Ethno-linguistic Diversity on the Roof of the World.

A paper by Matthias Weinreich:

The current paper is an invitation to a virtual journey to Gilgit-Baltistan (former Northern Areas), a high mountain region in the north of Pakistan, endowed with an amazing variety of languages spoken on its territory. The travel itinerary includes stops at Skardu (Baltistan), Gojal (upper Hunza valley), Karimabad (central Hunza valley), Taus (Yasin valley) and Gilgit town. At each destination the traveller is introduced to the languages used by its inhabitants: Balti, Wakhi, Burushaski, Domaakí, Pashto and Shina. Local personalities, scholars and a foreign researcher share key information about their language’s geographical distribution, speaker numbers and dialectal division. Special attention is given to expositions of the language attitude of the concerned speaker communities, as well as to the description of local efforts directed at creating language-specific alphabets and the promotion of mother tongue education. The interlocutors’ narratives are complemented by black-and-white photographs and references to recent academic publications dedicated to the languages and peoples of Gilgit-Baltistan.

This is the kind of thing we need more of. Thanks, Martin!


  1. I might as well mention again, as I did here, that Wakhi (one of the Eastern Iranian languages) is a language I was inexplicably fascinated with as a grad student in Indo-European, and I’m glad to see it get some publicity.

  2. John Cowan says

    Wakhi is also unusual in having used Latin Q q and W w to represent [q], [w] in Cyrillic. The apparently-current forms are more typically Cyrillic in style: Қ қ and В̌ в̌. Sometimes the Q was written in the style of an enlarged lower-case q, as also in Kurdish (though most of the time Kurdish is written either in the traditional Arabic script or in one of a variety of romanizations of it).

  3. enlarged lower-case q,

    The opposite would make more sence to me:)

  4. Domaaki sounds like a kind of Himalayan Romani.

    The Dooma, Dom and Roma peoples all seem to be related – speak similar Central zone Indo-Aryan languages, main occupation -travelling blacksmiths, musicians and dancers.

    But Hunza valley in the Himalayas is about the last place I would have expected to find Gypsies.

  5. George Grady says

    Speaking of the letter Q, does anyone know why, in English, the letter is pronounced “kyu”, rather than something like “kwee”, considering it generally makes a “k” sound with lip rounding rather than one with palatalization?

  6. George Grady says: Speaking of the letter Q, does anyone know why, in English, the letter is pronounced “kyu”,

    It’s from the original Latin name /ku:/ which, with regular sound change in English became /kju:/

    The latin alphabet had three /k/ letters – C named /ke/, K named /ka/, and Q named /ku/

    The modern English names of all three are the result of regular sound changes.

  7. From Middle French queu, cueue, from Old French cue, coe, from Vulgar Latin cōda, variant of Latin cauda.

    The word means “tail” (and sometimes “penis”).

    In the name of letter Q, it’s obviously a reference to it’s shape.

  8. Andrej Bjelaković says

    Middle English /iu/ and /eu/ ended up as /ju:/. In terms of French loanwords, the former was found in blue, fruit, rule etc. while the latter was found in words such as pewter etc. The former was also found in Germanic words such truth or new (OE trīewþ, nīwe with /iːw/).

  9. But Hunza valley in the Himalayas is about the last place I would have expected to find Gypsies.

    Loanwords indicate that the speakers of pre-Romani apparently made a long stop at the roof of the world in northwestern South Asia, on their way to the Near East and eventually Europe. There is a fairly recent article on this topic by Claus Peter Zoller, “Aspects of the early history of Romani”, available here:

    One of the items apparently shared exclusively between Romani and its relatives, on the one hand, and the Indo-Iranian languages of northwest South Asia, on the other, is a word for “apple”. Here is the entry for this item in Turner’s Comparative dictionary of the Indo-Aryan languages:

    This phabai may be the pop in English lollypop, if this is from Romani lali phabai “red apple” (originally referring to toffee apples?).

    (The language abbreviated Gy. eur. by Turner is European Romani and is Ḍumāki (i.e. Domaaki). By the way, the heading of page says A comparative and etymological dictionary of the Nepali language (1931), but it is in fact the entry from Turner’s later work A comparative dictionary of the Indo-Aryan languages (1962–1985). The DSAL website crashed a while ago, and when it came back there were several problems like this heading problem, some of which they subsequently fixed. I informed the DSAL of this particular heading problem by email a while ago.)

    For lagniappe, the song “Loli phabai”:

  10. This phabai may be the pop in English lollypop, if this is from Romani lali phabai “red apple”

    Good heavens, how interesting! I look forward to the OED’s updating of their entry, currently from 1903 (“Of obscure formation”).

  11. The publication of Ian Hancock’s Romani etymology of lollipop can be found here at HathiTrust. It’s a short article that begins at the bottom of page 53. I hope this is accessible to everyone—if not, here are the publication details: Ian Hancock (1972) “A Romani etymology for lollipop,” Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society 51:53-54.

    The first known attestation given in the OED is also interesting:

    1784 London Chron. 17–20 Jan. 72/3 She confessed… that a certain person… had enticed her to commit it [sc. the robbery], and given her sweetmeats, called lolly-pops.

    In regard to the possible Romani etymology for lollipop, there are certain points of interest here. On the one hand, the OED citation suggests that at the time, the word would have been unfamiliar to the general readership of The London Chronicle—although I am unsure exactly who they were and how their attitudes may have skewed. (Evidently bourgeois, they appreciated The Beggar’s Opera and lurid stories—see below.) On the other hand, the incident described in the citation (an impoverished child enticed into crime with the promise of sweets?) suggests the connection of the word lollipop to a marginalized, poverty-stricken, and exploited segment of society.

    However… “It is a capital mistake to theorise in advance of the facts.” I wanted to see if the original article offered more details on the situation in which lolly-pops was used, but I wasn’t able to find this particular issue of the The London Chronicle digitized online. From the description of another issue from this period, 26 October 1784, the paper seems to have had a good deal of sensationalistic and perhaps moralistic content:

    Oct. 26 Trade agreement between Sweden and France / Balloon flight of Blanchard / “The Beggar’s Opera” is at the Drury Lane and “Romeo and Juliet” is at Covent Garden / Female pills / Insurrection of Jamaica slaves — many “killed in open rebellion” / A suicide drowning because of a lost love / A brave soldier / Dishonestly punished / The direction of air balloons / A brutal murder / Muggings

    I wonder if another Language Hat reader with more Google fu could dig up a digitized version of the January issue with lolly-pops, or even the London court report that the paper cribbed the story from. From the Wikipedia description of the paper, journalistic standards at the Chronicle were not high.

  12. Same article republished in Northampton Mercury – Monday 26 January 1784

  13. Read the article titled “The Trial of Mary Cave, Girl of 13 Years of Age”

  14. Excellent! Thank you for finding the article.

    All that for some candy… and unfortunately no hint about the identity of the person, not yet in custody, who supplied the lolly-pops.

  15. By the way, SFReader, can I ask, what resource did you use to find it so quickly?

  16. MARY CAVE, defendant name in trial of MARY CAVE, Theft > theft from a specified place, 14th January 1784.

    WILLIAM BAKER sworn.
    Court. What was in the handkerchief?
    – I do not know at that time; she then cried out, oh, Mrs. Spriggs has ruined me; what, says I, she has been persuading you to do this I suppose; aye, says she, she has these six months past; going along I asked her concerning this Mrs. Spriggs; she told me the first thing she had Mrs. Spriggs before this time was childrens caps, and after that she said she could never get shut of her, for if she did not give her something else she would tell her mistress; she said she gave her oranges, and what they call lollipops I believe, something which the Jews sell.; This Mrs. Spriggs is known by the name of Hannah Young ; I believe she lives with Spriggs. I delivered the handkerchief to Mr. Burridge.


    Them watches were in my master’s window, and I took them out because they should not be burnt; my mistress often flogged me; and if it had not been for my master my mistress would have been transported. My mistress made me steal six ducks, and she burnt the ducks in the fire afterwards, and fowls and a young pig she made me steal. My mistress has made me steal money from my master.
    When the Prisoner was brought up to receive sentence, Mr. Recorder addressed her as follows:

    Mary Cave , The circumstances of your case are such, that the Court cannot pronounce sentence upon you, without taking some notice of them. Young as you are, you appear to have arrived to a degree of wickedness, that renders you an unworthy member of society, and likely to become very dangerous to it; and notwithstanding your tender years, if you had been capitally convicted, it is hardly probable that your Sovereign would have thought fit to have extended his mercy to you; you were not only guilty of robbing your master and mistress from time to time, aggravated as that crime always is by breach of trust, but of the much more heinous crime of setting fire to their house, and endeavouring not only by that to destroy their property, but their lives. There appears therefore to be no hopes of your ever making a safe or useful member of society, at least in this country, the laws of which you have attrociously violated; but not having been convicted of a capital offence, the Court can only sentence you to be transported to America for seven years .

  17. the Court can only sentence you to be transported to America for seven years .

    Transportation to America, in 1784? Did that mean Canada?


    The American Revolution brought transportation to the North American mainland to an end. The remaining British colonies (in what is now Canada) were regarded as unsuitable for various reasons, including the possibility that transportation might increase dissatisfaction with British rule among settlers and/or the possibility of annexation by the United States – as well as the ease with which prisoners could escape across the border.

    So, probably not Canada… what am I missing?

    Edit: D’oh. The Treaty of Paris was literally signed the same day as Mary Cave’s sentencing. Still, you’d think the fact that there was a war on until then would preclude transportation. So what was supposed to have happened to those so sentenced?

  18. There was apparently “secret” penal transportation from Britain to America in 1783-1784 going on. This desperate scheme is reported to have been a complete failure.

    13 people convicted to transportation to America (or even to death) at Old Bailey court on January 14, 1784 together with Mary Cave are found on the list of convicts of the First Fleet to Australia in 1787.

    Mary Cave was not among them. Don’t know what happened to her.

  19. Google books can have a date range set, although there are problems with it — some books are obviously, or less obviously, misdated to an earlier year than their publication, and there are sometimes laughable scanning errors in non-English texts.

    However, an English work, with a clear publication year of 1797, “Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue” says: “LOLLIPOPS . Sweet lozenges purchased by children “. Which is to say, no hint that a candied apple, or anything like an apple, was intended by the term by that year.

    I also note that “LOLL” meant “a favourite child, the mother’s darling”.

    “LOLPOOP” meant “A lazy, idle drone”. Hm.

  20. she said she gave her oranges, and what they call lollipops I believe, something which the Jews sell

    So the court record is origin of the possible hint of the marginalized (they?), the street, perhaps even the underworld, argot, cant… something about the word that also led Francis Grose to include lollipop in his Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. And something that also led newspapers to repeat this one detail at the expense of others…

    In regard to the coordination of oranges with lollipops… something which the Jews sell, I gather (from Henry Mayhew, 1861, London Labour and the London Poor, vol. 1) that a little bit later, in the early 19th century, most of the street vendors selling oranges in London were Jewish boys or young men. Or is the coordination just coincidence here?

    Which is to say, no hint that a candied apple, or anything like an apple, was intended by the term by that year.

    Perhaps the appearance of the early lollipop, presumably rounded, resembled a miniature candied apple. Or the sweets were simply rounded in a way to suggest an apple. Or there was originally a bit of apple at the center, a memory of the origin, but the apple to toffee/candy ratio was reduced to nothing.

    In any case, if we wish to argue for the Romani etymology of lollipop, a good parallel is sugar-plum, which has no plum at all. The OED’s definition: “A small round or oval sweetmeat, made of boiled sugar and variously flavoured and coloured; a comfit.” Presumably it originated in candied plums, or sugar-covered raisins (back when raisins were called plums), or the comfits had the size or appearance of plums or raisins.

  21. SFReader, thank you for finding these texts, which are really very precious in considering the possible etymologies of lollipop.

    Could you tell us what search engines or databases or websites or other services (whether subscription or otherwise) you used to find the article in the Northampton paper and for the court record? I would be very grateful to learn about them. I am a millennium or two out of my wheelhouse in researching 18th-century words.

  22. British newspaper archive (requires free registration)

    The Proceedings of London’s central criminal court (Old Bailey), 1674-1913

  23. There are two words in Croatian for a lollipop: lizalica (etymologically transparent, from the word “lizati” to lick) & lilihip. Lilihip sounds suspiciously similar to the English lollipop, but it’s not clear how it could have derived from it.

  24. SFReader: Thank you!

  25. Reading Old Bailey Proceedings found the most interesting case.

    On 6 October 1769, Giuseppe Baretti, Secretary to the Royal Academy of Arts, after working on his English-Italian Dictionary, was accosted by a prostitute on the Haymarket and struck her after she “clapped his private parts with great force”. After that, she called him “French bugger” and a mob of Londoners attacked him for daring to strike a woman and being a “d…d Frenchman”. While being beaten to half death, he managed to strike with a knife a certain Evan Morgan, who died of his wounds.

    The list of character witnesses he called in his defense is astonishing:

    Doctor Johnson (yes, that Dr. Johnson!), Sir Joshua Reynolds, Edmund Burke, Esq, David Garrick, Esq, and a few less known ones like Doctor Samuel Hallifax, Topham Beauclerck or William Fitz-Herbert , Esq.

    Verdict: Acquitted of the murder, of the manslaughter, Self-defence.


    Portrait of Giuseppe Baretti by Sir Joshua Reynolds. He appears to have been extremely short-sighted which was one of the defense arguments at the trial:

    Doctor Johnson. I believe I began to be acquainted with Mr. Baretti about the year 53 or 54. I have been intimate with him. He is a man of literature, a very studious man, a man of great diligence. He gets his living by study. I have no reason to think he was ever disordered with liquor in his life. A man that I never knew to be otherwise than peaceable, and a man that I take to be rather timorous.

    Q. Was he addicted to pick up women in the street?

    Dr. Johnson. I never knew that he was.

    Q. How is he as to his eye-sight?

    Dr. Johnson, He does not see me now, nor I do not see him *. I do not believe he could be capable of assaulting any body in the street, without great provocation.

    * Dr. Johnson and Mr. Baretti are both very near-sighted.

  27. I note that OED lollipop says:

    Etymology: Of obscure formation: compare lolly (northern dialect) the tongue

    By the late 1790s, “lollypop” or “lolly-pop” was being used as an imprecation, which use does not seem to be in the OED. I am not sure if this was from “lollipop”, the candy, or a variation of “lolpoop”, as seen above (and also in the OED) as someone lazy or idle, or a variation on “liripipe”/”liripoop”/”lerripoop” (also from OED, linked to from “lolpoop”) as someone silly.

    I’m also wondering if there is a hint of “effeminate man/male homosexual” from some of the contexts.

    (NB: “long-s” changed to standard “s” throughout)


    The Dramatic Works of John O’Keeffe, Volume 4. 1798.

    Polly: [scolding of Bob for doing woman’s work as a milliner elided] Are you a Briton?

    Bob: No, I’m an Englishman.

    Polly: And commanded by a Frenchman, ah! you lolly-pop.

    Bob: And has my father — as wise a ‘poticary as ever thump’d a pestle, sent me up here, to this great London, and all that money paid down by uncle for my ‘prentice fee, only to make me a lolly-pop? — But as you’re in distress, I won’t be angry with you.

    [ Not sure about the distinction between Briton and Englishman, there. ]


    Hilaria, the festive board, By Charles Morris. 1798.

    Then wicked wit W——– and old lolly-pop Q——–,


    Modern Novel Writing Or The Elegant Enthusiast And Interesting Emotions Of Arabella Bloomville. A Rhapsodical Romance; Interspersed with Poetry. In Two Volumes. Vol. 2. By the Right Hon. Lady Harriet Marlow. 1796.

    [ As an editorial note, I can clearly see from the title page that the typesetter catered to Lady Marlow with multiple changes of typefaces for various parts of that extended title. Hee! ]

    He called him a suspirating senator, a perplexed peer, a lordly lollypop, a neglected nobleman, and a love-sick legislator in hereditary hopelessness.

  28. Oh, and one usage obviously not an imprecation, but where the sense of “Lollypop” as candy seems to have been obvious.


    The Beggar Girl and Her Benefactors, v5 (of 7 vols) By Mrs. Bennett (Agnes Maria). 1797.

    it was some shocking fellow come to steal the rich Miss Lollypop , our confectioner’s daughter

    [ I suspect that “Miss Lollypop” is a nickname, but I don’t feel curious enough to read the whole thing to find out. ]

  29. Owlmirror, you should submit this evidence for a new definition of lollipop, or a new variant of lollpoop, to the OED:

    It will add some interest to evaluation of the various etymological proposals for lollipop, too. If you are right and lollypop once had overtones of something like poofter, nancy-boy, queen, ponce, etc., this doesn’t rule out the Romani etymology—the semantic development of “homosexual male, effeminate male” from “candied apple stuck on a little pole” is not excluded.

    (Perhaps a semantic parallel can be found in candy-ass, although this is only attested from mid-20th century and originally from North America. The OED notes a possible early isolated instance of candy-ass in this article (registration required) from 1921, although the sense is unclear. Perhaps the author was trying to play on the two senses of ass in American English, starting from the tea hound also mentioned in the article.)

  30. lilihip

    What a cute word! Could it be a genericized trade name? The lili- suggests lizati “to lick” of course, but my Slavic Sprachgefühl is not good enough to approach -hip.

    It reminds me of Spanish chupachups, chupachup, chupachús “sucker, lollipop (spherical, not flat)”, genericized from the trademark Chupa Chups, from chupar, “to suck”, but with a strange final -ps, perhaps inspired by English lollipop, lollipops, with phonotactics more typical of Catalan? (The founder of the company was Catalan.)

  31. Xerîb: I really don’t know the provenance of the word lilihip.

    I did a google books search for “lilihip”. The word appears to be used in Sebian and Slovenian as well. The earliest reference i could find is from a 1939 Belgrade periodical “Pečat”.

  32. Andrej Bjelaković says

    I expected to find a brand name like Tom Pouce (> Serbian ‘tompus’), but no such luck.

  33. PlasticPaddy says

    “Se desconoce el verdadero origen del Chupetín, no obstante Enric Bernat se atribuye su creación. Él se desempeñaba como empleado de una fábrica de caramelos en Gran Bretaña allá por la primera década del año 1900. Se le ocurrió unir un caramelo con un palo y se lo propuso a su jefe, quien de inmediato aceptó la propuesta. El producto final fue llamado “Lolly Pop”, que coincidía con la denominación de uno de los caballos de carrera más exitosos de la época.[1]​ ”
    Source :
    [1] is a link to
    The Wikipedia article is flagged with “Este artículo o sección necesita referencias que aparezcan en una publicación acreditada.”. Quite. So instead of a Gypsy word we have a 20th century racehorse who so impressed 18th century newspapers that they used his name.
    What I was trying to do is establish that the form “Chupa chups” is only used in writing (or for talking) about the trademark, and that the normal form is “chupachús”. Maybe a Spanish speaker ( like you?) can say more about that….

  34. PlasticPaddy, “-ups” is contrary to Spanish phonotactics. In ordinary pronunciation the /p/ would be (and is) elided.

  35. what’s the likelihood of a direct “lali phabai” to “lilihip” connection? i’ve got no sense of any of the shifts that would be expected from (some flavor of) rromani to (various flavors of) BDCSM [or whatever we decided to call the lects formerly known as serbo-croatian]…

    and i think Owlmirror’s suggestion makes a lot of sense.
    i could see a mutually reinforcing pattern between rromani “red apple” / candies sold by jews / silly or ineffectual men, by way of slang for sexual/gender-deviant folks. there are a lot of layers of semantic overlap: jewish and rroma men get tied together by being tracked into peddling work in the right period; jews and rroma generally also get tracked into performance work, which is at that point even more strongly associated with sexual/gender deviance than it is now (though theatrically-associated effeminacy would’ve been more closely tied to excessive/wrongly-performed heterosexuality at that point); and there are specific associations of jews and rroma with gender-deviance (in relation to the christian/roman model, not their own norms)…

    and of course there’s the whole fellatio/lollypop thing.
    which is part of where the punchline of this fantastic blitzstein number gets its kick, even though it’s not part of the the pun itself (there is that “queer galoot” of an uncle, though):

  36. Romani to Croatian is relatively straight forward. Eg. Romani “love” to Croatian slang “lova”.

    Kajtazi’s Romani-Croatian dictionary also has “loli phabaj” as “red apple” – note: “j” = /j/

    rozele: There is no need to complicate things or to use obsolete & offensive names – it’s quite easy. If the source is in Croatian, the language is Croatian, if it’s in Slovenian, the language is Slovenian.

  37. Stu Clayton says

    excessive/wrongly-performed heterosexuality

    Fascinating. Where can I contact the standards body ? Does it accept policy proposals from the public?

  38. David Marjanović says

    and of course there’s the whole fellatio/lollypop thing.

    Was fellatio actually widely known anywhere before the movie Deep Throat?

  39. PlasticPaddy says

    Maybe among those with a classical education:
    Marcus Valerius Martialis, Epigrammata 11.66.1

    Et delator es et calumniator,
    Et fraudator es et negotiator,
    Et fellator es et lanista. Miror
    Quare non habeas, Vacerra, nummos.

  40. I think it was regarded in England as a strange French perversion.

    Requires certain minimum standards of hygiene before it can become popular, I guess.

  41. Lars Mathiesen says

    I’m pretty sure it was first on the lists of “specialties” that were circulated among us boys that hadn’t tried any of it. French, Greek, Danish, English, German… I was of that age approximately when Deep Throat premiered, but the lists weren’t new then.

  42. I bought my wife an autographed copy of Uppity Women of the Renaissance (one of three “Uppity Women” books by Vicki Leon). The books are one-page capsule biographies of various women (or putative women, like J). That particular volume included information about a particular prostitute (later madam) who was credited with introducing oral to the British sex trade.

  43. Trond Engen says

    Well known among soldiers and sailors, I would think. The Norw. expression en spansk en lit. “a Spanish* one”, idiom. “a quick, dirty (and embarrassing if discovered) solution to a problem” is said to derive from seamen’s slang for fellatio.

    *) Many a sailor would go ashore to study the local tongue of Barcelona or Bilbao. Apparently ethno-linguistic precision wasn’t their main concern.

  44. Lars Mathiesen says

    Two nations divided by almost the same language. I could tell you what spansk is in Denmark, but this is a family hattery.

  45. I could tell you what spansk is in Denmark, but this is a family hattery.

    In Spain, this is called “una cubana”.

    …And in Cuba, “una española”.

  46. PlasticPaddy says

    I have lead a sheltered life and know only a very unimaginatively functional word for this in English.

  47. Lars Mathiesen says

    Oh, the whole list is there as cross references from that entry. Nice. (Except I don’t think Norwegian (demonstrating interscandinavian prejudice in full force) was there in the old days and Swedish is what I learned as English).

  48. Trond Engen says

    I now believe that my source was misinformed (or at least under-researched on the subject) and that the meaning in seamen’s slang never was fellatio.

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