'Fanciful' etymologies (was re. dating)

Dominik Wujastyk ucgadkw at ucl.ac.uk
Mon May 20 13:04:13 UTC 1996

On Mon, 20 May 1996, Swami Gitananda wrote:

> It seems to me they are rather creative ways of unfolding meanings
> inherent in a term. [...]

Well, I agree with everything up to the word "inherent".  The kind of
non-historical reflections on the meanings of words that we are discussing
may be extremely interesting and revealing, etc., etc.  But that doesn't
alter the fact that they are not historically correct.

To say, for example, that a "person" is so called because in the modern
consumerist world everyone has his or her "purse-on" in order to buy more
consumer products may be useful in the context of a Marxist sermon.  But
what we learn from this has everything to do with the views of the person
giving the sermon, and nothing to do with historical philology.  The
"sermonic"  meaning is not "inherent" in the word "person" in any
historically meaningful way, but rather in a symbolic and allusive way,
generated in present time from the free associative reflections of the


Dominik Wujastyk               Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine
                                     183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE, England
email: d.wujastyk at ucl.ac.uk                              FAX: 44 171 611 8545

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list