Sunday, 27 July 2014

croatia week: fiat panis or etymological spelunking

The unit of currency of Croatia is called the Kuna. While the word may sound a little bit like the Krona, Kroner or Crowns of some other European countries, “kuna” means marten pelt (like a mink's of weasel's coat) and is a historical bow to the barter between the Roman Empire, trading furs much in demand for other goods. The image of this creature appears on the country's coins. In the sculpture garden of the ancient village of Osor on the Isle of Cres, there is a modern bronze monument to this little animal. I figured petting it might bring good fortune, and I did in fact end up with a whole pocket full of lipa, the subdivision and meaning lime tree (with an image of a leaf), by journey's end, which proved a challenge to spend.
What we call Croatia (Kroatien) bears the endonym Hrvatska, and it is always a curious task to guess how exonyms came about (i.e., Deutschland to Germany or l'Allemagne or Njemaฤka). I am still not certain, but it is interesting to note how the necktie is attributed to military garb of the Croatian and the German (and French, and cognate English) word for the accessory, Krawatte, Cravate, sounds an awful lot like the native word for Croat(s), Hrvat(i).