An old acquaintance, Daniel Razumov, sent me an interesting Russian word with an unexpected story. Here is the story he tells:
“I have very nice example of Russian word “shmon” (шмон) ’body search’ which is very similar to the Hebrew word “shmone” ( שמונה ) ’eight’. My friends and I thought the similarity odd but coincidental.”
“Then we discovered that in the Soviet GuLags there was a body search at eight ‘clock each morning, and since many Jewish people were serving time in those prisons due to their ‘wrong’ political perspective in those days, the Hebrew word ‘eight’ was transferred from Yiddish or Hebrew to Russian slang as a body search.”
The semantic drift of words can be absolutely fascinating but also tell us so much about our history, where we are coming from and where we are going.