Today, when Tinder Box posts the following online, I have to wonder where a newbie pipe smoker gets his meerschaum smarts:
But the debut of this word and the other descriptors for this mineral are more complicated, and not so easily explained as this:
It is said that the Romans knew this mineral and called it coral stone. History also tells that Jan (John III) Sobieski led the combined forces of Polish, German and Austrian troops at the Battle of Vienna in 1683 defending against the Turkish siege of that city. There is anecdotal evidence that he and his troops had seen many assorted objects and utensils crafted from a previously unknown white clay. Walker asserts
And here’s a comment from the Internet:
This word is not in any dictionary I own!
Interesting explanation, but I’ve not found anything to corroborate his assertion. And where might have Herr Voges gleaned this? According to Webster’s online dictionary:
A lengthy treatise on meerschaum by Walter Morgenroth appeared in Knasterkopf, Heft 12/1999 (“Meerumwoben—schaumgeboren...Das Ende einer Sage. Zur Herstellung der Meerschaumpfeifen im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert”). In brief, his theory is that koralle (coral) is “mercan” in Turkish, and the porous-like meerschaum would probably have been called “mercan”-Stein (stone), perhaps pronounced as “merdschan,” resulting in the German word, meerschaum. This is also an interesting theory, but it’s a bit of an intellectual reach.
Of course, so many opinions about meerschaum were based
Hummm, I thought that the invention of meerschaum pipes was the singular contribution of Kovàcs.
Okay, so Kummer was an inventor or a pipe-maker...or someone affiliated somehow with either the raw material or the finished pipe.
Now Kummer is making pipes somewhere along the Danube, but the Danube doesn’t flow through France! (Later, I reveal that at least one person believed that Kummer was a German, not a Frenchman.)
Now we’re getting somewhere. The expression, d’écume de mer, is, evidently, a corruption of his last name.
So that’s another interpretation: Kummer he did not use “fausse écume,” but something else, a “certain material.” This is maddening.
So...Kummer is manufacturing fake meerschaum pipes. Could that be the aforementioned “certain material”?
Well, let’s look to Germany for better, more precise answers.
And it seems that in Germany, Kummer can’t die, because this is two decades old:
More evidence about Kummer comes from far-away New Zealand:
Several other salient fragments on myrsen follow, the first of which is a not-so-helpful definition of a compound noun:
According to Kozminsky, meerschaum
Evidently, then, myrsen was a type of clay.
This last statement suggests that meerschaum is rooted in the word myrsen and is not a transliteration of écume de mer. What to do?
Various accounts of classical Greek and Roman legends indicate that Dione, a sea-nymph, gave birth to her daughter, Aphrodite, beneath the waves, hence the German reasoning, Schaum des Meeres. Wikipedia is somewhat in agreement:
or as others have posited, she sprang from the seed and emerged from the foam that gathered around the mutilated genitals of Uranus. This may be the singular reason why the mineral in German is Meerschaum, not Schaum des Meeres, as a way to differentiate between mythology and mineralogy.
Even Oliver Wendell Holmes made mention of this:
I don’t know if Henri received a satisfactory answer. More than a century later, in January 1996, Rickey Welch, having had his interest piqued while combing the dictionary for the connection between keffekil and meerschaum, commented in Pipes Digest Number 209 (www.pipes.org):