March 26, 2012

རྫ། རྫི། རྫུ།

rdza, rdzi, rdzu:

Walter Simon (Simon 1980: 132–133) has suggested that rdza “clay,” rdzi “to press, knead,” and rdzu “to give a deceptive appearances” are related and that their parallel in Latin fingo “to knead, mould, shape” and “to devise, contrive, invent, feign,” figulus “potter,” and fictilis “made of clay.”

In the meant time, the Pandora box has been opened. There seems to be a host of words that need to be considered in addition to our initial list of rdza, rdzi, and rdzu. Joy suggested rdzas “substance/stuff.” Now rdza in the sense of “clay” should be understood as a specific kind of “substance” that one can “knead” (rdzi) so as to “give the shape/form” of an “earthenware” (rdza ma). Possibly rdzus ma “counterfeit” (Jäschke 1881: s.v.) also spelt rdzun ma (Bod.rgya) and rdzun “a lie” must be derived from rdzu ba “to feign.” But then, as Dan asks, what about rdzi bo and rdzi ma? Indeed rdzi bo (and hence all related compounds such as lug rdzi and bu rdzi) may well be derived from rdzi ba, not in the sense of “to knead,” “to tread,” “to crush, to oppress, to distress” (Jäschke 1881: s.v.) but rather in the sense of “to rule/govern” and indirectly “to oversee.” Compare English “governess” and Tibetan bu rdzi “nanny or babysitter.” By the way also compare the above rdzi ba with bzi ba “to be agitated” (dkrugs pa) or “to be intoxicated.” As for rdzi ma, the jump from rdzi ba to rdzi ma seems simply too long and unnatural. Neither the meaning of rdzi “wind” in rdzi char, rdzi phyogs, and rdzi ’phrig) (brDa-dkrol, s.vv.) nor rdzi “odour/scent” in rdzi med, rdzi langs, and rdzi rig seems to be useful for explaining rdzi ma. I must try try something else. I wonder if rdzi ma is actually connected with expressions like zim zim (Bod.rgya), which is explained as the manner in which eyes blink, light rain drizzles, and light snow falls. Note that the Bod.rgya records zi ma as a vernacular version of rdzi ma. In all of these, I see two common attributes, namely, quick fluttering movements, and thin filament-like appearances. Could it be that  eyelash (rdzi ma) is thus something that consists of thin filaments and flickers constantly. Frankly, this seems to be too wild a speculation. I shall revoke this speculation as soon as I find a better one. 


  1. Dear Dorji,

    I simply wanted to thank you for your interesting blog, that every day makes me aware of links that I sometimes vaguely intuited or most of the time wasn't aware of at all. I passed the link on to my Tibetan class students, who are relieved to see that those Tibetan words are not completely arbitrary, and who have made it a game to try and establish links themselves!

  2. Dear Joy,

    Many thanks for your encouraging words. Simon does not have rdzas, but yes, I agree that we should consider adding rdzas to the group. We may also slightly modify the meaning of rdza. It is not really “clay” but rather “clay pot/jar/pitcher.” It is so to speak, one takes (clayish) rdzas “substance,” rdzi (“knead”) it, and rdzu (“change/transform”) it into a rdza (“clay vessel”). :)

    Best wishes,


    1. A small revision: I see that Simon is actually right specially if we consider rdza in rdza phor, rdza snod, etc. But if we think in terms of rdza ma, then, of course, it should be “earthenware.”

  3. Dear D,

    I'd want to add a comment on the curious phenomenon in which all of these three syllables are liable to take the (relatively uncommon but common enough) 2nd syllable -ma, without necessarily radically changing the meaning. You have rdza-ma, rdzi-ma and rdzu-ma. I think rdza-ma has the same meaning as rdza (clay and/or clay vessel). But rdzi-ma means 'eyelash,' and rdzu-ma means 'phony, false front.' Let's see...

    The clay (rdza) supermodel pressed (rdzi) her eyelashes (rdzi-ma) together signaling to her maker that she wasn't about to cooperate with his phony (rdzu-ma) marriage scheme. Hah!

    Wait, what about the lug-rdzi!


  4. Haha, it is getting wild! But let’s see how far we can go. I shall come back later.