24 Jul 2011

There's Latin acila and then there's Etruscan acila

I received a comment that I felt was just best to delete, not because it was at all offensive but because it was full of inaccurate, half-remembered facts. It's time-consuming to try and piece together someone else's "thought mess" and even more time-consuming to explain away all that isn't even true. One rule is definite on my blog: No half-remembered facts. If you can use your fingers to type a comment, you can certainly use your fingers to google beforehand.

However, if I were to guess at one thing the commenter was "half-remembering", it was probably what was published on page 205 in The Etruscan Language by Larissa and Giuliano Bonfante and I think this merits close attention:
"One mirror shows snenath tur(a)ns; perhaps snenath means 'maidservant or companion': compare acila = ancilla, 'handmaiden', on a Praenestine mirror."
I would label this "a falsehood waiting to happen" because the above text could be misinterpreted very easily by many readers, leading to a flat-out falsehood. The potential error is to read into this that acila is an Etruscan equivalent of Latin ancilla. The Praenestine mirror in question is explained in the Corpus speculorum Etruscorum showing only an *Old Latin* inscription with acila on it. It's a *Latin* word, not Etruscan, yet the Bonfantes weren't quite clear here about the nature of their comparison. (And mind you, this is in the "revised" edition published in 2002 which strongly makes me wonder how things get labeled "revised" if there are so few updates in it.) Their comparison was instead meant to link the semantic value of Etruscan snenath with Latin acila ~ ancilla.

On the other hand, to make it more confusing, there's also an identical word in Etruscan in ET Ve 6.3, the only instance that Helmut Rix lists in that language. Yet in Etruscan, acila is not a feminine noun at all (since there are none) and it's instead the commitative case of acil, the latter nomino-accusative form being amply attested. In fact, the Bonfantes had already translated acil as 'work, thing made'.

So let that be a poignant caveat: Be careful not to confuse Etruscan with Latin by misreading English.


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