Bigfoot Encounters

WORD For word: 'Yeti': abominable snowman

By Khaled Ahmed, © Pakistan Daily Times 3 March 2003

"He could be the "hairy one", but he first must be "ascetic" who grew hairy living away from civilization. But he is certainly not abominable. If ever caught, he could turn out to be nicer than most of us.."

There is a myth about a very large, hairy human being roaming high mountains who has been often seen by climbers but never captured. His most curious mark is his very large footprint which gives evidence of an overgrown man.

The creature is called abominable snowman because he inspires fear. Sometimes he is called yeti. OUP dictionary says it comes from Tibet and is a name coined by the Sherpas there. The word yeti must come from Sanskrit; and the natural habitat of the snowman must be the highest mountain in the world, the Himalayas.

The word yeti means exactly hairy man. But as you go into the etymology of the word you come across some curiosities. Today the word is hidden by the modifications of the original word. We have the word jatti from jatta (with a hard "t"), which means hair.

The other variation is yati, which means ascetic. On the upper reaches of the Himalayas, you still find these ascetics, mostly near the origin of the rivers that flow down into the plains. These holy men are usually naked.

When you change the "y" sound into a "j" sound, a lot of confusion ensues. That happens all the time in the sub-languages (prakrits) of Sanskrit. At least three different meanings have become clotted into one word.

Yat means restraint in Sanskrit. That should be the natural meaning of yati, one who exercises restraint. Hinduism is basically restraint (of the senses). The man who renounces the world is restraining himself from worldly pleasures. A pious man is often called jati-sati, sati here meaning truthful.

It is possible that yeti is simply the memory of an ascetic seen on the upper reaches of the Himalayas. But since all ascetics (count Muslims too) are hairy the yeti is also a hairy creature.

But yat also means striving, making effort and bearing pain and agony. The word yatana can be a name too pointing to the ability of bearing pain. Change the "y" sound to "j" and you have jatana. This is the word we know in Urdu as jatan meaning making an effort.

Jatta in Sanskrit is hair. We have it in Urdu. In Punjabi we have jhatta. It can refer to the pubic hair in a less civilized Punjabi-Urdu expression: jhaant. Hair would be closest in sense to yeti, the abominable snowman, because he is supposed to be hairy like an ape.

One thing is common to all ascetics up in the Himalayas and their counterparts in the Indian plains, mostly concentrated around the rivers. They all have long facial and head hair. It points to their restraint and renunciation.

Another word that comes from the yat root is yatra. This is the act of moving in search of restraint and is mostly applied to the travel involved in going to the holy places. For instance, the Sikhs who come to Pakistan to visit the holy places of their religion are called yatri.

There is another word yata in Sanskrit that simply means moving. This can change to jata (to go). But this variant is from "ga" (to go) in Sanskrit which links up with the Indo-European root seen in English go and German gehen, etc.

Is it possible that jatta (hair) is rooted in yat (restraint) and therefore of divine origin although used much later in vulgar language for the pubic hair too? The other word for hair is Sanskrit is kesha (hair of the head).

Kesh is so close to Persian gesu (hair) that its Indo-European origin is obvious. In Punjabi it has become kachch too and can refer to all hair including hair in the armpits. It is obligatory in Sikhism to keep hair of the body. The name singh given to the Sikhs must somehow connect to kesha (mane) which is lion's hair.

Lion is called keshar, which is close to Persian sher. The long hair of the Sikhs is like the mane of the lion; hence, singh. Keshar becomes kehar and when someone is named Kehar Singh it actually means Lion Lion or Lion with a Mane. In the romance languages a horse is named from its mane: cheval.

One hidden Sanskrit root for hair is "hr". In English it is obvious and occurs in horror (hair standing up in fear). In Sanskrit hair stand up in pleasure as in harsha. *

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© Pakistan Daily Times 3 March 2003

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