[Q] Mar. mo.dasii (cholera)

Ashok Aklujkar aklujkar at UNIXG.UBC.CA
Thu Jun 11 16:45:18 UTC 1998

I once heard a paper by Prof. John Norris (retired from the Department of History of Medicine at my university, the University of British Columbia) that dealt with some aspect of the history of spread of cholera. He mentioned,on the basis of secondary sources (since Norris is neither a linguist nor an indologist) "mort-de-chien" as coming from Marathi mo.dasii. The impression I got from the rest of the points he made, however, was that the Marathi word itself was borrowed from an earlier Romance language expression meaning 'death (= a form of death) from China,' something like mort de Chine. In other words, we probably two different corruptions of an earlier European language expression, one in Marathi and another in later European sources. Linguistically too, I could not see a good etymology for mo.da;sii in Marathi. 
 (As a Maratha, I would never admit that cholera began its career in Maharashtra!).

I have not seen Prof. Norris for several years now. The UBC campus directory gives the following ways of contacting him: tel 822-3610, fax 733-5123, e <jnorris at unixg.ubc.ca. The country code for Canada is 1, area code for Vancouver/UBC 604. 

J.T. Molesworth's Marathi-English Dictionary (p. 669, right-hand column, according to the reprint edn 1975, ed. N.G. Kalelkar) gives mo.dava;sii as a variant for mo.da;sii (Dominik, it seems to me that you should have ";s" where you have "s" in your transcription).  It further informs that "the city and province of Rajapur and the country southwards" was especially the seat of either mo.da;sii  or  its variant mo.dava;sii. 

Molesworth suggests a connection with Marathi root mo.d (infinitive form customarily given as mo.da.ne) 'to twist, to break.' Although I do not specialize in Marathi etymologies, I consider this derivation unlikely. 

 -- ashok aklujkar

At 13:07 +0100 11-06-98, Dominik Wujastyk wrote:
>A Marathi word for Cholera seems to be "mo.dasii".  This was picked up by
>the Portuguese in the sixteenth century, and got into circulation in
>European sources as "mordisheen" and similar words (including
>"mort-de-chien", which seems very apt!).
>I've looked in the obvious places (CDIAL, Mayrhofer, various Prakrit and
>Pali dicts.), but can find no history for the word.
>Can anyone help?
>All the best,
>Dr Dominik Wujastyk,                FAX:        +44 171 611 8545
>Wellcome Institute for              URL:        http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucgadkw/
>  the History of Medicine,          Email:      d.wujastyk at ucl.ac.uk
>Wellcome Trust, 183 Euston Road,    Trust URL:  http://www.wellcome.ac.uk
>London NW1 2BE, England.
>First Rule of History:
>  History doesn't repeat itself -- historians merely repeat each other.

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