MONKEY-BREAD TREE, s. The Baobab, Adansonia digitata, L. “a fantastic-looking tree with immense elephantine stem and small twisted branches, laden in the rains with large white flowers; found all along the coast of Western India, but whether introduced by the Mahommedans from Africa, or by ocean- currents wafting its large light fruit, full of seed, across from shore to shore, is a nice speculation. A sailor once picked up a large seedy fruit in the Indian Ocean off Bombay, and brought it to me. It was very rotten, but I planted the seeds. It turned out to be Kigelia pinnata of E. Africa, and propagated so rapidly that in a few years I introduced it all over the Bombay Presidency. The Baobab however is generally found most abundant about the old ports frequented by the early Mahommedan traders” (Sir G. Birdwood, MS.) We may add that it occurs sparsely about Allahabad, where it was introduced apparently in the Mogul time; and in the Gangetic valley as far E. as Calcutta, but always planted. The re are, or were, noble specimens in the Botanic Gardens at Calcutta, and in Mr. Arthur Grote’s garden at Alipur. [See Watt, Econ. Dict. i. 105.]

MONSOON, s. The name given to the periodical winds of the Indian seas, and of the seasons which they affect and characterize. The original word is the Ar. mausim, ‘season,’ which the Portuguese corrupted into monção, and our people into monsoon. Dictionaries (except Dr. Badger’s) do not apparently give the Arabic word mausim the technical sense of monsoon. But there can be no doubt that it had that sense among the Arab pilots from whom the Portuguese adopted the word. This is shown by the quotations from the Turkish Admiral Sidi ’Ali. “The rationale of the term is well put in the Beirut Mohit, which says: ‘Mausim is used of anything that comes round but once a year, like the festivals. In Lebanon the mausim is the season of working with the silk,’—which is the important season there, as the season of navigation is in Yemen.” (W. R. S.)

The Spaniards in America would seem to have a word for season in analogous use for a recurring wind, as may be gathered from Tom Cringle.1 The Venetian, Leonardo Ca’ Masser (below) calls the monsoons li tempi. And the quotation from Garcia De Orta shows that in his time the Portuguese sometimes used the word for season without any apparent reference to the wind. Though monção is general with the Portuguese writers of the 16th century, the historian Diogo de Couto always writes moução, and it is possible that the n came in, as in some other cases, by a habitual misreading of the written u for n. Linschoten in Dutch (1596) has monssoyn and monssoen (p. 8; [Hak. Soc. i. 33]). It thus appears probable that we get our monsoon from the Dutch. The latter in modern times seem to have commonly adopted the French form mousson. [Prof. Skeat traces our monsoon from Ital. monsone.] We see below (Ces. Feder.) that Monsoon was used as synonymous with “the half year,” and so it is still in S. India.

1505.—“De qui passano el colfo de Colocut che sono leghe 800 de pacizo (? passeggio): aspettano li tempi che sono nel principio dell’ Autuno, e con le cole fatte (?) passano.”—Leonardo di Ca’ Masser, 26.

[1512.—“… because the maucam for both the voyages is at one and the same time.”—Albuquerque, Cartas, p. 30.]

1553.—“… and the more, because the voyage from that region of Malaca had to be made by the prevailing wind, which they call monção, which was now near its end. If they should lose eight days they would have to wait at least three months for the return of the time to make the voyage.”—Barros, Dec. II. liv. ii. cap. iv.

1554.—“The principal winds are four, according to the Arabs, … but the pilots call them by names taken from the rising and setting of certain stars, and assign them certain limits within which they begin or attain their greatest strength, and cease. These winds, limited by space and time, are called Mausim.”—The Mohit, by Sidi ’Ali Kapudan, in J. As. Soc. Beng. iii. 548.

„ “Be it known that the ancient masters of navigation have fixed the time of the monsoon (in orig. doubtless mausim), that is to say, the time of voyages at sea, according to the year of Yazdajird, and that the pilots of recent times follow their steps. …” (Much detail on the monsoons follows.)—Ibid.

1563.—“The season (monção) for these (i.e. mangoes) in the earlier localities we have in April, but in the other later ones in May and June; and sometimes they come as a rodolho (as we call it in our own country) in October and November.”—Garcia; f. 134c.

1568.—“Come s’arriua in vna città la prima cosa si piglia vna casa a fitto, ò per mesi ò per anno, seconda che si disegnà di starui, e nel Pegù è costume di pigliarla per Moson, cioè per sei mesi.”—Ces. Federici, in Ramusio, iii. 394.

1585–6.—“But the other goods which come by sea have their fixed season, which here they call Monzão.”—Sassetti, in De Gubernatis, p. 204.

1599.—“Ora nell anno 1599, essendo venuta la Mansone a proposito, si messero alla vela due navi Portoghesi, le quali eran venute dalla città di Goa in Amacao (see MACAO).”—Carletti, ii. 206.


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