Balashon, a Hebrew-oriented blog with a focus on etymology (see here), has a new post discussing the Hebrew words solet סולת and kemach קמח, both meaning ‘flour.’ Since MMcM is on extended hiatus, it’s good to have someone else doing that kind of detailed historical investigation; here’s a taste:
So actually both those that say that solet was coarse and those that say that it was powdery were correct. In the beginning of the process, solet was coarser than the kemach that would result from a standard milling. But by the end of the process, solet was powdery, whereas the kemach would have been comparatively coarse. Nahum Sokolow (in Bemarot Hakeshet, pgs 552-4) distinguishes between the two stages, by calling the first one “solet” and the second one “kemach solet“, which was later abbreviated to simply “solet“, adding to the confusion. But in the end, what distinguishes solet from kemach is quality more than granularity.
As a bonus, there’s an excursus on how “Aramaic semida סמידא gave us the Greek semidalis and the Latin simila,” the latter in the north of Italy becoming “‘powdery flour’ (Italian semola, German semmel, Yiddish zeml, and later the English word ‘simnel’ – cakes or rolls made of fine wheat flour)” and in the south “progressed in the other direction, to the coarser ‘bran.’ From here came the diminutive ‘semolino‘ (from which came the English ‘semolina’) – little bran, i.e. a coarser flour than the generic Italian word for flour ‘farina.’” Fun!