Unknown language: pucapi

David Garamatz

Member
British English
“små insecter af storlek med en liten fluga, helt gula, hwilcka öfwer hela kroppen äro lysande som ett eldglöd, och gläntsa mer eller mindre efter den rörelse de göra på wingarne. Inwånarne kalla dem pucapi.” (Surat, 375-76)
“an insect as small as a little fly, quite yellow, that shines like fire all over its body, and glints more or less with the movements of its wings. The inhabitants call them pucapi.”
No name is given (Hobson-Jobson, 351) for the insect that is called “in south India vernaculars by names signifying ‘Lightning Insect’”. Pucapi does not occur in Wilkinson, R.J. Malay-English Dictionary 2 vols. (London, 1959). In Winstedt R.O. English-Malay Dictionary (Hong-Kong, 1922), ‘fire-fly’ is ‘kĕlip-kĕlip’ while its ‘glow’ is ‘pĕndar’; but (Wilkinson again) “Malays recognize two varieties [of firefly]: the true kĕlip-kĕlip and the kĕlip-kĕlip mas or k.-k. kura-kura mas”.
Stockholm-born Christopher Henric Braad (1728-81) who recorded this while on a voyage from India to Canton via Malaya in 1751 made friends on the voyage with an Armenian trader, a passenger; who can have (mis)informed either himself or Braad, or both of them, as to the name of this firefly. But in what language(s) might they have communicated with one another?
Can anyone identify the language of pucapi? Whatever it is, does pucapi signify a firefly in it?
 
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