Saturday, May 22, 2004

Words I learned today: serviceberry (also known as Juneberry, shadblow, and shadbush), junket (not that kind of junket; it's a cheesy dessert), Sexagesima (the eighth Sunday before Lent), shaddock (it's like a grapefruit), and Dardic or, better for Scrabble fiends, simply Dard (to which Shina, Kowar, Kafiri and Kashmiri once belonged).

You say, "Once belonged?"

Apparently. Oddly enough, Merriam-Webster has altered the ever-useful Indo-European languages table since the Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (my hard copy) was published in 1991.

Back then, Kafiri (or Nuristani, a group of languages spoken in eastern Afghanistan) was lumped together with Shina, Khowar and Kashmiri as a group called Dard, belonging (right alongside Sanskritic) to the Indic sub-branch of the Indo-Iranian languages.

But check out the latest table. Dard's nowhere to be found, and Kafiri's its own sub-branch. The others are classified as Sanskritic.

Now I know what you're thinking. Where exactly, pray tell, did they speak Polabian? On the Labe, no doubt, but more precisely: Mecklenburg, Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt, as well as eastern parts of Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein. Poor little tongue went the way of Dolly Pentreath (of the Mousehole Pentreaths) sometime in the 18th century.


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