January 21, 2014

སྟ་གྲི། སྟ་རི། སྟ་རེ།

The Tibetan word for “axe” or “hatchet” is sta ri (or also sta re). But what about its possible etymology? Jäschke notes that originally it used to be sta gri, which is very indeed very plausible. Jäschke renders dgra sta as “battle-axe,” and etymologically it may mean “axe [used for fighting] enemies.” But what about sta? There do not seem to many words containing sta except perhaps sta zur meaning “hip” or “hip-bone” and sta gon, a kind pre-initiatory ritual or preparatory activity. Are sta in sta gri and sta in sta zur etymologically related? What about the relative chronology of sta gri and sta zur? In other words, has axe been named sta gri because it looks like a hip-bone, or hip-bone was named sta zur because it looks like an axe?


  1. What do you make of this quote?

    'bro sgom gyi nu bo zha nye'i sta ri yin brdar ba la bul myed gsung.

    I try to translate:

    (As for Drogom's nephew) The axe being one made of lead, don't give it for filing (sharpening). Zhi-byed Collection, vol. 2. p. 172.

    I think he's saying that training would be wasted on that particular young man, just as sharpening would be a waste of time if what you have to work with is just soft lead.

  2. So you are a bit tolerant with bul (= ’bul). There is no other meaning of bul that could make sense here, right? And can brdar ba be also a person (i.e. “whetter”)? If it were a person, it would seem more natural or smooth with a brdar ba la. And why should nu bo be a “nephew”? Should it not be a “younger brother”? And why imperative? At any rate, I propose to translate it as: [He?] states: “’Bro-sgom’s younger brother is a lead-axe. [Hence I?] did not give [it/him] to a whetter [for filing].”

  3. Of course you're right about the younger brother. I was translating on the fly and being a bit careless.
    You think the verb bul-ba, "to make slow" works here? I think you may be right there, too.
    But then I don't know how to translate it sensibly. Let's see...
    That younger brother of 'Bro-stom, he's as slow to sharpen as a lead axe?
    I don't see an imperative here, do you?
    No, this doesn't seem to work, sorry. It's would be saying that he is NOT slow for filing/sharpening...
    I give up.
    But I guess in the end it would come out meaning that the kid wasn't the brightest penny in the bag, and probably not ready to benefit from training.