mandrake
Posted: 22 November 2012 01:41 PM   [ Ignore ]
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This week’s traditional synagogue scriptural reading includes the narrative in Genesis 30:14-16, where Leah and Rachel bargain over “duda’im”, translated as “mandrakes”. “Duda’im” is from the Hebrew word root that includes the idea of love. Many scholars translated duda’im as “love plant”, an aphrodisiac or fertility drug.

After admittedly cursory searching, I can’t seem to find a convincing etymology for “mandrake”. The folk etymologies and traditions are, however, fascinating.

Can anyone help on this word?

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Posted: 22 November 2012 01:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Etymonline offers:

mandrake (n.)

narcotic plant, early 14c., mondrake, from M.L. mandragora, from L. mandragoras, from Gk. mandragoras, probably from a non-I.E. word. The word was in late Old English in its Latin form; folk etymology associated the second element with dragoun and substituted native drake in its place. The forked root is thought to resemble a human body and is said to shriek when pulled from the ground.

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Posted: 22 November 2012 02:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I saw that; should have mentioned that in my post.

the “probably from a non IE word” seems a dead end, unless someone here knows more.

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Posted: 22 November 2012 02:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Reb Wlm - 22 November 2012 02:19 PM

I saw that; should have mentioned that in my post....

I thought it likely that you saw that. It was simply a place to start from.

I am seeing both a “mandrake” and a “womandrake” in Theatrum Botanicum: The Theater of Plants: ... by John Parkinson, 1640, p. 343, et seq.

books?id=pFcfNkN8QGYC&pg=PA343&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U3DDAD_3JKjwqkPD0U2n0KCGBV3tw&ci=31,1036,891,425&edge=0

Link to image here.

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Posted: 22 November 2012 05:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The OED adds “perhaps < Persian mardum giyā lit. ‘man plant.’”

Anatoly Liberman discusses the term in his Word Origins, but adds nothing that hasn’t already been said here. So that’s probably the extent of knowledge about the etymology.

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Posted: 23 November 2012 08:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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This would make sense, that the Greek word came from Persian. I can see how mardum giya could morph into mandragoras. Thanks, this is really helpful. The biblical passage makes so much more sense now.  Sobiest—thanks for that excerpt. what I could decipher was fascinating.

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Posted: 24 November 2012 01:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I think it’s best known in English in John Donne’s poem Song. Mandrake is in the KJV which Donne wasn’t too far removed from in time unless it was widely known anyway.
Also mandragora.
Apparently it’s in Harold Potter. too.

Interesting, even if it doesn’t help with the etymology, and Reb probably knew or found these. Ginseng roots in Asia cost more the more they resemble human form. I don’t know if their alleged (non-aphrodisiac) medicinal properties are genuine.

There’s Group Captain Lionel Mandrake of the RAF (Peter Sellers) in Dr Strangelove, not a common surname. (The sentence “This is a very unusual and rare, and in the media, famous surname” doesn’t inspire confidence, however.)
Symbolic or just that it sounds like a posh British name?

[ Edited: 24 November 2012 01:30 AM by venomousbede ]
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Posted: 24 November 2012 03:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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venomousbede - 24 November 2012 01:13 AM

I think it’s best known in English in John Donne’s poem Song.

I should have thought it’s far better known in the famous lines from Othello, although Shakespeare there uses a slightly different form.

Not poppy, nor mandragora,
Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world,
Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep
Which thou owedst yesterday.

Othello III,iii

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Posted: 25 November 2012 04:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I did a quick search of the British Telecom site for subscribers called Mandrake in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle and Liverpool, and all came up blank. That 17th-century occurrence seems to have been a true one-off; perhaps an anglicising or garbling of a foreign surname, as was suggested.

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Posted: 25 November 2012 04:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Anywho.com gives 42 US listings for Mandrake, including one Lionel in Florida.

Edit:  The link goes to the general white pages, not the listings like it’s supposed to.  http://anywhoyp.yellowpages.com/whitepages?from=AnyWho&fap_terms&#x5B;first&#x5D;=&fap_terms&#x5B;last&#x5D;=mandrake&fap_terms&#x5B;city&#x5D;=&fap_terms&#x5B;state&#x5D;=

[ Edited: 25 November 2012 04:28 AM by jtab4994 ]
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Posted: 29 November 2012 11:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Othello was my second link, aldi.

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Posted: 29 November 2012 04:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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It was indeed, vb. Apologies for missing it but my point stands concerning the relative fame of the lines from Donne and Shakespeare/

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