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Viva Espana

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CB27
182888.  Fri Jun 15, 2007 7:48 am Reply with quote

I see there was a short discussion on rabbits a couple of years back which touched on the origin of the name for Spain.

Espana, as the Spanish would call their country came from the original Phoenician sailors who assumed Spain to be an island and noted the rabbits hopping about so they called it "Island of Rabbits".

Today, modern Hewbrew shares it's roots with the language of the Phoenicians and the translation for "Island of Rabbits" would be "Ee Shpanim". Oddly though, the name for Spain in Hebrew is Spharad - not sure why.

this throws up another question for another country starting with E - Egypt. Where did this name come from considering the name they call themselves is Misr?

 
96aelw
182905.  Fri Jun 15, 2007 9:01 am Reply with quote

I suspect it derives ultimately from the Ancient Greek name for the place, Aigyptos. Misr, being Arabic, may be a more recent appelation, although I don't actually know that. Where the Greek name came from I'm working on, but I suspect it may well be lost in the mists of time.

 
CB27
182909.  Fri Jun 15, 2007 9:18 am Reply with quote

Bothering to do some look up myself I found two possible answers. One is that it is from the ancient Egyptian name for "Home of the Ka of Ptah", the other is that it's from the ancient Greek word for "Land below the Aegean Sea" though the latter would mean that this would be applied to all the lands there.

Although now venturing into G, I seem to recall reading somewhere that when Alexander the Great conquered much of Asia a group of travellers came back with the Macedonians who were often wrongly identified as Egyptians and that as these travellers settled in various places in Europe the "E" was often dropped until they finally became known as "Gypsies". I honestly don't know if this was a myth I read somewhere or if it's true, but I thought it quite interesting :)

 
96aelw
182911.  Fri Jun 15, 2007 9:27 am Reply with quote

Semi myth, I think. The Roma left northern India, from whence they actually hail, in about AD 1000, I think, so well after Alex had conquered his last satrapy, but the word gypsies is indeed a corruption of Egyptian, as they were erroneously thought to be natives of that country.

As to the "land below the Aegean" idea, yes I spotted that one. Attributed to Strabo, but without a precise reference that I've been able to find yet, and, being a cynical old bastard, I was holding fire on it until I'd actually read it in context. Even if Strabo did say it, that doesn't make it any likelier to be true, mind, but there it is.

 
suze
182918.  Fri Jun 15, 2007 10:05 am Reply with quote

Grrr. Book 17 of Strabo's Geography doesn't seem to be online anywhere, and since that's the one about Egypt I imagine that's where he is said to use the phrase "Aἰγαίου ὑπτίως" (aigaion uptios i.e. "below the Aegean" for the benefit of those who don't have a polytonic Greek font).

Assuming that it's possible to verify that Strabo really did say this, well it's at the very least plausible. It's equally plausible that the word Egypt derives from the name of a temple at Memphis, which was something like hwtkuptah i.e. the home of the Ka of Ptah.

It has already been noted that the word "gypsy" derives from "Egypt" - it having been supposed that the Roma came from there. The word "coptic" also derives from "Egypt".

Misr - the Arabic name for Egypt - means "the country", more or less.

More on all these names - including some hieroglyphics and a bit about why Egypt was once called Kermit - at

http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/kmt.htm

 
96aelw
182959.  Fri Jun 15, 2007 1:04 pm Reply with quote

Strabo 17 may be found here. I had a quick shufti there myself earlier, but didn't spot that particular claim in the opening section, where I assumed it was most likely to be, and gave up the search to go off to make vast quantities of apricot jam having so failed. I may have another look.

 
mckeonj
182967.  Fri Jun 15, 2007 1:38 pm Reply with quote

96aelw wrote:
Strabo 17 may be found here. I had a quick shufti there myself earlier, but didn't spot that particular claim in the opening section, where I assumed it was most likely to be, and gave up the search to go off to make vast quantities of apricot jam having so failed. I may have another look.

Interesting, your using British slang 'shufti' for 'look': I believe it is derived from modern Egyptian, via British Army: similarly 'bint' = woman and 'fellah' = man.

 
96aelw
182970.  Fri Jun 15, 2007 1:44 pm Reply with quote

Arabic, certainly, and quite possibly from Egypt for all I know. It did occur to me just after I'd typed it that it was more than usually appropriate. Interestingly different timing, though; the OED claims that bint came into English use in the mid 19th century, whereas shufti it has as military slang originating in the 1940s.

Fellah, incidentally, it also has, defining it as an Egyptian peasant, but where it's used to mean man, surely it's just a lazy pronunciation of fellow, isn't it, as might equally be spelled feller?

 
CB27
182980.  Fri Jun 15, 2007 4:38 pm Reply with quote

I find it surprising that the Egypt website claims that Misr means country because if you look at the Hebrew name "Mizraim" which is how it's called in the Old Testament, it can literally mean two partitions which is what the country was - Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt and was then united.

 

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