Query on the term *mistri*

Robert J. Zydenbos zydenbos at BLR.VSNL.NET.IN
Fri Feb 27 19:40:13 UTC 1998

S Krishna wrote:

> The word is most certainly from English...the English word "master"
> becamed transformed into "mEstrI"..We have this on the word of
> Dr M.V.Raja Ramanna( the nuclear physicist) who discusses this
> while giving us the details of his genealogy in his
> autobiography..This seems to have occured sometime in the late 18th
> century..

Kittel gives the Portuguese 'mestre' as the source for Kannada
'meestri', and the Tamil Lexicon does the same for Tamil 'meestiri'.

The Tamil Lexicon outlines its own history in its preface to vol.
1, saying it began as an update of Winslow's 1862 dictionary. The
editorial board consisted entirely of Indians and Brits (who were
considered authorities on _language_, not physics), and so we may
expect that they would not say that this word is of Portuguese
origin if actually it were otherwise.

One would also expect a different transformation, if these words
had had an English origin (something like 'myaas.taru', analogous
to other borrowings from English).

(Earlier in this list we had a mathematician declaring linguists
idiots, and now Ramanna is an authority on linguistics because he
is a nuclear physicist... this is decadent.)


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