for the history of top hats. I would suggest that the Hetherington hat may well not have been the very first but one of the first.” But I’m still wondering why the term is “top hat.”

Lagniappe, in case it hasn’t been linked here before: xkcd on quotative like.

Impostures.

Slavomír Čéplö, aka bulbul, recently gave me a copy of Michael Cooperson’s translation of al-Hariri’s Maqāmāt, called Impostures (see this ancient LH post); the publisher’s blurb says:

An itinerant con man. A gullible eyewitness narrator. Voices spanning continents and centuries. These elements come together in Impostures, a groundbreaking new translation of a celebrated work of Arabic literature.

Impostures follows the roguish Abu Zayd al-Saruji in his adventures around the medieval Middle East-we encounter him impersonating a preacher, pretending to be blind, and lying to a judge. In every escapade he shows himself to be a brilliant and persuasive wordsmith, composing poetry, palindromes, and riddles on the spot. Award-winning translator Michael Cooperson transforms Arabic wordplay into English wordplay of his own, using fifty different registers of English, from the distinctive literary styles of authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer, Mark Twain, and Virginia Woolf, to global varieties of English including Cockney rhyming slang, Nigerian English, and Singaporean English.

I’ve barely begun exploring it, but it’s absolutely delightful; here’s the start of Imposture 40, “Iran go Brágh”:

Arthur O’Hannan reported:

I was just after puttin’ it before me to ride the breeze out of Tabroís. ‘Twas no place for a spalpeen, let alone a lord, for there wasn’t a soft heart or an open hand in it. So ’twas cuttin’ me stick I was, and lookin’ for fellows to travel the road with, when who should I meet but Buséad of Searúg and he wrapped in a coat amidst a women’s prashameen. “How are you getting on?” I asked. “And where are you going, with all your care?

He pointed to one of the ladies. With her pookeen drawn back from her face she was as fair as May, but she was looking scunnered and no mistake.

“I married herself,” says he, “for to wash off the clat of lonesomeness and comfort me on the shaughraun, but from that day out ’tis nothing with her but the heart-scald. When it comes to me rights, she puts the pot in the tailor’s link, and I to thole more than a body can bear. Now the breath is barely in and out of me, just enough to sing the ullagone. So we’re a-kempin’ to the Brehon to ask him to show Murrogh to the one in the wrong. If he sets things right between us, well and good; otherwise, the divorce it is, and many a dry eye after!”

I will never be in a position to judge to what degree that’s an accurate rendition of the Arabic, and frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. It’s pure pleasure to read.

Non-site Fieldwork on Libyan Languages.

The Silphium Gatherer has a post about how fieldwork used to be done:

For the past several decades, linguistic fieldwork in Libya has been extremely difficult, even at times downright impossible. This has certainly been the case for foreign researchers: not only was it nearly impossible to get research permits for Libya from the 1980s to 2000s, and fieldwork that did occur was heavily monitored and restricted, but there has been so little work on Libya in general, and scholars of Libya in Western institutions, that interested students usually have no place to start or advisors with whom to work. But this also to a great extent true for Libyans as well: Libyans with linguistic training have typically returned to work in universities teaching translation studies or foreign languages and only a few have published research in Libya on Libyan languages. Up until 2011 it was illegal to openly research anything other than Arabic—the regime’s official position was that Amazigh is a dialect of Arabic, and numerous researchers (not to mention activists) were thrown in jail for trying to write, teach, or research Amazigh in Libya. And now, although the activism and dedication of numerous Libyans has led to the increased visibility of the Amazigh and Tebu languages in Libya, actual fieldwork and research remains difficult for everyone due to the current political and military struggles.

I’ve always assumed that fieldwork during the colonial era and during the kingdom was, in contrast, much easier. Foreign researchers could simply have taken advantage of colonial power structures to go where they wanted, and indeed many did. Or after independence they were given permits to do so. And this is largely the case for research on Libya up until the early 1970s in a variety of fields—anthropology, linguistics, history, urban studies and so on. But, on examining a bunch of older linguistic works more closely, I was surprised to find that many of them were not actually done in the place the language was actually spoken at all—some of them not even in Libya. Of course, these studies were still carried out within colonial power structures. But, it’s likely that French scholars, for example, weren’t as easily able to travel to then-Ottoman Libya as they were able to travel within French colonial domains, and therefore took advantage of what opportunities they had to produce knowledge on the region. I’ve gathered some of these sources together under the rubric “non-site fieldwork”, the opposite of “on-site fieldwork”. […]

I should note, of course, that “non-site” fieldwork isn’t by default a bad thing. Sometimes a community of speakers is indeed dispersed around the world, because of persecution or migration. Sometimes work with speakers outside of their place of origin is a prelude to on-site fieldwork and an important part of making connections with the community. Or, it can follow on-site fieldwork as part of collaboration with local researchers. Those are all good things.

But when a language is still widely spoken in its homeland, research with a single speaker far away from that place is not likely to give the best, most nuanced picture of that language, and moreover, is much less urgent, since that language isn’t likely to die out or be replaced. Strangely enough, the impulse to do “non-site” fieldwork seems to be growing among Western scholars—but for Arabic dialects of northern Africa rather than for the minority or endangered languages which are in need of documentation.

I found that history interesting and surprising.

Lilith and the Draconcopes.

Studiolum at Poemas del río Wang has done a deep dive into an ever-intriguing bit of mythology, Lilith and the draconcopes. We all know Lilith was Adam’s first wife, but where did that story come from? Click the link to find out the details; I just want to quote some piquant passages:

In fact, Lilith appears in one single place in the Hebrew Bible, in Isaiah 34 (13-16), where the Lord foretells how He would destroy Edom:

“Thorns will overrun her citadels, nettles and brambles her strongholds. She will become a haunt for jackals, a home for owls. Desert creatures will meet with hyenas, and wild goats will bleat to each other. There the lilith לִילִית will also lie down and find for themselves places of rest. The owl will nest there and lay eggs, she will hatch them and care for her young under the shadow of her wings. There also the falcons will gather, each with its mate.”

The role of the lilith is here to mark, along with all the other ominous beings, how desolate the Lord makes Edom. But as to exactly what kind of being it is, we [are] not informed here, since the name is a hapax legomenon, a word that only occurs once in the Bible. Nevertheless, it must have been familiar to the Jews of the period if it could be used to indicate the extent of the destruction. As if we were reading today that a place has become a home for vampires and orcs, the nest of Dracula. The products of the fantasy literature of the last hundred years are pretty much in the public consciusness, they don’t need to be explained.

The words lili and līlītu in the Mesopotamian languages, Sumerian, Akkadian and Assyrian, meant ʻspirit’, in some texts a disease-bearing spirit living in the wind. It was probably from there and in this sense transferred into the Aramaicspoken by the Jews of Babylon and the Bible. In the 4th to 6th century AD, “bowls of incantation” were widespread in the area: these were hidden in the base or ground of the houses as traps to catch the liliths intruding in the houses. These bowls were used by all local cultures and languages. Several hundreds were found from Jews with texts in Aramaic. biblical or talmudic references.

Typically, Bible translations did not know what to do with the name. The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Diaspora Jews merges the hyenas with the lilith under the name “onocentaur”, and translates the goat, understood as a satyr, as “demon”. […] Basically, this translation is followed by the Vulgate, the Latin translation of St. Jerome, which translates the lilith as lamia, a child-devoring female demon in Greek mythology[…] The meaning of ʻonocentaur’ was only slightly clearer than that of the lilith. Based on ὄνος = donkey, it was interpreted as a kind of donkey-centaur. […]

In Jewish rabbinic literature, the name only occurs four times, always referring to the text of Isaiah, in a sense of “evil spirit” until the 8-10th c. AD, that is, well into the Middle Ages, when a Hebrew treatise called The alphabet of ben Sira made it a person. The treatise contains twice 22 proverbs in Aramaic and Hebrew, arranged according to the Hebrew alphabet, and illuminates the meaning of each with a Midrashic story. According to the story that interests us here, Ben Sira heals the sick little son of King Nebuchadnezzar with an amulet. When the king asks him what he wrote on the amulet, Ben Sira tells him that God kneaded the first human couple from the dust of earth, and they were thus equal. The woman, Lilith, therefore, did not want to lie under Adam in the bed, as required by Jewish sexual morals, but she wanted to be above. She rebelled and fled to the Red Sea, where she mated with demons. God sent three angels after her, Senoy, Sansenoy and Semangelof, who, however, failed to bring her back. All they could agree with her was that although she as a demon now had power to infect newborn children, nevertheless if the names of these three angels were written somewhere, she would not hurt the child there.

Literature considers this tractate a kind of satire, a compilation of parodies brought together by bored yeshivabohers, a huge hoax full of pedant talmudic hochmetsing over assorted smut, from farting through masturbation to incest (for example, Ben Sira himself is said to be born from the union of Prophet Jeremiah with his own daughter). This is how seriously we have to take the tradition of Lilith as Adam’s first wife. True, in the double creation story of the Book of Genesis, God first creates the man and the woman in His own image (Gen 1:27), and then He creates the woman from the rib of the man (Gen 2:22). For believers in the literal interpretation of the Bible, these were two creations: but then, where is the first woman? This logical hiatus was made up for by the yeshivabohers with the lilith which stood without any real meaning in the Bible and the Talmud. Before them, however, neither the Jewish nor the Christian exegetical tradition raised and answered this question, especially not by creating a “first wife”.

(Oh, and draconcopedes are “large and strong snakes, whose maiden-face is similar to the man, but their body ends in snake body.”)

For the further titillation of any who share the yeshiva bokher spirit, Michael Gilleland offers A Pearl from a Dung-Heap, an inscription excavated at Stabiae in the Villa San Marco in 2008-2009; graffiti are the same the world over.