The Ge’ez word ድግድግ, dagdaga, has an extremely peculiar threefold meaning. First, ‘to be lean, be meager’; second, ‘to gird oneself’; and, finally, ‘to be early morning, get up early in the morning’. Further, there is also ደግደገ, dəgdəg, ‘chicken’.

Leslau suggests that dagdaga as ‘gird oneself’ could be reduplicated from dəgg, ‘belt’. He considers alternatively that it may be a development of ‘get up early’ – similar to how (interestingly) Hebrew שכמ ‘to rise early’ is thought to be denominative from שכמ ‘shoulder’. This latter seems like a stretch, though.

But Leslau also suggests that dagdaga as ‘be early morning, get up early in the morning’ may be a denominative from dəgdəg, chicken, “whose crowing,” of course, “indicates the early morning.”

Whence ‘to be lean, be meager’? In other branches of Ethiopic, the cognates of this mean ‘crush’ or ‘grind’. This is probably to be connected with cognates like Hebrew דכא. Although at first this may seem like the odd man out, it seems likely the connection is that crushing grain was mainly done in the morning. This is possibly being referred to in Jeremiah 25.10, “And I will banish from them the sound of mirth and the sound of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp.” Quoting Walton and Baker (2009:290), “The millsone [sic] and the lamp together symbolize domestic life in its regular cycle. The millstone is heard in the mornings and the lamp burns at night. The presence of both signals joy because normality prevails.”

If so, this constitutes a nice parallel with dagdaga as chicken – the connection mainly being one of *sounds* (in the morning).

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