root: ك-ش-ف / verbal noun of form VIII / plural: اِكتِشافات / definition: a discovery, find
There are certain words and phrases you’ll come across in the Arabic dictionary that’ll stick with you for some reason or other, despite you never having heard them uttered or seen them written down elsewhere.
For me, the phrase لا تَدمُري is one of them.
It sits there—quite regally, if you ask me (don’t you know all dictionary entries have personalities?)—on page 111 of the Hans Wehr, under the word تَدمُري (or, pronounced تُدمُري) which is a nisba adjective of the noun above it: تَدمُر (Palmyra, referring to both an ancient city and modern town in Syria).
تَدمُري means “anyone”. In turn, لا تدمري means “nobody”.
So the question I keep asking myself is: why did the nisba adjective of this ancient city become synonymous with “anyone”?
I’m no historian, but a quick Google search told me that ancient Palmyra came to be ruled by various empires over the centuries and was a meeting place of ethnicities, religions, languages, cultures, etc.
I wonder, then, whether the multiplicity of identities the city embodied gave rise to the meaning of its demonym mentioned in the Hans Wehr—considering the fact that “anyone” is an all-encompassing pronoun.
It would also be interesting to know when this nisba adjective adopted the meaning of “anyone” and in what context it was first used with this meaning. Perhaps the meaning was adopted as a result of a certain pivotal event in the city’s history, such as its destruction by the Timurids some centuries ago.
What an interesting little dictionary find, huh?
Have you found any intriguing entries in the dictionary that have taken your mind on a little wander? If your answer is no, then you’re probably not flicking through the Hans Wehr enough!
That’s all for this week, I’ll see you on my next post…
If you’d like to receive email notifications whenever a new post is published on The Arabic Pages, enter your email below and click “Subscribe”: