Date: Tue, 24 Feb 1998 08:57:48 +0000
From: Jim Rader jrader[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]M-W.COM
Subject: Re: hurache

Sandals made out of one material or other were worn by Mexican Indians
before Cortes; a Japanese origin for such a word is wildly

Again, I appreciate the detailed etymological information that was
sent. Now I'll have actual evidence to use again this claim. I think
that coming up with a more plausible alternative etymology is the best
way to discredit wobbly explanations like this. However, just because a
thing (a word for it) already existed in a culture is no indication that
those people will not adopt a foreign word. This kind of "wildly
improbable" thing happens in language all the time. Japanese had milk
and strawberries for centuries (along with perfectly good names for
them), but that hasn't stopped them from borrowing "miruku" and
"sutooberii". And then there are all those words that the Anglo-Saxons
borrowed from the Normans for things that they had already had, just
cause those Norman words sounded so chic. They already had *swine*, but
I'd say they did a pretty wildly improbable thing by adopting *pork*.

Danny Long

When I said "wildly improbable," I meant this particular etymology.
It goes beyond saying that there are many cases where a language has borrowed
words for items that the speakers of the language already possessed.
Japanese borrows words for "strawberry" and "milk" from English,
proto-Welsh borrowed words for "knife" and "milk" from Latin, and
English, of course, replaced significant portions of its vocabulary
with Anglo-French words--but these are all cases where the donor
language had/has some cultural allure--chicness, if you will.
English tends to borrow words from East Asian languages that denote
items specific to East Asian culture--words for things we don't
already have. The same would apply mutatis mutandis to Japanese and
Mexican Spanish in the 19th century. The Japanese did not introduce
sandals to Mexico. If Japanese gets chic enough, and enough people
in the Western Hemisphere learn some, maybe English and Spanish will
start borrowing Japanese words for things we already have. But I
wouldn't hold my breath waiting.

Jim Rader