The Spread of the Persian Onion.

Victor Mair has a Log post called “Onion” in Persian, Turkic, Mongolian, Manchu, Dungan (northwest Mandarin), and Indic whose title is admirably descriptive. He starts with “this interesting Uyghur word for “onion” that derives from Persian” and quotes Brian Spooner as follows:

It’s the normal Persian word for onion, which is a key ingredient in pretty much every Persian dinner dish, and (as I wrote in The Persianate Millennium) as Persian culture spread through Central Asia with the Persian language starting in the 9th century all the way to northern China, I wouldn’t be surprised to find piyaz in any Turkic language. I don’t remember whether the Ottomans bequeathed it to modern Turkish.

As Mehmet Olmez says, “In modern Turkish, the word piyaz is used for a special food prepared with onion, boiled eggs, and beans.” There is a list of words borrowed from the Persian at the Wiktionary page, and Mair adds “The same Persian word also worked its way into Sinitic, hence Dungan (Northwest Mandarin, written in Cyrillic): пиязы (pii͡azɨ, I-I-II)”

I love that kind of spread of culture words, but what I want to know is, where did the Persian word come from? Thomas Benfey says:

I will just add that I couldn’t find Middle Persian pyʾc/piyāz anywhere, whether in MacKenzie’s Zoroastrian Middle Persian dictionary, Skjærvø’s digitized ZMP corpus, or Durkin-Meisterernst’s dictionary of Manichaean Middle Persian and Parthian. There aren’t all that many culinary discussions that survive in any of these corpora, so it could well be from Middle Persian but simply not attested. But unless the author of that Wiktionary entry is aware of something I’m not, the MP pyʾc/piyāz in the piyāz entry there should really come with an asterisk. That said, there are several cases of words from eastern Middle Iranian languages such as Sogdian and Bactrian making their way into the core vocabulary of New Persian. This is not too relevant to the etymology of Persian piyāz because of the final consonant, but for what it’s worth I did find a Sogdian pyʾk (piyāk) meaning “onion” in Gharib’s dictionary.

I don’t know, that Sogdian word seems suspiciously close… (Too bad MMcM never got around to onions in the late lamented Polyglot Vegetarian, though he did discuss garlic. For onions et alia allia previously at LH, see this post.)


  1. David Eddyshaw says

    I always assumed that Hausa albasa is from Arabic, because, well, just look at it. However, I’ve just discovered that although that’s true, it apparently came via Songhay, accounting for the loss of the final /l/ from /ʔal-basˤal/. (OK. I admit it. I didn’t know the Arabic for “onion.”) Mooré has albasle. (Mossi swots with their superior Arabic learning.)

    Kusaal for “onion” is gabu, which for language-internal reasons pretty much has to be a loanword, but I’ve no idea where from. [Edit: Tony Naden’s Mampruli dictionary says the etymon is from “Katsina Hausa”, but even if so, I think it would have to have been borrowed into Hausa itself from somewhere else.]

    On the subject of vegetable mysteries, I’ve often wondered (well. occasionally wondered) where the Kusaal nanzu’us “pepper” comes from. The nan- bit isn’t a normal noun prefix, and if the word is a compound, I’ve no idea what the components mean. The glottalised /u:/ suggests it’s native rather than borrowed, but that could be due to analogy (like lɔmbɔ’ɔg “orchard”, from Hausa lambuu by way of bɔn’ɔg “swamp, ricefield.”) If I could only come up with something it might be analogous to.

    It makes me wish Lameen did a “your trans-Saharan loanword questions answered” session.

  2. John Cowan says

    Both black pepper and capsicum are imports to Africa, so it’s not surprising that they are known by loanwords. In English, pepper < pippala, which Wikt says is thought to be from the pre-Indic substrate. Capsicum is more mysterious: it’s Neo-Latin from capsa ‘box’: but why? Green peppers are a bit boxy, I suppose.

  3. David Eddyshaw says

    Actually, applying a bit of imagination, I think I can make Kusaal “pepper” into a compound: checking the one instance in the Bible Translation, I see that I’ve got the vowel slightly wrong, and it ought to be nanzʋ’ʋs with long glottalised [ʊ:] rather than [u:]. That could represent the same root as in zʋ’ʋni “dawadawa seeds”, and (being still more inventive) the first component could in fact be the combining form of naŋ “scorpion.” Et voilà! “scorpion dawadawa seeds.” No?

  4. David Marjanović says

    Wikipedia confirms dawadawa seeds are roundish and, when fermented, black. Makes perfect sense, then.

    There’s a short Wikipedia article in Bambara. It seems to switch spelling conventions several times per sentence.

    pepper < pippala

    Through Latin piper – and I think that allows us to pinpoint with unexpected precision when the borrowing into West Germanic occurred: after the Romance vowel changes, and also after umlaut had become fashionable, so that early Romance /e/-as-opposed-to-/ɛ/ was able to be borrowed as Largely Common West Germanic /e/-as-opposed-to-/ɛ/, yet still before the High German consonant shift (Pfeffer) or shortly enough thereafter that etymological nativization was possible – contrast pitch < pica > Pech, where the /p/ was not nativized anymore.

    Both Pfeffer and Pech* retain /e/, as still opposed to /ɛ/, in my dialect and probably straight across Upper German.

    * Mostly means “bad luck” now. Also useful as a laconic way of saying “yes, that’s bad – if you care, which I don’t”.

  5. @John Cowan: I don’t see anything mysterious about capsicum being cognate to capsule. Air-containing fruits are not the norm among the plantae; peppers are just hollow in a way not seen much, although that fact may have been more salient in an agricultural society.

  6. There’s nothing strange about Persian vocabulary in the Turkic languages. For instance, as discussed a long time ago, the names of the days of the week in the Turkic languages are from Persian.

  7. PlasticPaddy says

    Re al-basal, hebrew apparently has a root B-SH-L related to cooking or ripeness/maturity in the modern language. Is this related to the Arabic (I do not know the alphabet, so it is harder for me to look up roots)? If so, what is the reconstructed meaning for the ancestor?

  8. David Eddyshaw says

    I think the expected Hebrew consonant corresponding to the Arabic sˤ would have been tzadeh, though I wouldn’t swear to it. Proto-Semitic seems to have been well provided with different s-sounds, to put it mildly.

  9. PlasticPaddy says
  10. Re al-basal, hebrew apparently has a root B-SH-L

    Arabic baṣl بصل “onion” is related to Hebrew בָּצָל‎ bāṣāl, Syriac ܒܶܨܠܳܐ‎ beṣlā, and Old South Arabian bṣl “onion”, with further cognates in the Modern South Arabian languages:

    Hebrew bāṣāl occurs just once in the Bible, in the plural bəṣālîm, Numbers 11:5:

    זָכַרְנוּ, אֶת-הַדָּגָה, אֲשֶׁר-נֹאכַל בְּמִצְרַיִם, חִנָּם; אֵת הַקִּשֻּׁאִים, וְאֵת הָאֲבַטִּחִים, וְאֶת-הֶחָצִיר וְאֶת-הַבְּצָלִים, וְאֶת-הַשּׁוּמִים

    zāḵarnū, ’eṯ-haddāḡâh,’ăšer-nōḵal bəmiṣrayim ḥinnām; ’eṯ haqqiššu’îm, wə’eṯ hā’ăḇaṭṭiḥîm, wə’eṯ-hĕḥāṣîr wə·’eṯ-habbəṣālîm wə’eṯ-haššūmîm

    We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick

    The same root may be in ḥăbaṣṣelet in Song of Songs 2:1, in the phrase חֲבַצֶּלֶת הַשָּׁרוֹן ḥăbaṣṣelet ha-ššārôn “the rose of Sharon” (possibly the sea daffodil Pancratium maritimum or another bulbous plant, such as the crocus, narcissus, or tulip?).

    Beside these West Semitic forms, there is also Akkadian bisru (variant bišru), defined by the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary as “a kind of leek”—the meaning and the general phonetic shape are similar to the West Semitic, but there is no regular phonological correspondence between Akkadian s or š and West Semitic , nor between Akkadian r and West Semitic l. Are the Akkadian and West Semitic forms ultimately one—perhaps continuing a word of Near Eastern substrate origin?

    The Hebrew root b-š-l in בָּשַׁל “to cook, grow ripe” is a different root altogether:

    what I want to know is, where did the Persian word come from?

    As for the Iranian words for “onion”, H.W. Bailey proposed an Indo-European root etymology for the family of Persian piyāz in the entry for the word pau “onion” in his Dictionary of Khotan Saka, p. 250 here:

    Here is the entry in Pokorny for the root that he makes reference to:

  11. Many thanks! Bailey derives the Persian word from *piyāva, suggesting that it’s from PIE *peik-. Pokorny adduces Skt. piṃśáti, Av. paēs-, OPers. ni-pištā, Grk. ποικίλος, Lat. pignus, –oris, Goth. filu-faihs, ON. (*faihōn), and Lith. piẽšti, among others (see last link above for details).

  12. ə de vivre says

    Akkadian words for onion were usually a form of šamaškillu, a loan from the Sumerian šum-sikil, or “pure/bright šum.” The Sumerian šum is itself a loan from Akkadian šūmu, from PS *ṯūm-, which means “garlic” in both languages.

    I don’t see any attempts to systematically explain the connection between Sum, “šum” and the “šama” in Akk. “šamaškillu.” Sumerian vowels are very shifty, especially going in and out of loan words, and alternations between CVCV and CVC forms for the same word (where the vowels are identical) are super common (although whether this is because of diachronic change, synchronic phonology, or dialectic variation isn’t clear). So this may be evidence that Sumerian had two Akkadain garlic loans “šum” and “šama,” the latter of which it gave back to Akkadian in its word for onions.

    Also, on the subject of alliaceous plants, one 5,000-year-old insult is “širdili,” which means both a single-cloved kind of garlic and a man with one testicle.

  13. For OIr., that should presumably be ON or OI[celandic] (fá/fā).

    Bailey seems to assume that *peiḱ- has a ‘root extension, so that it’s really *pei-. It would be nice if this were better supported.

  14. David Marjanović says

    More on Akkadian garlic:

    An Akkadian loanword in Pre-Greek: on the etymology of Greek ἄγλις and γέλγις ‘garlic’

    On p. 362 of this paper, that word is quietly reinterpreted as part a package of evidence that the agricultural substrate of Europe, “Minoan”, Hattic and Sumerian are all related, so it would have been borrowed into Akkadian (and presumably reinterpreted there) rather than out of it.

  15. For OIr., that should presumably be ON or OI[celandic] (fá/fā).

    My bad — I’ve fixed it now.

  16. ə de vivre says

    The word for leek is interesting too: There’s the Sum. “zaḫadin,” Akk. “šuḫatinnu,” that may or may not refer to a kind of leek. The Akkadian form looks like it came from Sumerian, but the expected Akkadian equivalent of “zaḫadin” would be “saḫatinnu,” so whither the za ~ šu equivalence? Well, the Sumerian spelling isn’t all that consistent: the plurality of attestations spell it “za-ḫa-din,” but the spellings “šu-ḫa-ti” and “šum₂-ḫa-din” are also pretty common. It looks like our old friend PS *ṯūm- making an appearance, and the original Sumerian form was *šum-ḫadin, which raises questions: Where does ḫadin come from? It doesn’t exist independently in Sumerian or Akkadian, and I don’t see any relevant senses in other Semitic languages. How does “šum” become “za”?

    It might be a feature rather than a bug that the correspondences in these agricultural loan words are so opaque. East Semitic speakers might have brought their alliaceous words to Southern Mesopotamia very early, and the language involved in the transfer of words might not have been the direct ancestors of Old Babylonian or standard Sumerian.

  17. Charles Perry says

    The Turkic languages had a native word for onion, soghan, but it has been replaced by piyaz wherever Turks have been in considerable contact with Persian speakers (and their culinary practices). Soghan would have been a wild allium, one of the few plant foods consumed by Central Asian nomads.

  18. I used to get a curry which the menu called “Murgh Do Piazza” all the time and just idly assumed the name was some sort of mutated colonial Portuguese!

    (according to the rarely-reliable Dopiaza (Persian: دوپیازه meaning “two onions”) is a South-Asian curry dish. It is prepared with a large amount of onions, both cooked in the curry and as a garnish. Onions are added at two stages during cooking, hence the name (“two onions”).)

  19. Анзур пиёз – горный лук анзур. Маринованный. Подают в Самарканде, Шахрисабзе и других городах Самаркандской области к плову и шашлыку. В рейтинге закусок к водке поставлю его выше соленых огурцов и корейского ве-ча. Я его пробовала! Я загадывала желание. Мне теперь нет покоя.
    Самарканд. Чайхана в иранской махалле. Мы ждем, когда подадут самаркандский плов на огромном лягане. Изысканно, по восточному вежливый, парнишка-официант приносит нам огромный поднос с салатами и закусками. Мы выбираем белую и розовую чакку, ачичук. Замечаю на подносе тарелочку с молочно-белыми и желтыми брусочками. «Репка?» – спрашиваю я. «Анзур пиёз!» – отвечает парнишка. Кто мог сомневаться, что я его попробую.
    Упругие, хрусткие брусочки, по плотности напоминающие капустную кочерыжку, кисло-соленые от маринада. Но главное – это аромат, нежный, чесночный, какого у самого чеснока после маринования не остаётся.

  20. David Eddyshaw says

    Dopiaza (Persian: دوپیازه meaning “two onions”)

    Lightbulb moment! (© DM)

  21. Stu Clayton says

    Those better be LARGE ones, because “two onions” tout court are pfft! in an “onion dish”.

  22. Did you miss the “two stages during cooking” thing? But your general point is, of course, unimpeachable.

  23. (Protip: Don’t put peaches in an onion dish.)

  24. John Cowan says

    There are many individual Quorans who are plenty reliable, though, including yours truly and his accidental twin.

  25. Lars Mathiesen says

    By my estimate there is approximately as much reliable information being generated (for lack of a more precise word) per researcher as there ever was — and there are more of those than ever — but the amount of information generated by humanity at large has grown by a much larger factor. Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to find the former in the latter.

    The Hattery is blessed by strong winds of scorn to keep out the chaff.

  26. John Cowan says

    Probably more per researcher, given increased life expectancy.

  27. Stu Clayton says

    I would change my nick to chaffwind, but I don’t feel like tussling with Akismet just now. Anyway, most of the chaff I deal with falls out of straw men.

  28. David Marjanović says

    Lightbulb moment! (© DM)

    I didn’t invent it. 🙂

    — but the amount of information generated by humanity at large has grown by a much larger factor.

    “90% of everything is crud.”

  29. Lars Mathiesen says

    @JC, they still turn 30 when they do (and graduate later or later). But if you ‘just’ want scholarship, not breakthroughs, ars longa and all that.

    90%, yeah, but sometimes it feels like we’re at three nines and trying for five.

  30. John Cowan says

    Clarke’s First Law: When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong. (Footnote: Perhaps the adjective “elderly” requires definition. In physics, mathematics, and astronautics it means over thirty; in the other disciplines, senile decay is sometimes postponed to the forties. There are, of course, glorious exceptions; but as every researcher just out of college knows, scientists of over fifty are good for nothing but board meetings, and should at all costs be kept out of the laboratory!)

    Asimov’s Corollary: When, however, the lay public rallies round an idea that is denounced by distinguished but elderly scientists and supports that idea with great fervor and emotion — the distinguished but elderly scientists are then, after all, probably right.

  31. January First-of-May says

    And I might as well give JBR’s caveats:

    a) That’s science; it’s the heretics’ job to prove their novel idea works. If cold fusion had been replicable in other labs, nobody would have cared that it seemed improbable.
    b) When a brilliant young scientist states that something is impossible even in principle, he may well be right. Many of the most surprising discoveries of twentieth century science were limits; absolute caps on velocity, observation, calculation, and prediction.
    c) On the other hand, when a distinguished but elderly scientist from one specialised field starts declaring unlikely things possible in another, it’s probably time for his pills.

  32. David Marjanović says

    it’s probably time for his pills

    …but not the ones he’s hawking.

    (I’m thinking of Linus Pauling, double Nobel laureate in physics and in chemistry, claiming that eating vitamin C by the spoonful works miracles for your immune system. There are people right now who recommend this against SARS-CoV-2. Listening to them is a waste of money, unless you have a kidney problem, in which case it can kill you.)

  33. @David Marjanović: Pauling won Nobel prizes in chemistry and peace, not physics. His Nobel Peace Prize was dubious, and possibly awarded out of sympathy because he did not win a second chemistry prize. (His Nobel Prizes for chemistry was for valance bond theory, not his arguably more important later work on the three-dimensional structures of proteins.)

  34. Trond Engen says

    His Nobel Peace Prize was dubious, and possibly awarded out of sympathy because he did not win a second chemistry prize.

    That could not possibly be the case. The peace prize is simply not connected to the other prizes at all, being awarded by a committee of Norwegian parliamentarians rather than the fiercely independent Swedish Academy, But it could conceivably be the case that the Peace Prize Committee saw Pauling as a stronger candidate and overlooked faults in his candidacy because he seemed to be a respected scientist, having already won the Chemistry Prize.

  35. David Marjanović says

    Argh, I keep mixing that up.

  36. The Peace Prize Committee has made such idiotic awards it always seems like a miracle when they give the prize to someone who actually deserves it.

  37. David Eddyshaw says

    The Literature prize has been given to some stinkers, too. They should have stuck with their early pattern of giving it to preferentially to Scandinavians, so as to be taken Seriously.

    I actually attempted to read Sjálfstætt fólk in translation once. I can only conclude that the translation cannot have done justice to the original …

    (Actually, that’s a bit unfair. It’s more that after one chapter, I was going: “OK, Halldór, I get it! Everyone is poor, stupid, malicious and ugly. OK!” I expect I should just stick to Winnie the Pooh.)

  38. I was going: “OK, Halldór, I get it! Everyone is poor, stupid, malicious and ugly. OK!”

    That’s exactly the case in Sologub’s Мелкий бес [The Petty Demon], which I’m now reading, but it’s a wonderful novel anyway.

  39. @languagehat: The Nobel Peace Prize tends be given out pretty reliably to people who negotiate significant peace settlements (Santos, Hume and Trimble, Mandela and de Klerk, Gorbachev, Begin and Sadat, etc.). The problem is that there are not enough of those people, so most of the prizes end up being given for other things. In my opinion, when the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded for human rights activities, the selections are a lot better when the awards go to organizations (like Medecins Sans Frontieres or the Nansen International Office for Refugees) than individuals (such as Ebadi or Borlaug). There are, however, exceptions on either side (such as the awards to the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs or Walesa).

  40. In my opinion, when the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded for human rights activities, the selections are a lot better when the awards go to organizations (like Medecins Sans Frontieres or the Nansen International Office for Refugees) than individuals (such as Ebadi or Borlaug).

    In mine as well. But I still haven’t recovered from their giving it to Kissinger.

  41. David Marjanović says


    “For his contributions to the world food supply, Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. Norwegian officials notified his wife in Mexico City at 4:00 am, but Borlaug had already left for the test fields in the Toluca valley, about 40 miles (65 km) west of Mexico City. A chauffeur took her to the fields to inform her husband. According to his daughter, Jeanie Laube, “My mom said, ‘You won the Nobel Peace Prize,’ and he said, ‘No, I haven’t’, … It took some convincing … He thought the whole thing was a hoax”.[17] He was awarded the prize on December 10.”

  42. David Eddyshaw says

    Borlaug certainly deserved a Nobel prize for something. Presumably that was also the thinking of the Committee.

  43. Trond Engen says

    In the case of Borlaug, I suspect a substantial part of the committee’s thinking circled around his Norwegian ancestry and transparently Norwegian surname.

  44. David Eddyshaw says

    Surely in themselves perfectly good justifications for a Nobel Prize?

  45. Trond Engen says

    Yeah, well. One would think so, but one and a half out of a hundred prizes, and none since Nansen’s in 1922. Liberal internationalism gone mad.

  46. David Marjanović says

    Borlaug certainly deserved a Nobel prize for something. Presumably that was also the thinking of the Committee.

    See also: biologists getting the prize for Medicine Or Physiology. Sure, being able to calculate the 3D shape of a protein from its amino-acid sequence will have medical implications at some point…

  47. @David Marjanović: It’s not like Nobel’s actual instructions carry much weight these days in how the prizes are awarded. How many awards are really given for the most important work done in the past year? That stipulation was never adhered to, even the first time the five* prizes were awarded.

    That said, there are very few of the physiology or medicine prizes that did not go to people working, arguably, in one of those two areas, although obviously the physiology involved has come over time to mean, overwhelming, molecular physiology. I looked through the whole list, and the awards that might not have qualified as what Nobel had in mind are: Sperry (for the localization of processes in separate brain hemisphere localization), von Frisch, Lorenz & Tinbergen (for studying animal behavior), and Gullstrand (for the optics of the eye).

    * The most glaring deviation from Nobel’s intent is pretending there is a sixth Nobel Prizes, given in economics. If you want to create a similar prize in economics prize, that’s fine; lots of fields have similar prizes, often inspired by the Nobels. But don’t try to pass it off as a actual Nobel, and thus get vastly more attention than, say, the Turing Award in computer science. The acquiescence of Nobel’s relatives is this sham is a disgrace.

  48. I read the descriptions of some of the Nobel Prizes for Physiology or Medicine that I was not previously so familiar with, and some of them are really gross. The story of how Fibiger seemed to produce artificial cancers for the first time* is fascinating but vile.

    I also learned that the Faroes (current population about 50,000) have the greatest number of Nobel laureates per capita, thanks to Niels Ryberg Finsen, the developer of phototherapy.

    Also, the discoverer of viroids has never won.

    * This was actually an erroneous result. The growths he identified were not cancerous.

  49. (Protip: Don’t put peaches in an onion dish.)

    Oh man, don’t miss out on Persian stews with peaches! I used to live with a Kurdish guy who was an excellent cook. I would buy a kilo of lamb or other meat every day and keep the kitchen full of nuts and fresh and dried fruit, and he would make lamb stew with fruit practically everyday, swapping out different fruits on different days—quinces, dried sour cherries, prunes, dried peaches, apricots, rhubarb… Once lamb stew with fresh figs when we had too many figs to know what to do with, and even though not traditional, it was wonderful… Of course onions were always an ingredient.

  50. January First-of-May says

    How many awards are really given for the most important work done in the past year? That stipulation was never adhered to, even the first time the five* prizes were awarded.

    Though they did initially try to at least give the prizes to recent work, which is how Mendeleyev (1834-1907, most famous work in 1869) missed out despite extensive campaigns to get him a prize while he was still alive.

  51. Oh man, don’t miss out on Persian stews with peaches!

    Heh. I knew somebody was going to call me out on that! Even as I was writing the comment I thought “Wait a minute, what about Perso-Turkish cuisine?” but I couldn’t resist the quick joke.

  52. January First-of-May says

    Oh man, don’t miss out on Persian stews with peaches!

    There’s a reason why the Russian word for “peach”, persik, is obviously related to “Persia”.

    (IIRC, the English word peach is ultimately of the same origin, though it changed a lot more on the way.)

  53. Yup, it’s from Old French pesche (French pêche), Vulgar Latin *pessica (cf. Medieval Latin pesca) from Late Latin persica, from Classical Latin mālum persicum, from Ancient Greek μᾶλον περσικόν (mâlon persikón, “Persian apple”).

  54. The Russian word is from Middle Low German përsik (someone should add the etymology to the Russian Wiktionary article).

  55. David Marjanović says

    Pfirsich, interestingly masculine, perhaps because of Apfel.

  56. This proposal for etymology for the word for “peach” 桃 in Sinitic languages (Mandarin táo, etc.) makes me happy:

    The article by Bodman referenced in the etymology can be found here:

    The article about the possibility of the domestication of the peach in China—also referenced in the etymological note on the Chinese word—is worth reading too.

    Is the inherited reflex of the Proto-Hmong-Mien seen in Green Hmong dlouj (White Hmong douj) “peach”, or is this a borrowing from Chinese at some stage?

    The note on the etymology of Japanese momo “peach” on the same page is also interesting:

  57. Word “Onion” is etymologically related union. Rather helper of a union, related to knot (patch /প্যাঁচ) binder, what binds two part into one and make juicy, tasty. It is piyaj, a common word in Indian languages. Probably related to five or pach, pancha, panchayat, binder of the society, group as a whole. It’s other meaning can be extra, flavor, upholder, communicating wire helps to unify two point. Onion or Piyanj is something extra that makes a relationship juicy, tasty, meaningful, productive, eatable, sensible, countable etc.

    In Indian languages word for Onion is pi(n)yaj or piyaj. Related to a trap of five, twister, spiral, knot of five, screw (pyanch), a form creator,

    In Sanskrit language Onion is “Palandu” something roundish, seed like, egg like, potato like that makes a dish tasty, juicy. It is a kind of spice, binder of dish etc. A third person in a relationship what brings colour, form in the relation is the Onion.

  58. Alternate Nobels

    Here is one of the great what-ifs.

    Alfred Nobel’s family business was mostly based in Russia. His father had armaments factory in St.Petersburg, he lived there like twenty years in his childhood and youth, his brothers founded the largest oil company in Russia (Company of Nobel Brothers).

    In fact, he studied chemistry under Russian scientist Nikolay Zinin in St.Petersburg.


    It would have been perfectly logical to nominate in his 1895 will not just Swedish and Norwegian academies as Nobel prize-awarding institutions, but also Russian Imperial Academy of Sciences in St.Petersburg.

    And after the revolution, it’s Soviet Academy of Sciences…

    OK, I think science awards would have been a bit fairer, but I shudder to think what would have happened to literature and peace prizes.

    On other hand, it’s not like they always went to people who deserved them, so probably it would be different, but won’t matter much.

  59. David Eddyshaw says

    I shudder to think what would have happened to literature and peace prizes

    Probably not so bad as all that:

  60. Trond Engen says

    Norwegian academies as Nobel prize-awarding institutions

    No. According to Nobel’s will the responsibility for the Peace Price was given to the Norwegian parliament. At first the committee members were serving members of parliament. Later a seat in the committe came to be seen as a fine reward for emerites from the Defence and Foreign committees. There’s been a steadily growing understanding that the committee ought to be visibly independent from the parliament, and some of the latest members have been external experts, but since they’re still appointed by each parliamentary party group according to size, even an external appointee will generally share the party’s views on international conflicts.

  61. I was thinking a couple of days ago about what it would be like to have a major award that really was awarded for work done in the previous year (or a similarly brief period), and I thought of the Collier Trophy. It’s nowhere near as prestigious as the Nobel Prizes, obviously, and it covers a much more limited territory: American achievements in aeronautics (later extended to astronautics). However, it is still a very big deal in the field, and it does seem to be fairly consistently awarded for only the most recent work. I think that makes it interesting to compare to the way the Nobel Prizes are awarded.

    Since the Collier Trophy can go to corporate winners, it is often awarded to aircraft companies, when they debut an important new plane in a particular year. Looking at the list of awardees, you can also see what kinds of technological developments were important at various times. For example, the first two awards (1911 and 1912) were to the Wright Brothers’ competitor Glenn Curtiss for his invention of the first seaplanes and flying boats. In the 1920s, there were awards for consistent airmail service and basic aeronautic inventions: metal propellers, parachutes, and air-cooled aircraft radial engines. During the Second World War, there were awards to Generals Hap Arnold and Carl Spaatz, the two most important figures in the Army Air Forces, and the less well known Admiral Luis de Florez, who developed flight simulator training. In the 1960s, the awards were dominated by NASA, and since then, they have most commonly been given to honor the debut of major new airframes, including both military and civilian designs. The awards do occasionally seem to stretch the year timeframe, however—for example, by giving an award for a particular design’s cumulative safety record.

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