Wednesday, 11 February 2009

khaki and phthiriasis

khaki is from Urdu خاکي ḵẖākī "dust-coloured" from خاك ḵẖāk "dust, earth, ashes". It is borrowed from Persian, and is according to Platts cognate with Sanskrit क्षारक kṣāraka "pouring forth" and "juice, essence". At least, I assume that's what Platts means by "cf. S. क्षारक".

Assuming that kṣāraka is derived from kṣar "to flow", then the Proto-Indo-European root is *dʰgʷʰer- "to flow, move forcefully, with derivatives referring to ruin and destruction" (from the AHD, also see IEW 487-488). The Avestan derivatives also have the "flow" sense. I guess dust flows, and is associated with ruin.

One Greek derivative of *dʰgʷʰer- is φθείρω "to scatter, destroy", which is probably the source of φθείρ "louse". As the OED says:

Ancient authors derive ancient Greek φθείρ louse < φθείρειν to destroy (see PHTHARTIC adj.), as they believed that lice were generated spontaneously in decaying flesh. Modern scholars generally accept this derivation.

φθείρ was borrowed into English thru Latin in the form phthiriasis, a lice infestation (of the eyelids apparently).

I really hope today's extreme etymology is true, because it's awesome.

1 comment :

Ms G said...

Wow! I had always thought of khaki as a word English borrowed from Hindi. What an adventure! Give us more borrowed words-jungle, bungalow, bandana