Posted by R. John Howe on 08-30-2002 05:12 PM:


Dear folks -

You may remember in my original tale of the Ersari lady, I said in one email to her that I had not responded more promptly because I had “my head down” in another task. She immediately followed this with an indication that “yengse” is the Turkmen word for “back of the head” and that (although she did not claim “yengse” and “ensgsi” were related) that “engsi” in her experience were hung on the back (that is inside) of the tent door.

Now I think Ken Thompson, who has Turkish, has already suggested in another thread that “engsi” and “yengse” are quite different words, not at all cognates.

Peter Andrews, checked a bit, but said something similar. Here is what he wrote me initially:

“…Yes, of course the lady's explanation of Ersari is correct, at any rate at the popular etymology level, though there may well be some more erudite etymology that I have not come across.

The engsi (a nasalised n represented by ng, but sounding more or less like the ng in song) was traditionally hung OUTSIDE the door by the Yomut, and the drawings made for the Illustrated London News for the British Afghan Boundary Commission (1887?) show the same for the Murgab Turkmen, so I have little doubt it was general. The explanation of the Ersari lady's assertion is probably that the use of engsis has been widely
abandoned, so that people do not know any longer how they should be hung.

In Turkey Turkish ense is the back of the neck, so a cognate word would be expected in Turkmen: I must look it up. I think it is unlikely that there is a connection between this and engsi, though, as no etymology of engsi is available either, one must be cautious. I'll try Clauson's Dictionary of Pre-Thirteenth-Century Turkish to see if he has anything to offer on either word, but that depends on whether the sources for that period contain the words at all. This, again, probably falls into the field of popular etymology, which is frequently quite wrong!”

And then in a second message:

“The Turkmen word for nape, or back of the head, is indeed yengse (again with nasalised ng). But the semivowel at the beginning, y, and the e at the end differntiate it clearly from engsi: in fact the two words are spelled with different kinds of initial e in the Cyrillic alphabet. Neither word has any clear cognates: yeng in Turkmen means a sleeve! So there is no good
reason to believe they are related.”

Subsequently, a third message came saying in part:

“Neither engsi nor yengse appear in Clauson's dictionary, not anything remotely similar. I shall consult a Turkologist colleague in Bamberg to see if he has any ideas.”

It seems likely, as I think Ken Thompson suggested too, that “engsi” and “yengse” are unrelated words.

Just to clear up any question about that.


R. John Howe