After months of slacking off, I should probably get back to work and blog something. It's not as if I ever ran out of ideas. So today I want to talk about a package of vegetable terms that seem related but I believe may be misetymologized.
Let's focus on *kremus- 'onion', an unanalysable Proto-Indo-European root presumed to be a nominal derivative in *-us-, concocted to explain Old Irish crem 'garlic', Germanic *hramuson ~ *hramsaz 'onion, leek', Greek κρέμυον ~ κρόμυον ~ κρόμμυον 'onion', Polish trzemucha and Lithuanian šermùkšnis. The forced assumption here is that if enough branches of Indo-European exhibit a particular root word as we have here then it must be because it existed in the proto-language spoken over 6000 years ago. "Assume" makes an "ass" out of "u" and "me", as they say.
An alternative possibility that must always be kept in mind is that a word has merely managed to expand due to cultural transmission and dissemination from a substrate language that is not necessarily Indo-European. Lacking further knowledge on very historically important yet largely unknown languages like Minoan and Hattic, we can hardly pretend that we can so easily reconstruct many of these claimed Indo-European roots securely. So for the sake of further discussion, I present an alternative view of this particular root.
Instead of pushing the origin all the way back to Indo-European, why not a simpler alternative and presume a much later date, in the first millennium BCE? We could start with an Aegean root *harápʰa 'cabbage, kale' with a diminutive *harápʰazo 'onion, garlic, leek' becoming Minoan *harámpa and *harámpazo. This then can explain both the source of κρέμυον ~ κρόμυον with its unmotivated vowel alternation as well as the curiously similar forms κράμβη 'cabbage', ῥάφη 'a kind of large radish' and ῥάφανος 'cabbage' in a way that an Indo-European origin cannot. As Etrusco-Rhaetic speakers traded heavily in the Adriatic with the Greeks, their presumed cognate, *χramφza, would be quickly disseminated into Baltic, Slavic, Germanic and Celtic circles. Simple commerce and loanword adoption.