View Full Version : mandorla - mandolin
there's an expression in britain which stems from the use of a coin-operated public telephone that goes "the penny finally dropped." in the u.s. it was a dime but the process was the same: you dropped the coin in, it cascaded down the chute - clinkety-clank - dropped into the coin box and your call was connected.
it means you finally got it.
there's an absolutely beautiful almond tree that just suddenly came into bloom near my house and after searching for and remembering the italian word for "almond" (mandorla) i started to imagine i heard the sound of a tiny coin rolling around in there between my ears and finally emptying out and hitting the bottom of an equally tiny and very vacant recepticle in my head.
in italian, any word that ends in "ino" denotes the dimimutive, so "mandola " would mean "almond shaped" and "mandolino" would mean "little almond shaped."
am i telling you something you already know? if so, i'm sorry, but it's moments like these when i think i'm thinking.
arrivederci - bill
I am told that the Arabic root "mndr" (as well known, Arabic only spells consonants and "sounds out" the vowels) means almond; with, that is, the requisite definite article "al", it sounds: al m(a/e)ndr; hence the Spanish almendro/a for the almond tree and its seed respectively.
Now, while there is no difficulty in ascertaining Moorish elements in Spanish (there must be MILLIONS after 8 centuries of Moorish presence in Spain), the "semantic chain" breaks down at some point. While the association of the bowl of a lute, ANY lute, with the "half almond" shape is common parlance around the Mediterranean, I don't know how much of that is concretely to be driven back to the etymology.
Oh, we have had lengthy, leeeeeeeeeengthy chats on this subject... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif I plead ignorance— but also curiosity.
Citing "mandolin" (i.e. "mandolino") as derived from "little almond" is fairly common (I cited such in the FAQ here)...as is citing mandolin, mandolino, mandore, mandora, pandurina, etc. as derived from various middle-eastern roots (e.g., pandur). #Paganini even referred to his mandolino Genovese (six courses in octave guitar tuning) as "amandorlino." #"Amandorla" was another occasionally-published early term for mandolino. #I think a little bit of cross-linguistic hybridization is at work.
Just to add my two pennies worth..... I'd heard the mandorla connection too. But hears one you probably all know too...... the word lute, so I'm told comes from the arabic OUD - Al Oud means on the Oud and if you compress that you get Aloud or, eventually, lute.... so I'm told but my lutey friends.
As is al-djezair (Algiers), al djebr (algebra), al Hmbr (Alhambra), et al. It is important —as well as humbling— to remember that, at the time that Europeans (e.g. Galileo) ran a serious, tangible risk of being burned at the stake for claiming the earth was round, Arabs were well versed in the writings of Euclid, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Aristoxenus, etc. (in translation, of course).
The weakness in the connection is a classic post hoc doubt: Is it because of the linguistic correlation or is it just a coincidence? As such, Bill's question is still open...
it's interesting to note that those arab fanatics in north africa who want to lay claim to the andalusian part of spain because of their moorish ancestory - what they call "andaluse" - are using a combination of latin based, european words to describe a western part of europe where the light goes: "andar' luce." as "albania" is the land of sunrise (alba) "andalusia" is where it sets.
i used to think that the oud was introduced into europe by maurading crusaders returning from the middle east (i feel sure they payed for them...) but now i think that rome was responsible for spreading the idea of a wooden based stringed instrument throughout the empire. it's probably more correct to call this type of instrument a product of mediterranean culture rather than of arab or european origin.
[QUOTE]"...I think that rome was responsible for spreading the idea of a wooden based stringed instrument throughout the empire."
Right. But, which Roman Empire? To wit: I have seen no depictions of lutoids in classical Roman art, but THOUSANDS of such in latter-day, East Roman (a.k.a. Byzantine) art. No surprise there, considering that the Byzantine Empire stretched from the Balkans to North Africa, to present day Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Israel, Iran, Iraq, et al, et al. and was therefore truly an eastern (albeit Christian) empire.
The post hoc weakness, however, persists...
there is a roman painting of a man sitting with what looks like bo diddley's guitar. i haven't a clue when it was painted but i know it's roman. according to some sage on an oud site, the oud originated somewhere in the caucasian mountains. again, when? - i don't know.
Indeed, the question is "when". Is it at the time of the "farmers' collective", the early Republic, the regency-like era of the patricians' rule, OR the Julian apex (with the annexation of Egypt), or yet the cosmopolitan, Hellenistic era of the Antonines (most of whom spent most of their time fighting wars and administrating the empire in the Middle East), or when exactly?