The “India Book” is filled with loanwords that often defy translation, even if their context often gives a good pointer to the type of thing referred to. The footnotes of India Traders of the Middle Ages are filled with identifications and, just as often, puzzled or speculative suggestions. In an article entitled “Borrowed words in an ocean of objects” I made a humble start at untangling some of these terms and explored the voyages of two Indic loanwords – tālam and fātiya – into Judaeo-Arabic and Arabic and their peregrinations across the centuries in the Yemen and even as far as Egypt’s Nile delta.
It was a privilege to be able to propose “Borrowed words” for inclusion in a festschrift dedicated to M.G.S. Narayanan, one the preeminent historians of medieval South India, and edited by my colleagues Kesavan Veluthat and Donald Davis Jr. Irreverent History: Essays for M.G.S. Narayanan appeared in 2014 with Primus Books in new Delhi.