Polo / Marco Polo

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3 comments on this post.
  1. Carol the Dabbler:

    My dictionary (Webster’s New World) states that the Standard Tibetan (as distinguished, one supposes, from Balti Tibetan) word for “ball” was pulu — but hey, I bet they didn’t use the Roman alphabet anyhow. Either polo OR pulu sounds tantalizingly like “ball,” even though (according to my dictionary) Tibetan is a Sino-Tibetan language and English is Indo-European.

    But hmm, Babelfish says that the Italian word for “ball” is palla, another sound-alike. You don’t suppose that ol’ Marco introduced the word to Tibet on his way to China?

  2. Marcus:

    In the recent BBC Radio series “A History of the World in 100 Objects”, the presenter (Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum) mentioned that Marco Polo gave us the word “Porcelin”. In a report from China back to Venice, MP sought to compare the fine quality of the glaze on the local pottery with something. The only thing he could think to compare it with was the hard shiny surface you find on some varieties of Cowrie shell. The Venetian nickname for cowries was ‘porcellana’ (pronounced with a soft “c” as in “church”) from their resemblance in shape to piglets. From there it was but a short hop to Porcelin.

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    I think it’s definitely your “figurer,” if by that you mean brain. BTW, I looked at your comment upside down and all the links fell out. Sorry about that. I hope you still get paid.

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