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0442 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 442 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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426   183. COTTON

(cf. B, xxxiii). In a notice on Persia taken over from Polo, Fra Mauro says that goton grows there (cf. Zurla, 44), but he may have modernized the text.

According to HEYD (II, 614), who cites a Genoese document bearing on 1289, the word cottonum occurs, occasionally, in Western texts from the end of the 13th century. As a matter of fact, in the first half of that century, Jacques de Vitry (I, 84) mentions in Palestine «arbusta quaedam ex quibus colligunt bombacem, quae Francigena cotonem seu coton appellant », and the word is found in Rubrouck (1255), who speaks once of telas de cotone sive wambasio (ley, 166; ROCKHILL, Rubruck, 44, says that Rubrouck « uses the word cottone in several passages»; I can find only cotone, as a Latin ablative, and only once). In French, both Villehardouin (§ 68) and Joinville (§ 94) speak of chapel de coton, «cotton caps ». The word is traced to the 12th century by BLOCH (Dict. étymol. I, 181). In the 14th century, Odoric mentions opera goton, id est bombicis (Wy, 468; Y2, II, 207). Pegolotti employs both cotone and bambagio (or bambagia; cf. EvANS's Index).

COTTON. — It is well known that « cotton» is borrowed from the Arabic   qutn or qutun,

vulg. qoton, itself perhaps of Egyptian or Indian (?) origin (cf. LOKOTSCH, Etym. Wörterbuch, No. 1272; J. Löw, Aramäische Pflanzennamen, Leipzig, 1881, No. 65). From goton, with the Arabic article, are derived Span. algodôn, Port. algodao, Prov. alcoto, Old Fr. auqueton, Fr. hoqueton, and, without the article, It. cotone, Fr. coton, Engl. cotton, Port. cotoo, Germ. and Pol. katun.

Practically all our dictionaries and encyclopaedias, including LOKOTSCH, connect with the Arabic qutn the Hebrew k'töne Î (or k'ttöne Î-), « jerkin », > Greek xrr v, xlOcvv, and, indirectly, German Kittel. But it cannot be a direct derivation. The true Arabic representative of k'tône Î

(where -e9 is a feminine ending) is Aramaic kettän or kettän > Arabic   kättän (vulg. kätän),

which does not mean « cotton », but « flax ». NÖLDEKE had already supposed that the word may have reached the Greeks from the Phoenicians, who perhaps pronounced it *kutiön, without the feminine ending (cf. H. LEWY, Die semit. Fremdwörter im Griechischen, Berlin, 1895, 82; Löw, loc. cit. No. 172). As a matter of fact, VIROLLEAUD informs me that in the Semitic texts of RasSamra, where k- and q- are carefully distinguished, the corresponding word is written ktn. It is certainly this word which lies at the origin of the Gr. xrr n', although it is not even mentioned by LOKOTSCH. The question of an etymological connection between Aram. kettän > Ar. kättän, «flax », and Ar. qutn, «cotton », is a different problem. As there is no Semitic etymology for either, and as the names for « flax » and « cotton » have more than once been confused (cf. infra, pp. 529-530, for a discussion on the meaning of 13vaaos), it may well be that both represent, as was supposed by NÖLDEKE, one and the same foreign word, but it must then have passed into Arabic from different sources and at different dates. However it may be, one fact is certain, namely that from the early Middle Ages, the words qutn, « cotton », and kättän (kcitän), «flax» or « linen », must be kept separate.

Qutn does not seem to have reached Central Asia. KLAPROTH'S pseudo-Uighur word «kedin», which he derived from qutn, will be shown farther on to be a mistaken emendation. A