December 02, 2017

“Philology is the art of distinguishing the probable from the possible.”

This note does not aim to discuss definitions of “philology.” It merely aims to record Prof. Isaacson’s one of many possible definitions of it. On Thursday (30.11.2017), in his reading class on the Āmnāyamañjarī, he stated in passing that “philology is the art of distinguishing the probable from the possible.” After the class, we had our regular ITLR editorial meeting. In passing, I told him that I liked his definition of “philology.” He was not sure who formulated it for the first time. Just now, I see that Prof. Okita in his book refers to Prof. Isaacson’s 2007 lecture on “Philology and Codicology.” See Kiyokazu Okita, The Rise of Devotionalism and the Politics of Genealogy. Oxford Theology and Religion Monographs. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014, p. 18. The definition recorded by him does not contain the definitive articles before “probable” and “possible.” Articles seem necessary but I am not sure. I do not recall if I attended his 2007 class on “Philology and Codicology.” If I did, it is very embarrassing, for I have missed the jewel then. But I am glad that I have the jewel now. Better late than never.

November 28, 2017

Sir Monier Williams and Frauenzimmer

Dr. Martin Delhey, an uncompromising Buddhologist and philologist, has been pointing out that Sir Monier Williams, in one of the earlier editions of the Sanskrit-English dictionary, translated the German word Frauenzimmer as “woman’s room.” Note that Frauenzimmer means “woman” and not “woman’s room.” The exact entry under which he did was, however, not known to me. But I now see that one of the instances in which the PW employs the German word Frauenzimmer is under the entry aṅgana. Indeed, the edition of the MW I use no longer contains the wrong translation, and it simply states “any woman or female.”

November 17, 2017


I have suspended my speculations in my Philologia Tibetica for a while mainly owing to a sea of activities. I see the wisdom of śrāvaka mendicant expected to be of “few objectives and of few activities” (don nyung ba bya ba nyung ba). They were “of few objectives and of few activities” but were obviously more efficient and more successful in their aspirations. This must have been the wisdom of the Buddha. My actual point is not this. I am being distracted. My colleague, Dr. Heimbel, is confronted with a problem while pursuing his current research. That is, one of his sources allude to the expression rmig pa skam po. If we are dishonest and wish to smuggle in our “non-translation” as “translation,” we would say that of course it means “dry hoof/hooves” and would not dwell on it any more. But contextually, it would not make any sense to leave it at “dry hoof/hooves.” Perhaps “a dry-hoof animal” is an animal whose hooves are not split, like those of a horse.” There must be a Sanskrit word behind it because it is found in the Vinaya. If we look for khura in MW, we find that one of the meanings is “a sort of perfume (dried shellfish shaped like a hoof).” “Perfume” is out of question but I wonder if it means here “dried shellfish shaped like a hoof.” The hooves of horses may be considered “dry” as they are not split (and thus can even be nailed for mounting horse-shoes) as opposed to the hooves of cows. But possibly here rmig pa skam po may have simply been a metaphorical word for “dried shellfish.” This is a pure speculation. Sanskritists might be able come to our rescue. Any insight on this would be appreciated by me as well as by Dr. Heimbel.