A debriefing on camels and dromedaries

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Apr 23 00:55:11 UTC 2008

I wonder why it is that the article supplies the misinformation that
_dromas_ means "*swift* runner," when it means merely "runner."


On Mon, Apr 21, 2008 at 12:15 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:
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>  Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
>  Subject:      A debriefing on camels and dromedaries
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>  <font size=3D3>Some time ago I asked about the distinction between
>  "camel" and "dromedary", particularly in the 18th and
>  early 19th centuries.  I now report:<br><br>
>  Even lexicographers of the eighteenth century had difficulty! Both Nathan
>  Bailey's <i>Universal Etymological English Dictionary</i>, in 1737 and
>  through at least 1790 (after Linnaeus=92s 1751 classification), and Samuel
>  Johnson=92s <i>Dictionary of the English Language</i>, from its first
>  edition in 1755 through 1828, say there are three kinds of camels, one
>  bunch, two bunch, and the dromedary. Bailey gives the dromedary two
>  bunches; Johnson says there are two kinds of dromedaries, one with
>  "two small bunches", the other with "one hairy eminence=94.
>  Noah Webster=92s 1828 <i>American Dictionary of the English
>  Language</i><a name=3D"_ednref1"></a> (its first edition) is consistent
>  with modern nomenclature (<i>Grzimek=92s Encyclopedia of Mammals
>  (1990)</i>, 5:110);<a name=3D"_ednref2"></a> Webster's dromedary, =93called
>  also the Arabian camel=94, has one bunch, his
>  Bactrian<a name=3D"_ednref2"></a> camel has two.<br><br>
>  The site
>  <a href=3D"http://www.livius.org/caa-can/camel/camel.html" eudora=3D"autourl=
>  ">
>  http://www.livius.org/caa-can/camel/camel.html</a> asserts:<br><br>
>  "The confusion is easy to explain. The Babylonians and Assyrians
>  were, as far as we know, the first to describe an animal known as
>  gammalu. (A similar word, g=E2m=E2l, is used in the Bible.) This refers to
>  the dromedary, which was originally called dromas, 'swift runner', by the
>  Greeks. They saw the first representatives of this species in the sixth
>  century [BCE], when the Persian king Cyrus the Great conquered Lydia
>  (western Turkey). However, the Greeks also accepted the loan word
>  kam=EAlos. So, they had two words to describe the same animal.<br><br>
>  "This would not have led to confusion if they had not used the same
>  pair of words to describe the [Bactrian] camel, which they first
>  encountered during the reign of Alexander the Great (336-323) [BCE].
>  Following the Greek example, the Romans ignored the difference as well:
>  they called the animals dromedarius and camelus. The sharp distinction
>  between the two animals is modern, but the official names are still a bit
>  confusing: camelus dromedarius and camelus bactrianus."<br><br>
>  Joel </font></body>
>  </html>
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