French Israel

Friday, January 28, 2005

farfalle , butterflies, and bow ties

Last night we ate a dish of farfalle (recipe here). This is a sort of of pasta known in English as bow tie pasta, for obvious reasons (see photo left).

In Italian the different varieties of pasta are mostly named for animals that they resemble. Vermicelli, for example, means "little worms". Farfalle means "butterflies". (singular farfalla).

It hit me a while later, while the food was digesting, that the Italian word farfalla and the Hebrew word parpar are perhaps related. Since it is forbidden to have a dictionary in an Orthodox household, I could not look up the origins of "parpar" or "farfalla". But my linguistic instincts kicked in: even though there is no direct route from Hebrew to Italian, there is still a chance.

I shared this hypothesis with my wife, explaining the Italian pasta-for-animals nomenclature. "But it doesn't look like a parpar to me", she said. "I thought it looks like a papillon."

To which I asked, surprised, what "papillon" means in Hebrew. Because in French, it means a butterfly.

Her answer? A papillon in Hebrew (and in Persian) is a bow tie.
PinḼas Ivri 11:21


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