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Origins of "aakband"

January 11, 2002
The Iranian

Comments from scholars on the Adabiyat listserve about the origins of the word "aakband", which was offered as a quiz question in

Original question posed by Jahanshah Javid

Some time ago there was a debate on the Adabiyat list about the origins of the word "aakband" in Persian (meaning new/unused product). I don't remember seeing anyone coming up with an answer.

I put this question in the form of a quiz in and the most interesting answer so far has come from Afshin Deyhim:

"The origin of the word, believe it or not, is Swedish and it comes from the word, 'oanvänd' which means unused. Unfortunately many times when a word is borrowed from another language in Farsi it gets a bit altered."

[Afshin Deyhim's follow-up: It was a pure guess. What I basically did was check some online internet dictionaries of European languages and used the English word "new" and then "unused" as the query, and closest I could come up with was "aanvand" in Swedish. There was a method to the madness.]

Any comments?

From Mohmmad Ghaed

I am only 51% percent sure the word aakband in colloquial Persian comes from the roots of Latin aqua (and/or its Spanish, Portuguese and Italian variants) for water, plus bind and binding (that could end up in the Sanskrit badhnati). The word band in old and modern Persian means rope and string as noun, and wrapping up, stopping or fastening as verb.

The combination could have been shaped in the 17th and 18th century when the first European merchants headed east and the often delicate, hand-made merchandise shipped from Genoa, Venice and elsewhere to Bandar Abbas in the Persian Gulf had to be wrapped up meticulously for a long, precarious sea voyage round the Cape of Good Hope in vessels lacking waterproof cargo compartments. It could be taken for `water resistant.'

P.S. A footnote to the weekend lexicography could be the modern version/interpretation/distortion of the word aakband in today's Iranian bazaaar: aak-e aak. That means: I give you my word of honour the television, computer, vacuum cleaner, etc. you are buying has never been opened from the bottom of the cardboard box and replaced by a fake appliance made without the original producer's licence. Allah ought to know better-- or at least have a reliable informed opinion.

From Mansour Hashemi

The word "aakband" in Persian does not explicitly mean 'new/unused product'. It refers to the band around the package of the new product to be bought. As for the 'etymology' of the word, I am almost sure it came into 'being' when videos were illegally traded in Iran at a place called 'Poosht-e-shahdari'. There were new products but they were not considered 'auk' or 'aukeh, auk' since their package had been opened. The 'aukband' products were more expensive. It is probably a distortion for 'outer-band'.

From Alan Godlas

What if Aak is a borrowing from Turkish, meaning "white, clean, or unsullied"?

From John R. Perry

The various suggestions so far proposed for the etymology of Akband 'brand new; still in the bubble-pack' don't work for one reason or another. If, for example, the "Ak" came from Turkish, it would be written "Aq" with a qAf.

The straight dope is most probably that given in the excellent "Farhang-e loghAt-e AmiAne va mo'Aser" of Mansur Sarvat & Reza AnzAbi-nezhAd (1377/1998): "Ak" [actually, "Ankh"] is Hindi for 'eye', and the compound in Hindi [and Urdu] means 'with eyes closed; sight unseen', i.e. purchased or for sale in its original (opaque) wrapping with no doubt that it will be found pristine and unused when opened. [cf. Hindi/Urdu "Ankh band karnA" 'to close the eye(s)'. Probably came in via Persian Gulf commerce].

From Jane Lewisohn

I Vullers, Lexicon Persico-Latinum, for both "alef kaf "and "alef madd kaf " it gives the sand script derivative or a zendica derivative aka or agha, the primary meaning of: molestia, noxa,calamits (aafat and aasib) secondary meaning: interitus (helakat)

From Karim Emami

Dear Friends,

I am in no position to support my learned friend's inspired guess, but I am sure of the following points:

1. The word <Akband> originated in the Persian Gulf coastal area, so it may have come from India, from the British, from the Dutch, from the Portuguese. It is hard to imagine that it is a Swedish loan-word.

2. The word was in common use in Shiraz, and other major southern cities, at least 50 years before it found its way to Tehran, during the last twenty years.

3. The word <Akband> does not just mean "brand-new", it means preserved in its original packaging.

4. I just searched the whole of OED2 on CD-ROM for all -band words and found nothing that even remotely resembles <Akband>. There was no OK-band nor any Aqua-band.

From Khodadad Rezakhani

On Mr. Karim Emami's comment. In fact, there is a brand name that resembles the AK in Akband, and that is Akaii. But I doubt it comes from that side.

The suggestion that the word originated in the Persian Gulf region seems acceptable enough, but there should be a research done on the approximate time that the usage started.

My personal theory is that the usage is from a distorted meaning. It might have been "unpacked", meaning quite opposite of what it is. The position change of K and N is quite possible, in the southern Iranian dialcts, the soft and hard sounds often change their place.

I would not go with Mr. Perry's Urdu/Hindi explanation, although it sounds good enough to believe. The aspirated Hindi "b" (bh) is usually changed into either a P or a V in Persian dialects, and there is no reason to drop the aspirated "K", since it exists in our dialcts. I would say that the word Ankh Band in Persian would have become a[n]kh v/pand.

The issue is obviously open to debate at least until we have an approximate date for the start of the usage of this word.

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