Last modified on 2 April 2010, at 03:39

Talk:馬鹿

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Is this etymology correct? If the word was borrowed from Sanskrit in both sound and meaning....?---达伟 22:36, 31 March 2010 (UTC)

No, it's not. Bendono 22:42, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
I won't quibble with a Japanese linguist, but I've heard the "horse and deer" explanation for 馬鹿 from several different people (friends and professers alike). Most recently JapanesePod101 video etymology lessons had a piece on 馬鹿. I know the kanji are generally viewed to be ateji, but this is an alternate explanation that I think is fairly well known. Isn't one of the main tenents of Wiktionary that a word and its usage be attributed in some way in publications, whether they be video or text? Shouldn't this be included somewhere? Maybe etymology isn't appropriate, but I think it's worth including.Dcmacnut 03:54, 1 April 2010 (UTC)
If you do not agree, by all means quibble. We are all equals here, and discussion is always an option.
That said, it is important to be careful about etymology. I am familiar with the "horse-deer" etymology. Many 21st century people are familiar with it. It is rather common, as well as transparent. However, it is nothing less than a folk etymology. The word is much older dating back to at least the 17th century, so a popular etymology four hundred years later is hardly relevant.
The other point that you mentioned is descriptive (as opposed to prescriptive.) I fully agree, as do our policies. Essentially, we just describe how a word is used in any contexts found. While we do not have any citations yet, no one is refuting that is means "foolish, dumb" (etc). Any other usages should also be cited.
Etymology, on the other hand, is about how a word came into being. It is often hard work. It takes time and often special resources to research. Having some form of formal educational background also helps. It is much more than simply "I heard that...", "To me it means..."
A quick survey of several dictionaries indicate that it is from Sanskrit. While perhaps redundant, some even specify that the kanji are ateji. (example). None seem to list modern folk etymologies.
As long as it is identified as a folk etymology, I am not strongly opposed to the inclusion. But as you say, perhaps Etymology is not the best section. I once added some extra historical details to , but eventually removed them since there was no appropriate place for them.
Also realize that the "horse-deer" explanation does not take into account another spelling: 莫迦. Bendono 15:15, 1 April 2010 (UTC)
As you point out, there are many combination of kanji read ば and か. 破家 is another, and according to this, it has it's own folk etymology about a fool breaking his own furniture. Even for ateji, someone had to make a conscious decision to use those particular kanji. The only problem, as you say, is sourcing. I think many ateji have been around for hundreds of years, and if properly sourced the etymology could be included. Folk etymology is a good a description as any, but as you say it doesn't fit neatly into standard WT:ELE. Perhaps, as long as it is referenced appropriately, one could use the normal Etymology header, but indicate that it is a folk/legend/etc in the body. Just a thought.Dcmacnut 03:38, 2 April 2010 (UTC)