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Summary Details

Query:   "White weapon"
Author:  Ignacy Nasalski
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Pragmatics

Summary:   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

LL Issue: 14.1420
Date Posted: 19-May-2003
Original Query: Read original query


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