Tuesday, 20 November 2007

coracle and scaramouche?

coracle, a small boat made of material stretched over a wooden frame, a word I only know from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, is from Welsh corwgl, cwrwgl, from Middle Irish curach. According to An Etymological Glossary of Proto-Celtic, the Old Irish word curach is from Proto-Celtic *koruko- "(leather) boat". And there's a note:

A connection of these words with Proto-Indo-European *(s)koro- 'leather' (OCS kora, Lat. corium, Pokorny 939) appears probable.

*(s)koro- is the o-grade form of 4. *(s)ker, *(s)kerǝ-, *(s)krē- "to cut" (938-947). Looking at the relevant entry in Pokorny, it's not at all clear to me if Pokorny thinks Proto-Celtic *koruko- is from this root or not. I'll pretend that he does, so that I can connect coracle to the cool word scaramouch, the commedia dell'arte character. The English word is from French Scaramouche, from Italian Scaramuccia, a jocular use of scaramuccia meaning "skirmish". This was borrowed from a source akin to the Proto-Germanic extended form *skerm- "to protect", which is from our Proto-Indo-European *(s)ker. skirmish is from the same Proto-Germanic word, thru Old French eskermir "to fight with a sword". *(s)ker in its extended o-grade form *kort- became Latin cortex "bark", ie, "that which can be cut off". This was borrowed into English to refer to the outer layer of an internal organ, in particular the brain.


pablojohn said...

Do you think the Spanish word "caracoa", meaning "small barge", is of related origin?

goofy said...

I'd guess not, but I'd have to do some reading to say for sure.