Buddha’s bidding

More fun from the most fun book imaginable: “Etymological Dictionary of the Iranian Verb” by Johnny Cheung.

Apparently the Old English “beodan” (“to command”, the origin of the modern English “bid” and “forbid”) descends from the same PIE root (*bheudh) as the Sanskrit “bodh” (“to wake, awaken; to perceive, notice, heed”), whence “Buddha” (“the awakened one”).

Cheung also derives from *bheudh, through the proto-Iranian *baud the Persian “بوسه” (busa), which one cannot help but notice is similar to various Romance words for “kiss”. Cheung notes:

Rastorgueva – Edel’man, ESIJa II: 136 ff., reconstruct a separate, onomatopoetic root *2bau-: bu-, *ba-, *bā- ‘to kiss’ (cf. Pokorny: 103), which is probably unnecessary. The Pth. form provides us with the clue to the origin of NP bōsīdan/bōs- (etc.), which appears to be an inchoative formation of *baud (as reiterated by Weber 1970: 107 f.). The other forms cited in support of the root *2bau-: bu-, *ba-, *bā- are not compelling either. M. bəy-/boy-, Yi. boh-/bohay-, Sh. bā čidōw ‘to kiss’ do not show the typical affricatisation of PIr. *b-.

Cheung lists two proto-Iranian verbs with the same pronunciation (*baud). The former (related through PIE *bheudh to all words cited above, *baud1) holds the meaning of “to feel, sense” (PIE *bheudh was “to become attentive, be awake, perceive”). It is easy to see how such a root would lead to “Buddha”, while deriving “kiss” feels less straightforward (doubtless this is why a seperate PIE root for “to kiss” is supposed by others!)

The second proto-Iranian root (*baud2), holds the meaning “to smell” (he mentions Kurdish but gives “bō” where the Qersî Kurds I know say “bîn” or “bex”), which if anything is closer in meaning to “to sense” than “kiss” is. Cheung adds at the bottom of the entry for *baud2:

In view of the well-defined, semantic distribution ‘to feel, sense’/‘to smell’ it seems necessary to assume two separate Ir. roots. But on the other hand, *baud2 may be ultimately an ancient specialisation of the root *baud1

If indeed all these words have a common root, it seems to be a case where the phonological and semantic realisations of the proto-form are too diverse to serve the learner of any of these Indo-European languages meaningfully. Although the phonological realisations of *bauH (which follows *baud2 in Cheung’s dictionary) are just as diverse, at least most of them hold a meaning resembling “to be(come)”. Indeed, even going back to non-Iranian cognates of the PIE *bheuH2-/bheH2u-, we have more consistency than *baud1 has internally among the Iranian languages:

OLat. fuī ‘I have been’, OIrish boí, MWelsh bu ‘was’, OCS byti, Lith. būti ‘to be, to become’, Engl. to be, etc.

But this is only if we share Cheung’s conclusion that there is one proto-Iranian root which resulted in both “to kiss” and “to perceive”. If we take only the Iranian verbs descended from proto-Iranian *baud1 which are not hypothesised elsewhere to descend from a seperate verb (meaning “to kiss”), the cognates have a more consistent semantic value.