Once again aldiboronti, in his usual place of business at Wordorigins, comes up with a great link: the Philologos column at the Forward. Aldi cites the column on the Hebrew word for ‘ladybug,’ parat Moshe rabbenu (literally ‘Moses’ cow’), which quotes quite a few European terms for that useful insect (mangling the Russian bozh’ya korovka as bozha kapovka, so use with caution), and I enjoyed the detailed investigation of the etymology of Yiddish shmergl ‘emery,’ which traces it back to Latin smericulum and Greek smaragdos ‘emerald’; I think the bald assertion that the latter is borrowed from Sanskrit marakata goes beyond the evidence, but this is, after all, a newspaper column, not a linguistic journal. Most enjoyable.


  1. ben wolfson says

    but this is, after all, a newspaper column, not a linguistic journal.
    Would you have been so forgiving if the article had appeared in the NY Times?

  2. Good question. I certainly delight in tormenting the Paper of Record, but I think if the worst they’d done in a story was make an overconfident leap to a plausible etymon, I’d have been forgiving. Unless I was in a foul mood, of course.

  3. I like the Indian connection. Marakata is found in the MahaBharata and in the Puranas, so it has been used for some years. A Semitic origin is not improbable. The Semitic root BRQ in the meaning “to flash” is found in Modern Arabic, Bible Hebrew, Ugaritic and Akkadian, and Emeralds were known in Egypt ca.1800 BCE, but I have not (yet?) found the meaning “emerald” in those languages.

  4. Whatever you do, don’t click on “puranol” (I didn’t). According to my browser’s status bar, it’s yet another trick to get people to buy rubbish.
    “Some interesting quotes” my ass.

  5. The spammers are getting cleverer and cleverer. One trick I’ve seen lately is to copy the text of another comment in the thread and attach it to the URL of a diet pill or sex aid. I’ve also started to see bundling of URLs for, say, drugs and online poker in the same comment. Just now I deleted 329 comments from a safe-weight-loss site. I hereby express my deep gratitude for MT-Blacklist and its De-spam function (which enables me to delete them all at once); without it, I probably would have closed off commenting as so many sites have been doing. Spammers, I execrate you!

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