tortipede (tortipede) wrote in linguaphiles,

Help needed to correct Wikipedia (believe it or not)!

Right. I need some help here, and it comes in two related parts.

Firstly, I remember reading years ago the following passage in the Old English translation of Orosius' Historiarum Adversum Paganos Libri VII ("Seven Books of History Against the Pagans"):

Towards the middle of Asia, in the eastern part, lies the mouth of the river called Ganges, out in the ocean. This ocean is called the Indian. To the southward of that mouth on the ocean is the port called Caligardamana. To the south east of that is the island Taprobane...
(From The Life of Alfred the Great By Reinhold Pauli, Paulus Orosius: Old English original on previous page of GoogleBooks result.)

So it struck me that, since Taprobane is accepted to have been a mediaeval name for Sri Lanka, that Caligardamana — north of Sri Lanka, and at the mouth of the Ganges — must be Kolkata (Calcutta; earlier Kolikata). OK: Sri Lanka is south-west of Calcutta, not south-east, but this is hearsay geography, and surprisingly accurate for it. In fact, I was quite tickled to know that Alfred the Great must therefore presumably at least have heard of Calcutta — the mediaeval world had broader horizons than we sometimes think.

But when I looked up Calcutta/Kolkata on Wikipedia, lo and behold! the only references to the name were really quite modern, and the specific article on the etymology of the name seems to be way off, in that most of it just doesn't allow for the place having had that name for about 1000 years before the British arrived (although there are interesting 'citation needed' allusions to much older Persian and Chinese sources). So if I can add the Orosius reference that'd be an improvement.

So my first question is this, for any Indic-language buffs around here: given Caligardamana as a corruption of Kolikata/Kalikata + some other element, what do you make of the 'other element'? My best guess was based on looking though Monier Monier-Williams' Sanskrit dictionary, i.e. मान in the sense of 'building, house, dwelling'. However, this doesn't seem to be the most common sense for maana, which mostly means 'measure'; I'm not utterly convinced whether Sanskrit is the best thing to compare it to; and I'm out of ideas. Any suggestions?

The second, related question, is this: in trying to chase up possible meanings for maan(a) myself, I came across this mess of bad Germanic and Indic philology and wild speculation, which is altogether wronger than a very wrong thing. There are so many things about it that need correcting that it's hard to know where to start: Jaet or Jeat? Is there any evidence whatsoever for an alternation between G and J in Gothic? Who are the alleged 'Central Asian tribe'? What are the surnames of 'German people'? Who the hell is Professor J A Leake (unless the poor fellow's being wildly misrepresented)?

The first few paragraphs of the article are so bad that they almost look as if someone were trying to lay the theoretical underpinnings for a Kshatriya Division of the Waffen SS. I really would like to do the electronic equivalent of writing "BOLLOCKS" across this in large red letters. After all, we can't just acquiesce in people being wrong on the internet — especially not about etymology. So: any suggestions as to what might be a more constructive response? Discussion page, lots of editing...? :)
Tags: advice, germanic, indic languages, languages of india, latin

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