|Saturday, May 10, 2003||
DICKER refers to petty argument and haggling, by implication it has also come to refer to the casual treatment of anything. The origin of dicker lies in the Middle English diker, which was used for a set of 10 animal hides. Diker itself came from the Latin decuria (a set of ten), which in turn is derived from decem, ten. The noun dicker denoted a quantity of ten and was a common unit used in trading hides or furs. Once dicker entered the lexis as an accepted term for horse-trading, it soon came to be used as a verb as well.
A midwife is a person,
usually a woman, who is trained to assist women in childbirth. In
figurative usage it has come to refer to any person who helps to bring
something into being or assists in its development. The
gender-specific connotation gets blurred here even though the
etymology points at the feminine. Midwife can be traced to the Middle
English midwife made up of mid (with) and wif (woman). This same root
also makes up ‘obstetrix’ that later became obstetrics. Thus a
midwife was literally a ‘with woman’ or ‘a woman who assists
other women in childbirth’.
Seersucker is a light, thin fabric, generally cotton or rayon, with a crinkled surface and a usually striped pattern. Its origin lies in the Persian shiroshakar made up of shir (milk) and shakar (sugar). Seersucker came into English from Hindi where the root word was sirsakar. The word in Hindi was borrowed from the Persian compound shiroshakar, meaning literally ‘milk and sugar’ but used in a figurative way for a striped linen garment. The Persian word shakar (sugar) in turn came from Sanskrit sarkara. The whole paradigm of multiple cultural borrowings is evident in this single word, made up of input from Persian, Sanskrit, Hindi and English. During and after Timur Laine’s invasion of India in the late fourteenth century, the opportunity for borrowing Persian words such as shir-o-shakar was present, since Persia as well as India was part of his empire. It then remained for the English during the eighteenth century to borrow the material and its name seersucker.
The Hindi word saahas means
bravery or courage. It denotes a positive characteristic. The intriguing
aspect of this etymology is that saahas is a borrowing from
Sanskrit where it stood for a negative characteristic. There, saahas
originally meant ‘any act of physical strength (sahas).
It usually referred to acts like robbery, murder, dacoity, rape or
arson. The Manusmriti enlists saahas under all other
criminal acts. When Hindi borrowed the word, it retained the idea that
such actions require a lot of grit and daring but left behind the whole
criminal connotation, making saahas something highly desirable in
a human being.