Finishing Some "K" Words--and More
Bill Long 10/27/08
The three "k" words with which I want to begin are kaf, kenning, and knackery. Then, I will move to boule, bummalo, busuuti, khayal and koto.. I am looking at a nice loaf of French boule bread as I begin.
1. To understand knackery, one must first have a sense of what a knacker is. Though the OED tells us that the origin is "obscure," its original meaning was a "harness-maker" or "saddler." Yet, this meaning was superseded in the 19th century by the current meaning: "one whose trade is to buy worn out, diseased, or useless horses and slaughter them for their hides and hoofs." Thus, in a word, a knacker is a "horse-slaughterer." The Sporting Magazine in 1812 first used the term in the "milder" way: "He was a knacker [note, A purchaser of worn-up horses]." From this definition we have a knacker's yard as a "place that looks a complete mess." Thus, a knackery, according to the OED, is "a knacker's yard," though the web site quoted in earlier essays has it as a place where horses are slaughtered. We get the idea...
2. I happily paused on kenning, which has so many meanings. One of the oldest, derived from the "ken" or "knowledge" part of it, means "teaching" or "instruction," but the OED has no attestations of this usage more recently than the 14th century. Thus, I will move on to the one suggested in the web site: "one of the periphrastic expressions used instead of the simple name of a thing..." Well, then it gets specific, "characteristic of Old Teutonic, and esp. Old Norse, poetry." I, being a little rusty on those two languages, just have to accept the definition. An example of kenning would be a "storm of swords" to stand for a "battle." Why confine this to Old Norse, though? Isn't this a common characteristic of poetry, from Homer to today?
3. The web page defines kaf as an emerald mountain that supposedly surrounds the world. This is ok, but the generality isn't really helpful. So, I found a 2004 book, Guardians of the Holy Grail by Mark A. Pinkham, which talks about various Arabic legends that speak of a mountain in the center of the earth.
"These intriguing myths refer to a mountainin the center of the Earth, called Mr. Kaf by the Arabs and Mount Albourz by the Persians..The Moslems central mountain is Mount Kaf....[It] is mentioned in some of the important scriptures of Islam, such as the Araisu't Tijan, which states: 'GOD Most High created a great mountain from a single emerald. The greeness of the sky is derived from it. It is called Mount Kaf" (p. 56).
Now we have a fuller explanation of the word that just appeared as kaf with simple definition in the web site...
A Variety of Other Words
After doing the "heavy lifting" with these words, let's move to some lighter, even if somewhat obscure, words.
4. Whenever someone classically trained sees the word boule, he or she pronounces it BOO lay and says that it refers to a council in ancient Greece. But the definition I am interested in tonight is a round loaf of bread. Pictures of this familiar French bread loaf shaped like a ball abound online. Here is one. The loaf can be crusty or smooth, but it is the roundness or "bowl-ness" that makes it distinctive. Yum.
5. A bummalo is a small fish (Harpodon nehereus) found off the coasts of Southern Asia, used, when dried, as a relish. Here is a great picture of this smelt-looking nearly transparent fish. We are told it is abundant in the Ganges Delta and the Arabian Sea--off of India. Just think--to many people in the world, the word bummalo runs off their lips like anadromous does for those of us in the Pacific Northwest, but I wasn't familiar with bummalo. This 6"-8" long fish is also called "Bombay Duck..."
6. According to this article, a busuuti is a dress for women in Uganda. The opening paragraph states it clearly:
"In African culture, women's decency was valued highly. This decency was portrayed in many forms including dressing, which in many tribes reflected mannerism. As part of the continued quest for decency, the early tribesmen with efforts from missionaries in Buganda came up with the idea of a...busuuti."
But the web site isn't crystal clear whether the busuuti ante-dated the missionaries. In any case, the busuuti among the Baganda was strapless and made from bark-cloth. Worn on all festive and ceremonial occasions, it is also a day-to-day dress for rural women.
7. Well, let's return to India for a moment with the word khayal. Khayal is the Arabic word for "imagination" and is the modern genre of classical singing in North India. Then, with any good new word, we have others. As this article says,
"It appeared more recently than dhrupad."
Phew. I thought it was the other way around... Well, as the article goes on to show, you can say much more about this two-sixteen line song style. Many examples are on YouTube.
8. Let's conclude this essay with koto. We are still in the realm of music, but now we are in Japan. A koto is "a Japanese musical stringed instrument played with both hands." It was used in English as early as 1795: "The koto bears a strong resemblance to our dulcimers, having the number of strings, which are struck with sticks." The Century has a great picture of this 13-silk string long-box. The box is five feet long and each string is provided with a separate bridge. Here is a helpful article and wonderful picture. The classic koto tune is Rokudan, played here on YouTube.
Enough for one more day..