26 Jul 2010
Here's a quick note about a wanderword that I noticed. It starts with a quote from Festus, 403 which equates Latin tibicen 'flute player' with an alleged Etruscan word subulō 'flute player'. What first has to be realized is that this is surely a Latinized form of the original word and so I've had *supulun logged in my database as a suggestion.
Now I found the term sb.t 'flute' written in Ancient Egyptian, leading me to wonder about its exact vocalism and its connection to the Etruscan word. A quick gander in Crum's Coptic Dictionary shows the same word in Sahidic as sēbe 'reed (of a flute)' which points me to an Egyptian form *sūbat, curiously similar to the Etruscan. The word relates to sbȝ 'to play a flute' which in turn is cognate with Semitic *zamāru 'to play music', suggesting Afro-Asiatic heritage. If the Etruscan word is related, there's no question then that the word is ultimately Egyptian. The next question is how this word would have travelled to Italy.
Relating to this caper is another word I've discovered recently in Greek: συβήνη 'flute-case, quiver' (Myc *subānā ?). This is pretty coincidental, I think. The same root *sub- appears to be present as in Etruscan and Egyptian and we even may be seeing an Aegean derivational suffix *-na attached. Is an Eteocretan or Minoan term *supana in order? Is the word for 'flute' in Etruscan then *sup?