Tuesday, January 20, 2009

alien words

what do the words in the little story below have in common (regarding their origin)?

a giraffe's lackey lay on a crimson sofa, eating sherbet with syrup and artichokes and cumin candy. he sipped an elixir, which he found just average, flipped through a magazine, and watched a great fanfare on the street outside. then he called his broker.

they all come from arabic, most by way of spanish. yesterday in the bookstore i came across an amusing book of arab and arabic roots in american culture entitled "al' america." the front cover is a doll, a shriner in his little car, with a fez on his head.

the reference he uses in the language section is "The Arabic Contributions to the English Language."

some of the etymologies are torturous and uncertain. "broker," for example, is traced from the arabic "al-buruq," meaning gift or gratuity, into spanish "alboroque," French "albrocador," "broucour," northern French "broquier," which apparently meant "to tap a keg," and then across the channel into english. what does tapping a keg have to do with performing a service for money?

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