I ran across a piquant footnote on p. 214 of Ancient and Modern Malta, by Louis de Boisgelin (aka Pierre Marie Louis de Boisgelin de Kerdu), Knight of Malta (London, 1805). Boisgelin writes:

Sacchitti, the Maltese ambassador at Rome, wrote to his court that a Russian, Boyard, general of the Muscovite army and ambassador from Peter the First, had expressed a wish to visit Malta… The same dispatches gave an account of the honours paid this Boyard and his suite. His name was Kzeremetz * […]

And the footnote reads:

* Voltaire, in his History of the Empire of Russia under Peter the Great, chap viii. says, that he was originally a Prussian, and spells his name Sheremeto, though by others he is called Sheremetov, Sheramotoff, and Czeremetoff. L’Eveque in his History of Russia, the edition printed in 1800, calls him Cheremeteff; but I have written his name according to the credentials sent by the czar to the grand-master, in which he is termed Kzeremetz. The original of his harangue to the pope is preserved in the Vatican; I have a copy of it; and in that he is called Kremer: but in his discourse to the grand-master, of which I have likewise a copy, he is named Czeremeter; and Szerempsen in the letter of recommendation sent by the emperor Leopold to the grand-master. Sebastian Paolo has printed it in his Codex Diplom. vol. II. page 373. He has also printed his credentials.

An impressive array of variants, of which the author chose the very silliest; I wonder how anyone came up with “Kzeremetz”? The Boyard’s, or boyar‘s, name in a modern version is Boris Sheremetev.


  1. Kzeremetz looks awfully lot like something Polish, but the best match I can find is czere = cherry. Maybe an old spelling?

  2. J. W. Brewer says

    Just free-associating on the variability of spelling of words of foreign origin – I was reading this morning in one of the tabloids the edifying tale of an attractive young lady whose ambition is to be America’s first Gypsy* supermodel (she has already appeared on one of the Gypsy-based reality tv shows, which should not be confused with the Amish-based reality tv shows). I was caught short by the word “gorger,” meaning in context outsider/non-Gypsy/Gypsy-who-has-become-too-assimilated-to-the-dominant-culture, until I figured out it must be an approximation of the same Romany word I think of as being standardly spelled “gadje” (although it turns out wikipedia has it as “gadjo” and no doubt there are other versions). I thought this might be a nonce transcription mistake by the particular journalist, but googling confirms it’s Out There. I’m thinking it probably arose in non-rhotic varieties of English? It’s interesting because it looks like an English word (“one who gorges”), whereas the shape/appearance of “gadje” emphasizes its foreign-ness.

    *Whatever the case may be in Europe, “gypsy” is not at present a taboo word in the usage of American tabloids or reality tv shows.

  3. Gorger must be a corruption of gorgio, which I used to often see in older books. That is the form the OED uses; it gives the etymology as “Romany; in German spelling gadze, gatscho; in Spanish spelling gacho.” So it’s clearly the same lexeme.

    By the way, what sort of name is de Kerdu, anyhow? And why does GT do such a spectacularly awful job on the linked article?

    He first takes their whim congratulate ridiculously magistrate of the place, which in struts to ease. The adventure starts in the joy they continue. They believe in an opera dancer a wealthy Russian prince wants to make her his mistress without having ever seen. They ask a factor of instruments to provide a prince equally imaginary thirty marine horns; they control the shoemaker King of seamless boots; they cover praise a writer province. Many respond very seriously, without seeing malice. Many fish April undated, many mystifications continued correspondence with rare constancy, non-fraudulent and without actual malice, that the pair publish with responses in 1795 in a book become very rare.

  4. By the way, what sort of name is de Kerdu, anyhow?

    I was wondering the same thing; my guess would be Breton, but that’s just based on general feel.

  5. marie-lucie says

    de Kerdu

    Breton is what first comes to my mind. Ker, found in many Breton names, is the equivalent of Welsh Car, and du must be the word for ‘black’ (dhu in one form of Gaelic, I think). De is not a Breton word but the French preposition usually found in front of place names, with the meaning ‘of’ or ‘from’. So Monsieur de Kerdu would be the lord of a place in Brittany called Kerdu.

  6. Ah, so it’s the equivalent of Welsh Caerddu.

  7. There’s a little river of that name in Brittany, says the oracle.

  8. J. W. Brewer says

    Ah, but “corruption” is so judgmental a characterization for a variant . . .

  9. marie-lucie says

    The article: (approximate translation of the quoted paragraph)

    [As bored young officers, M. de Kerdu and his closest friend carry on hoaxes through exchanges of letters]

    Il leur prend d’abord la lubie de féliciter ridiculement un magistrat du lieu, qui s’en rengorge d’aise.

    They first have the crazy idea of conveying ridiculous congratulations to a local magistrate, who struts with pleasure about it.

    L’aventure les met en joie, ils continuent.

    This affair pleases them no end, so they go on.

    Ils font croire à une danseuse de l’Opéra qu’un richissime prince russe veut en faire sa maîtresse sans l’avoir jamais vue.

    They make an opera dancer believe that an extremely wealthy Russian prince wants to make her his mistress without ever having seen her..

    Ils demandent à un facteur d’instruments de fournir à un prince tout aussi imaginaire une trentaine de trompes marines ;

    They ask a maker of musical instruments to supply to another, just as imaginary prince, a set of thirty fog horns

    ils commandent au bottier du roi des bottes sans coutures ;

    they order from the king’s bootmaker [a pair of ?] seamless boots

    ils couvrent d’éloges un littérateur de province.

    they shower with praise a provincial man of letters

    Beaucoup répondent très sérieusement, sans y voir malice.

    Many people respond very seriously, without suspecting mischief.

    Autant de poissons d’avril sans date, autant de mystifications épistolaires poursuivies avec une constance rare, sans but frauduleux et sans réelle méchanceté,..

    [These are] so many undated April Fools’ jokes, so many epistolary mystifications carried on with rare constancy, without fraudulent intent and without actual nastiness, ..

    .. que les deux compères publient avec les réponses en 1795 dans un ouvrage devenu très rare..

    ..that the two jokesters publish together with the responses in 1795 in a work which is now extremely rare.

  10. Thanks, m-l! Is the French text in any way unusual, perhaps complex in style, highly literary, old-fashioned, or otherwise something that Google Translate might have trouble with? Because while GT is far from flawless, it does not usually (in my experience) come up with things as remote from English as “He first takes their whim congratulate ridiculously magistrate of the place, which in struts to ease.”

  11. marie-lucie: une trentaine de trompes marines

    It is eery how often recently I have run across a German, French or English word whose meaning I wasn’t sure of, and then within a day or two I find exactly that word (or a congener) being used or discussed at this site.

    Yesterday, reading a German translation of Genet’s Un captif amoureux (German subtitle “Memories Of Palestine”), I ran up against the word Tromben. That seems to be the plural of Trombe, which ought to be one of the various words for “trumpet”. But it occurs in a list of marine expressions.

    Duden told me it means “waterspout”. I see now that it may be called that because a waterspout has the shape of a fog horn = trompe marine. The French for waterspout is trombe marine !

  12. marie-lucie says

    JC, yes, the French text is indeed complex, literary, old-fashioned, etc, with idioms that are impossible to translate literally, that’s why I used “approximate”. Plus, GT went for a telegraphic style, ignoring pronouns, etc, probably because it could not guess at the relationships between many of the words. No doubt my translation could be improved, but it gives the gist of the paragraph.

    (I guess carry out would have been better than carry on).

  13. marie-lucie says

    Another correction: I assumed that trompe marine meant ‘fog horn’, used as another word or description for trompe de brume (la brume = ‘heavy mist, fog’). I did not know trombe marine ‘waterspout, tornado on the sea‘ which would have been unusual in the vocabulary of land-based army officers (it was new to me too!). It is possible that the two hoaxers used trompe marine by confusion (whether conscious or not) between trompe de brume and trombe marine, since la trompe, like ‘horn’, can refer to a kind of primitive wind instrument. (It also refers to an elephant’s trunk).

  14. Here is someone playing a trompe marine.

  15. Ah, a trompe marine must be for communication between ships at sea. It’s a kind of megaphone.

  16. marie-lucie says

    Merci, Stu. The fake order makes more sense with this “instrument” (no more a musical instrument than a microphone! so not made by a real instrument maker).

  17. More news from the I-didn’t-know-that-either front: there really is a musical instrument called tromba marina, “marine trumpet” in English and trompette marine in French.

  18. Megaphone, also known as speaking-trumpet, bullhorn, blowhorn, or loud hailer.

  19. Curiouser and curiouser – this thing has several names in German: Trumscheit, Marientrompete, Nonnengeige, Nonnentrompete, Trompetengeige. The article says that during a period of time in German-speaking countries, nuns were forbidden from using real wind instruments (Blasinstrument, one into which you have to blow air). Almost half of the 200 historical instruments that have been preserved came from nunneries.

  20. Kzeremetz
    Could be Polish influence. SZCZ for Russian SH may turn into CZ and then to KZ. Sheremetev grandson Nikolai is famous for the story of his love and marriage to the serf-actress of his private theatre in Ostankino.

    de Kerdu
    Ker in Breton place names means house, with du pronounced dee. If the name is of Breton origin it would mean Mr.Blackhouse. Welsh Caer- means fort or castle. Caerdydd is ‘Fort of the Day,’ Caernarfon is ‘Fort opposite the Môn’, which is what the town is. Ynis Môn is Anglesey.

  21. David Marjanović says

    Kremer? Interesting. If you put Krämer/Kremer into early enough Polish, you get Krzemerz, Krzamarz and suchlike. Put such a spelling in front of someone who doesn’t know what the Polish rz is, and you get total confusion with a lot of z. 🙂

    It might even be possible to make it even worse by adding the diminutive suffix -ec and spell it according to German conventions as -etz: another z!

    and du must be the word for ‘black’

    It is: the flag is gwen ha du, “white and black”. (That seems to be used as a name like “stars & stripes”.)

  22. Whatever the case may be in Europe, “gypsy” is not at present a taboo word in the usage of American tabloids or reality tv shows.

    “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding” is a UK tabloid TV show, mainly featuring Irish Travellers rather than Romany. Its use of the word word “Gypsy” is not the main focus of the criticism it has received.

  23. Sashura: while Caerdydd looks like ‘Fort of the Day’ to modern eyes, the earlier form is Caerdyf (whence the English form Cardiff), meaning ‘Fort [of the river] Taf’.
    Pity, though; would be quite pleasant to have a ‘Caerdydd’ facing a ‘Caernos’. Perhaps in a Celtic-inspired fantasy… (Tolkien’s Minas Anor and Minas Ithil, the Towers of the Sun and Moon, would provide something of a parallel).

  24. marie-lucie says

    Sashura: Ker in Breton place names means house, with du pronounced dee.

    According to “Breton”, ker meant originally ‘place of habitation’ and specifically ‘house’. The article is mosly concerned with the history and sociology of Breton in France. As for the pronunciation of du ‘black’, the same article only deals with spellings which are problematic for the French reader, and therefore u can be assumed to be pronounced like French (written) u or German (written) ü. This is confirmed by the English article, which gives the phonetic equivalent of all the Breton graphemes and digraphs. As in French, the high vowels are written i, u, ou = German i, ü, u = phonetically [i, y, u].

    If the name is of Breton origin it would mean Mr.Blackhouse.

    The name of the nobleman in question is not Kerdu ‘Maison Noire’ but de Kerdu ‘of/from Kerdu’, Kerdu being the name of a village or at least an estate. If this name was translated into French, the lord of the place could be Monsieur de Maisonnoire. (“Monsieur” does not indicate rank, or lack thereof, but together with the de it conveys a higher social status than does “Mr Blackhouse”).

    The actual last name of the gentleman is de Boisgelin de Kerdu. This suggests that de Boisgelin was the original property or fief and that the family later acquired Kerdu and added that name to their own. Possibly, the original lands of the de Boisgelin passed to an elder branch of the family and a younger branch acquired Kerdu.

  25. marie-lucie says

    Correction: This suggests that de Boisgelin was the original property

    I mean that de Boisgelin was the original family name, from Boisgelin ‘Gelin’s wood’ the name of the property.

  26. The name seems close to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, apparently named after the village of Sheremetyevsky and a nearby railway station of the same name, and all harking back to Count Серге́й Дми́триевич Шереме́тев.

  27. i wonder if there is a relationship between the various european words gadje, gacho, etc. and the arabic ġajar ‘gypsy’ (egyptian /ġagar/, also nuwwār)…?

  28. Marie-Lucie, Wictionary says Breton du is pronounced dy: same as in Welsh.

    Anhweol, yes, I knew about the original etymology, but like you I like the day interpretation. There is also Aberdyfi (ah-berr-dah-vee) which the English pronounce as Abu-Dhabi. My favourite is Barmouth-Abermaw where in English the meaning of Welsh words is reversed: aber is mouth, Maw is the river.

  29. marie-lucie says

    Sashura, which Wictionary article are you referring to? I see a number of topics on Breton, but none on sounds or pronunciation.

  30. This one, and there is a section on phonology in wikipedia article on Breton which also has letter u – sound y.

  31. marie-lucie says

    I see where the problem is. As I mentioned, I had read the phonology (= sound-system) section in the English Wikipedia article on Breton, from which the Wictionary information is excerpted. “Letter u” refers to the regular spelling, as in du ‘black’, but “sound y” refers to the actual pronunciation as transcribed by linguists. Note that “y” is written between slashes: /y/. This means that what is between the // is a phonetic symbol. In the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) /y/ represents the typical sound of the “letter u” in French, or “ü” in German. So Breton du ‘black’ is pronounced the same as French du, the equivalent of de le before consonants.

    In Welsh (again from Wikipedia), the “letter y” represents a sound varying from a long /i/ (as in French) to a short more “central” sound similar to the one often transcribed with the letter “y” in Russian (as in Krym). It is possible that depending on the person or the dialect, the Breton sound varies between a French-like /y/ to one more similar to the Welsh or Russian sound.

  32. I see! Thanks. Y as ы is a good pointer.

  33. Recalling a wasted summer dabbling with Maltese, I remember they use the letter ‘X’ for a “sh” sound . So this ambassador might have written the name as Xeremet? From which it might have got mis-read as kz ?

  34. In fact, Welsh y represents this dialectal alternation of sounds, the so-called “clear y“, only in final syllables and in non-clitic monosyllables. Elsewhere y represents schwa. However, u represents the same alternation as clear y in all positions, so the distinction between clear y and u must be learned by heart, as must the distinction between either of them and i in Southern Welsh varieties.

  35. marie-lucie says

    cadoro; Maltese X

    The use of the letter “x” for the sound sh is not peculiar to Maltese: the same thing occurs in Portuguese and Catalan, and perpetuates an old Spanish usage.

    A few centuries ago, Spanish did have the sound sh which was written “x”, but through a type of change it became the same sound as the ch in German Bach or Scottish loch. Similarly the sound zh, written “j” or “g”, (pronounced as in French), also became that same ch. To simplify the spelling, all the previous “x” ‘s and “j” ‘s were spelled uniformly j, EXCEPT in rare cases such as México which kept the old spelling but where the letter x is pronounced like the modern “j”.

    Besides México, another example of the old pronunciation of the letter “x” in Spanish is found in the name of the famous character Don Quijote, which was spelled Don Quixote in the original. As was the custom il older times, in translations of the work the name was adapted to the various languages of translation, and in French this name is Don Quichotte (French ch = English sh). However, it was not adapted into English, so that the English used a spelling pronunciation of “x” as ks, which had never been in the Spanish name.

    The Wikipedia article on “Maltese alphabet” shows that written Maltese had a complex history since the Latin alphabet had to be adapted to an Arabic-type language with many more consonants than Latin and its descendants. At one time the sound sh was written either “x” (as in Spanish and Catalan) or “sc” (as in Italian), but the spelling “x” was probably older and more common, and has remained.

    At any rate, even though the author referred to was part of the Order of Malta, he was a Frenchman and it is unlikely that he knew either Maltese or Russian.

  36. marie-lucie says

    JC, thanks for the explanations about Welsh. I relied on the Wikipedia info on “Welsh language”, and my main point was not Welsh but Breton pronunciation where “u” had to be French “u”, although perhaps subject to more variation than the French phoneme.

  37. At any rate, even though the author referred to was part of the Order of Malta, he was a Frenchman and it is unlikely that he knew either Maltese or Russian.

    While all that is certainly true, according to his Wikipedia article he did live in Malta for a while.

  38. m-l,

    The use of the letter “x” for the sound sh is not peculiar to Maltese: the same thing occurs in Portuguese and Catalan
    Indeed. The Catalan connection is particularly relevant noting the political connection (Malta as a part of the Crown of and then the Spanish Empire) which apparently went both ways – according to Alexandre Queraltó Bartrés, there were colonies of Maltese all over in Catalonia and Valencia. This extended to linguistic matters, so for example, there is a 18th century Catalan-Maltese dictionary and phrasebook by Marquis Francesc de Sentmenat i Torrelles (Biblioteca de Catalunya 1185) published as “Un vocabulari català-maltès manuscrit del segle XVIII” by the already mentioned Alexandre Queraltó Bartrés. It has been speculated that the choice of “x” for “sh” was influenced by Catalan scribal practices, especially considering that it is indeed quite old: for example, there is a militia list from 1419-1420 with last names like Xuerib (today’s Xuereb). Of course, there is a great deal of variation, so currently the plan is to look at the scribal practice in the administrative centers to see whether we can get a clearer picture of the history of “x” in Maltese writing.
    As for cadoro’s theory, it certainly is a plausible one. But wouldn’t it be more likely to derive from Czerem* which was parsed as c+z and “c” read as “k”? This c > k reading happens a lot to my last name which starts with c.

  39. marie-lucie says

    He was there with Napoleon’s army of occupation! He may have learned a little everyday Maltese, but I think that Italian was probably the socially dominant language of Malta at the time.

  40. i wonder if there is a relationship between the various european words gadje, gacho, etc. and the arabic ġajar ‘gypsy’ (egyptian /ġagar/, also nuwwār)…?

    The Hebrew word for Gypsy/Romani is צועני Tso’ani, which seems weirdly close to Russian Цыга́не, Portuguese Ciganos and similar European terms. (The letter ע ayin, though a voiced pharyngeal fricative, is sometimes for historical reasons rendered as G: Hebrew עזה ‘Aza is English Gaza.)

  41. marie-lucie says

    (I was responding to LH about Boisgelin living in Malta)

    Thanks bulbul, it’s nice to have the opinion of someone with firsthand knowledge. The 18C suggestion of writing sc instead of x (probably only in front of i and e, made by someone with an Italian name, suggests a strong Italian influence at the time.

  42. m-l,

    you are right about the Italian influence, but using “sc” actually went beyond the rules of Italian orthography. To pick an example at random from a Mdina Cathedral manuscript containing sermons from 1778: “biesc” (today’s “biex”), ġhaliesc (“għaliex”), “musc” (“mhux”) and scorta (“xorta”). Interestingly, there’s another sermon from 1765 where we find “scbixa” where “x” stands for today’s “h” (the whole context is “…xia tamilcom uera scbixa ta perfetti insara” = “hija tagħmilkom vera xbiha ta’ perfetti insara” = “it will make you a true image of perfect Christians”). Of course these days, “h” is mostly gone, so this goes to show that back then, it was still pronounced.

  43. He was there with Napoleon’s army of occupation! He may have learned a little everyday Maltese, but I think that Italian was probably the socially dominant language of Malta at the time.

    Sure, that’s why I said “all that [specifically, “it is unlikely that he knew either Maltese or Russian”] is certainly true”; I just thought it was interesting that he had actually spent time there.

  44. marie-lucie says

    bulbul, curiouser and curiouser! It must make Maltese historical linguistics particularly complex.

    LH, yes, especially since the Knights had not been in Malta for quite a while then.

  45. Paul, The Hebrew צועני /tsoʕani/ is one of these words built on existing Hebrew roots and made to resemble a European word. There is in fact a root צען ‘to wander, migrate’, and צועני was built from it, keeping a resemblance to the European tsigane / Zigeuner and the others. Wikipedia attributes the word to Mendele Moykher Sforim.

    The Russian tsigan etc. go back to the Athinganoi (‘untouchables’), a name given to various early Christian sects, probably not actually connected with the Roma.

  46. There is in fact a root צען ‘to wander, migrate’, and צועני was built from it, keeping a resemblance to the European tsigane / Zigeuner and the others. Wikipedia attributes the word to Mendele Moykher Sforim.

    Aha! Thanks. Though the word doesn’t seem to appear in BDB . . .

  47. You never know where clicking will take you. In this case, I wound up at The Khazarian Hypothesis and the Nature of Yiddish, by Asya Pereltsvaig, who thanks, among others, Hatterite Dmitry Pruss “for a helpful discussion that led to this post.”

    The article is in itself interesting, but germane to this thread and in particular the Hebrew word for Gypsy/Romani is an image of a “page from the Shemot Devarim (‘Names of Things’ — PO), a Yiddish-Hebrew-Latin-German dictionary and thesaurus, published by Elia Levita in 1542.” Alongside ‘Zegeiner’ Levita has placed ‘Paganus,’ in Hebrew type ‘כותי kuti’ and in Hebrew/Yiddish handwriting זי*יינר zi*yner (*= a letter I can’t make out). כת kut in modern Hebrew means cult. A ‘kuti’ could be a member of a cult, though I’ve never seen this usage. I don’t know what כת kut meant historically, but it’s probably related to modern Hebrew כיתה kita class (as in classroom or school grade) and כיתת ירי kitat yeri firing squad.

  48. Ooh, good one!
    The * is evidently a gimel, cf. ‘Ungar’. The first letter is a tsade, as in modern cursive and in Rashi script, so the Yiddish is ציגיינר, Tsigeyner, as expected.
    The Kutim, (‘Cutheans’ in English translations) are, according to some traditions (2 Kings 17, 24), Assyrians brought to Samaria by Senaherib to take the place of the Israelites exiled to Babylon, and are the ancestors of today’s Samaritans. The Samaritans themselves consider themselves to have continuously occupied their territory since biblical time and the schism with the Jerusalem-cetered Judaism. The placename Kutha remains to this day in Iraq and in Wikipedia.
    There’s a long Jewish intellectual tradition of assigning biblical ethnonyms to modern nations, notably צרפת, Tsarefat, to France, or ספרד, Sepharad, to Spain. I am guessing that someone poetically assigned the name of an ancient displaced minority to a modern one.

  49. Correction, Senaherib exiled the Israeites; his son brought the Kuthites to take their place.
    In the Hebrew list, the word for Tatar is קדרי ‘Qedarite’, after Qedar the son of Ishmael. In more modern times, Qedarites have been associated with the Bedouins. In the same list, the Hebrew for ‘Hungarian’ is הגרי ‘Hagrite’.

  50. Now more at leisure, I looked up Elia Levita. I’d forgotten: he was the author of the hugely popular Yiddish-language romance Bovo Bukh, which after a few twists led to the widely-known Yiddish phrase bubbeh myseh (Lit. grandmother’s story; fig. old wive’s tale, BS). The Shemot Devarim dictionary has a Wiki entry in German and can be viewed in Google Books, where the scans are of much higher quality than the image in the link above. Great sport scrolling through a quadrilingual dictionary too: are those errors or truly the meanings back then? I might add that he should have hired a proofreader (cf German Mittnacht, Latin Auster, Hebrew דרום darom and Yiddish מיט טאג Mitt Tag).

    I wonder if כותי kuti was actually in use as the Hebrew word for Gypsy/Romani at that time, or if it was merely Levita’s fanciful appropriation of an existing term. After all, there would have been very little non-religious use of Hebrew in his day. Or maybe the Yiddish and Hebrew entries were brought into an earlier German-Latin work, and he had to invent parallel Hebrew terms where none existed.

  51. I don’t know if כותי, kuti, was Levita’s invention, but the other similar adaptations in the list—togarmi ‘of Togarmah’ for Turk, hagri ‘Hagrite’ for Hungarian, as well as the much older tsarfati ‘French’, yevani ‘Greek’, ashkenazi ‘German’—were widespread at least in the 19th century Haskalah writing I’m more familiar with. Chances are כותי was already established in Levita’s time.
    The association with Gypsies was not necessarily done in written Hebrew. It could have been entirely oral, or perhaps in some work in Judeo-Arabic.

  52. A few centuries ago, Spanish did have the sound sh which was written “x”

    It is retained in post-colonial orthographies of indigenous languages of Mexico; and many words of Mayan, Nahuatl, etc. origin in Mexico retain “x” pronounced as [ʃ]

    Xochimilco is a large suburb of Mexico City. Xel-Há is a Mayan-themed park.

  53. marie-lucie says

    Yes, I was aware of that but forgot to bring it up in my comment.

  54. David Marjanović says

    yevani ‘Greek’

    This one is actually original, isn’t it?

  55. Wiktionary sez:

    From יָוָון, (yavan) “Greece”, after יון (yawan) “Javan”, a son of Japheth (Genesis 10:2); possibly related to יַיִן (yayin) “wine” or Greek Ἴων (Iōn) “Ionian”.

    I’ll let those who actually know about Semitic etymology weigh in on how accurate this is.

  56. The latter is correct according to everything I’ve read. Ἰῶν (sic) goes back to Ἰάϝων.

  57. I would guess it’s a Persian loan, possibly affected by folk etymology. The Persians called all Hellenes “Ionians”, because those were the ones they knew well (and conquered); cf. English Holland ‘the Netherlands’.

    The word יון looks cool in this font: short line, medium line, long line.

  58. Page 402 of BDB links Hebrew יון Yavan to Old Persian Yauna, and Egyptian Y-v-n(n)a. It’s curious that no Assyrian or Aramean cognate is listed. BDB also mentions the son of Japheth. Turkish for Greece is Yanunistan.

  59. David Marjanović says

    Turkish for Greece is Yanunistan.


  60. I love that the alternate name is Helen Cumhuriyeti. Sounds like a dangerous dame in a low-rent Raymond Chandler knockoff.

  61. Yanunistan / Yunanistan . My bad. Apologies extended.

    Helen Cumhuriyeti

    Cumhuriyet and Hürriyet are two of Turkey’s major Turkish newspapers. Cumhuriyet is Turkish for republic and is pretty much a straight lift from Arabic jamahiriya. The ‘huri-hürri’ syllables are derived from an Arabic root meaning freedom; cf Tahrir Square in Cairo and Egypt’s official name, Ǧumhūriyyat Miṣr al-ʿArabiyyah (Arab Republic of Egypt). The root shows up in Hebrew too, as חרות h.erut freedom, which was the name of Menachem Begin’s political party. It’s also hiding in שחרור shih.rur to set free or release.

  62. Trond Engen says

    Yanunistan / Yunanistan


    (My son, this evening,)

  63. Paul,

    actually, cumhuriyet and ǧumhūriyya are the same word meaning “republic” and having nothing to do with freedom which in Arabic is ḥuriyya (note the dot under the h). The word ǧamāhīriyya is itself a derivation from ǧumhūriyya (the ǧumhūr- part meaning “public” was replaced by its plural) and unlike ǧumhūriyya, which is a neutral common word, ǧamāhīriyya is a very specific concept invented by Qaddafi as a part of his political theory.

  64. bulbul: I have been misled. Thanks for the correction.

  65. The biblical יון yāwān is often identified with Ion, ancestor of the Ionians (Ἴων, which could be from earlier *Ἰάϝων). That would be a rare case where the modern name reasonably matches the biblical ethnonym.
    I don’t know whether Yavan’s father Japheth, son of Noah, is actually related to the Greek Iapetus, as has been proposed.

  66. David Marjanović says





  67. John Cowan says

    although it turns out wikipedia has it as “gadjo” and no doubt there are other versions

    From the WP article:

    The word is encountered as gadgie (or sometimes gadge), a term in Scots, formerly only used by the Roma/Traveller community, but since the 20th century in general use by the Scots-speaking population. In most areas [where] it is heard, notably Edinburgh, the Borders and Dingwall (delightfully < Þingvöllr ‘field of the Thing’), gadgie has a generalised meaning of a man that the speaker doesn’t know well. In Dundee it is a more pejorative term, referring to a poorly educated person who engages in hooliganism or petty criminality. In the village of Aberchirder it refers to a born-and-bred local.

    All I can say is, the Aberchirderers must be a curious lot. The village name is Pictish (or some kind of P-Celtic at any rate) aber ‘river mouth’ + ScG ciar-dobhar ‘the name of the river’, lit. ‘dark water’, except that the ScG part is probably either a calque or folk etymology for some underlying Pictish form.

    The term is also heard in the North East of England, often referring particularly to old men.

    The Semi-Finn who pointed this passage out to me said that he could personally confirm this usage.

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