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Old 18th August 2017, 07:13 PM   #1
ariel's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
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Default Karud: the weapon that did not exist:-)

• On several occasions, this Forum has been engaged in discussions about a straight-bladed version of the Central Asian Peshkabz, that sometimes is referred to as a “Karud”. These discussions centered around two main questions: is the Karud indeed an independent weapon, i.e. separate of Peshkabz and, secondly, what is the origin of its name.
• Thorben Flindt and Robert Elgood (T. Flindt, “Nineteenth-century Arms from Bukhara”, in: Islamic Arms and Armour, Ed. By R. Elgood, London Scholar Press, 1979, pp. 20-29) have openly admitted that their efforts to pinpoint the origin of that name were unsuccessful, although they suspected that in some way it might have stemmed from the Persian word “kard”, meaning “knife”.

• Recently, Dmitri Miloserdov (herewith the ”Author”) had published an article in which he not only asserted the independence of the Karud from the Peshkabz, but also defined the very name of the Karud as a justifiable one due to the alleged “ historically established classification”. In support of his assertion he mentions “recently discovered data on the etymology of the word Karud.” (Д. Милосердов" К вопросу о правомочности существования термина "Каруд", “Историческое Оружиеведение”, 2015, 2:88-101;
D. Miloserdov, “ To the issue of justification of usage of the term “Karud”, “ Historical Weapons Studies 2015, 2:88-101).

• This is the first and, to my knowledge, the only scientific paper specifically addressing the “Karud”. This contribution piqued my curiosity and prompted my (rather pleasant and educational) journey into the origins of that name.

• The Author starts with a long list of sources who did not use the term Karud, but referred to it as a Peshkabz. After that, he lists numerable sources that did use this term, including books and catalogues of collections by Moser, Buttin, Jacob and Stone. He also uses an English- Hindoostanee ( precursor of both Hindi and Urdu languages) dictionary published in 1820 in which the word Karud is used as a translation of “knife” (J.B. Gilchrist, “The strangers infallible East-Indian Guide of Hindoostanee multum in parvo as a grammatical compendium of the grand popular and military language of India”, London, 1820, p. 351,) as well as the book of a famous British diplomat Alexander Burns ( A.Burns,” Cabool: a personal narrative of a journey to, and residence in that city in the years 1836, 7, and 8”, Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1843 рр.274-275). In this book Burns is quoting an Afghani expression “shurt-i-karud”, meaning not slicing a melon for which one hadn’t paid yet, reminiscent of the English one about not counting one’s chickens before they hatch. These constitute the “recently discovered data on the etymology of the word Karud” on which he based his conclusions.

• The Author provided a highly professional and meticulous physical description of the illustrated weapons. However, I feel that he glossed over and misinterpreted one of the references that he himself brought up as an example in favor of his opinion and, as a result, the opportunity to get the correct answer was missed.

• He cited the 1820 book of Gilchrist (see above) that had mentioned the word “karud” as a translation of “knife”. However, he missed an interpretation of an entry from even earlier book by the same author (J.B. Gilchrist “ A Dictionary: English and Hindoostanee”, Calcutta 1787-1790) in which English words were translated into “Hinduwee, Arabic and Persian” and the native spelling was provided ( Fig.1). This is an equivalent of the Rosetta Stone, a trilingual stele that allowed Champollion not only to decipher the meaning of Egyptian hieroglyphics, but also to reproduce their phonetics.
• Fig.2 shows the entry for the English word “knife” and its translated equivalents in Arabic ( marked with an “a”), Persian (“p”) and Hinduwee ( “h”). The Persian word is spelled “kard”: kaf, alef, re, dal (from right to left, of course), with no sound for “u”. But the English vocalization of this word in the Dictionary is listed as “ Karud”, with an additional vowel “u” between re and dal.
• This was strange, and therefore I asked my native Iranian colleagues to pronounce the Persian word for “ knife”. All pronounced it as Kar(?)d, where (?) is a poorly defined vowel sound, and with stress on the first syllable. However, when asked to write the same word in Persian they unhesitantly wrote “kard”. I then went to the internet and asked the same question: got the same result.
• My colleagues explained to me that Persian is a highly melodic language and clusters of consonants are just “improved” by insertion of some additional vowel sounds.
• This is a classic example of a linguistic phonetic phenomenon called “epenthesis”, the insertion of an imaginary sound to ease and improve the pronounciation of a word. It happens in English, too. For example, one of the Detroit suburbs (not far from me) is called Hamtramck, but is pronounced as Hamtramick, or Hamtrameck.
• That explains Burns’ rendition of “shurt-i-karud”, and since he never reproduced this word in the Persian alphabet, we will never know what the Afghanis or Persians were actually saying to him, only what he had heard from them.
• This also explains why Buttin (C. Buttin “ Catalogue de la collection d’armes anciennes”, Rumilly 1933, p.160) and Jacob ( A. Jacob “ Les armes blanches du monde islamique” Jacques Grancher, 1985, p.190 ) both speak about “ Kard ou Karoud” and why P. Holstein in his ” Conributions a l’etude des armes Orientales (vol.1, p.125), writes about Kared, Karoud or Kard (“le nom de Kared ne sont pas autre chose que le Kard ou Karud persan et qui sont utilisés dans l'Hindoustan”: “The name Kared is nothing other than the Persian Kard or Karud which is used in Hindustan”)

• Taken together, all these points tell us a coherent story: the so-called “Karud” (or, if we prefer Holstein to Buttin, a “Kared”) is not a real weapon or a real word. It is a product of a mistaken identity stemming from a phonetical peculiarity of Persian language and a gullible ear of European visitors to Central Asia. Professor Higgins (a phoneticist) and Colonel Pickering (a student of Indian languages) would have understood (G.B.Shaw “ Pigmalion”)

• How did we get to a situation in which a phonetic trick called epenthesis introduced so much confusion in the European books dedicated to Central Asian weapons? Who is responsible for this amusing calamity? Let us look at the chronology of its appearance.

• The suspicion will definitely fall first and foremost on Mr. Gilchist, who introduced the wrong phonetisation as early as 1787. But I do not think we can blame him for the outcome: his book was designed for the British personnel of East India Company and to a much lesser extent for the local students of Fort William College. It is quite unlikely that this book influenced anyone in Europe at the end of the 19th century. By the middle of the 19th century both Hindi and Urdu were already firmly established and the need for a dictionary of “Hindoostanee” was rather unlikely.

• “The Book of the Sword” by Richard Burton was published in 1884: neither kard, karud nor peshkabz were mentioned there.

• The magisterial “Indian and Oriental Arms and Armor” by Lord Egerton came out in 2 editions: 1880 and ( reworked and expanded) 1896. Again, no mention of karud could be found in either.

• Thus, we are narrowing down our list of suspects and are putting Henry Moser-Charlottenfels in the crosshairs. He traveled across Central Asian Khanates, Iran, the Caucasus and Turkey in 1882-83 and again in 1888. The first and second editions of his “ Orientalische Sammlung” were published in 1914 and in 1923 respectfully. Both contain the word “karud”, for the first time since Gilchrist’s books. How and why did it get there? The answer is likely to be very simple: Moser did not know any Oriental language and hired a native speaker of Persian, one Mirza Dawud, to assist him in negotiating acquisition of objects of interest, including weapons. Since Persian was a lingua franca of that area, especially among the well-off people who brought first-rate items to Moser, all negotiations must have been conducted in that language. Thus, Mirza Dawud must have told Moser the name of the object in question, and Moser transcribed his notes the way he heard it, just as Gilchrist recorded the word Kard hundred years earlier.

• However, in the most recent 1955 edition of “Orientalische Sammlung” page 382 we find a revealing statement:”…der Karud (dem persischen “Kard” entsprechend)… “ : “….Karud (corresponding to Persian “Kard”..)”.

• Following early editions of Moser’s catalogs, the name Karud was mentioned by P. Holstein in 1931, by C. Buttin in 1933 and, finally, in 1934 George Cameron Stone published his magisterial book “ A glossary of the construction, decoration and use of arms and armor in all countries and in all times”. The latter became a Bible of weapon historians, museum personnel and countless collectors. Understandably, just like any book it not only disseminated the much needed knowledge, but also perpetuated some old errors. In that case it was especially easy to occur because G.C. Stone had access to earlier books by Moser, Holstein and Buttin, relied heavily on the opinions of his agents in Europe and employed stenographic style of description. And that is whence the word Karud came into multiple books and articles dedicated to Oriental weapons.

• In summary, this account presents an analysis of early sources that led to the introduction of the term Karud into the contemporary study of Oriental weapons. I suggest that the appearance of this term was the result of an error by Europeans who listened to Persian pronouncination of the word “ kard” and “heard” the epenthesis of an indistinct vowel within a cluster of consonants. I further suggest that in Persia and Central Asia there never was a weapon specifically called Karud in local usage. This straight-bladed variant of Peshkabz was locally known simply as a “kard”, a “knife”, analogous of Turkish “ bichaq”, Uzbeki “ p’chak”, Indian “choora” or Greek “mahaira”. Whether currently we should call it Peshkabz, acknowledging the similarity of their physical structure, or Kard, acknowledging its correct pronounciation, is a matter of individual preference, although some uniformity might be useful. But all references to a special weapon called Karud have no linguistic or scientific basis and should be stricken out from professional literature.

Last edited by ariel : 18th August 2017 at 11:38 PM.
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