Sometimes a seemingly trivial etymological question can lead to a long linguistic chase. Such a query was recently sent to me by Raymond Henkin, who asked:
"In Uriel Weinreich's Yiddish dictionary, the Yiddish word shmergl is translated as 'emery.' A search shows the origins of 'emery' to be either Greek or Latin. How say you?"
What I say, Mr. Henkin, is that before we are done we are going to have to touch not only on Latin, and more importantly, ancient Greek, but on Sanskrit, Akkadian, biblical and post-biblical Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Persian and French. If you're ready, here we go.
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
SPEAKING OF THE FORWARD, Philologos has a recent essay, "A Long Linguistic Chase", on the history of the words "emery" and "emerald." It opens: