Carl W. Conrad (
24 Sep 96 14:52:04 EDT

At 1:22 PM -0500 9/24/96, Stephen C. Carlson wrote:
>At 12:00 9/24/96 -0500, Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>>Actually, the Latin usage derives from the Greek, and PERSONA does
>>originally serve as a translation of PROSWPON in that original sense of
>>"mask" (although the Greek word focuses on what the spectator SEES, while
>>the Latin word focuses on what the actor SPEAKS THROUGH. In Greek, TA TOU
>I had always thought that Latin PERSONA (with a long O) came from
>Etruscan PHERSU, "mask," rather than Latin PERSONARE (with a short
>O). It is possible, however, that the Etruscan word was borrowed
>from the Greek PROSWPON. About ten years ago, I was intensely
>interested in the Etruscan language until I hit a brick wall: a
>massive tome on the subject written in German. Maybe one of these
>years I'll get to learn German and give old Pfiffig another try.

You know, I've never even looked this up until now when you raised the issue; the new OLD gives for etymology "[perh. Etruscan]"--not exactly confident, but there's one heck of a lot of etymology that is pure conjecture. Upon considering the matter more carefully, I see that the O in PERSONA is long, whereas the O in SONUS and PERSONARE is short--so perhaps the derivation from PER = SONUS is dubious, after all. Perhaps the long O reflects the omega of PROSWPON? I don't really believe that. There's another of those things I thought I knew that I didn't after all.

Pfiffig? What a name? Whistling? My brick wall was Sanskrit; I'll pick it up again when I retire before very long. I could manage the alphabet, but the ligatures, some 600 of 'em, proved overwhelming. Come to think of it, I started once to learn Coptic from a German textbook, and I gave that up too, although I surely would like to learn Coptic.

Cheers, c