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0580 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 580 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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564   185. CREMOSI


carmosi L charmexini V chremexi, cremexi VA cremesi VL

cremesina R cremosi F, L creriosi P

crimisi Z

quermesis FA, FB vermaulz FB

Polo uses this word only once, and as the name of a costly textile woven in Bagdad. It is

of course the same word as the French cramoisi   Engl. cramoisy) and the Old French cramosin
(> Engl. crimosin > crimson), which, like the French carmin (> Engl. carmine), go back to an

Arabic S;. 9 girmizi (< qirmiziyun), an adjectival form of   qirmiz, « kermes ». The -in of
carmin is not easy to explain, but I do not believe that it is due to a contamination of minium, as is still stated by LOKOTSCH, No. 1219.

Although it has become customary in French to speak of the « kermes » as « cochenille »,

cochineal, this is an American insect, Coccus cacti, while the kermes is a kindred species, Coccus ilicis, living on an oak, Quercus coccifera, and during the Middle Ages was found in many parts of the Mediterranean area. Another insect, the Porphyrophora Hamelii, was abundant in Armenia and went also by the name of qirmiz. Both were used for dyeing purposes, and the Armenian one was exported even to India (cf. HEYD, II, 607-609; also LECLERC, Traité des simples, in Not. et Extr., XXVI, r, 74-75).

The history of the word qirmiz has been attempted by various scholars, particularly by KARABAfEK (in Mitteil. d. K. K. Oesterr. Mus. f. Kunst u. Industrie, 1880-1881, VIII, 98-103), BERNEKER (Slay. Etym. Wörterbuch, 490-491), LOKOTSCH (No. 1219) and MARKWART (in Ungar. Jahrbücher, ix [1929], 92-94). Yet it still offers many obscure points for elucidation.

All agree that qirmiz is not a true Semitic word, and that it must be traced ultimately to the Indo-European word for « worm », Skr. krmi-, Pers. kirm, old Slav c'rm'; most authors derive qirmiz more precisely, either from Skr. krmija, lit. « born of a worm », or from its feminine form krmijd, taken as a noun. But krmija is an adjectival formation, and krmijd, as the name of the kermes (? or of the lac insect, Coccus lacca), is an unattested form known only from lexicographers. Moreover, one would expect the Indian term to have reached the Arabs through the Persians, and there is no reason why a Skr. k- should have given q- in Middle Persian. Finally, there is an Iranian form connected with, but not dependent on, qirmiz, and its final is quite different : Middle Persian kalmir, (<*karmir), > Hebr. karmil, Arm. karmir; Sogd. karm'ir; all meaning « red ». This form does not seem to be an Iranian development, as was believed by MARKWART, but goes back rather to the Skr. krmila, as suggested by KARABAfEK. The Mandvyutpatti (No. 9173) registers krmilikd as the name of a red textile. KARABAfEK thought that the French carmin was derived from karmir, which for reasons of geography and chronology is difficult to believe. It was also KARABAfEK'S idea that the Sanskrit term must have referred originally not to kermes, Coccus ilicis, bui to the lac insect, Coccus lacca; and this is quite plausible.