LINGUIST List 14.1420

Mon May 19 2003

Sum: "White weapon"

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1.>, Sum: "White weapon"

Message 1: Sum: "White weapon"

Date: Sun, 18 May 2003 17:32:45 +0200
From:> <>
Subject: Sum: "White weapon"

Dear Linguists,

	I would like to thank all of you who responded to my query
about the "cutting/white weapon" (Linguist 14.1403)

	I have received many different interpretation, but most of you
agree, that the term "arma blanca/bianca/blanche etc." which appears
mostly in the Romance languages (but also in Polish and Arabic) comes
from the old German word "blinken" (nowadays German "blanke Waffe")
and thus "white weapon" is to be interpreted as "shining weapon"
(because the metal shines in the sun). Most of you, as linguists, are
aware of that, but it is interesting to notice, that the whiteness of
the weapon is in opinio communis, via the ethos of the knighthood,
believed to have something in common with the symbolism of white (=
honor, innocence, honorable death etc.).

There are however still some interesting questions, e.g. why in other
languages, like Russian, the cutting/white weapon is called "cold
weapon" (equivalent of English "cold steel"), so we have two unrelated
oppositions white weapon : firearms (i.e. white:fire (possibly the
blackness of the gunpowder - suggestion of Frank Gladney)) and cold
weapon : firearms (i.e. cold:fire).
There is apparently no opposition of *white:black weapon, apart from
one quite idiosyncratic case of Spanish "arma negra", at which Eva
Bernhardt called my attention, and which means in her words "weapons
like florets which are made of another kind of metal". But I don't
believe this case is really to be treated as opposition blanca:negra,
since florets, even if made of another kind of metal, are in all other
languages classified as "white weapon". This is nonetheless very
intriguing and I'm curious whether anyone knows any similar cases.

Once again - thank you all for your responses. An article of mine
about the "white weapon" is going to be published in the forthcoming
edition of the SEC (Studia Etymologica Cracoviensia) and I hope all of
you, who are interested in this topic, will take a look at it.

best regards

Ignacy Nasalski
Institute of the Oriental Philology
University of Cracow, Poland
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