A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ancient Egyptian Words in English Today: Ebony and Adobe

One of the better things about the Internet is that very old friends who live in far-flung parts of the world can still share a conversation and quote each other. My old friend of over 30 years ago who now blogs from Burundi as Diana Buja has a post on "Modern Words That Survive From Ancient Egypt —What, How and Why." The average reader probably would not be surprised to learn, for example, that our words for "pharaoh" and "pyramid" ultimately derive from Ancient Egyptian originals, but that's not what she's focusing on here: she's writing about ebony and adobe.

(A look at Ancient Egyptian vocabulary in Egyptian Arabic would yield a lot of examples, since Coptic words often are in colloquial use in agriculture and other areas in Egypt, and Coptic is just late Egyptian.,)

Diana, who works in agricultural development in Burundi, is trained in, among other things, Ancient Egyptian, Egyptology, Arabic, sociology, and ... well, if there's a more unpredictably eclectic blog than mine around, it's definitely hers. Though, as a dog person, I find she uses more cat pictures than seems proper in her posts (in this case, a cat on an ebony table), perhaps that is part of the Ancient Egyptian patrimony, as well. (And even our word "cat" may descend from Ancient Egyptian, as may Arabic qitt, or at least from Afro-Asiatic, some say, though the early forms aren't very close and ours comes via Greek.)

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