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ISANA No.27 ISANA Jul. 2003 No.27
index

1.Enjoying the Etymology of Whales

2.Stranded whales in the culture and economy of medieval and early modern Europe

3.Whaling in Korea and issues after the moratorium

4.Homage to Late Mr. Akiyama and Expectation for Prof. Koizumi
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Enjoying the Etymology of Whales


Masao Uchibayashi Masao Uchibayashi
Chairman
Takeda Science Foundation
Gelatin, known as an edible substance, has been made from skin, bones and sinews of cattle, pigs and sperm whales. Lately, use of cattle products has been refrained in the wake of the mad cow disease. Further, using whales as main sources has become difficult because of the limited supply of whale products due to the international dispute of whaling in recent years. This represents one stage in which the world undergoes a drastic change.

The origin of the English word whale is found in the fact that the whale had been called *hwala- or *hwalis in the Germanic protolanguage, from which English had been derived. The fact that the Germanic race had a word denoting the whale is indicative of the position in which they were in the environment to encounter with whales in ancient times. The original inhabitation area of the Germanic people ranged from what are now northern Germany to Eastern Europe. Where had been their meeting point with whales? Or it might have been a vague name to call any large animals living in the sea.

Because the protolanguage of whales was *hwala-, or *hwalis (the h at the head of the word was silent frictional sound [k]), hwal came into existence in the Old English (1150 or before) and turned into whale in the Middle English (1150-1500). There had also been a word whall in the 14th and 15th centuries, which susbsequently went out of use.

From the same protolanguage hwal and walfisc (fisc means fish) were evolved in the Old Highland German (750-1050), which nowadays has become Walfisch in German.

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The word baleine in French did not originate from the Germanic line. Almost all the European languages spoken today have evolved from the Indo-European protolanguage (born before 3000-2000 B.C.), which also includes Sanskrit in India. The Germanic protolanguage had been one of this Indo-European group.
In face of this changing situation, the anti-whaling bloc is criticizing Japan for buying the votes of developing countries in exchange for its Official Development Aid (ODA). But Japan is now extending ODA to more than 150 countries, among them being anti-whaling countries, such as India, Brazil, Mexico and Kenya. The reason for the increase in the number of supporting countries for the cause of Japan is that Japan's position based on scientific evidence has been accepted internationally.

(Note) The protolanguage is an assumed form of word type, and it has been a widely accepted practice to add the mark * at the head of the word to distinguish it from verifiable languages. The term "Indo-European" is abbreviated to IE hereinafter.

From *bhel-, and *bhel- (meaning shining and white) of the IE protolanguage developed phalaina in Greek, and blaena, or blena in Latin. This was probably because people in olden times were amazed at the shining figure of a giant whale emerged on the surface of the sea in full sun light. This might have been the whale in the Mediterranean. The French word baleine comes from Latin.

Greek and Latin have another name for whales. *Qet- (meaning hole in the ground for dwelling, living space or living room) in the IE protolanguage was adopted, after some mutations in the meaning, as ketos in Greek, which became a general term indicating a giant animal in the sea, and later was specified as a whale. From this evolved the Latin word cetus. Cetus is used for various types of large marine mammals such as fur seals and dolphins, of course, including whales, even to this day. The family name for taxonomy of whales is Cetacea, and an alcoholic substance taken from whale wax is called cetyl alcohol.

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Sperm whales which provided gelatin is called, in the botanical term, to be the order of Physeter catodon Linn. The genus name Physeter was taken from *phu- (meaning to blow and enlarge or blown and enlarged) in the IE protolanguage, and through *phu-s and *phy-s, was turned into physa (meaning bubble, water bubble, air bubble, or bellows) or physa (to blow or blow to enlarge) in Greek. From this word-stem "phys-" came phystr. This word denotes the sound generated at the time of blowing of steam from the whale's blow-hole (i.e. onomatopaeia such as pyu or fyu). Later it became the name for the blow-hole, and Linnaeus adopted it as the name of the genus. The sight of whale blowing steam so dramatically should have been very impressive. In modern Greek, phystr means a tube or wind instrument.

The origin of the name catodon, the species name of a sperm whale, is also interesting. This word is divided into cato- and odon. Kata and kat in Greek mean downward and the prefix kat- (cato- in Latin) also means downward. It is derived from IE protolanguage's *kmta (beside, along, or downward). Odon means a tooth in Greek, which is dens or dentis in Latin. Sperm whales (toothed whales) have corn-shaped teeth only in their lower jaw, and do not have whalebone or baleen in the upper jaw like baleen whales. Hence, the Latin word catodon means teeth only in lower part, which is a combination of kato and -odon. The word odon (tooth) comes from *ed (to eat) in the IE protolanguage and became odn in Greek through variations of *edont-, and *dont (teeth), and dens or dentis in Latin. In English, the medical science dealing with teeth is called odontology or dentistry, and tooth doctor is a dentist.

Physeter catodon Linn is called a sperm whale in English. In point of fact, this is an abbreviation of spermaceti whale. Spermaceti means whale wax. Ceti is a genitive case of aforementioned cetus and was combined with sperma (meaning sperm) to produce sperma-ceti (sperm of whale). It was later contracted as spermaceti. This naming is based on the belief that the white-colored solid wax or white wax taken from a sperm whale was solidified sperm of the whale. Sperm (sperma) has its origin in *sper- (to scatter, or sow seeds) in the IE protolanguage and became speir, speirein in Greek having the same meaning, and was turned into the Latin word sperma, becoming the English term sperm.

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Now, we turn our eyes to the etymology of the Japanese name for whale. Makko kujira (sperm whale) was named so because the color of its body is like the brownish color of incense powder (makko). Makko is odorous powder made from agalloch and sandalwood, etc. and is used as incense at the Buddhist altar. Nowadays, it is made from the fine powder of leaves and skin of shikimi, Japanese anise-tree. In Japanese, there is a popular expression smell makko when you enter a Buddhist temple.

Let's look at the origin of the word kujira (whale). According to the Grand Japanese Dictionary published by in 1979 Shogakukan, the following explanations are given.

(1) It comes for Kushishira (large animal). Ku is an old Korean term meaning big, and shishi (beast) and ra is a postfix.
(2) Kuroshira (black and white). Its skin is black but it is white inside.
(3) Kushira (queer),
(4) Kojiru (to give much trouble) because it does not become calm easily after being caught
(5) Kujira (to pick) because it hits the boat when emerging
(6) Hakuhiro (one-hundred fathoms or a very wide span)
(7) Kuchibiro (wide mouth) because of its large mouth.

The term kujira appears phonetically in Kojiki (712), Japan's oldest extant chronicle, recording events from the mythical age of the gods up to the time of Empress Suiko. It was also called kuji or okuchira.

We know the title of this publication ISANA. In olden times, whale was called isa. Iki-fdoki, the topographical description of the Iki region in 713, says: "People in this province call whales isa."

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Further, in olden times fishes were called na as seen in old Japanese literature such as Nihon Shoki (720), the oldest official history of Japan covering events from the mythical age of the gods up to the reign of the empress Jito, and Man'yoshu (around 770), the earliest extant collection of Japanese poetry. Therefore, isana is the combination of isa and na, namely a whale.

As etymology of isana, the Shogakukan's Grand Japanese Dictionary enumerates: (1) isana (brave fish), (2) isona (whales near the beaches), (3) i is a prefix and sana comes from sosona (meaning a diving fish), (4) isana (a fish of 50 shaku long), (5) isana (unknown fish), i.e. fish inhabiting in the immeasurable depth in the ocean, (6) i is a prefix and sanatori comes from sunadori (meaning fishing).

From olden times, the term isana-tori (whalers) was used as a set epithet for the words related to the sea, beach and open ocean. We can find such expressions, as examples, in old Japanese literature such as aforementioned Nihon Shoki and Man'yoshu.

Finally, the Chinese ideograph for whale is pronounced [gyou] in Wuo sound, [kei] in Han sound, and [gei] customarily. Dividing the ideograph of whale into two parts vertically, the right half means big and strong while the left half meaning fish, so the combination of the two halves denotes a big and strong fish. That is a whale.

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