Thursday, May 19, 2005

A Sound Drubbing

I just noticed something that should have been obvious to me long ago - the Arabic word for "beat or hit" is "d-r-b" (that's the root) and when it is conjugated it sounds a lot like the word "drub" in English, an archaic word meaning.... "to beat or hit." Weird. I wonder if there is any linguistic connection besides mere coincidence? However, I note that the archaic English "drub" was used also to denote "beat as in win" - "He drubbed him soundly at tennis" - and in Arabic I have always heard people use a completely different word for that context.

I also note that the verb "drub" is very associated with the adjective "sound" - in most of the contexts I have seen it they are used phrasally. Whereas the word "d-r-b" in Arabic is often used as a stand-alone. Hmmm.

11 comments:

AbdulAleem said...

The only half decent dictionary I have at hand at the moment is a 1994 Collins English Dictionary which gives the origin of the English 'drub' as, "C17: probably from Arabic dáraba to beat".

AbdulAleem

Anna in Portland (was Cairo) said...

Wow! Thank you Abdul Aleem! I thought that as a coincidence it was way too weird.

AbdulAleem said...

Wow indeed! I had no idea that it was from Arabic. 'Drubbing' meaning 'soundly beaten' is often used by sports writers and commentators in the UK and here in South Africa.

The OED (2/e, 1991, the micrographic single volume one can only read with a magnifying glass!) also conjectures, in the absence of any other tenable alternative, that 'drub' is from the Arabic daraba. Ditto Skeat's Etymological Dictionary of the English Language (3/e, 1897). Skeat also mentions, citing Ihre (1769), the Swedish 'drabba', to beat, with the conjecture of Spegel (1645-1714) that it too is from the Arabic daraba.

Question: How did it get into Swedish? Wild speculation: A literary Swedish Barbary corsair! :-)

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