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  • "I've just learned a term so marginal it's not even in the newly revised M section of the OED, but useful enough to occur frequently in books about West Africa: moriman, plural morimen (sometimes written "mori man," "mori men"). It refers to people in Sierra Leone who earn a living from writing Arabic charms for magical amulets, and of course I wanted to know its origin. Assiduous googling made it clear that mori is a Mende word for 'Muslim' (morimo or moremo is "Muslim/mori man"), but the only suggestion I could find about its origin is in a footnote on page 211 of The Mende Language: Containing Useful Phrases, Elementary Grammar, Short Vocabularies, Reading Materials (London: Kegan Paul, 1908) by F. W. H. Migeod (available at "Mori, corruption of Moor, means magician, or Arabic charm writer, etc." Now, Moor goes all the way back to Latin Maurus 'inhabitant of North Africa,' so it's not unthinkable (as dear Prof. Cowgill used to say) that some related form is the source of the Mende word, but I have no idea whether it's plausible." from Language Hat.

    April 15, 2013