Talk:Falafel/Archive 5

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Archive 4 Archive 5 Archive 6

First use in English

Would it be useful to add an observation like "The word was first used in English around 1951."<ref>''Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary'' (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster Inc., 1985).</ref>? (Or update that reference with a later version of the dictionary.) For that matter, what does the OED say about the word? The first quotations cited there might pertain to a topic discussed above: the purveyance & date of the arrival of the food in Western Europe and North America. Jacob (talk) 12:58, 4 November 2011 (UTC)

Think that is worth adding, but it would be more accurate to say something like "the first recorded use...". --FormerIP (talk) 13:01, 4 November 2011 (UTC)
The next time I go the library with old fashioned paper books, I'll see what the OED says about the origins. The online Oxford dictionary giver the "pepper" explanation.--♦IanMacM♦ (talk to me) 13:51, 4 November 2011 (UTC)
The OED gives, as its first recorded use, the following: Commentary (N.Y.) XI. 269 Falafel: sharp peppers and fried dried pea balls sandwiched in a flat roll called a pitah. Falafel is a standard meal around some urban and most interurban bus stops, where one spends a good part of one's life. nableezy - 14:14, 4 November 2011 (UTC)
No need for paper; the online OED is more up to date, and includes the 1951 quotation as earliest; I've added it. I also antedated the word to 1941 in English, and added that. I tried using Google Book Search to date the word in Arabic, but the Arabic OCR is terrible and most of the hits are bogus. (Not to mention that my Arabic is pretty weak.) It would be great if an Arabic-literate editor could find earlier uses of the word, or mentions of the thing itself under any name (falafel, ta'amiya, or whatever else). As I said above, for a food that supposedly dates back to the pharaohs, it's pretty disappointing not to have any solid history at all! --Macrakis (talk) 15:20, 4 November 2011 (UTC)

fresh (and ignorant) eyes

For what it is worth, the pepper etymology also seems suspect to me if the dish does not contain pepper. Did it ever? Would it be possible to summarize the alternate explanation with the intermediate arguments sourced with the Coptic dictionary and some other authorities? I realize that the problem revolves around the lack so far of other authorities. My reaction to this discussion is that the name probably *does* come from the word for beans but that I wish there were better sources as I can't assess the brilliance of the alternate origin hypothesis ;) However, speaking as someone who might come to the article as a reader, I would find some discussion of the question to be of interest, providing it came low on the page, as I'd more likely be looking up falafel to decide whether I wanted some for dinner ;) Elinruby (talk) 16:26, 6 November 2011 (UTC)

"Would it be possible to summarize the alternate explanation with the intermediate arguments sourced with the Coptic dictionary and some other authorities?" No! -- for both substantive and procedural reasons:
  • Substantive reason: PHA-LA-PHEL is not a possible Coptic phrase -- as the one expert on Egyptian linguistics here says above, it would translate as something peculiar like "that which belongs to beanful"; he says it "practically screams 'Hello, I'm a folk etymology!'".
Then this linguist does not understand Coptic. "Pha" does not necessarily mean "belongs to". It can mean "endowed with" or "possessing". For example, there is a hymn in the Coptic Church for Archangel Michael that starts with: "Pha ni tenh enhat", which is translated "[He] who possesses the silver wings...". So that particular objection over technical grounds is invalid. Sherifhanna700 (talk) 21:22, 8 November 2011 (UTC)
I agree that a connection with ful 'bean' sounds plausible, but lots of things sound plausible. Isn't it very plausible that 'belfry' should be related to 'bell'? and very implausible that it is related to 'afraid'? But in fact it is related to 'afraid', and not to 'bell'. --Macrakis (talk) 18:48, 6 November 2011 (UTC)

I found a source!

Gentlemen, I have found an existing source. "The Abbreviated Coptic-English Dictionary", written by Adeeb B. Makar, ISBN No: 977-5908-10-X, first edition 2001 states on page 185: "Φαλαφελ (falafel') m. Falafel. (lit. that which has lots of beans). See Φα, Λα, Φελ". Additionally, the meaning of "λα" is resolved on page 77: "Λα (la) prefix indicating many, a lot of." There's your source. I have uploaded the scans from the dictionary here. Can someone now please update the article? Sherifhanna700 (talk) 21:49, 8 November 2011 (UTC)

Sorry, Sherifhanna, but that looks like a WP:SELFPUB source and it doesn't appear to be providing an etymology in any event.
I think, though, that if the word can be shown to be attested to at all in Coptic (i.e. if it can be found at all in a proper academic reference work), then that would go a long way towards making your case. --FormerIP (talk) 22:44, 8 November 2011 (UTC)
How is this a self-published work? And why is not considered a proper academic reference work? The dictionary lists a long and distinguished list of sources and previous academic works - I can scan the bibliography list for you. What is the standard by which you are measuring here?Sherifhanna700 (talk) 22:49, 8 November 2011 (UTC)
It *looks* to me like it would come under SELFPUB because it is published by a church rather than, say, a university, an academic press or a well-known publishing house. But, more than that, it doesn't give an etymology, but a supposed literal meaning. I think it is a dictionary designed for language-teaching, rather than for scholarly study of Coptic. I don't think it provides convincing evidence that "falafel" is even an authentic Coptic word.
This would be an excellent book for settling the question. I don't have access to it, unfortunately. But if this or a similar book has an entry for falafel, then I will probably start to agree with your side of things. --FormerIP (talk) 23:06, 8 November 2011 (UTC)
A favorite book of mine... these days I consult it almost daily. But trust me, phalaphel is not in there. --Iustinus (talk) 03:58, 10 November 2011 (UTC)
That book is accessible at Amazon. It doesn't appear to have the word falafel in it. — Malik Shabazz Talk/Stalk 00:05, 9 November 2011 (UTC)
By that same token, how do the sources cited for the "filfil" etymology pass this test of providing "convincing evidence" that "falafel" comes from "filfil"? Sherifhanna700 (talk) 23:13, 8 November 2011 (UTC)
Well the dictionary cited for that gives proper word-origin accounts for its entries, whereas Makar's just gives Coptic/English translations. --FormerIP (talk) 23:19, 8 November 2011 (UTC)
No, it does not. It simply says "Arabic pepper is filfil, the source of FALAFEL", and that's it. In fact, this particular etymology is probably the best example of another take on "wormwood" is from "worm" and "wood". To the author of that dictionary, "filfil" just sounds like "falafel", so he put it there. The fact still remains that there is no pepper in falafel, but there are "lots of beans". "Phalaphel" is a real word, not a phrase, and I have shown it documented in a dictionary. Sherifhanna700 (talk) 23:23, 8 November 2011 (UTC)
The entries in that dictionary deal in word-origins. That's the type of dictionary to which we need to refer. The OED has the same: "from colloquial Egyptian Arabic falāfil, plural of Arabic fulful, filfil 'pepper'". My difficulty here is that I don't think the compilers of the OED can be so ignorant as to have missed this obvious link to Coptic. I want evidence that some scholar in the field has reached this conclusion.
And, let's not go round in circles, but there is more often pepper in falafel than there is beans. And, finding "falafel" in a dictionary designed for teaching a dead language doesn't tell us much. Consider this, for example.--FormerIP (talk) 23:30, 8 November 2011 (UTC)
How in the world is there "more often pepper in falafel than there is beans"? The main ingredient in falafel is beans - whether it is fava beans as in the original Egyptian recipe, or garbanzo beans as in the later variations. These beans are soaked and minced, and the resulting paste is mixed with flavoring agents. You saying that there is more often pepper in falafel than there is beans is like saying that wheat flour is not the main ingredient in bread. Have you ever eaten or even seen falafel? I am beginning to doubt it, based on your last statement. Sherifhanna700 (talk) 23:48, 8 November 2011 (UTC)
On the side-issue of how to make falafel... Garbanzo beans (chick peas) are not "phel" in Coptic (they are "ershish" - page 59 of Crum). So "Pha-la-phel" could only refer to falafel made from fava beans. That's less common today, but we have no way of knowing (as far as I am aware) which was used back in the day. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. Pepper is an extremely common, but not essential, ingredient, whether you are using beans or chick peas. Cayenne pepper is probably most common. So, the originating falafel recipe may or may not have used beans and may or may not have used pepper. We don't know. --FormerIP (talk) 00:02, 9 November 2011 (UTC)
I would like to add something. Here we have a food with a large consensus on its origin (Egypt), a reasonable explanation for why it was invented (by the Copts as a meat substitute during Lent), and the name of the food in the native language of said country of origin. Have we not all heard of Occam's Razor? The fact that the word "falafel" itself is a Coptic word sums up the whole story very well. And it's not a contrived explanation - we have shown it is a real word in Coptic, and even its constituent parts (pha, la, phel) are also real Coptic words. Sherifhanna700 (talk) 00:04, 9 November 2011 (UTC)
You've shown everything other than that an expert agrees with your theory. And please understand, I'm not saying its necessarily a rotten theory, just that I want to see it confirmed in black and white, which is Wikipedia's normal standard. --FormerIP (talk) 00:07, 9 November 2011 (UTC)
FormerIP, with all due respect, this is not "my theory". That's what I need you to see here. I am not the one that originated this theory. And I have in fact shown it confirmed in black and white, but you refuse to accept the source. Sherifhanna700 (talk) 00:13, 9 November 2011 (UTC)
OK, maybe it's not your theory. But it is clearly a folk theory - i.e. unless it can be shown otherwise, it is one of many things that are traditionally believed but may or may not be true (if we could get a source saying that it is traditionally believed, we could certainly add that to the article). Can you appreciate that we should be careful about adding such things to the encyclopaedia without being sure whether or not they are agreed upon by experts on the subject? --FormerIP (talk) 00:26, 9 November 2011 (UTC)
I agree whole-heartedly. But I feel that this theory has passed this criteria with the citation in the dictionary that I provided today, and I disagree very strongly with it being a "folk theory". The vast majority of Egyptians (the "folks here") don't have the slightest clue that the word is in fact Coptic (like many other words in colloquial Egyptian Arabic are). Only Coptic scholars know, and one of them cited it directly in his book. You just refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of that book. Sherifhanna700 (talk) 00:29, 9 November 2011 (UTC)

By "folk theory", I do not mean to say it is something believed in only by the great unwashed. Perhaps "common misconception" would be a better term. Are you able to offer anything that demonstrates that this is not a common misconception? You say that Coptic scholars know about this. Are you able to cite one that talks about it?

I will agree that scholarly articles is a high bar. But I think it is not unreasonable to ask for a reference to any dictionary in any language, so long as comes from a publisher with some sort of reputation, that references a Coptic origin for the word. Or any similarly published book or scholarly article. --FormerIP (talk) 01:14, 9 November 2011 (UTC)

Sherifhanna, thanks for finding this reference. I agree with FormerIP that this is not a strong source, and the etymology still smells fishy. But it would be great if we could find Coptic attestations of the word FALAFEL from when Coptic was still a living language! Right now, we have no evidence of the word from before the 20th century in any language. --Macrakis (talk) 02:23, 9 November 2011 (UTC)
Macrakis, why is the etymology fishy still? Your former objections to Pha and La are now cleared. What else remains? Sherifhanna700 (talk) 02:32, 9 November 2011 (UTC)
Several reasons. First, if falafel is a Coptic word, it must date from the 18th century or before. But so far we have no attestations before the 20th century in any language. Part of the reason for this is that many contributors to the English Wikipedia don't know Arabic or Coptic, but regardless, we simply have no history for the word -- so your help here would be great. Secondly, the etymology 'of many beans' still sounds peculiar. If you look at the examples of LA in the dictionary you kindly copied for us, it looks as though it would make sense for a dish to be called LAFEL ("bean-ful" or "beany", like the examples given, which seem to be word-ful/wordy and hair-ful/hairy), but why would it be FA-LAFEL? As Iustinus says, that seems pleonastic in a peculiar way. That doesn't make it impossible, of course. Finally, the dictionary you copied for us does not look like a solid source for etymology -- but perhaps some of the sources it gives could help? It would really be great if one of the sources has some 16th text with the word FALAFEL in Coptic (whether the etymology is FA-LA-FEL or not). --Macrakis (talk) 02:45, 9 November 2011 (UTC)
"("bean-ful" or "beany", like the examples given, which seem to be word-ful/wordy and hair-ful/hairy), " -exactly the point I wanted to make. Even though the dictionary says "many beans," the two examples it gives are adjectives. --Iustinus (talk) 03:58, 10 November 2011 (UTC)
I unequivocally disagree with FormerIP in attributing the source, The Abbreviated Coptic-English Dictionary", written by Adeeb B. Makar, ISBN No: 977-5908-10-X, as WP:SELFPUB. There is nothing whatsoever to back this claim. The book was indeed not self-published but rather as clearly shown from the link is in fact published by The Saint Mina Monastery Press & The Saint Antonius Coptic Orthodox Church -
The editor, Sherifhanna700, has taken great lengths to meet Wikipedia’s requirements for WP:RS and he has done so. There is absolutely no reason the facts he has uncovered should be kept hidden from readers or kept out of this article. Visit to see their book catalogue which contains only one published work by Adeeb B. Makar.
WP:RS has most certainly been met.
It may “look” to FormerIP one way but fortunately WP:SELFPUB is clearly defined. The onus is on FormerIP to prove that his claim is true rather than on Sherifhanna700 to defend that it is not. Other editors can go to the link themselves and clearly see that this is not a case of WP:SELFPUB.
At the least, Sherifhanna700’s sourced information should be included in this article. If no one else wishes to make the edit, I will do so myself.
Finally, the only thing "Fishy" is the unfortunate fact that a few editors here would have others jump through hoops and when they have successfully done so they are then given the royal run around. This is not only discouraging and discourteous, but also lowers the quality of Wikipedia, which is certainly to be avoided. Editors who dig for sources that clearly meet RS should be praised as Ravpapa has rightly done so concerning Sherifhanna700’s work. I also would like to take this opportunity to add my thanks to Sherifhanna700 for improving upon this article. Good work! Veritycheck (talk) 12:51, 9 November 2011 (UTC)
I am quite happy that this is a properly published Coptic dictionary, but it does not appear to be suitable as an academic source for etymology (we don't know whether the author has researched etymology of the words, or if he is a linguist) and the fact that it includes 'falafel' as a Coptic word does not, I'm afraid, establish that the word originated in Coptic before entering Arabic and via Arabic English. What we would really need, since there appears to be no dispute that the word entered English from Arabic, would be some work of reference on Arabic etymology that traces it to Coptic. However, as I've said, the only candidate for such a work I've come across is Badawi's Dictionary of Egyptian Arabic, which identifies words of Coptic (and other non-Arabic) origin but simply gives 'falafel' as a plural form of 'filfil. ComhairleContaeThirnanOg (talk) 13:51, 9 November 2011 (UTC)
There is (even among scholarly etymologists) occasionaly a reluctance to deal fully with issues like this. For example, English etymologists tend to dismiss Welsh origins a little more often than strict neutrality requires. See Loreto Todd, "Where have all the Celtic words gone?" in English Today no. 63 (2001), and my comment in no. 65 of the same journal. Whether that might happen in the Arabic/Coptic context I don't know. One must admit that falafel < filfil remains the obvious and probable etymology, though well worth questioning.
In the edition that I have of Hans Wehr's A dictionary of modern written Arabic (1964), which is certainly scholarly and gives some brief etymologies, falafel is not even mentioned. Andrew Dalby 14:30, 9 November 2011 (UTC)

Thanks for posting that, Sherifhanna700. This seems like a better source than the learn coptic document previously posted. Whether or not it counts as a self-publication, I cannot really judge, but I do want to point out that its etymologies are not particularly impressive: for instance it says ⲫⲁⲣⲁⲱ pharaō originally meant "great sun" or "great door," which is an old folk etymology popular among scholars before Egyptian was deciphered. But in fact ⲫⲁⲣⲁⲱ is not even Coptic, really, but a Greek spelling of the Hebrew spelling of the Egyptian expression Pr-ˁɜ "Pharaoh," literally "The Great House (i.e. the royal palace)." Pr-ˁɜ survived in Coptic as ⲡⲣ̅ⲣⲟ prro "the king." So I would not say this is a great source to prove that this etymology is valid. I would however consider it an excellent source that the etymology is current in certain circles, which certainly is relevant. --Iustinus (talk) 03:58, 10 November 2011 (UTC)

Kudos to Sherifhanna

for finding this source. I suspect he will now bring us a fourth-century falafel recipe from a cookbook in some dusty Sinai monastery. Keep up the great work! --Ravpapa (talk) 04:04, 9 November 2011 (UTC)

Thank you Sherifhanna. Veritycheck (talk) 13:14, 9 November 2011 (UTC)
Well done, Sherifhanna. Your etymology is no longer OR. I agree with those above who doubt whether a general dictionary is reliable for etymology (in fact it simply depends what this dictionary's source was, and it isn't telling us) but, since the etymology is in print, I am now keen to submit a brief article on the subject to Petits Propos Culinaires -- whose readers will be interested to know how searchingly these things are discussed on Wikipedia.
What I would do at this stage, if we were on the Latin Vicipaedia where I'm at home, would be to put this etymology wholly in a footnote (including a reference to the dictionary). I wouldn't put this proposed etymology in the text of the article, even as an alternative, until some definitely scholarly publication has mentioned it. Goodness knows what the disputants above will think of that: this is not Vicipaedia, after all :) Andrew Dalby 14:18, 9 November 2011 (UTC)
First of all, um, Sherifhanna, if you DO find a fourth-century falafel recipe from a cookbook in some dusty Sinai monastery, please please please let us know! Especially Andrew and myself. We will go ape@*#& ;) Second of all, Andrew, please keep me abreast on this PPC article! --Iustinus (talk) 04:00, 10 November 2011 (UTC)
Potius mori quam vivere in nota. --Ravpapa (talk) 14:49, 9 November 2011 (UTC)
Very neat! Still, Vicipaedia and Wikipedia are works in progress, and promotion from note to text can happen. Andrew Dalby 15:00, 9 November 2011 (UTC)
No, thank YOU everyone for your support, and for pushing me to find a credible source. I do agree that we should maintain a high level of scrutiny on information added to Wikipedia - this is why I didn't just push ahead with adding the Coptic etymology myself, but wanted instead to get consensus from other editors here. By the way, I will continue in my quest to find additional sources that reference φαλαφελ, though it will take some more time. I imagine it will be challenging to find it in lexicons, given that there is no equivalent word in Latin, French, or English (I have searched through several but didn't find it). The search continues! Sherifhanna700 (talk) 17:01, 9 November 2011 (UTC)

Suggest replacement of image

I suggest we replace this image:[1] with this one:[2]

The reason for this is because the Golden falafel image looks more professionally made in the way that the focus is on the sandwich and the background is a bit unfocused, the choice of background and plate is also better and the sandwich also looks more appealing to the eye.

Another important factor is that the Golden falafel image looks more like a mainstream falafel sandwich while the current image has french fries in it which is not that common. --Supreme Deliciousness (talk) 12:57, 19 April 2012 (UTC)

I think the current image is fine. We are supposed to show variations of ways which falafel is served, of which this is one variation. In actuality, there are several places (France, for instance) I know of where fries and other garnishments are sometimes used in the sandwich. -- nsaum75 !Dígame¡ 07:58, 20 April 2012 (UTC)
I like the Golden falafel image you proposed and agree with your reasons for using it. However, that particular image does not depict any houmous/tahini which is almost always present in falafel sandwiches. Perhaps we can do even better by using one that does. Veritycheck (talk) 11:36, 20 April 2012 (UTC)
If there is consensus to replace it, I can take several photos of falafel pita sandwiches with hummus and tahina (I'm actually shooting some stuff to support a food magazine article IRL right now). I'm still not convinced of the need to replace it, however. Plus it looks like the current image has tahina or hummus mixed into the filling. -- nsaum75 !Dígame¡ 04:53, 21 April 2012 (UTC)